With ingredients lists in double digits and chemical names that are impossible to pronounce it’s not a shock that people don’t know what the hell is in their beauty product and what ingredients they should avoid. California’s Proposition 65 is the reason you see that warning on your products: Known to Cause Cancer in CA. You may have thought to yourself “Hippie California, thinking everything is a cancer risk” or that it’s overkill and on everything, but the truth is the warning only appears on items that have compounds with carcinogenic properties. That means some ingredient has been shown to increase cancer rates. That warning isn’t just on everything, these cancer causing chemicals are IN everything. In 2004 the European Union took measures to increase the safety of their beauty products and banned products that contain ingredients that are carcinogens (cancer-causing), mutagens (cause genetic mutation) or are reproductive toxins; they banned 450 products. The FDA banned 11 ingredients that year. While it’s true there’s lots of chemicals that we should avoid, here’s some of the worst offenders in both the aspects of human health and safety and environmental safety.
Parabens: These preservative agents are found in tons of products. There are known cancer risks with paraben usage and some parabens are known to kill coral. Not to mention they don’t have to individualize which paraben is in your product.
Phthalates: Phthalates are used in products as a solvent or plasticizer (used in nail polish). These ingredients are suspected human toxins, suspected of hormone disruption and increase risks of allergies and athstma. Phthalates are released into the environment where they leech into soil, plants, animals and water.
Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs): AHAs like lactic and glycolic acid have been shown to double UV-related Skin/Sun damage for users.
Chemical Sunscreens: Ingredients in chemical sunscreens can get into waterways and oceans where they’re known to kill coral. Use mineral-based sunscreens instead.
Coal Based Ingredients: Coal based ingredients like petroleum, paraffin and some colorants can not only harm the environment with their mining and refining processes, they can contain cancer causing impurities and contaminants. They can be contaminated with Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) known wildlife and environmental toxins.
1, 4 Dioxane: not an actual chemical used as an ingredient, this is a chemical byproduct of other ingredients during processing. Can contaminate other ingredients and leeches into the environment and waterways. This is a known carcinogen.
Sulfates: These are the main suds-creating ingredients and are notorious for 1, 4 Dioxane contamination.
Triclosan: A common ingredient in deodorants, soaps and cleaning products. Permeate the environment, this ingredient has been found everywhere from soil to fish tissue. Known to kill aquatic organisms.
Mineral Colorants like Tin Oxide, mica, talc: These ingredients can irritate skin, increase acne and can be carcinogens. Some mineral ingredients have been found to kill snails and phytoplankton. They are environmental toxins and some are mined using child labor.
Fragrance/Aroma/Flavor/Perfume/Parfum: These ingredients are not broken down beyond this general catch all term. They can contain all types of dangerous chemicals, carcinogens and toxins. Such unknown ingredients and catchall terms can hide dangerous chemicals within.
Palm Oil: I don’t want this ingredient to be banned or boycotted. Don’t read this wrong. I want folks to be educated on the dangers of this ingredient. Palm oil is notoriously non-sustainably sourced. It’s caused a massive problem with deforestation, species endangerment and habitat destruction. BUT it can be sustainably sourced and harvested. Many companies are starting initiatives to ensure they are using only sustainably sourced Palm Oil. Before you boycott the ingredient all together, educate yourself on what would be decimated next when we have to replace Palm Oil (Sunflower Oil, Coconut Oil both require way more plants to produce the same amount as palm oil). A total boycott is not the answer, just boycott the companies that are not sustainably sourcing their Palm Oil or are not transparent about their sources.
You don’t have to stop using all these ingredients immediately (or at all), you don’t have to get rid of them. Knowledge is power and if you know what your ingredients are doing to you and the environment you can take the steps needed to use better ingredients and find safer alternatives.