This is a list of some ingredients that are of questionable safety to use on skin. Rather than get caught up in a never-ending debate surrounding their use, we simply don’t use them. They’re unnecessary. We don’t need to use them, because there are perfectly good natural options that are incredibly good for your skin.
So if you want to avoid unnecessary chemicals, keep an eye out for the following:
Ethoxylation is a process used extensively in the skin care industry. During the ethoxylation process, impurities of known carcinogens such as1-4 dioxane can form. Ethoxylated chemicals may cause irritation and contact dermatitis.
Ethoxylated chemicals may be identified by the prefix PEG (polyethylene glycol), PPG (polypropylene glycol) or the endings eth , oxynol or sorbate . Note that some brands attempt to mask the presence of ethoxylated ingredients, for example by omitting the PEG prefix. Examples include PEG laurate, PEG-60 almond glycerides, sodium laureth sulphate, ceteth-5. steareth-21, PEG-20 stearate, oleth-10 phosphate, octoxynol-9, polysorbate 20 (& 40, 60, 80 etc), emulsifying wax, PEG-8 stearate, Glycereth-26, PEG-40 Castor Oil.
Alkoxykated petrochemicals can form nitrosamine impurities which are known carcinogens. Some may cause irritation and contact dermatitis. Examples include: MEA monoethanolamine (MEA), DEA diethanolamine (DEA), TEA triethanolamine (TEA), TEA-lauroyl, acetamide MEA, lacamide MEA, cocomide DEA, cocomide MEA.
Plant ingredients extracted through chemical or petrochemical processes
Ingredients designated as “plant derived” or “derived from coconut” are particularly common in products promoted as natural or organic. These ingredients are usually ethoxylated, alkoxylated and/or synthetic, and should be avoided. Examples include coco-betaine, cocomide DEA, cocomide MEA.
Solvent extracted essential oils
Some oils are extracted using petrochemical processes. Examples include common essential oils such as jasmine essential oil, rose damask, boronia and frangipani.
Synthetic alcohols and related chemicals
Synthetic alcohols and other related chemicals are known to cause skin irritations and dermatitis, and some have been shown to promote acne. Examples include benzyl alcohol, isopropyl palmitate, octyl palmitate, butylene glycol, propylene glycol and other compounds that have the following as part of their name: benzyl , butyl , isopropyl , myristyl , propyl , propylene.
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
PAHs are directly linked to cancer in general and breast cancer specifically. PAH impurities are known to occur in ingredients such as mineral oil, petroleum jelly and paraffin.
“Fragrance” or “parfum” in an ingredient list typically denotes a chemical cocktail of up to 200 different chemicals, most or all of which are man-made. These chemicals are known to cause the majority of allergic reactions with cosmetics and skincare products.
D&C and FD&C colours
These colours are synthetic or derived from tar or harsh petrochemicals, and can have impurities that are known carcinogens. In addition, they can be very irritating to the skin, which is why so many products make a big deal of being free of colours.
Paraben-based preservatives & other problematic preservatives
Parabens are toxic petrochemicals that may cause dermatitis, allergic reactions and rashes; they’re also hormone disruptors, linked to cancer and known to release formaldehyde as they degrade. BHT, the perky abbreviation for the rather more sinister-sounding butylated hydroxytoluene, is a known carcinogen. Other examples include: ethyl paraben, methyl paraben, butyl paraben, propyl paraben, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolinyl urea, and butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA).
Silicone oils are synthetic emollients which block pores, clog skin, and can cause allergies and dermatitis. They’re also known to accumulate on the liver and lymph nodes. They can often be spotted on product labels by the suffix thicone:for example dimethicone and cyclomethicone.