This is a list of Harmful Ingredients to Avoid in your hair and skin care products.
Called a humectant in cosmetics, it is really “industrial anti-freeze” and the major ingredient in brake and hydraulic fluid. Tests show it can be a strong skin irritant. Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) on Propylene Glycol warn to avoid skin contact as it is systemic and can cause liver abnormalities and kidney damage.
Comes from crude oil (petroleum) used in industry as metal cutting fluid. May suffocate the skin by forming an oil film. Healthy skin needs to take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide. This process should not be inhibited. Holding large amounts of moisture in the skin can “flood” the biology, and may result in immature, unhealthy, sensitive skin that dries out easily.
Same properties as Mineral Oil. Industrially it is used as a grease component.
Potentially, SLS is perhaps the most harmful ingredient in personal-care products. SLS is used in testing-labs as the standard skin irritant to compare the healing properties of other ingredients. Industrial uses of SLS include: garage floor cleaners, engine degreasers and car wash soaps.
Studies show its danger potential to be great, when used in personal-care products. Research has shown that SLS and SLES may cause potentially carcinogenic nitrates and dioxins to form in the bottles of shampoos and cleansers by reacting with commonly used ingredients found in many products. Large amounts of nitrates may enter the blood system from just one shampooing.
Clays in foundations that may clog and suffocate the skin.
Derived from animal skins and ground-up chicken feet. Both of these ingredients form films that may suffocate and over-moisturize the skin. BAR SOAPS Made from animal fat and lye. May let bacteria feed and grow in it. May corrode & dry the skin.
Many of the hyped ingredients found in most cosmetic brands cannot penetrate the skin because of their high-molecular weight, so they are of little benefit. For example: procollagen, collagen, elastin, cross-linked elastin, and hyaluronic acids…
Other virtually useless ingredients are insoluble oil-based Vitamin A (Retinyl Palmitate), Placental Extracts, and Royal Bee Jelly.
MYTH: The chief ingredient in artificial face lifts. It is being touted as a wrinkle treatment.
FACT: … The last time a serious case concerning consumer claims came up was in the 1960’s. Both of these products were temporary wrinkle removers. The formulas contained a bovine serum albumin that, when dried, formed a film over wrinkles thus making wrinkles less obvious (Brumberg).
MYTH: This is a naturally occurring mineral used in facial masks. It differs from true clay, kaolin, in that when mixed with liquid it forms a gel. It can have sharp edges which scratch the skin. Most bentonites can be drying to the skin (Hampton).
FACT: Bentonite is used in formulations and masks. It forms films which are gas impermeable, effectively trapping toxins and CO, in the skin which needs to vent and escape, suffocating the skin by shutting out the vitally needed oxygen.
MYTH: An exotic ingredient promoted as being necessary and beneficial for skin and hair care.
FACT: A deficiency of this vitamin has been associated with greasy scalps and baldness in rats and other experimental animals. Fur-bearing animals, however, have a very different hair growth from human beings. Biotin deficiency in man is extremely rare. Biotin is considered a worthless additive in cosmetic products (Chase). The molecular size of Biotin is too large to penetrate the skin.
MYTH: Some companies imply that collagen can support the skin’s own collagen network. Others claim it can be absorbed to moisturize skin.
FACT: The collagen in creams and lotions acts like any protein ingredient in that it merely provides a coating on the skin’s surface (Chase). The collagen molecule cannot penetrate your skin because it is much too large to be absorbed by the epidermis (Brumberg).
Collagen, elastin, or other proteins and amino acids cannot get into the skin through topical application. The molecules of these substances are simply too large to penetrate your skin (Novick).
Cosmetics manufacturers have heralded it as a new wonder ingredient, but according to medical experts, it cannot affect the skin’s own collagen when applied topically (Winter). It suffocates the skin trapping toxins and keeping out oxygen.
MYTH: Another ingredient promoted as being beneficial for skin and hair care.
FACT: Elastin is included in some skin care products, but nowhere near as much as collagen. It too cannot be absorbed by the epidermis (Brumberg). In a cosmetic product, they cannot restore tone to skin. When used in such products as moisturizers, they act like all other commercial proteins – by forming a film that holds moisture (Chase).
MYTH: Ingredients which draw moisture to and aid in moisturizing skin.
