10 Toxic Skincare Ingredients (And Why We’ll Never Use Them) Blue Haven Holistics

10 Toxic Skincare Ingredients (And Why We’ll Never Use Them)

Ingredient Savvy: Ten Toxic Skincare Ingredients You'll Never Find in Our Products 

If you’re passionate about clean and natural beauty products, you’re likely already familiar with the many plant-based ingredients we love to use at Blue Haven Holistics. However, a question we get asked often is: which ingredients should consumers avoid and why?

This is a great question because, as it just so happens, so many trending products on the market today still contain ingredients that are harmful for our skin and even our health.

So with this in mind, today we’re sharing a full breakdown of ten cosmetic components that aren’t so great, and why we choose to formulate our products without them. Keep reading for all the details!

1,4-dioxane

What it is:

According to the FDA, 1,4-dioxane is not a cosmetic ingredient, but trace amounts may be found in some cosmetic formulas due to the fact that it is a byproduct of other common ingredients.

Also known as:

Because it won’t appear on a product label, look for ingredients that may potentially be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane. Examples include: SLS, SLES, and chemical agents with names ending in “xynol”, “oleth”, or “ceteareth”.

Why it’s considered harmful:

Both the EPA and the FDA cite 1,4-dioxane as being a potential human carcinogen, and it is included in California’s State Proposition 65, listed as a chemical that may cause cancer or birth defects.

Found in:

Ingredients like sulfates are often used as a foaming or lather agent in products such as shampoos, body washes, and bubble bath.

Healthy alternatives:

Natural foaming agents are best. When choosing products, opt for castile soap-based formulas, or products containing coco glucoside, decyl glucoside, and Sodium lauryl glucose carboxylate.

 

Butylated HydroxyAnisole (BHA) and Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)

What they are:

BHA and BHT are used as a preservative in cosmetics formulas, as well as in food.

Also known as:

BHA and BHT are also sometimes referred to as butylated compounds.

Why they’re considered harmful:

Studies suggest that butylated compounds may be linked to numerous health risks, including certain cancers, endocrine disruption, organ system toxicity, as well as developmental and reproductive toxicity.

Found in:

BHA and BHT tend to be found in products that contain oil including creams, anti-perspirants, hair products, makeup, and sunscreen.

Healthy alternatives:

Similar to other chemical preservatives, natural substitutes can be used to replace BHA and BHT, such as sodium benzoate, ethylhexylglycerin, and leuconostoc/radish root ferment filtrate.

 

Parabens

What they are:

Parabens are a type of chemical that acts as an artificial preservative and extends the shelf life of personal care products.

Also known as:

Any ingredient that ends with “paraben.” Examples include ethylparaben, butylparaben, methylparaben, propylparaben, isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben.

Why they’re considered harmful:

Parabens have been identified as a potential hormone disruptor, and may have an impact on fertility. They may also contribute to skin irritation, and an increased risk of cancer.

Found in:

Parabens are often used in formulas with high water content to prevent contamination by fungi, or bacteria. For this reason you’ll find them in cleansers, toothpaste, sunscreens, shampoos, shaving gel and others.

Healthy alternatives:

Parabens are unnecessary given the many other effective options. Some we recommend include benzyl alcohol (and) dehydroacetic acid, salicylic acid, sorbic acid, potassium sorbet, sodium benzoate, benzyl alcohol (and) dehydroacetic acid, naticide, phytocide aspen bark, phytocide elderberry, natapres, leucidal liquid, and amticide coconut.

 

Phenoxyethanol

What it is:

Phenoxyethanol is an ingredient stabilizer and preservative, for limiting bacterial growth in cosmetics.

Also known as:

2-Phenoxyethanol, Euxyl K 400 (Phenoxyethanol with 1, 2-dibromo-2, 4-dicyanobutane), and PhE.

Why it’s considered harmful:

In skincare and other topical formulas, phenoxyethanol has been demonstrated to cause allergic reactions – such as inflammation, hives, eczema, and anaphylaxis – at the site of application.

Found in:

Phenoxyethanol is frequently used to stabilize other ingredients in perfumes and soaps. It’s also found in hair products, nail polishes, hand sanitizers, baby care products, and many makeup formulas. Surprisingly many natural skincare brands use this preservative in their formulations so make sure to check product labels even if the product is classified as "natural".

Healthy alternatives:

Similar to other chemical preservatives, natural substitutes can be used to replace phenoxyethanol, such as sodium benzoate, ethylhexylglycerin, and leuconostoc/radish root ferment filtrate.

 

Phthalates

What they are:

Phthalates are a type of plasticizer used to increase the flexibility and durability of plastic, but they are also added to cosmetic formulas to improve ingredient synergy and soften the skin.

Also known as:

Some of the most common phthalates you’ll find listed on an ingredient label are dibutyl phthalate (DBP), diisononyl phthalate (DINP), diethyl phthalate (DEP), di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), dimethyl phthalate (DMP), benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP), di-n-octyl phthalate (DNOP), and diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP).

Why they’re considered harmful:

Health concerns linked to phthalates include endocrine disruption, developmental and reproductive toxicity, and certain cancers.

Found in:

Phthalates appear in many products with synthetic fragrance or color, including but not limited to nail polish, perfume, lipsticks, body washes, and hair care.

Healthy alternatives:

In addition to checking product labels to see if they contain phthlalate ingredients, we recommend purchasing products packaged in recyclable glass, rather than plastic.

