Nothing gets our goat more than toxic ingredients that have no place on the skin. And with the average woman using around 12 personal care products every day, that equates to hundreds of potential chemicals for the skin (and body) to contend with. Not down with that? Neither are we. So let’s look at ten of the nastiest nasties to toss in the trash…like now.
Sulfates such as sodium laureth sulfate (SLS) and sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES) have been used safely in beauty products for almost a century. The problem is while they’re deemed perfectly safe by the FDA, they can be super-irritating for sensitive skin.
Sulfates are known in the business as surfactants because they clean stuff by producing foam and lather to attract oil and water. They’re very good at their job and because of this, they are included in everything from skincare and haircare to laundry detergents and household cleaning products.
What we don’t like about SLS and SLES is they can be too effective at cleaning. We know that sounds ridiculous, but the words ‘harsh’ and ‘skincare’ have never been the best of friends, so it figures that ultra-strong cleansing ingredients have the potential to leave the skin dry and irritated and may even exacerbate redness or itchiness.
Here at Glomance we take no chances with ingredients like that. You should do the same.
Parabens have undergone a lot of bad press in recent years and understandably so. They’ve been used in beauty products for decades as preservatives to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria, fungi, and mold. Now don’t get us wrong because we’re totally on board with not having mold growing on our favorite night cream, but the risks of parabens far outweigh their benefits.
So, what are these risks? Well, firstly, research suggests that certain parabens may have the ability to disrupt hormone balance. This not only has the potential to damage reproductive organs and harm fertility but may also play a role in the development of cancers, particularly breast cancer.
“It’s clear that long-chain parabens (isobutyl-, butyl-, isopropyl- and propylparaben) should not be used in personal care or cosmetic products,” recommend experts at the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
And that’s good enough for us. This is why instead of parabens, our Overnight Star Lactic Acid Treatment is formulated with natural preservatives such as orange and lemon fruit extracts plus ethylhexylglycerin, a synthetic compound made from grains and plants. You’re welcome.
While banned in the EU, phthalates are still widely used in the US. And yes, that makes us nervous. The most common phthalate used in cosmetics is diethylphthalate (DEP), which is used as a stabilizer to make fragrance last longer on the skin or hair.
Like parabens, phthalates have been linked to hormone disruption, making them another one to be cautious of due to their possible effects on the reproductive system. According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, phthalates may also have a negative impact on brain development and are linked to a decrease in male fertility.
The most annoying and worrying fact about phthalates is they can be hidden within an ingredients list and masked simply as ‘fragrance.’ If that concerns you, shop fragrance-free, and you should be golden.
Mineral oil sounds relatively innocent, and yes, it can be super-effective for healing and locking in moisture, especially if you have dry, dehydrated, or sensitive skin. It’s also often recommended for patients with eczema or psoriasis as it works hard at improving the skin’s barrier function.
Derived from petroleum, mineral oil is a purified, clear, odorless oil that’s known as an occlusive. This means it forms a kind of coating on the skin’s surface that acts like a physical barrier to protect it and prevent water loss.
OK, so what’s the catch? Well, other than the fact that it’s a derivative of petroleum and therefore not considered ‘clean,’ the main issue with mineral oil is that it’s known for clogging pores. It figures that something that coats the skin and thus traps goodness knows what underneath it (sebum, makeup, debris, and so on) will do that, right? Because of this, it’s not advisable for anyone with acne-prone skin. Nor is it something we want in our Overnight Star Lactic Acid Treatment, which is formulated to do the exact opposite by gently exfoliating and renewing your skin.
Ethanolamines are ammonia-based compounds used in anything from makeup and fragrance to cleansers, body wash, and sunscreen. They’re used as emulsifiers, which help keep ingredients from separating and to boost foaming properties. They are generally seen on product ingredients lists as diethanolamine (DEA), triethanolamine (TEA), or monoethanolamine (MEA).
