Ambiguous labeling of cosmetics and skincare products in the United States creates a big problem for consumers. It’s an issue for those of us who want to not only know what is going on our skin (and thus into our bodies), but who also want to avoid known carcinogenic or otherwise harmful ingredients.
Because of loose labeling standards, companies aren’t legally required to disclose all of the ingredients used in their products. To further complicate things, words such as “natural” can be used by anyone for anything. Even “organic” can be misleading, and broad swaths of the skincare and cosmetics industry have taken an “innocent until proven guilty” approach to terminology and disclosure of ingredients.
Very few companies are committed to full disclosure, and sometimes even the limited ingredients that actually are listed on the label are disturbing enough to give a consumer pause about the substantial health risks they might pose.
There are five toxic ingredients that are very commonly found in skincare and cosmetic products. Some of them have even been banned in other countries, but are still in use in the US. Do you know what these ingredients are, and if you’re putting them on your skin?
Grab your current skincare products and carefully review the ingredients to make sure none of these toxins are lurking.
1. Synthetic colors sourced from coal tar
These are known carcinogens banned in the EU, but still used in many products here in the US. You’ll find them listed as a color plus number (for example: FD&C Red No. 6). They’re used in many skin care products, but especially dandruff shampoos and treatments for dry skin. In cosmetics, synthetic or artificial colors or dyes are used to make a desired shade cheaply, but the long term safety of adding these colors to products used on a daily basis is questionable.
There are currently seven dyes allowed by the FDA, despite the health concerns inherent in their use. Those against the use of such colors state that they are “that they are toxic, carcinogens and contributors to ADHD.”
Nature has provided so many safe, non-toxic answers for these artificial colors. Look for products without added colorings, or with colorings from plant sources. Consider personal care products whose ingredients you know are fully disclosed, even the ones used in tiny amounts!
2. Sodium lauryl (ether) sulfate (SLS, SLES)
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is highly irritating and can produce a range of undesirable side effects ranging from severe allergic reactions to milder reactions such as dry and itchy skin that necessitates the overuse of moisturizing products. SLS is used as an emulsifier and detergent agent in cosmetics, toothpastes, and pharmaceuticals. It’s frequently referred to on labels by several other common names; click here to familiarize yourself with all of them.
With a little research, it’s easy to find SLS-free products these days. If you discovered SLS (or any of its other versions) in your skincare cabinet, take a few moments to seek out alternatives.
This is another ingredient that has been banned from use in the EU. Listed by the FDA as a known carcinogen and severe irritant, formaldehyde can be found in nail polishes, nail hardeners, eyelash glues, hair gels, soaps, makeup, shampoos, lotions, and deodorants, among other products.
In a survey of the FDA’s voluntary cosmetic disclosure database several years ago, it was found that 20% of the products on the market in the US contain formaldehyde in varying amounts. While there is a great deal of debate over just how much formaldehyde is TOO much, it is wise for consumers to factor in not just the exposure in the amount per use, but the cumulative effect over years of weekly or daily use of multiple products.
Building a relationship with companies like Beeyoutiful who refuse to use formaldehyde in any of their cosmetics is an easy step to ensure you won’t find yourself exposed on a regular basis to this highly toxic compound.
4. Lead (and other heavy metals)
Another known carcinogen, lead is found in disturbingly high quantities in lipstick and hair dyes. You won’t find this toxin listed on a label, though, because it’s not an added ingredient but rather a contaminant allowed through by poor quality control. Even some “natural” mineral makeup products can have heavy metal contamination.
The FDA insists that the amount of lead found in US lipsticks is perfectly acceptable, but many consumer safety advocates vehemently disagree. They point out that what goes on the lips is also consumed internally, and with multiple applications per day, exposure can add up to quantities that can realistically pose a health risk, especially to individuals who struggle with detoxing heavy metals.
Ask your cosmetics company if per-batch heavy metal testing is done on their makeup so that the end product is safe from such toxins.
Want a heavy metal-free way to get gorgeous, kissable color on your lips? Click here for quick and easy tutorials on how to transform pure minerals into a luscious lip color in just a couple of seconds.
5. Phthalate-based synthetic fragrances
More and more individuals are becoming hyper-sensitized to synthetic fragrances to the point that even going out in public can pose a health hazard. One whiff of the wrong perfume or body spray from a passerby and crippling headaches, asthma attacks, or other serious symptoms can attack immediately.
Even for those who do not have immediate visible adverse reactions, synthetic fragrances have been shown to interfere with the immune system. These chemicals are considered potential neurotoxins and can be found in measurable amounts in the blood of frequent fragrance wearers.
Some fragrance chemicals are known as DBP (di-n-butyl phthalate), DEP (diethyl phthalate), DEHP (di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate or bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate), BzBP (benzylbutyl phthalate), and DMP (dimethyl phthalate), although you will rarely (never?) see any of those names appear on a label.
Most of us now come in contact with phthalates on such a frequent basis that our babies are even being exposed to them in utero. Phthalates are known endocrine disruptors, and this heavy exposure load is bad news for hormonal health. Anything we can do to lower our exposure on both the food and skincare fronts will help to reduce overall toxicity, so avoiding synthetic fragrances in our perfumes, soaps, detergents, and household cleaners is a great strategy.
Now that you’ve read all your labels…
Be careful about the products you put on your skin! The best thing we consumers can do is to seek out companies who are 100% committed to full disclosure in all labeling, and who refuse to take advantage of labeling loopholes available under the current regulations.
Beeyoutiful is dedicated to NEVER using synthetic colors, SLS, formaldehyde, and phthalates of any kind in our products, and we do per-batch testing for heavy metals in our mineral makeups to make sure they are pure and safe.
I’m a busy mom to three small children, and the task of reading labels, researching chemicals, and other scary ingredients can be overwhelming and sometimes even feel like it’s a losing battle. But, I’ve learned that baby steps towards better choices can be a lot less overwhelming than attempting to overhaul every aspect of life from top to bottom. Having the support and encouragement of a loving community of individuals along the way instead of going it alone also makes an enormous difference.
Our Beeyoutiful families have been on their personal journeys for years towards better health, better choices, and responsibly created products and are always willing to share resources and encouragement from our experiences. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions! Together, we can not only make better choices for ourselves and our families, but also create a better world for our children.
Wishing you health and peace,