FACT: Most moisturizers contain humectants that act as water attractors, they actually pull moisture out of your skin (Valmy). The problem with humectants, including propylene glycol and glycerin is that although they are most effective when you are in areas with high humidity, if you are going to be in an extremely low humidity atmosphere, such as in an airplane or even a dry room, they can actually take moisture from your skin.
Here’s why: Humectants are on the search for moisture that can be absorbed from the environment. If the environment is so drying that there is no moisture to be had, they will get it from the next best source – your skin. When this happens, the ingredient, which is supposed to help your skin retain moisture, instead does the opposite (Brumberg).
A substance used to preserve the moisture content of materials, especially in hand creams and lotions (Winter). SEE PROPYLENE GLYCOL. These are natural or synthetic compounds that are used to prevent water loss and drying of the skin. They also form a smooth feel to cosmetic lotions. Some are safe, some aren’t.
MYTH: A product to which you are not allergic.
FACT: Hypoallergenic means “less than” and the word hypoallergenic tells the consumer that the manufacturer believes the product has fewer allergens than other products. There are no federal regulations defining allergens, nor are there any guidelines. So “hypoallergenic” has little meaning (Brumberg).
MYTH: A very beneficial fine natural clay originally from Mt. Kaolin in China, hence the name.
FACT: Quite drying and may be dehydrating to the skin. It also may be contaminated with impurities (Hampton). Used in formulations and masks. Forms films which are gas impermeable. Effectively traps toxins and CO, in the skin which need to vent and escape. Then suffocates the skin by shutting out the vitally needed oxygen.
MYTH: A beneficial moisturizer.
FACT: Advertisers have found that the words “contains Lanolin” help to sell a product and have promoted it as being able to “penetrate the skin better than other oils,” although there is little scientific proof of this. Lanolin has been found to be a common skin sensitizer causing allergic contact skin rashes (Winter). Lanolin usually contains pesticides used on sheep and wool.
A partly natural, partly synthetic chemical used to build lather and thicken various cosmetic products. Also used in dishwashing detergents for its grease-cutting ability. Can be drying to the hair, cause skin and scalp itching and allergic reactions (Hampton).
MYTH: Nanosphenes or Micellization – Ultimate anti-aging agent.
FACT: Liposomes are one of the newest entries in the “Fountain of Youth” arena. According to one recent theory, cellular aging involves the edification of skin cell membranes. Liposomes, which are tiny bags of fat and thymus gland extract suspended in a gel, are supposed to merge with your aging skin cells, revive them and add moisture to them.
Current scientific understanding does not support the rigidification theory. The cell membranes of young and old persons are alike. As a result, it is likely that liposome-containing moisturizers represent nothing more than another expensive allure (Novick).
FACT: An oil manufactured from crude oil. It is a mixture of liquid hydrocarbons separated from petroleum. Dr. T. G. Randolph, an allergist, has found that this and many other cosmetic chemicals cause petrochemical hypersensitivity. The allergic reactions can become quite serious in time leading to arthritis, migraine, hyperkinesis, epilepsy and diabetes.
Taken internally, mineral oil binds the fat soluble vitamins A, D and E and carries them unabsorbed out of the body, and although little mineral oil is able to penetrate the skin, this tendency is so dangerous that Adelle Davis in Let’s Eat Right to Keep Fit says that she “personally would be afraid to use this oil even in baby oils, cold creams and other cosmetics” (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1970, p. 46).
The fact that mineral oil does not penetrate the skin well makes it inappropriate for use in an absorption base in a skin cream of any kind. In fact, mineral oil-containing cosmetics can produce symptoms similar to dry skin by inhibiting the natural moisturizing factor of your skin.
Petrolatum, paraffin or paraffin oil and propylene glycol are other common cosmetic forms of mineral oil. Toxic. Avoid them (Hampton). Has tendency to dissolve the skin’s own natural oil and thereby increase dehydration. Mineral oils have been found to be probably the single greatest cause of breakouts in women who use a new product (Chase). Serious carcinogens are commonly found in Mineral Oil.
MYTH: No artificial ingredients. Pure or from nature.
FACT: There is no legal definition for “natural” which is why you see it everywhere. A chemist’s definition of organic simply requires that the molecule contain carbon (Hampton). In cosmetic terminology, the term “natural” usually means anything the manufacturer wishes.
