Hydroquinone Hydroquinone is a skin lightener that causes skin irritation and may be linked to certain cancers. It is used in many “anti-aging” products out there.
Parabens Parabens have been linked to endocrine disruption, which may increase the risk of certain cancers. Here are some you might see on a label: ethylparaben, butylparaben, isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben, methylparaben, and propylparaben. Most skincare products contain multiple parabens, so turn your bottles around and check!
Petrolatum or Mineral Oil Petrolatum is a common skincare filler and “skin protectant” that is a by-product of the distillation of gasoline (petroleum). It almost always contains the impurity polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which have been linked to cancer. It is also an occlusive, which means it clogs pores and disrupts the skin’s natural detoxification processes. This ingredient is usually in the top three ingredients of skincare and cosmetics products.
Phthalates Phthalates are plasticizing ingredients commonly used in fragrances as a solvent and skin fixative. Phthalates have been linked to endocrine disruption and may cause birth defects. Here are some you might see on a label: dibutylphthalate (DBP), dimethylphthalate (DMP), diethylphthalate (DEP)] . Check your kid’s products for this. It is also common in children’s products because of its affect on texture.
Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) are harsh surfactants that can cause skin irritation or allergic reactions. Moreover, SLES often contains the impurity 1,4-dioxane, a by-product from its manufacturing process, which is a potential carcinogen. You will find this in all of your cleansers, including face wash, hand wash, shampoo, clothing detergents, and dish soap.
Formaldehyde-donating preservatives Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen that is also linked to asthma and developmental toxicity. Companies can be pretty sneaky about labeling so here are some ingredients that will show up on skincare labels that are actually FDPs: quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, and methylisothiazolinone. There are more but these are the most common. This is the most common preservative used to skincare, cosmetics, and personal care products in the United States.
Triclosan Triclosan is an antibacterial agent which causes skin irritation and has been linked to endocrine disruption. It is also bioaccumulative (which means it builds up in your body over time) and potentially toxic to aquatic organisms. Think about the sea turtles, and their friends.
Ethanolamines (MEA/DEA/TEA) Frequently used in cosmetics as emulsifiers, foaming agents or pH adjusters. Based on studies, they are linked to organ system toxicity, cancer, and environmental concerns of bioaccumulation.
Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)/Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) Petroleum-derived antioxidants used to extend shell life of product, BHA and BHT can induce allergic reactions in skin. They are also likely carcinogens and hormone disruptors.
Methylisothiazolinone (MIT) and methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCT) Together they are commonly noted as Kathon CG on a label. This chemical preservative is widely used in cosmetics, and are the most common irritants, sensitizers, and cause of contact skin allergies. They are also linked to lung toxicity and possibly neurotoxicity.
Artificial flavors and sweeteners This might be a touchy subject, but I would much rather have a limited amount of the real thing than a chemical shit-storm that could wreak untold havoc on my body. Sugar is not evil. Anything in excess is unhealthy. Real is good. Fake is bad. There are so many, I will have to do a separate blog post on them. Just know that most of them have been linked to multiple health risks, so it’s best to stay away. Pure stevia is ok, as it is an actual plant. But most popular products blend stevia with chemical sweeteners, so watch out.
Synthetic fragrances and dyes Since many synthetic fragrances and dyes are petroleum-derived, they may contain components which are potential hormone disruptors, allergens, and environmental toxins. Remember, real is good. Fake is bad.
Gluten Ingredients such as wheat, rye, and barley contain gluten protein may cause major health issues to those with gluten intolerance, sensitivity or allergy. This is a big deal for me, as I have medical issues with gluten, but everyone can benefit from less gluten in their life. Look out for a separate blog post from me on the forced evolution of wheat, and the resulting consequences on our collective gut.
Peanuts Ingredients derived from peanuts can cause potential allergic reactions in many people. In fact, some folks could die from being in the same room as your lunch sandwich. So, unless you have this allergy, this is just about being polite.
Soy Soy and soy derivatives contain a protein which may cause potential allergic reactions in many people. Soy also affects the body’s hormonal levels, and may have links to mood issues in men and breast cancer in women.
High fructose corn syrup High fructose corn syrup is everywhere in sodas and other sweet drinks. Researchers are now questioning whether it is a major contributor to obesity and other health concerns (is there really a question, people?). There are even lip glosses and lipsticks that contain this ingredient! This is the overkill side of sugar. A little goes a long way y’all. And this ingredients does not metabolize in our bodies in the same way as natural sugar.
Canola Oil Canola oil is derived from the rapeseed plant. There is a lot of suspicion around this ingredient, due to its likelihood of being GMO derived and the way our bodies metabolize it. Until further evidence is collected, steer clear of this in your nutrition products and foods.
Trans Fats Trans fats are well researched for their detrimental effects on cholesterol levels — namely, increasing LDL (bad) cholesterol and reducing HDL (good) cholesterol — and increasing the risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke. If you are unfamiliar with the idea of good versus bad fats, I plan to do a blog entry on this topic soon.
Talc Talc is a common cosmetic ingredient, and is used as an anti-caking/anti-clumping agent. Talc is often contaminated with asbestos fibers which possess risks for respiratory toxicity and cancer. Recently, talc has also been linked to some reproductive cancers.
Animal products or by-products Whether we are vegan or not, none of us wants to be a part of the torture of animals in product testing labs. Nor do we really have an interest in our skincare having fillers produced by rendering plants (which process roadkill and the leftovers from meat processing plants). Finally, on the nutrition side, it is best to steer clear of dairy by products as more than 1/3 of the population is not able to digest cow’s milk. Say no to bloat!