The reason we don’t like them is simple. The International Agency for Research on Cancer suspects that ethanolamines, and DEA specifically, may react with other ingredients in products to produce nitrosamines – harmful substances which may increase the risk of cancer. We need no more convincing.
Often seen in chemical sunscreens, oxybenzone has been used for over 40 years as a very effective UV blocker, but recent research proves it has the potential to be a bit of a nasty one – for both your health and the environment.
Not only is oxybenzone believed to have damaging effect on coral reefs, but it often causes allergic reactions on the skin (in fact, it’s the most common allergen found in suncare). At the beginning of 2020, the FDA reported that it’s also readily absorbed into the blood stream and may linger for weeks in the system. In fact, traces of it may even reach the breast milk.
What does this mean? Similar to parabens and phthalates, oxybenzone may disrupt hormones and cause an impact to the reproductive system. Studies have shown that pregnant women who use sunscreen containing oxybenzone might even absorb enough of it to increase the risk of birth defects. Scary stuff, right?
The FDA are still working to confirm the safety of oxybenzone and various other chemical sunscreens, and plenty of research is still required to know once and for all whether it’s harmful or not. But when there are so many alternatives (hello, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide!), why take the risk?
Dermatologists often prescribe coal tar in the treatment for skin disorders, such as psoriasis and atopic dermatitis. It works by increasing the skin’s ability to shed dead cells from its uppermost layer to help reduce build up, scaling, and potential itching. And it’s effective for sure.
Coal tar, however, makes the skin super-sensitive to sunlight and contains compounds that are considered carcinogenic. These levels are low, and according to the FDA, there is no evidence of a high risk to consumers, but if you’re concerned, avoid it like the plague. We do.
It also smells bad, can stain your clothes, skin, and hair, and may even make psoriasis worse rather than better.
Not. Worth. It.
When it comes to controversial skincare ingredients, hydro quinone wins, hands down. It’s a tricky little customer because it’s super-effective, but (and it’s a big but) it’s banned in Europe, Australia, and Japan which we believe is something to be concerned about.
Hydroquinone is a skin bleaching agent that works by inhibiting the formation of melanin. Speak to any dermatologist or skin expert, and they’ll confirm that it’s one of the best topical treatments for lightening skin discolorations such as age spots, melasma, freckles or acne scars.
That being said, hydroquinone is not without its risks. Far from it. Common side effects include stinging, dryness, redness, inflammation, and irritation. And let’s not forget how sensitive it makes your skin to the sun. It can also cause thinning of the skin, a reduction in elasticity, and may even worsen pigmentation issues in darker skin tones. In rare cases – and the reason it’s banned in many countries – hydroquinone has been shown to cause a bluish-black discoloration of the skin, a condition called ochronosis.
Triclosan and Triclocarban
Both triclosan (TCS) and triclocarban (TCC) are germ-killing chemicals that were used for decades in anti-bacterial consumer products. In beauty products, this meant they could be seen in anything from shower gels and soap to face wash, lotions, and even toothpaste.
Why do we speak of them in the past tense? Because in 2016, the FDA banned both ingredients from use without premarket review in over-the-counter household cleansing products such as hand wash, soap, and body wash. Research continues on their safety and effectiveness, but it doesn’t look good for the future of either. In fact, studies show they may be no more effective than soap and water. Research on TCS, specifically, points to many other negative side-effects including its potential to upset marine life as well as disrupt human hormone regulation, damage your bones, and harm the immune system.
Due to these bans, you should rarely see triclosan or triclocarban on any ingredients list, but if you do, don’t go there. You have been warned.
Formaldehyde is a preservative often found in nail polish, hair products, makeup, and cleansers, and it’s one of the most common skin irritants according to The Mayo Clinic.
Banned in Japan and Sweden and highly restricted in Canada and Europe, formaldehyde has been linked to occupational-related cancers by The International Agency for Research and Carcinogens (IARC). It may also have the potential to harm the immune system. Worrying, right? What’s even more worrying is that many manufacturers still use it to cheaply prolong the life of their beauty products. The good news is, we don’t.