There are no legal boundaries for the term. There are no guidelines surrounding what can or cannot be inside a “natural” product. Most cosmetics called “natural” still contain preservatives, coloring agents and all the other things you can think of that sound very unnatural (Begoun).
pH stands for the power of the hydrogen atom. Skin and hair do not have a pH. A scale from 0 to 14 is used to measure acidity and alkalinity of solutions. pH 7.0 is neutral. Acidity increases as the pH number decreases and alkalinity increases as the pH number increases.
Usually the pH of a cosmetic will not change the natural pH of the hair or skin because the hair and skin contain keratin, fatty acids and other substances that adjust the pH levels with which they come into contact. As long as a pH is not unusually high or low there is no problem – pH wise – with a cosmetic.
Naturally the high pH of cold wave solutions and hair straighteners can damage the hair and skin, but even this is rare providing a proper conditioner or moisturizer is used after such pH alterations. There is no such thing as a “pH balanced” product because a product’s pH will drift during shelf life and alter when applied to the hair and skin.
A product’s pH is not a danger to the body, but the synthetic chemicals used in cosmetics – often to alter the pH to please the ones who fall for the “pH balanced” story – are (Hampton).
MYTH: Promoted for rejuvenating and nourishing aging skin.
FACT: Placental extracts are another big hype. In moisturizers, these ingredients allegedly supplement the vitamin and hormone content. The manufacturers of these products take advantage of the belief that since the placenta nourishes the developing embryo, an extract of it can nourish and rejuvenate aging skin.
Placental extracts can do no such thing (Novick). The value of a cosmetic depends on its active ingredients and with cosmetics containing “placental extract” it is impossible to tell what you are getting (Chase). Temporary means temporary, but it’s still nice, every now and then, to be able to get a smoother look. Some ingredients include sodium silicate, bovine serum albumin and human placental protein (Bromberg). Worst yet many may come from aborted fetuses or might not be properly sanitized.
MYTH: Being promoted as being a beneficial humectant.
FACT: It is the most common moisture-carrying vehicle, other than water, in cosmetics. It has better permeation through the skin than glycerin and is less expensive, although it has been linked to more sensitivity reactions. Its use is being reduced and it is being replaced by safer glycols (Winter). A moisturizer that has been shown to provoke acne eruptions (Chase). See HUMECTANTS.
MYTH: Promoted to nourish and moisturize the skin.
FACT: This substance is found in beehives. It is secreted from the digestive tubes of worker bees. The male bees and the workers eat royal jelly for only a few days after they are born, but the queen bee eats royal jelly all of her life. Because royal jelly is associated with the health and long life of the queen bee, it was believed that this substance could have some age-retarding properties. It does not.
There has been extensive research done on the value of royal jelly and the scientific consensus is that it is worthless for humans. Anyone who claims that it has special powers is a fraud (Chase). Eggs, milk, honey and royal bee jelly are other favorites of some moisturizer manufacturers. Without question, eggs are nourishing for the embryo, milk nourishing and life-sustaining for infants, and honey and royal bee jelly nectar for bees.
When applied to the skin, however, they do little for you, although they may give a moisturizer a smoother consistency or a lush look (Novick). Highly touted as a magical ingredient in cosmetics to restore one’s skin to youthfulness. If stored for over 2 weeks, royal jelly loses its capacity to develop queen bees. Even when fresh, there is no proven value in a cosmetic preparation (Winter).
FACT: This plant has gelatinous properties. It is the major ingredient of the thin, clear masks that peel off in one piece. These masks allow the skin to build up a supply of water. Seaweed is also used in face creams and lotions where it gives body and substance to the products, not to the skin (Chase).
(Salt – NaCI) Used to increase the viscosity in some cosmetics. Can cause eye and skin irritation if used in too high concentrations (Hampton). Its usually used to make a cheap, watery consistency product look thick and rich instead.
Chemical name: Sodium Lauryl “ether” Sulfate An ether chain is added to SLS. Called a premium agent in cleansers and shampoos. In reality it is very inexpensive but thickens when salt is added in the formula and produces high levels of foam to give the concentrated illusion it is thick, rich and expensive. Used as a wetting agent in the textile industry. Irritating to scalp and may cause hair loss (Wright). SEE SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE.
