Every day, new products are introduced to the beauty market. The problem is, there is no transparency in regards to toxic ingredients. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not have to approve any cosmetic products before they go up for sale. Essentially, if a business properly labels a product using the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and is honest with the purpose of the product, abiding by the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act, then it is perfectly okay for it to be sold to the public. We’re trusting the beauty companies to choose safe ingredients. Unfortunately, more often than not, the innocent products we use every day are packed with harmful chemicals that can be detrimental to our overall health. It’s time to reset our beauty routines by finding products that are safe, non-toxic, and rejuvenating. 

Let’s talk about what “clean beauty” means: 

The industry allows companies to market their products as “clean” and “natural” without having to meet any qualifications. That means that if we truly want to make our beauty routines healthier, it’s up to us, the consumers, to do our research. From deodorants to shampoos, and face cleansers to lip balms, responsible brands are beginning to update their formulas to prioritize the safety of users. However, it can be tricky to spot an authentically clean product when the market is filled with items that have hidden, harmful ingredients.

There are plenty of ingredients you should avoid, no matter what. Here’s a quick list of those toxic contents, and the effects of daily exposure. 

Parabens

These man-made chemicals are used as preservatives in cosmetics to increase their shelf lives.  However, parabens are known to disturb the balance of hormones since it mimics estrogen in the body. Repeated exposure to parabens is concerning because they affect reproductive organs, and can ultimately increase one’s risk of cancer. Often, long-chain parabens are listed on products, meaning there will be a suffix in front of the word “paraben.” Some common ones are isobutyl-, butyl-, isopropyl- and propylparaben.

Fragrances  

This is a blanket term, used to hide all the chemicals used to make a product smell amazing. Since fragrances are considered unique to each brand, they do not have to disclose their formula, and in turn, they can disguise the harmful ingredients used. Nonetheless, phthalates are added to fragrances to make them last longer, and they are abbreviated as EP, BBzP, DBP, and DEHP on an ingredient list. Phthalates have been linked to hormonal harm, leading to breast cancers, and reproductive problems for both men and women. 

Aluminum Compounds

Usually spotted in deodorants and antiperspirants, aluminum is one of the most dangerous metals used in cosmetics. According to recent studies done on breast cancer, 1 in 8 US women are expected to develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Not only is this scary, but it must leave us to question the effects of what we are putting on our bodies, especially since many breast cancers are detected close to the armpit where these products are applied. Back in 2009, evidence was released linking aluminum usage to breast cancer. Although the American Cancer Society claims there is not enough data to draw this conclusion, if there’s anything we’ve learned about the way the U.S. government interacts with the cosmetic industry, it’s that the health of the consumer is not prioritized. Stay safe, and steer clear of any product containing aluminum. 

Ethoxylated Agents

More commonly known as sulfates, these are the ingredients responsible for that bubbly lather found in shampoos and cleansers. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and polyethylene glycols (PEGs) are not considered “toxic,” however, they are known to lead to a variety of skin and eye irritations. Essentially, these harsh chemicals strip the skin and hair of their natural oils, angering the body when used repeatedly. 

Formaldehyde

Often found in Keratin treatments, this ingredient is usually hidden as methylene glycol, formalin, methanal, and methanethiol. When mixed with water during the treatment, the carcinogenic compound is released, leading to a series of risks. The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says common side effects of formaldehyde are itchy eyes, a sore throat, and nosebleeds. Also note, the FDA issued a warning that formulas can falsely claim to be “natural” and “organic” or “formaldehyde-free.”

Refined Petroleum

This moisturizing agent is harmful to both the environment and human health. In 2011, there was evidence found that mineral oil, aka petroleum, was the number one pollutant in women’s bodies. A scarier fact is that vehicle antifreeze, styrofoam, and many facial moisturizers have one thing in common…petroleum as an ingredient. 

Talc

Powders and eyeshadows usually contain talc. The problem? Impurified talc can contain human carcinogen, aka a substance capable of causing cancer. Johnson & Johnson was recently investigated for the presence of talc in their baby powders, directly linked to dangerous cancers. 

Triclosan

Make sure your hand sanitizer does not contain triclosan. This ingredient leads to liver fibrosis, skin cancers, hormone disruption, and can even develop bad bacteria on your skin! The FDA issued an official ban on this one, but still, be conscious and double-check the formula you use is free from this. 

Silica

Amorphous silica is the only silicon that is allowed to be used in cosmetics. However, this is often contaminated with crystalline silica, a known human carcinogen. In many products, traces of crystalline silica have been found, even though it is not on the label. Proceed with caution when using a product with silicon, knowing that there is a high chance it contains the unsafe version of silicon that is directly linked to many cancers. 

Oxybenzone

This ingredient is used in chemical sunscreens, also known as BP3. Oxybenzone messes with human hormones and can lead to infertility, birthing defects, and, of course, cancer. 

What Beauty Brands are Clean?

Wow, let’s take a deep breath. Before you start worrying about all the harmful chemicals you’ve been exposing yourself to for years, know that you have taken the first step towards a cleaner, and safer, beauty routine. Hopefully, you want to build a truly natural, and clean beauty routine. Please remember, this is a journey. Take it one step at a time, instead of replacing all your products at once, try changing your deodorant this week, then your facial moisturizer the next, and so on. 

Fortunately, there are many clean brands out there screaming for change, and transparency, within the industry. OY-L founder, Andrea Pierce-Naymon, drew a connection between her teenager’s “innocent” acne products and her diagnosis of Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS). By using the Think Dirty app, Andrea found that many products used by her daughter were rated dangerously toxic. Alarmed by the dangerous side-effects of what her daughter was using every day, she created a clean beauty brand that focuses on using pure ingredients that are naturally derived. Her mission is to provide “beauty without secrets,” and to educate people on what’s really in cosmetic products so the public understands the toxicity of the industry. All of the OY-L products are made to order with proven-safe contents.

ONE SEED is a natural perfume brand based in Australia. Liz Cook, the founder, explained that “Our bodies are made to deal with natural ingredients, not synthetic ones.” The company is committed to providing a safe, and clean perfume to consumers. They are also one of the only perfumes that have adopted what they call the “Nothing To Hide” policy. This means they’ll tell you what they use to make their fragrances unlike the majority of the industry!

Additionally, Bali Balance’s founder Nadja Nufer was appalled that she “couldn’t find any natural products with no nasties of palm products,” which inspired her chemical-free beauty brand. Offering hair, skin, and body care, this is a great company to check out for your new routine.

Moving right along, Britt Botanicals is committed to “creating better,” in regards to the industry and the earth. They only use natural, eco-friendly, high-quality ingredients to ensure their products are both beneficial and non-toxic. Even better, Britt Botanicals is committed to reducing plastic waste and offers shampoo and conditioner bars that are better for you and the planet!

Last but not least, Tulura is a luxurious skin-care brand, created in response to the founder’s skin issues. She was alarmed by the toxicity in her skincare routine and went to make a clean formula, which instantly cleared her acne. She realized that it wasn’t her skin that was the problem, it was the damaging ingredients in her previous routine that hurt her complexion.

All in all, it’s not the label that makes a product natural, it’s the contents of that product. It’s our responsibility to know what’s inside the formulas we use. The beauty industry is beginning to shift towards more ethical and sustainable practices. Make a conscious choice to choose better. Do your research, and know exactly what you are putting on your skin.