• Melanie

Are your skincare products toxic?

Updated: Apr 16, 2020

Most people probably don't give a second thought to the beauty products, sunscreens, shampoos, and deodorants they use. When was the last time you read the ingredient label on one of your products? Just as with the food you eat, you should be able to pronounce the ingredients. What you put on your skin is as equally important as the food you put in your mouth! Our skin is our largest organ and 75% of what we put on it gets absorbed into our bloodstream in just 26 seconds!

Beauty does start from the inside out, no question. What happens on your skin is an outward reflection of what's going on inside your body. If you have inflammation going on from consuming sugar, vegetable oils, or undiagnosed food sensitivities, this shows up as rashes, acne, eczema, dryness, and other common skin problems. Processed wheat and dairy products can also contribute.

But what if I told you that most of the cosmetic brands you find in the big box stores or drugstores (and even some direct sales companies) contain chemicals that disrupt your hormones and even lead to cancer? If you assume that our FDA regulates the beauty industry, think again: 1938 was the last year the federal government passed a law regulating cosmetics. European Union countries are apparently much more concerned with the health of their citizens. The EU has banned 1400 chemicals for use in cosmetics and skincare. Even the sunscreens produced in Europe are required to contain UVA protection that is at least 30% of the product's UVB protection. No such regulation here in the U.S. Currently there are only 30 harmful chemicals banned or restricted for cosmetics in the U.S. And only 10% of the 10,000 chemicals found in beauty products have safety data. Researchers at UC Berkeley published a study in 2013 that detected lead, cadmium, aluminum, and several other metals in popular lipsticks and lipglosses. That's enough to make you take a second look at your products!

Here are 6 of the most common ingredients in beauty and skincare products that should NEVER be absorbed into your skin:

1. Formaldehyde - This is common in preservatives used in moisturizers, nail polish/glue, eyelash glue, hair gel and smoothing products, body wash, color cosmetics, and eye creams. Formaldehyde can be absorbed through the skin and is linked to cancer, skin rashes, and wreaks havoc on your immune system.

It is listed as different names so look for: quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, polyoxymethylene urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol, and glyoxal.

2. PEGs - PEGs can be contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. Ethylene oxide is classified as a known human carcinogen and 1.4-dioxane is a possible carcinogen. Ethylene oxide can harm the nervous system and the California EPA has classified it as a developmental toxicant based on evidence that it interferes with human development.

PEGs are widely used in many products, including facial masks, as a thickener or solvent.

3. Mineral oil - Mineral oil is derived from crude oil (a petroleum product, which is a nonrenewable fossil fuel). It is a know human carcinogen and can affect the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract. It is commonly used in a vast array of products from cosmetics to styling gel.

4. Artificial fragrances - Fragrances can be any blend of ingredients and are not required to be disclosed by U.S. law on labels. These synthetic fragrances can contain trace amounts of pthalates, which are endocrine disruptors.

5. Carbon black - A dark black powder used as a pigment in cosmetics. It is made from coal tar and it is linked to cancer. Look for carbon black, D & C Black No. 2, acetylene black, channel black, furnace black, lamp black, and thermal black.

6. Sulfates - Found in many shampoos, soaps, toothpastes, and other personal care products. It can cause skin irritation and it helps other chemicals get into your body. The molecules in SLS are so small they cross the body's cell membranes and make them more vulnerable to other toxins.

Lipsticks and any color cosmetics typically contain lead and other heavy metals, which are known carcinogens and toxic to our bodies. Lead is now banned in paint and gasoline, but not in products we put on our skin? Aluminum in antiperspirants/deodorants are a serious problem. Aluminum is a neurotoxin and is linked to cancer, so why are we applying it daily to our underarms in direct proximity to our lymph nodes and breast tissue? Look for aluminum free natural deodorants like Native, Schmidt's, Beautycounter, or Primally Pure. Ingredients to look out for in sunscreen include parabens, avobenzone, oxybenzone, which are endocrine disruptors (and have been banned in Hawaii), and methylisothiazolinone, named "allergen of the year" by the American Contact Dermatitis Society. Another dangerous ingredient to look for is retinyl palmitate, sometimes listed as vitamin A palmitate. This has been shown to speed up growth of cancerous tumors. Katie Wells of Wellness Mama has a good post on safer sunscreens here

The Environmental Working Group has a great app I recommend called the Healthy Living app. It allows you to scan the barcode of products with your phone camera. It gives you a rating for the product from 1-10 indicating what ingredients are a concern. You want to look for the lowest rating possible (below a 4). If your product isn't listed you can search ingredients, or add the product to their database by taking photos. This app also includes the EWG's Dirty Dozen list which gives you the top 12 produce items with the most chemicals sprayed on them, which they update every year. Visit to learn more about healthy living and avoiding toxins.

So what are my favorite clean, safe skincare products? I love Beautycounter, Younique, Primally Pure, and Tarte for cosmetics and skincare. I'm currently using Native brand natural deodorant. For safe sunscreen I always go with Beautycounter. You can check out their full line of skincare, cosmetics, and baby products at

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