There are at least a hundred toxic chemicals in today’s skincare products. Creating a list of the top 10 was difficult. I got some help from Dr Peter Dingle.
Dr. Dingle is an acclaimed environmental and nutritional toxicologist from Australia. He first began writing about toxic chemicals in skincare products in 1999. His book “Dangerous Beauty” sold well, but apparently did not reach enough people. Hopefully, I can reach a few more with this article.
One of Dingle’s most recent articles was published in the Australian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine Journal. According to Dingle’s research, there are 24 toxic sunscreen ingredients, 13 toxic preservatives and 14 other ingredients that should be avoided and might not even be listed on the label of ingredients.
I started with Dingle’s list and then looked to other sources to find out which ones were the most toxic. It took some time, but I finally came up with a list of the 10 most toxic ingredients in skincare products on the market today.
Most chemicals are dangerous because they build up in the body over time and increase a person’s risk of cancer. Dozens of different cosmetic ingredients are known carcinogens. The ingredients in my top 10 are accompanied by the risk of cancer and they cause other health problems.
Formaldehyde is used as a preservative in skincare products. It is highly toxic to humans. Health problems caused by exposure to formaldehyde include:
- Watery eyes
- Burning throat
- Difficulty breathing
- Skin lesions
- Oxidative stress
- Nasal irritation
- Heart damage
- Reproductive problems
- Cancer after long-term exposure
Quartenium-15 is also a chemical preservative. It is a formaldehyde releaser. Formaldehyde releasers are chemicals that slowly release formaldehyde. So, all of the health problems listed above are associated with quartenium-15.
In addition, quartenium-15 is a potent allergen. It is the single most common cause of allergic contact dermatitis on the hands. The symptoms of dermatitis include redness, itching, and cracking, flaking and swelling.
3. DMDM Hydantoin
Another artificial preservative and a formaldehyde releaser found in shampoos, hair conditioners and skincare products. Use of products containing it is accompanied by all of the health risks mentioned above.
4. Imidazolidinyl Urea
Another formaldehyde releaser and common allergen, it is also used as an artificial preservative in cosmetics.
5. Diazolidinyl Urea
Diazolidinyl urea may be listed on some products as “Germaban”, a brand name. It too is a formaldehyde releaser that is commonly used in cosmetics as an artificial preservative.
Not only is bronopol a formaldehyde releaser, it also has the potential to form cancer-causing nitrosamines. You might call it a double whammy. If you use products containing it, you may be doubling your lifetime risk of cancer.
7. 4-Methylbenzylidene Camphor
4-Methylbenzylidene camphor (4-MBC) is a sunscreen ingredient. It is fairly effective at blocking UVB radiation. It is often added to avobenzone, which only blocks UVA radiation. While it is UVA that cause burns, it is UVB that cause skin cancer.
4-MBC is an endocrine disruptor, a substance that interferes with the body’s natural production of hormones. Endocrine disruptors cause:
- Attention deficit disorder
- Learning disabilities
- Cognitive damage
- Changes in reproductive organs
- Birth defects
Studies concerning 4-MBC specifically have shown that it suppresses pituitary and thyroid activity, which leads to hypothyroidism. It is also a photo-allergen, which makes it really seem odd that it is included in sunscreens. Photo-allergens are compounds that cause allergy-related contact dermatitis, but only after exposure to sunlight. So a rash may be one of the first symptoms of 4-MBC exposure.
8. Octyl Methoxycinnamate
Octyl methoxycinnamate has proven to be toxic to cells in in-vitro studies. Animal studies say that it is not “significantly” toxic to skin cells. However, estrogenic effects have been seen in animal studies.
According to the Environmental Working Group, octyl methoxycinnamate is an endocrine disruptor and an allergen. It is toxic to the organs of the human body and enhances the absorption of other toxic ingredients in a product. It also accumulates in the body’s organs over time. The ingredient is often found primarily in sun-screening lip balms.
9. Retinyl Palmitate
Retinyl Palmitate has recently been shown to contribute to the formation of skin cancers. The Environmental Working Group lists it as being toxic to all of the organs of our bodies. It causes changes on a cellular level and interacts with other chemicals commonly found in skincare products. It is typically found in sunscreens.
Oxybenzone is a benzene derivative. Benzene is a known carcinogen. Oxybenzone is a suspected carcinogen. It is known to be an allergen, an endocrine disruptor and is toxic to human organs. It also causes changes on a cellular level and reacts with sunlight to form free radicals in the skin. Yet, it is a common sunscreen ingredient.
