10 harmful chemicals to avoid in cosmetics

Since its conception in 2013, LISA NOTO NATURAL COSMETICS has chosen to offer products that are good for the skin's health, for humans and for the planet. In fact, there exist many products on the market that can cause serious damage to health as a whole.
Here is a list of 10 ingredients to avoid at all costs in cosmetic products.

The best way to avoid them is by reading the contents of the products you buy, so get out your magnifying glasses and remember not to apply toiletries containing these substances to your skin or hair:

1. Mineral Oil and Petroleum 

You might think of mineral oil and petroleum jelly (Vaseline) as being benign. But they’re actually harmful chemicals in cosmetics; these petroleum industry by-products are found in shampoo, cream, lipstick, eyeshadow, foundation, and of course, baby oil which is just 100% mineral oil.

Petroleum is commonly used to coat skin like plastic wrap, but by doing so, the skin’s natural immune barrier is disrupted. The skin then loses its ability to breathe and release toxins, which can then promote acne and other skin disorders, including diaper rash in babies.

This process also slows down skin function and normal cell development, causing  the skin to age prematurely.

2. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate

These foaming agents can be found in shampoos, shower gels, toothpastes and other foamy products. Strong evidence shows that both SLS and SLES are irritants to the skin, eyes and respiratory tract.

It has also been found to be contaminated with the carcinogen 1.4 dioxane.


3. Synthetic Fragrance

Of all the harmful chemicals in cosmetics, this is probably the most common. Yet for some reason, manufacturers are not required to disclose the specific chemicals they use for fragrance in their brand’s list of ingredients.

Sometimes called parfum (perfume), this is considered to be a ‘trade secret’. But it’s a ‘secret’ that could harm your health. Anything that smells nice, including deodorants, perfumes, makeup, shampoos, sunscreens, skin care, body care and even baby care products, probably contain chemical fragrances.

Many of the compounds in fragrances are carcinogenic or otherwise toxic. Even one single ‘fragrance’ listing on a product can actually indicate the presence of up to 4,000 separate ingredients, most or all of these are usually synthetic.

Symptoms related to fragrance sensitivity include headaches, dizziness, rashes, skin discoloration, coughing and vomiting, and allergic skin irritation.

Clinical observation by doctors has shown that exposure to fragrances can affect the central nervous system, causing depression, hyperactivity, and other behavioural problems. Fragrance is definitely one of the most harmful chemicals in cosmetics.

4. Cocoamide DEA , MEA 

These foam boosters are another example of most detrimental chemicals in cosmetics. They’re found in shampoo, hair styling products, facial cleanser, soap and shower gel. All can cause contact dermatitis because they are easily absorbed through skin and accumulate in the internal organs, even the brain. Repeated use can result in major increases of liver and kidney cancer.

DEA (diethanolamine) and MEA (monotaholamine) are usually listed on the ingredient label despite their harmful properties. Carefully read all labels and pay attention for the presence of chemicals like, Cocoamide DEA or MEA, or Lauramide DEA. These are hormone disruptors and are known to form cancer-causing nitrates and nitrosamines.

 5. Cyclomethicone and Siloxanes

Widely used in moisturiser, makeup, and hair care products, these silicone-based compounds are used to soften, smooth, and hydrate. They make hair products dry more quickly and deodorant creams slide on more easily.

They are also used extensively in moisturisers, facial treatments, medical implants and lubricants. But these chemicals are thought to build up toxicity in the liver and gastrointestinal system and are also toxic to wildlife.

6. FD&C Colour Pigments and coal tar

These synthetic color pigments are used in lipstick, mascara, eyeshadow, blush, and other makeup with color.

Synthetic colors from coal tar contain heavy metal salts that deposit toxins in skin, causing skin sensitivity and irritation. Moreover, animal studies show that many are carcinogenic.


7. Parabens, Methylparaben 

Parabens are the most widely used preservative in cosmetic products. They are also used as fragrance ingredients but consumers won’t necessarily find that listed on the label.

These easily penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream. They can mimic estrogen, the primary female sex hormone, and have been detected in human breast cancer tissues, suggesting a possible association.
Parabens may also interfere with male reproductive functions.

In addition, studies indicate that methylparaben applied on the skin reacts with UVB rays, leading to increased skin ageing and DNA damage. It has been estimated that the average woman is exposed to 50mg of parabens per day.

8. Midazolidnyl Urea and DMDM Hydantoin

These are two of the many preservatives that release formaldehyde in cosmetics (formaldehyde-donors). They are found in nearly all mainstream brands of skin, body and hair care products, including antiperspirant and nail polish.

Formaldehyde can irritate the respiratory system, cause skin reactions and trigger heart palpitations. Extended exposure  to formaldehyde may cause joint pain, allergies, depression, headaches, chest pains, ear infections, chronic fatigue, dizziness and loss of sleep. It can also aggravate coughs and colds and trigger asthma. More serious side effects include weakening of the immune system and cancer.


9. Triclosan

This is another one of the most hazardous chemicals in cosmetics. It’s a common ingredient in many grooming products, including toothpaste, facial wash, and deodorant. But it is mainly found in antibacterial hand wash, soap, gel and most household cleaners. It is commonly used to kill bacteria, even though a U.S. FDA advisory committee has found that using products containing it demonstrate no benefits over plain soap and water.

The chemical can cause liver damage, and even small amounts have been linked to thyroid problems. It is so dangerous that the American Medical Association recommends that triclosan not be used in the home, mainly because it may encourage bacterial resistance to antibiotics and cause cancer. 


10. BHT (Butylated Hydroxy Tolulene)

This is certainly one to avoid. This preservative found in lipstick, eye shadow, lip gloss and skin cream penetrates the skin and stays put in fatty tissue. When the body metabolises BHT, it creates free radicals in your body that can create damage to cell’s DNA, causing cancer.

Despite the cancer risk, it is still found in most popular makeup and skincare brands .

It doubles as a food preservative found in certain cereals, soft drinks and chewing gum.

It can be scary to read about these risks,  we feel helpless and betrayed by the cosmetics industry that prioritizes profit over quality and health. However, being informed gives us power. So write down these 10 ingredients on a piece of paper and keep it in your wallet, this helps us make more eco-conscious choices.

If you want to read further on this topic, we suggest some relevant links from experts who have been working to raise awareness on the importance of choosing natural products for a long time.
Here's to your health!

Ref. Eluxe Magazine

David Suzuki: Dirty Dozen Chemicals

Think Dirty App

Dr Axe

EWG Skindeep

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