 

Polyethylene Glycol

What it is:

Polyethylene glycol refers to synthetic petrochemicals used to enhance the absorption of product ingredients into the skin. Different types may also be used as thickeners, softeners, and solvents.

Also known as:

Often, polyethylene glycol appears as PEG on ingredient labels. Additionally, the term PEG compounds is also sometimes used.

Why it’s considered harmful:

PEGs have been found to contain toxins like 1,4-dioxane and ethylene oxide which are known carcinogens and respiratory irritants. It is believed that prolonged exposure to these compounds may cause serious health risks, including damage to the nervous system.

Found in:

Polyethylene glycol may be used in all types of cosmetics ranging from hand soaps, to hair products like shampoo, hairspray, and conditioner. It is also commonly found in sunscreen and daily use SPF.

Healthy alternatives:

To avoid the risks associated with PEGs, natural glycols can be used. Vegetable glycerine is one such alternative that can be used in products as a moisturizer and emulsifier.

 

Polyacrylamides

What it is:

Polyacrylamide is an ingredient binder and stabilizer commonly used in beauty products. It may also be included in cosmetic formulas as a foaming agent or lubricant.

Also known as:

Acrylamide, polyacrylate, polyquaternium, and acrylate.

Why it’s considered harmful:

Due to its chemical composition, polyacrylamide is a potential carcinogen and research suggests that daily exposure may increase the risk of cancer. In animal studies it has been linked to thyroid, testicular, uterine, pituitary gland and oral cancers. It may also contribute to reproductive and developmental toxicity.

Found in:

Many skincare items such as anti-aging products, lotions, sunscreens, and facial moisturizers may contain polyacrylamide. It is also used in some hair products and color cosmetics.

Healthy alternatives:

Activated starch is an effective natural and nontoxic replacement for polyacrylamide and similar compounds.

 

Ethylenediaminetetraacetic Acid

What it is:

Used in many personal care products as a preservative, ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid, works by deactivating metal ions in cosmetic formulas, which can help to prevent deterioration and the breakdown of fragrance compounds.

Also known as:

When avoiding EDTA be on the lookout for a number of salts derived from ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid. These include: calcium disodium EDTA, diammonium EDTA, dipotassium EDTA, disodium EDTA, TEA-EDTA, tetrasodium EDTA, tripotassium EDTA, and trisodium EDTA

Why it’s considered harmful:

In large doses it is suspected that EDTA poses a number of potential health risks, including irritation of the skin, eyes, or lungs, and organ system toxicity.

Found in:

EDTA and related ingredients are used in all manner of personal care and cleaning products. Some examples would be bath soaps, shampoos, skin cleansers, hair bleach, and hair color.

Healthy alternatives:

One promising plant-derived alternative that can replace EDTA in cosmetics is phytate or sodium phytate, a form of phosphorus that works to stabilize other ingredients. It also has additional benefits for moisturizing and brightening the skin.

 

Hydroquinone

What it is: Hydroquinone is a skin bleaching agent often used in formulas that lighten the skin. It works to target excess pigment and discoloration.

Also known as:

Hydroquinone is also sometimes listed as tocopheryl acetate, a synthetic version of Vitamin E.

Why it’s considered harmful:

Although it remains a popular ingredient in skin brightening treatments, many people are sensitive to hydroquinone and may experience symptoms of irritation or allergic reaction when using it. It may also increase the risk of skin cancer, organ system toxicity, and respiratory tract irritation.

Found in:

Hydroquinone is most commonly featured in products that claim to brighten or lighten the skin, such as serums, masks, and facial creams.

Healthy alternatives:

For those who prefer to avoid hydroquinone but still want to enjoy its benefits, ingredients like licorice root, turmeric root, alpha-hydroxy acids, Vitamin C, Vitamin B3, and other antioxidants are safe and effective substitutes.

 

Synthetic Fragrance

What they are:

Synthetic fragrances and flavors appear in all kinds of cosmetic products to enhance their aroma or recreate certain scents.

Also known as:

Synthetic fragrance can be tricky to spot on an ingredient list. Due to loose regulations around labeling, companies aren’t required to list specifics. In many cases, you will simply see the word “fragrance” or “parfum” listed, indicating that ingredients have been added for the purpose of scenting the product.

Why they’re considered harmful:

Fragrance ingredients can be irritating to the skin and may even cause allergic reactions. They have also been cited as contributing to respiratory illness, and endocrine disruption.

Found in:

Synthetic or artificial fragrances appear in just about every type of personal care product – including makeup, skincare, hair products, and perfumes. Surprisingly, there are many "natural" skincare companies that list "fragrance" on their product labels. This is a broad term used for other synthetic ingredients that are not required to be listed on the label. 

We believe in transparency and every ingredient, regardless of the amount contained should be listed on the product label. 

Healthy alternatives:

If you enjoy scented products but wish to steer clear of questionable chemical fragrance ingredients, look for products enhanced with essential oils or botanical extracts, which are naturally-derived and less likely to cause a reaction. 

 

 

References:

Cosmetics Contain 1,4 Dioxane: How Harmful Is It? 

What Are Parabens, and Why Don’t They Belong in Cosmetics?

Phenoxyethanol by The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

The Dirty Dozen: BHA and BHT

Phthalates by The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics 

Polyacrylamide by The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

EDTA by The Environmental Working Group 

Everything You Need to Know About Hydroquinone 

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