By now you’ve probably heard all the hoopla about the dangers of Parabens, sulfates, and all sorts of other nasties in your beauty products but how many of us actually know why these ingredients have made it onto the no-no list? If we choose to use these products day in and day out then there’s no doubt about it; we owe it to ourselves and our skin to educate ourselves about what goes into the products we are slathering. We also owe it to ourselves not to jump on-board the bandwagon and spend a fortune and unnecessary effort on cutting out things that might not be as dangerous as we’ve been told they are. Here’s the low-down on 5 of the most notorious ingredients found in beauty products and whether or not you should be avoiding them.
What is it? Usually listed as methyl-, butyl-, and propyl-paraben on the ingredient list.
Parabens are used as preservatives in many cosmetic products on the market. These ingredients help to keep the product fresh and free from germs and bacteria which seems like a win but they have also been linked to breast cancer and are known to mimic estrogen in the body, making them a possible hormone disrupter. But, before you only invest in Paraben-free products you might be interested to know that it’s still unclear whether they pose any long-term health risks. In fact, right now scientists are of the opinion that since Parabens are typically used in concentrations far below what is deemed safe there isn’t enough evidence to be concerned about their use in cosmetics. Up to 25 percent concentration is deemed safe and typical levels in products are between 0.01 to 0.3 percent.
What is it: There are more than 100 different varieties of sulfates —some obtained from natural sources such as coconut or palm oils, others synthetic or derived from sulfur and petroleum-based products.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfates are cleansing agents that are included in products to help remove dirt and oil. In short, sulfates are responsible for creating that lovely lather in shampoos and soaps. So what’s the problem? Sulfates have been accused of irritating eyes and skin in some people. Of course, for those who dye their hair or get Brazilian blow-outs sulfates have also been known to prematurely strip the hair of dye and product – hence the need for sulfate-free shampoo. If you’ve found that products containing sulfates irritate your skin then go ahead and cut them out, there are plenty of sulfate-free products on the market and you find very affordable options to suit your lifestyle.
What is it? Look our for products containing aluminum chloride or aluminum chlorhydrate.
Aluminum compounds are used in antiperspirants to stop the sweat ducts from releasing sweat to the surface of the skin, helping you to stay fresh all day long. But it’s not all sunshine and daisies because studies have shown that regular application of antiperspirants containing aluminum compounds could be linked to an increase in breast cancer cells. This is due to the compounds’ ability to mimic estrogen in the body. Aluminum compounds also cause skin irritation in some people so if you suffer from regular underarm rash then you should consider switching to a deodorant without aluminum compounds. However, aside from causing irritations there is no conclusive evidence to prove that aluminum compounds do in fact increase your chances of developing breast cancer.
What is it? Usually listed as Di(2-ethylhexyl) or DEHP.
This group of chemicals is used in everything from plastics to cosmetics, most often to keep products such as nail polishes and hair sprays pliable. Unfortunately studies have suggested that phthalates are hormone disrupters, and can cause damage to the reproductive system – especially in men. While most of the studies linking phthalates to reproductive issues have been conducted on animals studies on the matter are still underway. For the moment this one is best to be avoided and in fact, because of the risks associated with phthalates, most major cosmetics companies, such as Revlon, L’Oréal, and Unilever) have either eliminated phthalates from their products, or are in the process of doing so.
Triclosan is an antimicrobial chemical often found in antibacterial hand and body soaps as well as toothpaste. The ingredient has however been linked cancer and hormone disruption after being absorbed into the human body. These rather alarming health concerns have inspired many more studies on the effects of the ingredient and has prompted many to insist that companies prove the claim that antibacterial body washes and soaps are any more effective than regular soap and water and are safe for long-term use. best to avoid this one for now and seek alternative products that don’t contain this nasty.