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Step 1: Read the List
Start from the top and work your way down. The list is written in order, from highest to lowest amount. The first ingredients will make up most of your product, the second ingredient will be slightly less, and so on. The last ingredients on the list are the ones that are very minute in the whole product formula.
Step 2: Know Your Ingredients
Learn what to avoid:
- Coal Tar – a known carcinogen, used in anti-dandruff and anti-lice shampoo, as well as dry skin treatments. Also listed as a color + number (FD&C Red # 6).
- DEA/TEA/MEA – used as emulsifiers and foaming agents, a suspected carcinogen. What to look for on the label:
- cocamide DEA
- cocamide MEA
- DEA-cetyl phosphate
- DEA oleth-3 phosphate
- linoleamide MEA
- myristamide DEA
- lauramide DEA
- oleamide DEA
- stearamide MEA
- TEA-lauryl sulfate
- Ethoxylated surfactants and 1,4-dioxane – not listed on the label, but rather is a byproduct of ethylene oxide which is added to skin care to make other chemicals less harsh. Avoid any ingredients ending in “eth”.
- Formaldehyde – Formaldehyde releasing chemicals are used in your cosmetics so that they don’t grow bacteria. This is not listed on the label so you have to play detective with the ingredient list. Look for these chemicals:
- DMDM hydantoin,
- Imidazolidinyl urea,
- Diazolidinyl urea,
- Bronopol (2–bromo–2–nitropropane–1,3-diol )
- Fragrance/Parfum – An umbrella term for many chemicals including phtalates. Fragrance can cause allergies, asthma, dizziness and headaches.
- Hydroquinone – used as a skin lightener, it has a high toxicity rating on EWG’s Skin Deep Database.
- Lead – this is a contaminant found in lipsticks and hair dyes, not listed on the ingredients label.
- Mineral oil – A petroleum derived substance, mineral oil hydrates by creating a film on the skin. This film impairs the skins ability to release toxins. It has no nutrients and can be contaminated.
- Oxybenzone – A sunscreen chemical that absorbs readily into our bodies and accumulates in fatty tissue. The chemical was found in 97% of people tested.
- Parabens – present in 85% of cosmetics, parabens act as preservatives. Linked to hormone disruption and reproductive toxicity.
- Phthalates – widely used in cosmetics to make products cling to the skin or hair, phtalates are shown to cause liver, kidney, lung and reproductive system damage. They are found in virtually ever person tested for them.
- Placental extract – placentas produce estrogen and other hormones, giving this extract the potential to will mess with your endocrine system. I would like to know – where are these placentas coming from?
- Polyethylene glycol (PEG) – PEGS function as emollients, emulsifiers and as skin penetration enhancers. They can be contaminated with carcinogens such as Ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. Because they can enhance skin penetration of a product, other harmful ingredients are more readily absorbed.
- Silicone-derived emollients – these coat the skin, interfering with its ability to breathe and release toxins. They are known tumor-promoters. Look for:
- dimethicone copolyol
- Sodium lauryl (ether) sulfate (SLS, SLES) – Used to create foam, may be contaminated with Ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. SLS can irritate the skin and eyes.
- Talc – Can be contaminated with asbestos fibers, making it a risk for respiratory toxicity and cancer.
- Toluene – a toxic chemical used in nail products and hair dyes. It is given a high hazard rating on Skin Deep. A pregnant mother’s exposure to toulene can cause fetal damage. It is damaging to the respiratory system and central nervous system. Can be hidden under “fragrance”.
- Triclosan – an antibacterial ingredient, linked to cancer and endocrine disruption.
Check your products for their hazard rating on EWG’s Skin Deep Database.
I like to stick with ingredients that are from plants. Plant oils, and hydrosols as well as essential oils are all I need in a product. If there are weird names on an ingredients list, I look them up or just leave that product on the shelf.
Step 3: Know Your Seals and Labels
- Ecocert Organic – a minimum of 95% of all plant-based ingredients and a minimum of 10% of all ingredients by weight must be from organic sources.
- Ecocert Natural – A minimum of 50% of plant-based ingredients and a minumum of 5% of all ingredients by weight must be from organic sources.
- USDA Certified Organic – this label is very strict, a minimum of 95% of all ingredients must be certified organic and they must be agricultural.
- Soil Association Organic – if an ingredient is available organically, it must be used. At least 95% of agro-ingredients must be organic, with at least 20% of the total product being organic.
- BDIH Certtified Natural Cosmetics – must be made from natural, raw materials such as plants oils, herbal extracts and essential oils.
- Natural Products Association – A product must be made with mostly natural ingredients and avoid any ingredients with suspected human risk. Ingredients must come from plants and never from petroleum sources.
- Natrue – does not allow petroleum derived substances, synthetic fragrances and colors, GMO’s, silicone oils and derivatives, or irradiated ingredients. 75% of a brands product range must be natural to receive this seal.
- Some products will say a percentage of them is organic, such as “75% organic ingredients”. They can still have a seal on them, but they must disclose the percentage of organic ingredients.
Step 4: Know Common Irritants
These ingredients tend to be the most irritating and are best avoided, especially by those with sensitive skin:
- Sodium luareth sulfate
- Sodium luaryl sulfate
- Cocamidopropyl Betaine
- Benzyl Alcohol
- Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate
- Some essential oils can be irritating
Searching for natural and organic cosmetics can be tough. There are so many chemical names to memorize, so many labels to learn, and so many ways companies can deceive you into thinking something is natural when it really isn’t.
I like to keep my skin care simple. I avoid products with chemical ingredients and stick with products with ingredients that I know are from plants.
I use simple oils such as Argan oil, or Jojoba oil. I research the brands I am thinking of buying, to make sure they live up to their claims. I don’t depend on labels. I always read a products ingredients list and if a product doesn’t have one, I leave it on the shelf.
I love to shop at online stores who curate truly supreme natural products, I trust that they have taken the time to scrutinize every product they sell.
I hope that this article helps you in your search for safe skin care.
Do you have any tips to share? Please leave a comment below!
Yours In Beauty,