Beauty is painful. It’s an old saying, which tells us that the value of beauty in society means that its attainment will – as things of social value often do – come at a price. We don’t always know what the price of beauty is. The hard truth? It’s not all rigorous diets and bikini waxing.
No, there are other, more sinister costs, especially when it comes to cosmetics. Because what many of us don’t realize is that the products we slap on our face and body every day come with ingredients that can cause significant harm to us in the long-term.
So, I’ve done the research to help you navigate through some of the well-known toxic ingredients swimming in your make-up bag.
The first and most common preservative present in a wide range of beauty products, paraben is included in a reported 85% of cosmetics. While parabens have been used to prevent the growth of bacteria for decades, they are also xenoestrogens, meaning that they mimic estrogen in the body.
This has been linked to reproductive problems, lowered sperm count in men and even breast cancer. Luckily for us, in recent years the popularity of paraben-free hair and makeup products has risen considerably.
Also frequently listed as Perfume or Parfum, these standalone words should serve as a warning sign in any of your beauty care items. These words are just an indication of the scent being used in your product, which is important to beauty consumers.
However, in most countries, the law does not require cosmetic companies to detail the chemicals used in their “fragrance”. It is entirely synthetic 99% of the time. This also means that if you try to be diligent about specific chemicals, the presence of these words could potentially mean over a dozen chemicals you can’t identify.
Also known as Polyethylene Glycol, this family of synthetic chemicals is present in many scrubs, exfoliators, and body washes. They usually come in the form of tiny plastic beads.
PEGS are known to be carcinogenic and can interfere with human development, causing harm to the immune system. They are also harmful to the environment. PEGS are able to carry pollutants through our waterways where they can be consumed by marine animals.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
SLS can found in many beauty products, from makeup to body lotions to hair and face wash. It is even an ingredient of some toothpaste brands.
Like PEGS, it is a human carcinogen that can damage the immune system. It has been connected to skin irritation, canker sores, eye damage and is believed to be the cause of common acne around the mouth and chin.
Another widely-used carcinogen in perfumes and exfoliators, butylated hydroxyanisole can cause skin disruptions and allergies.
It has also been linked to the disruption of hormonal and reproductive developments. The EU has even labeled it unsafe to use in fragrance because of its links to endocrine disruption.
A common ingredient in many face products, mineral oils are used to retain moisture in the skin. Though this is a useful property for moisturizers, lotions, and serums, it can often cause problems as it creates a film over the skin that clogs pores and can lead to acne, oil build-ups, and skin irritation.
Oxybenzone is the most toxic ingredient used in sunscreen. Like the chemicals I mentioned before, it has been linked to hormone disruption, estrogen mimesis, breast cancer, and even endometriosis.
Unbelievably (given its presence in UV-resisting products) it is also a photocarcinogen, meaning it is a substance that can become carcinogenic when exposed to light.
While it can seem overwhelming to read of so many damaging chemicals present in your everyday products, there are solutions. Organic beauty products or even just products made avoiding the aforementioned ingredients are becoming a part of the mainstream cosmetic industry.
Harm can be avoided. But just remember that this list is not exhaustive, so you should do further research into the products you’re interested in buying. When it comes to your long-term physical health, ignorance certainly isn’t bliss.