You can avoid all of these ingredients. You should avoid all of these and many others. To see our full list of toxic skin care ingredients read The Blacklist.
My best advice is to buy only skincare products that are natural and free of synthetic chemicals. Dr. Dingle recommends using skincare products containing vitamins, because vitamins naturally protect against free radicals and sun damage, which may reduce your risk of cancer.
We’ve all seen the advertisements. But, how honest are they? When a product is described as “new and improved”, is it really much different?
I looked at the ingredients in the latest products from the top three cosmetic companies in terms of worldwide sales: L’Oreal, Proctor & Gamble and Unilever. The information was garnered directly from the company’s website or from the product label. Here’s what I learned.
L’Oreal’s recently released Deep Set Wrinkle Repair is supposed to be a new formula. What’s different about it? Nothing, it contains exactly the same ingredients as those that were included in the 2009 formulation. Many of them are on our Blacklist of 101 ingredients to avoid.
The only active ingredients are sunscreens, which cannot repair wrinkles. The ads and the name of the product are misleading.
Even though, the company is aware of research concerning the health hazards associated with cosmetic ingredients, L’Oreal has chosen not to change their formulations. They won’t even stop testing ingredients on animals, despite protests from around the world. Why don’t they change?
It’s obvious. People continue to use their products. They shouldn’t, because the products continue to generate massive profits.
Procter and Gamble
Procter and Gamble are the manufacturers behind Cover Girl and Oil of Olay. They release new products all of the time. Recently they changed their Cover Girl blush formulations or claimed to.
What’s different about the new blushes? Do they contain safer ingredients?
There is no difference. They are using the same old ingredients, almost all of which are health hazards. Talc and mineral oil are known carcinogens. Quartenrium-15 is a formaldehyde-releasing compound. Formaldehyde is a carcinogen that causes cancer and a variety of other health problems.
Oil of Olay is something of an exception. It has changed over the years. It’s not as safe as it used to be.
When first introduced, the main ingredient in Oil of Olay was lanolin. Lanolin is fat derived from sheep’s wool. Some people are allergic to lanolin, but research shows that lanolin allergy seems to be related to lanolin hydrolysis, which releases the alcohol fraction of the compound.
Other than the risk of allergic reaction, lanolin is completely safe and non-toxic. Today, Oil of Olay contains a number of toxic ingredients, including acrylamide.
Unilever is the monster corporation behind Pond’s, Vaseline and St. Ives. Dozens of other companies fall under the Unilever umbrella.
Pond’s Classic Cold Cream was created in the early 1900s. The main ingredient was and still is mineral oil. Most consider it an inactive ingredient, but it is on the American Cancer Society’s list of known carcinogens.
Vaseline was discovered in the middle 1800s. It was and still is derived from petroleum. It is not much different from engine grease. With all petroleum products, there is the risk of cancer-causing contaminants.
St Ives products are very troubling, because they are promoted as products containing “ingredients from nature”. That advertisement probably makes people think they are safe. That’s just another con.
St Ives Swiss Formula Fresh20 Body moisturizer for Dry Skin is a con job in several ways. First it bears the label “new”. Yet, there is nothing new about the formula.
Unilever does not have a factory or a research facility in Switzerland. Why it is called a Swiss formula is unclear.
On their website, the company claims that their products do not contain parabens, artificial preservatives known to be endocrine disruptors and suspected of causing numerous health problems. Yet, the package label lists methylparaben as an ingredient.
The company says that instead of using chemically derived additives, they use “naturally-based alternatives”. What exactly they mean by “naturally based” is also unclear.
They might be talking about the preservative DMDM Hydantoin, which is also listed on the label of ingredients. While it was originally isolated from allantoin, a naturally occurring substance, Hydantoin is synthetic. DMDM Hydantoin works as a preservative, because it is a formaldehyde releaser. It is one of the ten most toxic skincare ingredients.
It’s a Skin Care Con Job
As the public learns more about what’s safe and unsafe in skincare products, the monster manufacturers respond by claiming to provide safer alternatives. Yet, they do not change their formulas.
When a consumer tries a product and has a bad reaction or finds that it just doesn’t work as it should, they stop buying it. When sales go down, the companies add “new” or “new and improved” to the label to encourage customers to try it again. Yet, there is usually nothing new about the product.
If you want to stop having the wool pulled over your eyes, the best advice is to stop listening to what the big companies are saying and start looking elsewhere for your skincare products. There are some truly safe, natural and effective products on the market. You just have to know where to find them.
