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ingredients-to-avoid-in-cosmetics

Top 7 Ingredients to Avoid in Cosmetics. Is there any reason to avoid them?

Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. Keep in mind that I link these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.

The ingredients used in cosmetics go through an exhaustive control process to ensure they are not harmful. However, a lot of the cosmetics we buy nowadays use words such as “Parabens free”, “Mineral Oils Free”, “Silicones Free”, etc.

Why do brands use this type of claim? Are these types of ingredients a real danger or a commercial trick?

Let’s see which ingredients are the most polemic in cosmetics and if they are a real danger for our health.

 Alcohols and Silicones

Products known as alcohols in cosmetics are not real alcohols from the chemical point of view as ethanol, isopropanol or alcohol denat can be. Alcohol in this context means esters of fatty acids and that is why I am going to write them between quotation marks (don’t forget I am a chemist).

These “alcohols” are emulsifiers and emollients. The most common “alcohols” are cetyl alcohol, Cetearyl alcohol, and Ceteareth-20. They act as emulsifiers in cream helping to solve oil ingredients in water or vice versa.

They are not harmful to the skin but it is better to avoid them as they can dry the skin.

Silicones are silicon chemical element derivatives compounds used in cosmetics mainly in hair products and makeups. They appear in the INCI as dimethicone, Cyclomethicone, and, in general, any compound ending in -siloxane.

Silicones keep skin and hair hydrated and make them look shiny. The problem is that when doing that, they clog the pores in the skin and make the hair heavy.

They don’t cause any disease as such but can harm acne-prone skins as silicones are comedogenic.

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Ceterayl alcohol

Aluminium Salts and Titanium Dioxide

Aluminium Salts are common ingredients in deodorants and antiperspirants. Aluminium salts work blocking sweat ducts to reduce sweating. This blockage of sweat ducts can prevent the toxins’ elimination and their accumulation in the lymph nodes.

Aluminium salts are thought to be associated, due to this reason, with breast or armpit cancer thought it was proved that there was no report on these types of cancer and aluminium salts. The reason is that breast or armpit cancers do not start in the lymph nodes.

Despite there is no clear link between cancer and aluminium deodorants, some manufacturers prefer to avoid it and use other types of ingredients instead as talcum powder and starch.

Titanium dioxide is a natural mineral used in cosmetics to increase the opacity of powders and to give them a whitish hue. It can also be used in physical barrier sunscreens as it reflects sunlight.

There is a debate about if titanium dioxide is carcinogenic by inhalation or by penetration through the skin. There is no evidence of that. However, there is also no evidence that they are not carcinogenic.

ingredients-to-avoid-in-cosmetics-titanium-dioxide
Titanium dioxide

Mineral Oils

Mineral oils can appear in the INCI under different names: mineral oil, paraffin, petroleum, or petroleum derivatives.

They are present in baby oils, lipsticks, mascaras, moisturisers, eyeshadows, hair conditioners, among others.

They are added to the products to keep skin hydrated. Mineral oils create a film on the skin to avoid hydration loss, but at the same time, they cover the pores and don’t allow skin breathing. Because of that, they increase the speed of the ageing process and produce irritation on the skin. They are comedogenic.

However, some areas, such as the lips, are not susceptible to suffering from comedogenicity. It is pretty safe to use mineral oils in those areas.

ingredients-to-avoid-in-cosmetics-mineral-oils
This product is 100% mineral oils

Parabens

Parabens are a man-made family of compounds used in cosmetics as preservatives. The most common parabens you can find in your cosmetics are methylparaben, ethylparaben,  propylparaben, butylparaben, and isobutyl paraben. Most cosmetics contain parabens in their formula as they avoid bacterial and fungal growth.

Parabens have been related to breast cancer and reproductive problems in males. However, there is no scientific evidence of that. Some breast tumours indeed showed the presence of parabens, but they are a different type than the parabens used in cosmetics.

ingredients-to-avoid-in-cosmetics-parabens
Example of parabens in the INCI

Phthalates

Phthalates are very common in nail polishes, hair sprays and synthetic fragrances. Phthalates are added to the cosmetics to help them to stay in the skin for longer.

Phthalates may have an influence on the endocrine system, upsetting the hormonal balance. They have also been related to kidney, lung and liver problems. At the moment, there is no evidence of that in any way.

ingredients-to-avoid-in-cosmetics-phtalates
General formula of phtalates

Sulfates

Sulfates are the main ingredient in most cleaning products, such as shampoos, shower gels, faces washes, etc.

Sulfates are foaming agents but they are very aggressive. They can irritate the skin and produce eye damage if the product contacts the eyes.

The most common sulfates are Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES).

Shampoos containing sulfates can produce hair dryness and eliminate any product or treatment from the hair such as hair dye, keratin or any other treatment you apply.

