Here’s the scary truth: There are many ingredients in cosmetics that may be bad for you. The FDA only regulates certain types of products, like sunscreens and acne treatments, and the rest of the time it’s up to the manufacturer to decide whether a formulation is safe. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), there are more than 1,100 ingredients used in beauty products in the U.S. that are banned in other countries like Japan, Canada, and members of the European Union. In fact, the FDA only prohibits the use of 10 ingredients in cosmetics, and they include scary substances like mercury and chlorofluorocarbon.
The following 5 ingredients, which you’ll probably find in many of your favorite products, raise red flags.
Parabens are preservatives that are used universally and have been used in foods for over 40 years. They are used in minimal amounts in skin care and cosmetics with minimal risk. At this time, the benefits of including parabens in skin care far outweigh the risks of not using parabens. Namely, bacterial, mold, and fungal contamination, which can be harmful to the skin.
Companies are working on paraben-free preservative systems, but it may be a while before they discover something that works just as well. In the meantime, if you’re going to use natural products, be sure to check the expiration date, and toss it six months after opening.
Phthalates are everywhere. They are used as plasticizers in products such as nail polish to prevent cracking and hairspray to decrease stiffness. While the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has labeled phthalates “hormone disruptors,” the research is inconclusive. They are found in such small amounts in cosmetics that according to the CDC and FDA the exposure is very low.
Still, more than one beauty entrepreneur like Jessica Alba and Josie Maran has gone on to create a phthalate-free line. And that’s because the research about phthalates and fetal development is somewhat more convincing. Better safe than sorry, right? Check out this nail polish by Ciate Ciate Mini Paint Pot Nail Polish and Effects Mistress or Josie Maran Argan Tinted Moisturizer that’s Parabens, Sulfates and Phthalates free.
Do you love your antibacterial hand wash? You may want to check the label for Triclosan, an ingredient that the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics calls a potential hormone disrupter (like oxybenzone). It is currently under investigation.
However, this doesn’t mean you should stop washing your hands. Using antimicrobial products is essential, particularly on hands, which are transmitters of disease, as well as keeping skin clean. So keep using your hand sanitizer, just find one that’s triclosan-free like Cleanwell All-natural Hand Sanitizer.
In February 2012, the FDA released a report that confirmed traces of lead in 400 lipsticks, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to do anything about it. Lead is considered a byproduct of color additives, and it isn’t regulated. Even though the FDA isn’t concerned, some experts are. Lead can build up in your system over time, especially since you essentially eat your lipstick, and become toxic. Lead should not be allowed for use anywhere, it’s dangerous in beauty products.
To find out if your favorite lipstick contains lead check it against the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetics Database at ewg.org. If you’re a regular lipstick wearer, switch to a natural brand. Try Ilia ILIA Lip Conditioner, which is extremely moisturizing, or Tarte Lipstick Tarte Amazonian Butter Lipstick Coral Blossom is another great option.
Most chemical sunscreens contain oxybenzone — not to be confused with similarly named avobenzone. However, the EWG has labeled it a “hormone disrupter” (an ingredient that’s linked to fertility problems, obesity, and more), and it was last reviewed by the FDA more than 30 years ago. While the research is inconclusive, it’s important to note that in the European Union products that contain more than .5 percent oxybenzone need to be clearly labeled “contains oxybenzone” so shoppers can avoid it if they choose.
Some sunscreen brands have caught on and are offering oxybenzone-free alternatives. Try Skinceuticals Skinceuticals Sport UV Defense Active Use Broad-spectrum UVA/UVB Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50 , if you’re looking for a chemical-based SPF that doesn’t include the ingredient. For a more natural approach, opt for a mineral sunscreen like Yes To Cucumbers Natural Sunscreen SPF 30 Lotion, which contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
If you know of other harmful ingredients not listed here please share it by leaving a comment below. I would love to hear from you. Xoxo.