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Coming Clean

Beauty Ingredients to Try To Avoid

It happened a few years ago.  I made the decision to start incorporating new and natural based products into my life.  It started out small – household cleaners, detergent, and then I started in on something a lot more personal – my skincare and beauty products.  

My relationship with skincare products started young.  I would watch my mother slather her skin with moisturizers and would sneak little dollops for myself when she wasn’t looking. I was always trying to find THE product that would change my life. Truth be told, when I was younger and in the midst of the highly embarrassing teenage skin issue period of my life, I was under the impression that chemicals worked.  They would do whatever they had to do to get my skin clear again.  I cleansed, I exfoliated, I lathered, but with little success.  But now, my attitude has changed.  I’m still on the hunt for products that will work on my skin – but only products that are in keeping with my new found appreciation for all things natural.  

In my quest to cleanse my life of unnecessary and unhealthy chemicals, I began to read labels.  When looking through the ingredients of many products currently on the market, I found that it’s often a guessing game as to what is actually being listed.  Not only did I not know what they were, I had no idea the harmful effects they were having on my overall health.

There are a handful of harmful ingredients to look out for, which are found in products that we use every day. Here are some key ingredients you may want to avoid:

Parabens – this is one ingredient that we’ve been hearing a lot about lately.  More companies are trying to eliminate these from their products as we are beginning to see more and more “paraben-free” labels popping up.  This ingredient is a preservative added to products that helps stop bacteria and other microbes from growing, especially in moist warm environments like your bathroom.  The most commonly used parabens include methyl- and propylparabens.  Many have focused in on parabens when discussing the causes of breast cancer due to its ability to mimic estrogens.

Thimerosol – the next time you’re buying a tube of mascara, check the label for this ingredient – it’s a nickname for mercury.  Yes, traces of this dangerous metal can still be found in some mascaras.  Despite a ban on mercury on all cosmetics, it does not include those used around the eyes where levels are less.  Thimerosol is added to mascara as a germ killer and to act as a preservative.

Phthalates – they are  widely used in colour cosmetics, scented lotions, body wash, hair care products, and nail polish.  Phthlates are added to cosmetics to prevent smudging.  When looking at the label, be sure to check if “Fragrance” is listed in the ingredients – it’s often an indicator that phthalates have been added.  A common phthalate is called Dibutyl phthalate, which is found in nail polishes.  Some types of phthalates (DEHP) are classified as a possible cause of cancer.

Coal Tar – (commonly listed as “para-phenylenediamine” or “PPD”) the U.S. banned the use of this ingredient in mascara decades ago when it was found to cause blindness.  However, coal tar dye can still be found in dark hair dyes and anti-dandruff shampoo and can cause skin irritation.  They are carcinogenic but are permitted in hair dyes if they are accompanied by a warning.  

Petroleum Distillates – this ingredient can be found in mascara, perfume, lipsticks and foundation.  They are a suspected carcinogen.

Formaldehyde – it is used in small amounts as a preservative in hair and skin products.  Though formaldehyde use has declined in recent years, some brands still use the ingredient in low doses, in which case there is the potential for skin sensitivity.

Parfum  - there are roughly 3,000 chemicals that are used as fragrances.  While many of us like the scent of some of our favourite products, some of these fragrances can trigger allergies or asthma in some users.  Other fragrance ingredients have been linked to cancer and neurotoxicity.  

If you’re like me and want to make changes to your beauty routine, reading up on the ingredients of your favourite products is a good start.  Know what you’re putting on and in your body and you’ll quickly find that this old adage rings true: less is more.