No one making any claims about this one – and for good reason. We examined an anionic detergent, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, which is commonly found in soaps and shampoos, that showed penetration into the eyes, as well as systemic tissues (brain, heart, liver, etc.). SLS also showed long-term retention in tissues. In soaps and shampoos, there is an immediate concern relating to the penetration of these chemicals into the eyes and other tissues.
This is especially important in infants, where considerable growth is occurring, because a much greater uptake occurs by tissues of younger eyes and SLS changes the amounts of some proteins in cells from eye tissues. Tissues of young eyes may be more susceptible to alternation by SLS (Green). Forms nitrates, a possible carcinogen when used in shampoos and cleansers containing nitrogen-based ingredients.
These nitrates can enter the blood stream in large numbers from shampooing, bubble baths, bath and shower gels and facial cleansers. These synthetic substances are used in shampoos for their detergent and foam-building abilities. They can cause eye irritations, skin rashes, hair loss, scalp scurf similar to dandruff and allergic reactions.
They are frequently disguised in pseudo-natural cosmetics with the parenthetic explanation “comes from coconut.” Let’s save the coconut from defamation of character and NOT use products with sodium lauryl sulfate, etc.! (Hampton) Dr. David H. Fine, the chemist who uncovered NDELA contamination in cosmetics, estimates that a person would be applying 50 to 100 micrograms of nitrosamine to the skin each time he or she used a nitrosamine-contaminated cosmetic.
By comparison, a person consuming sodium nitrite-preserved bacon is exposed to less than 1 microgram of nitrosamine (Hampton).
MYTH: An amino acid which can help you attain a deep. dark tan.
FACT: Some tanning accelerator lotions do contain Tyrosine. You can be sure they’ll advertise it if they do – an amino acid that’s essential to melanization (darkening) of the skin. But, melanization is an internal process and spreading lotion on the skin’s surface does nothing to fuel it. Similar logic would have us trying to rub food through our pores to satisfy hunger (Matarasso).
Manufacturer’s claims for the efficacy of tan accelerators remain unproven; a recent, independent study of these products failed to demonstrate any augmentation of tanning. Indeed it is doubtful that sufficient amounts of tyrosine can penetrate to the level of the skin where it could enhance melanin production (Novick).
MYTH: Exfoliates the skin to remove wrinkles and expose young skin.
FACT: Removing the outer layer of the skin exposes the young skin to the harsh aging and damaging environmental agents. Use of AHA’s could make you age much faster. You could look better today but may not be such a pretty sight in 10 years.
Your outer layer of skin is your first and most important line of defense. Everything should be done to make it healthy and keep it – NOT LOSE IT. The FDA reported their deep concern with exfoliating the stratum corneum and the aging and health risks associated with this potentially dangerous procedure. (May 1994)
Visit Aroma-essence.com for more info:
Begoin, Paula Blue Eyeshadow Should Still Be Legal, Beginning Press, 1988
Brumberg, Elaine Take Care of Your Skin, Harper & Row Publishers, Inc. 1989
Chase, Deborah The New Medically-Based No-Nonsense Beauty Book, Henry Holt and Co., 1989
Friend, Tim “USA Today,” 4-10-90
Green, Dr. Keith Detergent Penetration Into Young and Adult Eyes Department of
Opthamology, Medical College of GA, Augusta, GA.
Hampton, Aubrey Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients
Organic Press Metarasso, Dr. Seth L. “Faking lt” – Muscle & Fitness, November, 1990
Novick, Dr. Nelson Lee Super Skin, Clarkston, N. Potter, Inc., Publishers, 1988
Valmy, Christine 8 Vons Ulrich, Elise “Mid-Air Skin Care” – Entrepreneurial Woman, July/August 1990
Winter, Ruth A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients, Crown Publishers, Inc. 1989
Wright, Camille S. Shampoo Report, Images International, Inc., 1989
There isn't such a thing as chemical-free products. Organic products are full of chemicals. People are under the illusion that all chemicals are synthetic when any chemical can be found in nature. Fact is the most potent toxins are natural, so when you see "organic", don't believe that there isn't anything harmful in there…
Great post. Thanks for sharing post. Skin is the body's largest organ and it will reflect the internal health. Usage of natural skincare products like natural skin lightening cream, natural cleanser, toner and the products which are good to skin is the best way to maintain a healthy skin.
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