Eight Toxic Ingredients to Avoid in Your Beauty Products

Posted by Anna Mitsios on


We may be absorbing up to 2 kilograms of chemicals into our
body each year.
The average woman wears nearly 515 chemicals a day.
Our skin absorbs as much as 60% or more of the topical products placed on our body.

To what extent are chemicals in skincare a problem?

It is claimed that women who are using makeup on a daily basis are absorbing almost 2 kilograms or 5lb of chemicals per year into their bodies[1].

Most people use cosmetics and other personal care items without a second thought, believing that none of the chemicals will penetrate their skin and hence they have nothing to worry about. However, studies suggest that our skin, the largest organ in our body, absorbs close to 60% of the topical products with which the skin comes into contact.

According to a survey of 2300 people, conducted by Skin Deep, on average, respondents use nine products daily.  Alarmingly, 25% of the women surveyed applied 15 or more products each day, containing 126 unique ingredients[2].  Some studies suggest we may be wearing nearly 515 chemicals per day.

What toxins should you be looking out for?

It can often be confusing to know what to avoid. In general it is best to avoid any ingredient, natural or synthetic, which can poison the environment or cause harm to human health. I provide further detail on why you should avoid the below ingredients in my blog post “Toxic Beauty”. This includes ingredients which have been proven toxic and mutagenic in animal studies, and includes:

  1. Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) / Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and other sulfate-based detergents: These are used in car washes, garage floor cleaners, engine degreasers and 90% of personal care products that foam. Eye damage, depression, laboured breathing, diarrhoea and skin and eye irritation have been linked to their use. Not only are they harmful, they are also extremely drying to the hair and skin. They have been shown to change the structure of skin protein making it susceptible to sun damage and accelerated ageing. 
  2. Propylene glycol, polyethylene glycol and various ingredients formulated with PEGs and PGs: PEGs have been found in everything from personal care products, baby care and sunscreens. They act as binders and plasticise ingredients and are designed to enhance the penetration of other ingredients into the skin. This is often a double whammy when you consider that there are often many ingredients in these products that you do not want to be penetrating deeply through the skin barrier.  Dioxin is a by-product of the process used to create propylene glycol. Dioxin has been linked to cancer, reduced immunity, nervous system disorders, miscarriage and birth deformity. If you see a PEG on your beauty product ingredient list this is definitely a product you do not want to be absorbing into your skin.
  3. Parabens (methyl, butyl, ethyl, propyl): Parabens are preservatives and allow skin care products to survive for months or even years in your medicine cabinet. They are used in deodorants and other skin care products and have been found in breast cancer tumours. Parabens are known endocrine disruptors that have been linked to cancer and hormonal imbalances. There are plant-based and plant derived preservatives on the market which make it unnecessary to use products containing parabens. Edible Beauty products are persevered using Sodium Anisate and Sodium Levulinate derived from Aniseed and starch. Our skincare is also packaged in Miron glass which helps to preserve and activate our botanical ingredients. 
  4. Phthalates (DBP, DEP, DEHP, and DMP): Phthalates are most often used to create fragrances in cosmetic products. They are known endocrine and fertility disruptors. The scary reality which exists around phthalates is that we are exposed to them in so many areas of our life - from our cleaning products, haircare to personal care and makeup.. The storage of these toxins in fat cells and their bio-accumulation over time makes a strong case for avoiding exposure to synthetic fragrances. With so many natural essential oils and extracts on the market there is no need to reach for synthetic fragrances. We love infusing our edible beauty range with extracts including vanilla, lime, cucumber, citrus and rose.
  5. Synthetic (FD&C and other) dyes and colourants: Synthetic colours from coal tar contain heavy metal salts that deposit toxins in skin, causing skin sensitivity/irritation. Absorption can cause depletion of oxygen, and animal studies show the majority are carcinogenic. Look for makeup which uses natural iron oxide to create pigments. You will be surprised at the colour assortments that can be created by natural pigments.
  6. Benzyl Peroxide: This is predominantly used in acne products and may act as a mutagen, producing DNA damage in human and other mammalian cells. Natural anti-microbial extracts, Kakadu Plum, Aloe Vera and Salicylic Acid are alternatives to harsh acne treatments and solve acne problems as quickly and effectively as their chemical counterparts.
  7. DEA (Diethanolamine), MEA (Monoethanolamine) and TEA (Triethanolamine): This foam booster is a skin irritant and causes contact dermatitis. It is easily absorbed through the skin to accumulate in body organs and the brain. The more you can get used to milk and oil based cleansers, the happier your skin will be. Not only to oil based cleansers prevent your skin being stripped of its natural oils, they also enable the skin to balance oil production by providing it exactly what it needs so that it does not overcompensate by overproducing oil. 
  8. Formaldehyde: Has many uses but is most often used in cosmetics as a disinfectant and preservative. Be cautious of products containing 1,4-dioxane, as this can also release formaldehyde in certain chemical processes. Formaldehyde is a carcinogen, skin, eye and lung irritant.

Awareness of "avoid" ingredients is the first step to creating a toxin-free beauty routine. Being equally aware of suitable alternatives to toxic ingredients is empowering and provides you with options to equip you with everything you need to practice a pure and highly effective beauty routine. 

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