What makes you beautiful can’t possibly be bad for you, right? That’s what a lot of cosmetic companies want you to believe. With new information on common but hazardous ingredients on the rise, they’re working day and night these days to “greenwash” their products by adding words like, “natural,” “biodegradable,” and “eco-friendly.”
Don’t fall for their scams. Decide for yourself what you’re willing to put on your face by reading ingredients. While you should reduce waste and save money by finishing what you currently use, do your skin and the ecosystem a favor by avoiding products with the following ingredients the next time you shop.
Propylene glycol & polyethylene glycol (PEGs and PGs)
Found in: lotions, deodorants, mascara, baby powder
On Skin Deep, the Environmental Working Group’s cosmetics database, PEGs and PGs rate anywhere from a 4 to a 7 on the toxicity scale (0 being not hazardous and 10 being most hazardous). This makes them tricky to demonize as many green organizations have done, but this much is sure: they often irritate your skin, eyes, and lungs, and are easily classified as an environmental toxin. Scientists have recorded a few cases of tumor formation in some animal studies, too.
Formaldehyde and paraben preservatives
Like: butylparaben, ethylparaben, methylparaben, anything ending with –paraben
Found in: sunscreens, shampoos, shaving gels, body lotions, toothpastes
By now, you’ve probably been touched by the paraben scare—for good reason. Parabens are used as preservatives but they’re also known as “gender benders,” meaning they can wreak havoc on the endocrine system in infants, young children, and pregnant mothers. Some speculation has been made about breast cancer, but studies are ongoing. Skin toxications and endocrine disruption has been known to occur amongst animals after the stuff goes down your shower drain and into the ecosystem.
Like: petroleum jelly, isopropyl alcohol, butyl alcohol, ethyl alcohol, ethanol
Found in: skin astringents, perfumes, lotions
Although petrochemicals aren’t exactly hazardous, beware of them if you have sensitive or acne-prone skin. Slathering mineral oil on your skin can suffocate your pores, leading to blemishes or dermatitis.
Sodium laureth/lauryl sulfates
Found in: shampoos, shower gels, bubble baths
SLS is a cleansing agent that has been found in many cases to cause irritation to eyes, skin, and lungs. Some laboratory cases have shown brain, nervous system, and behavioral effects as well as mutations at moderate doses. Environment Canada Domestic Substance List classifies SLS as an environmental toxin, too. That means fish (and tomorrow night’s sushi) has to deal with the stuff after you do.
Like: anything with an F (for “food”) and DC (“drugs and cosmetics”), usually followed by a number or color
Skin Deep says dyes aren’t too worrisome for most people. Still, if you have an allergy of which you don’t know the source, try cutting out soaps, detergents, fabric softeners, makeup, and the like that contain synthetic dyes. Your allergies might go away as they have for many people.
Cosmetic companies aren’t legally obligated to disclose the ingredients of their artificial fragrances, usually just listed as “parfum,” “fragrance,” or the like. This protects their signature scent, but it also means they could be putting anything into their supposedly green and safe product. Since they’re already concocting with “gender benders” and stuff to block your pores, I wouldn’t put a whole lot of faith in them.