Our bodies are exposed to thousands of chemicals and toxins on a daily basis – from our household cleaning supplies and beauty products, to environmental exposures and the food we eat. While it’s impossible to avoid every single synthetic chemical, you can do your part in limiting the amount of toxins your body is exposed to by making cleaner choices when possible.
Many harmful chemicals are present in our beauty and skincare products and are being absorbed into our bodies through our skin, our body’s largest organ. The sad truth? The beauty industry is highly unregulated. Especially considering the types of ingredients that are passing through their system and into our homes.
So, what are these toxic ingredients? And why should you care?
There are hundreds, if not thousands of harmful chemicals in beauty products, but here are 10 you should try your best to avoid. These synthetic chemicals are linked to a range of long-term health concerns like cancer and reproductive problems. The one thing I want to accomplish through this post, is to help shed light on the beauty industry and it’s lacking regulations. Beauty SHOULD be good for you… it should make you look good, and feel good, without compromising your long-term health.
- Parabens. Parabens are a family of chemicals (methylparabens, propylparabens, butylparabens, and ethylparabens) that help preserve the shelf-life of products. They prevent the growth of bacteria, mold and yeast in cosmetic products. Sounds beneficial, right? Unfortunately, parabens possess estrogen-mimicking properties that are associated with increased risk of breast cancer. And since they act as a hormone disruptor they can lead to reproductive and fertility issues. When I first began my swap to cleaner products, parabens were the most common offender. I found them in nearly every product.Commonly Found In: body wash, body lotion, face cleanser, foundation, shampoo, makeup, deodorant
Swap For This: Charcoal Cleansing Bar, Cleansing Balm, Nourishing Cream Cleanser, Sugar Body Scrub, Citrus Body Wash, Tint Skin Foundation, Volume & Shape Shampoo and Conditioner
- Phthalates. Phthalates is a group of chemicals used to soften and increase the flexibility of plastics in cosmetics. This helps products stick to our skin. They are known to be endocrine disruptors and have been linked to increased risk of breast cancer, and reproductive birth defects. In fact, they are so dangerous to children, Congress has actually banned several types of phthalates already from children’s products. Unfortunately, it’s common for phthalates not to be listed on every product as it’s added to “fragrances” (companies are not required to list their “secret formula” for their fragrance – it’s protected under federal law under the classification of a “trade secret” – aka it could be a combination of any number of thousands of chemicals and they are legally not required to list any of it), a major loophole in the law.Commonly Found In: deodorant, lotion, fragrance & hair spray
Swap For This: Native Deodorant, doTerra Deodorant, Primally Pure Deodorant, Citrus Mimosa Lotion, Volume & Shape Volumizing Mist
- Formaldehyde. Yep. Flashback to high school biology class – that stuff used to preserve dead animals. I think I was most shocked when I read news stories about J&J a well-known, and trusted baby care company that was found to have formaldehyde in their baby products. That bit rocked me, I mean, no amount is ok to put on an infant. It’s a known carcinogen that is also linked to asthma, neurotoxicity, developmental toxicity, allergic skin reactions and may also be harmful to the immune system.Commonly Found In: face cleanser, eye shadow, body wash, body lotion, foundation, shampoo
Swap For This: Charcoal Cleansing Bar, Cleansing Balm, Classic Eye Shadow Pallete, Tint Skin Foundation, Volume & Shape Shampoo and Conditioner, No. 2 Plumping Facial Oil (I’m obsessed with this)
- Fragrance. This seems innocent, right? I mean fragrance has such a lovely connotation. But in reality, this may be one of the most angering to me. This blanket term was created to protect a company’s “secret formula.” But as a consumer we could be putting on a concoction that contains several, if not hundreds, of chemicals that are hazardous to your overall health. Protected under a federal law, companies are not required to disclose this formula of ingredients. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Skin Deep Database, fragrance mixes have been associated with dermatitis, allergies, respiratory distress and adverse effects on the reproductive system.Commonly Found In: moisturizers, hand creams and hair products
Swap For This: Adaptive Moisture Lotion, Citrus Rosemary Body Oil, Sea Salt Spray
- BHA & BHT (Butylated Hydroxyanisole and Butylated Hydroxytoluene)
Synthetic antioxidants that are used to extend the shelf life of cosmetic products. They are likely carcinogens and hormone disruptors that may cause liver damage. The liver is our main form of detoxification and has a direct impact on your body’s internal balance.Commonly Found In: lipsticks, moisturizers, diaper creams, and other cosmetics
Swap For This: Sheer Lipstick, Rejuvenating Day Cream, Calming Diaper Rash Cream, Baby Daily Protective Balm, Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer, No. 2 Plumping Facial Oil (obsessed with this oil)