They are not harmful to health, but as they are aggressive and dry hair and skin, I prefer to avoid them.

ingredients-to-avoid-in-cosmetics-sulfates
General formula of sulfates used in cosmetics

Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde can appear in the INCI under different names (rarely it appears under formaldehyde): quaternium-15, DMDM Hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1, 3-diol (bronopol), glyoxal, oxaldehyde, sodium hydroxymethyl glycerol.

Formaldehyde is used as a preservative to increase the product’s shelf life but also can be used as the main ingredient in products such as nail hardeners and Brazilian blow-out treatments.

Formaldehyde is one of the ingredients to avoid as it is classified as Class I carcinogenic by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Formaldehyde is linked to lung cancer, leukaemia and other serious diseases. It goes into the organ by inhalation (it is volatile) and can irritate eyes, nose, and throat, and produce different types of damages.

Japan and Sweden have banned this ingredient a few years ago (read this article to know more).

ingredients-to-avoid-in-cosmetics-formaldehyde
Formaldehyde

 This is a small list of polemic ingredients used in cosmetics. Most of them do not produce real damage or there is no evidence of that. However, they produce dryness or other negative effects on the skin.

I try to avoid them, not because they are harmful, but because my skin is very dry and I try to avoid anything that can dry out more or upset it.

There are a long number of ingredients which can be really avoided. Let me know in the comments if you want to know about them.

ingredients-to-avoid-in-cosmetics

I love beauty and skincare, try new products, and share my opinion with you. All my knowledge comes from years of experience and reading articles. I have dry skin, Fitzpatrick type IV, warm undertone, and my main concern is hyperpigmentation. Keep in mind that what works for me may not work for you. We are all different and products can have different results on your skin. Want to talk? Email me at contact@irenebeautyandmore.com

16 Comments

  • Unknown

    6 July, 2021 at 16:37

    Thank you for this! I have changed out my products for many of these items, but I will look for the others I didn't know about. We need companies to make wholesome products or make our own and stop giving them our money.

    Reply
  • Gale

    6 July, 2021 at 19:24

    Great article. I would add to that…any allergies you have. If you can't eat sunflower oil without it causing itchy skin, than putting it directly on your skin probably won't help too. And you don't usually think of allergens being in skin care and make-up items, but they are.

    It's too bad so many make-up items don't even come with an ingredients list. I now only buy lipstick that shows ingredients because I don't want to give my husband a rash when I kiss him.

    Reply
  • GENESIS

    6 July, 2021 at 21:01

    I use the curly girl method for my hair, so I try to steer clear of parabens and sulfates but you have so much interesting information here about them! It's good to know the facts behind the rumours with all of these beauty ingredients!

    Reply
  • Linda

    12 July, 2021 at 21:08

    This list is making my head spin a little, but it’s such valuable information! I only recently found out the difference between comedogenic and non. As a gal with large pores, that is vital to know. Now I’ve got to go check all my other products!

    Reply
  • Delsie

    18 August, 2021 at 19:43

    People are oblivious to the fact that fast hair growth shampoos (obviously without any sulfates, parabens or DEA) even exist. People are now able to have longer hair and attain more options. Certainly worth exploring.

    If you’re assessing hair loss, damaged hair, avoiding hair disorders, hair growth, hair and scalp health in general, the same rules become relevant.

    For the most part, you have to avoid hair products and treatments that include chemicals like parabens, DEA or sulfates.

    What is good for your hair is healthy for your skin all the same.

    It goes without saying your content above is spot on for multiple reasons. It steers away from the accustomed errors and pitfalls too many fall into: purchasing bad alternatives. Thank you!

    Reply
  • Julia

    30 August, 2021 at 19:35

    So many have no knowledge of the fact that scalp therapy shampoos for fast hair growth (of course with no sulfates, no parabens or DEA) even exist. Persons can now achieve longer hair and attain more possibilities. Undoubtedly worth exploring.

    Whether you’re dealing with alopecia, damaged hair, preventing hair disorders, fast hair growth, hair and scalp health generally, very similar ideas come to mind.

    For the most part, you should try to steer clear of hair treatments and products that contain chemicals like parabens, DEA or sulfates.

    What’s beneficial for your hair is beneficial for your skin all the same.

    Obviously the content above is so useful for multiple reasons. It stays away from the usual errors and mistakes too many fall into- buying defective alternatives. Keep up the great content!

    Reply
  • Gema

    1 October, 2021 at 20:02

    Most people are oblivious to the fact that shampoos that grow your hair fast (of course with no sulfates, no parabens and no DEA) are a thing. Hair styling enthusiasts can now attain longer hair and experience more options. Definitely worth looking into it.

    When you’re talking about hair loss, damaged hair, preventing skin disorders, fast hair growth, hair and scalp health in general, very similar rules apply.

    In most cases, you will want to avoid hair products and treatments that use chemicals such as parabens, DEA and sulfates.

    What’s beneficial for your hair is beneficial for your skin as well.

    It goes without saying the content on this page hits the nail in the head for many reasons. It avoids the accustomed pitfalls and traps most fall into: buying bad alternatives. Keep it up!

    Reply

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