Top 10 Harmful Cosmetic Ingredients

Warning: This article might compel you to throw away all your cosmetics.

The world of cosmetics is an enchanting one. A woman can get lost in the dazzling array of scents and the promises of great skin/teeth/eyes/breath/armpits that the Cosmetics Industry has to offer. Cosmetics are everywhere, and it is almost impossible to imagine beauty without them. However there is a dark truth lurking in their ubiquity. And it lies in their very ingredients. You must have heard a lot about the Chemicals. Dangerous enemies of earth and the body’s natural constitution. Notorious for their harshness, intrusion into the body’s natural oil secretion and other processes and the toxicity they add to the environment; chemicals are becoming increasingly frowned upon, with people preferring to switch to more natural alternatives like herbal and homemade concoctions. What is even more staggering is the fact that some of the chemicals used in our soaps and shampoos are in fact industrial and are at times safer to consume than apply on skin! How bad are these chemicals anyway? And how are they harmful? Where are they found? Read on to find out.


1. Phthalates


Have you ever smelled a shower curtain? This distinctly hard-to-pronounce word is another invisible product (in that it doesn’t appear in labels) is frequently used to soften vinyl plastics like the ones that are found in toys. Also a component of fragrances, phthalates are used to hold scents and colour in nail polish and virtually any cosmetic that has a fragrance or colour attached to it- read: everything. Upon reading the stories out there about deformities in newborns’ genitals, infertility and breast tumors caused by exposure to chemicals, and further, the extensive prevalence of this substance across so many cosmetic ingredients, one might be scared into swearing off cosmetics forever.


2. Dioxin


This mean chemical, whose full form is polychlorinated dibenzodioxins is never listed on ingredient labels, but is used in the production process of several substances like emulsifiers, triclosan and other antibacterial agents, and of course, our old friend Sodium Laureth Sulfate. The WHO calls them “persistent environmental pollutants”. Like other fat-loving chemicals like Triclosan and Parfum, dioxin stays in the body for a very long time, causing reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer.


3. Octinoxate


Also appearing under the name of Octyl methoxycinnamate or (OMC); Parsol MCX/MOX and Escalol, Octinoxate is a UV filter. It is very toxic to the endocrine system, and very devious as well. This substance mimics estrogen once it is absorbed in the body, and like a con man in disguise, proceeds to destroy the endocrine and hormonal system. It is found in hair color products and shampoos, sunscreen, lipstick, nail polish, and skin creams. It functions to filter out UV-B rays, that prevent a product from degenerating from exposure to the sun.


4. Triclosan


Triclosan is a synthetic antibacterial ingredient. On its own, it is classified as a pesticide and poses significant risks to the human body and the environment. Apart from personal care products, it is found in cleaning detergents, fabrics and plastics. It disrupts the endocrine and thyroid system and the hormone receptors found in the body. What is interesting to note is that many of the bacteria (E.Coli and Salmonella) that Triclosan was manufactured to fight, have now developed Triclosan-resistant strains. This substance is found to trigger antibiotic-resistance in bacteria, the dangers of which go beyond the surface. Like fragrance deposits, Triclosan easily binds to fat, and has been found in breast milk and body fat.


5. Colour


Be most wary of the coloured cosmetics you see. Colour pigments, found in hair colour, shampoo, soap and literally almost every other product, are often extracted from natural non renewable resources such as coal tar. Can you imagine coal on your skin or hair or teeth? These substances contain heavy amounts of metal toxins, that can be absorbed through the skin, causing irritation and sensitivity. Further absorption can cause a depletion of oxygen in the bloodstream leading to death. Animal studies prove that almost all colour pigments are carcinogenic.


6. Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulphate (SLS)

Sodium Lauryl

The most widely used chemical in over the counter/department store cosmetics; present in shampoos, hair color and bleaching agents, toothpastes, body washes and cleansers, make-up foundations, liquid hand soaps, laundry detergents, and bath oils/bath salts, Sodium Laureth Sulphate or Sodium Lauryl Sulphate functions as an emulsifier and is responsible for the foaming effect you see when you wash your hair or brush your teeth. When you feel your eyes burning when soap gets in, yep that’s SLS. The substances that are involved in drawing SLS from Coconuts, and the huge potential for contamination during the production process make it even more harmful. Over 16000 studies have been conducted on the negative effects of SLS and they prove that apart from irritating the skin and eyes, SLS is also toxic to your organs, the reproductive system, your nervous system, endocrine system and can even encourage the mutations that lead to cancer.


7. Formaldehyde


This product is found in nail polish, nail glue, eyelash glue, hair gel, hair-smoothing products and straighteners, liquid and bar body washes and more alarmingly, in baby care products. It is found on the label under a staggering variety of names: Formaldehyde, quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (bromopol). Formaldehyde has been classified as a carcinogen, and extremely dangerous because its effects are slow and long lasting, even if they are ingested, inhaled or absorbed through the skin in small amounts. It has been totally banned in Japan and Sweden, and heavily restricted in Canada and the EU.


8. Propylene Glycol and Butylene Glycol

Propylene Glycol

Propylene Glycol and Butylene Glycol are petroleum based plastics. They are found in liquid foundation makeup, spray deodorants, baby lotions, moisturizers, lipsticks and suntan lotions and are used to bind moisture and hold water to the skin, also come under the category of chemicals called Humectants. This classification of chemicals, when dealt with in the factories, is handled under the copius protection of gloves, goggles, and special clothing and can only be disposed of through burial. Here’s another thing that can only be disposed of by burial: a nuclear reactor. This product is extremely harmful to the skin and chronic exposure to this can cause nausea, headache and vomiting, and irreparable damage to the gastro-intestinal system and the nervous system. Can also cause depression.


9. Parabens


Identifiable in your product label as ethylparaben, butylparaben, methylparaben, propylparaben, other ingredients ending in –paraben, this horrible substance is found in shampoos, conditioners, lotions, facial and shower cleansers and scrubs. It functions to prevent the development of bacteria and other microbes in products. It can be absorbed through the skin into your blood. Parabens are most harmful to pregnant women and young children. The product is even banned in Denmark. A study conducted in breast cancer patients found intact traces of parabens in breast tissue. They had assimilated most in the area near the underarm, which is the most common location for breast tumors to develop. Parabens are banned in Denmark for children’s cosmetics.


10. Fragrances



Thousands of chemicals constitute a fragrance used in any product: whether it is a cologne or a deodorant or a perfume and every other personal care product that has a scent. They are a common cause of dermatological irritation, eczema, and worsen conditions like asthma in little children. They contain several substances which are carcinogenic, especially benzene which is linked to several types of cancer; as well as liver damage. Fragrances and sythetic musks also disrupt the hormonal system in teenage bodies, and a research has shown that 91% of Austrian students have Galaxolide in their blood. The worst part is, the chemical composition of fragrances is considered to be a trade secret, and so manufacturers never reveal the composition of the chemicals used while making “Fragrance” or “Parfum”. Even though the impact of fragrances on health is not yet widely researched, fragrance deposits have been found in the cord-blood of newborn infants, breast milk and body fat.

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