When it comes to skincare products, the safest ingredients are also the most effective. Companies choose not to use them, because synthetic ingredients are cheaper. While there are many good ingredients derived from nature, the following are the top 10, because of all the benefits accompanied by their use.
Shea butter is good for inflammatory conditions such as dermatitis and eczema. A recent analysis conducted in Japan showed that the nutrients found in Shea butter are natural anti-inflammatories. The researchers also described the nutrients as “anti-tumor promoting compounds”. So, the use of Shea butter on the skin could reduce your risk of skin cancer and help prevent or reverse wrinkles. Inflammation is a cause of cellular aging and collagen degradation.
Avocado extract is another natural anti-inflammatory. In a study conducted in Israel in 2010, researchers reported that application of avocado extract reduced UV-induced skin damage, without acting as a sunscreen. That’s important, because sunscreens inhibit the body’s ability to create vitamin D. A rise in vitamin D deficiencies has been associated with increased sunscreen use.
Allantoin is derived from plants like comfrey root. It has been used historically in compresses to treat inflammatory skin conditions and to relieve the inflammation of arthritis. A study conducted in Japan showed that it naturally provides protection against cellular UV damage caused by exposure to sunlight. Sun damage caused by UV exposure is one of the leading causes of wrinkles and other visible signs of age.
Nano-Lipobelle H EQ10
Nano-lipobelle H EQ10 contains tiny particles of the antioxidant coenzyme Q10. When applied topically, the antioxidant has been shown to rejuvenate wrinkled skin at just a 1% concentration. Nano-lipobelle contains a 5% concentration of tiny particles of the antioxidant that can penetrate deeply and provide quick results. It also contains vitamin E, which you will learn about below.
Active Manuka Honey
According to the Waikato Honey Research Unit, all honeys have some antibacterial activity due to the formation of hydrogen peroxide in a slow release manner. After 28 years of testing hundreds of different types of honey, the Waikato researchers have proven that what local New Zealanders say is true.
Manuka honey has the highest anti-bacterial activity of all the types of honey tested. The anti-bacterial activity is not due solely to the slow release of hydrogen peroxide. It is due to the nutrients and other unique compounds present in manuka.
The antibacterial activity of manuka makes it a good choice for acne. It will help to heal existing blemishes and prevent new ones from forming. It is a safe and environmentally friendly alternative to antibacterial cleansers containing triclosan, one of the ingredients on our Blacklist.
Natural Vitamin E
Natural vitamin E is one of the vitamins recommended by Dr Dingle as a natural alternative to chemical sunscreens. It’s not that vitamin E has sunscreen activity. It is that natural vitamin E is a potent antioxidant. The damage that leads to skin cancer is free radical damage. Antioxidants prevent and in the case of COQ10 reverse free radical damage. Nano-lipobelle H EQ10 contains a 10% concentration of vitamin E.
Grape Seed Oil
Grape seed oil has been described as one of the new “cosmeceuticals”. Despite the fact that it has been used for generations as a lubricant and a moisturizer, it is new to the cosmetic industry. For decades the industry has relied heavily on synthetic oils.
Cosmeceuticals are nutrients or foods that have pharmaceutical activity beneficial for a person’s appearance. You have already read about some of the other “new” cosmeceuticals; Shea butter, manuka honey, avocado extract and allantoin.
Grape seed oil has antioxidant activity. It is an effective moisturizer, because it has a unique filming ability that helps to hold moisture in without blocking the pores. So, it can be safely used by any skin type.
Jojoba oil is another ingredient that has been used historically, but continues to be a subject of scientific research. In different studies, it has been shown to alleviate dermatitis, repel parasites, moisturize and stimulate collagen production, which normally slows down with age.
Witch hazel was the choice of barbers for after-shave until the introduction of petroleum-based alcohols. They should have stuck with witch hazel. It has natural antiseptic and anti-inflammatory activity, but does not cause dryness issues associated with alcohol aftershaves.
Xtend-TK is only available from a few manufacturers, because it is a naturally occurring ingredient, which means that limited amounts are available. It has been described as an anti-aging miracle, because of its many benefits.
It has been shown to reduce inflammation and redness, improve moisture and the skin’s ability to retain moisture, stimulate the production of collagen and new skin cells, while increasing the amount of antioxidants naturally present in the skin. Although last on the list, Xtend-TK is the number one ingredient when it comes to anti-aging skin care.
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