- Retinyl palmitate and Retinol (aka, Vitamin A). I always thought retinol was a good ingredient, so this honestly surprised me. However when I was going through my research, I remembered when I first got pregnant with my oldest daughter I recalled my OB telling me to stop using products with retinol in it. Turns out it does more than help soften wrinkles… it may also damage DNA and speed the growth of skin tumors when used topically. Yikes.Commonly Found In: anti-aging skincare, moisturizer
Swap For This: Rejuvenating Day Cream, Rejuvenating Night Cream, Overnight Resurfacing Peel, Rejuvenating Eye Cream , No. 1 Brightening Facial Oil (this is so good)
- Lead. Oddly enough, lead has already been removed from things like paint and gasoline, but not quite from the things we put on our skin. Excuse me say whaaatt??? Lead is a heavy metal and is a neurotoxin. It can cause serious behavioral and learning problems. If you regularly use lipstick and/or lip gloss, think about how many times a day you apply it…
Commonly Found In: lipstick, lip gloss
Swap For This: Sheer Lipstick, Lip Gloss, Color Intense Lipstick
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and/or Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES). SLS is a detergent and surfactant, meaning it creates a lather which helps products such as shampoo, body wash and toothpaste more effective cleaners. SLS’s are known to be skin, lung, and eye irritants. “A major concern about SLS is its potential to interact and combine with other chemicals to form nitrosamines, a carcinogen.” Commonly Found In: shampoo, body wash, mascara, toothpaste
Swap For This: Smooth and Control Shampoo, Citrus Body Wash, Volumizing Mascara , OnGuard Natural Whitening Toothpaste
- Triclosan and Triclocarban. These are chemicals commonly found in antibacterial soaps. Triclosan (in liquid products) and triclocarban (in bar soaps) have been linked to hormonal disruptions, bacterial resistance, impaired muscle function, negatively impact immune function and increased allergies. I always thought I was doing a good thing by washing my hands with antibacterial soap… your better option? Use naturally antibacterial and antiseptic agents like tea tree oil and wash your hands efficiently!!Commonly Found In: deodorant, toothpaste, antibacterial soap, bar soap
Swap For This: Native Deodorant, doTerra Deodorant, Primally Pure Deodorant, Schmidt’s Deodorant, OnGuard Natural Whitening Toothpaste, OnGuard Foaming Handwash
- Oxybenzone. This ingredient primarily functions as a photostabilizer and sunscreen. However, despite its sun protective capabilities, it has been shown to penetrate the skin and cause photo-sensitivity. According to the Enviromental Working Group, as a photocarcinogen, it has demonstrated an increase in the production of harmful free radicals and an ability to attack DNA cells; for this reason, it is believed to be a contributing factor in the recent rise of Melanoma cases with sunscreen users. Additionally, it has been linked to hormone disruption, contact eczema and allergies.
Commonly Found In: sunscreen, lipstick, moisturizer
Swap For This: Countersun Mineral Sunscreen, Badger Sunscreen, Sheer Lipstick, Dew Skin Moisturizing Coverage,
While it’s practically impossible to avoid every single synthetic chemical, you can do your part in limiting the amount of toxins your body is exposed to…. how?? Eat clean and avoid processed foods. Drink plenty of filtered water and look for beauty products that don’t contain these harmful ingredients. Read labels and familiarize yourself with the big offenders. Make cleaner switches in your home – swap conventional cleaners for something that is non-toxic and eco friendly. Use essential oils!
If this post does anything, I hope it encourages you to do your own research! There is a lot of information out there, and while it’s a great thing, it can also be very overwhelming. If you are new to “the swap” (swapping conventional/toxic products for clean products) my advice would be to start small and find a community that is like minded – for me it’s family and friends that support each other in our research.
A great resource for product ratings is the skin deep database or the think dirty app. You can enter any product to see what they rate on a scale of 1 to 10 for how clean the product is. It’s been really helpful when looking for cleaner alternatives.
Full Disclosure: I had no plans of becoming a Beautycounter consultant, but honestly fell in love with what they have done for my skin & hair. I also love their overall mission and the fact that they checked all of my “clean beauty” boxes. Ultimately, I decided to become a consultant which again, I swore I would never do, but only because the product discount is pretty sweet and that I get to be a part of a really fun and uplifting team of beautiful women (inside and out). Feel free to email me if you have any questions about the products or if you want to inquire about joining my team!
–> AND THIS –> Even though I am a consultant with Beautycounter, I promise to be honest and only share what I use and love. Sometimes this will be Beautycounter products, and sometimes it will be another clean brand. My mission is to create an environment for myself and my family that is healthy and free of harmful chemicals and toxins… understanding it’s a journey! I am thrilled to be able to share what I learn and the products I love here to help support others on their own journey to “cleaner living”.