8 Toxic Beauty & Skincare Ingredients to Avoid (& Why)

skincare ingredients to avoid and which products are safe

Not that long ago, I was completely clueless that any of my products had toxic and potentially harmful ingredients in them. Like, what? Was that even legal? Unfortunately, yes, the U.S. has very few laws regulating the cosmetic industry, though we’re fighting for better regulation so that someday, we won’t have to worry about reading labels!

I’ve always believed in the power of food as medicine and believed that what you put in your body has a huge effect on your health. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done research on which foods are best for your skin. But, something I hadn’t considered was how products I was putting on my body affected my health.

Before Owen was born, when we first started thinking about having a baby…

I did lots of research and reading on how to best set myself up for a healthy pregnancy and one thing that shocked me was the negative effects of so many ingredients and chemicals found in skin care products.

I immediately dug through my beauty cabinet and was really disappointed when my pile of stuff to toss was considerably larger than my ‘keep’ pile. Switching my products to safer ones not only makes me feel better about the health of our baby, but my skin and body are also benefitting in a big way.

But, navigating which ingredients to avoid can be tough, especially when you can’t even pronounce them—how are you suppose to remember which ones to avoid! At Beautycounter, we have a list of over 1,500 ingredients that will never be used in our products! There’s so many out there, but a few seem to be more common than others. When I was going through my own products, these were the 8 toxic skincare ingredients I came across the most. Ready to dig through your own beauty cabinet and see what’s in there?!

Toxic Skincare Ingredients to Avoid

1. Parabens

Parabens are a whole family of chemicals (methylparabens, propylparabens, butylparabens, and ethylparabens) that help preserve shelf-life of products. When going through my own products, parabens were the most common offender. I found them in nearly every product from face wash, night cream, makeup, masks, body wash and shampoo—they were everywhere. Parabens can mimic estrogen in the body disrupting our delicate hormonal balance. They’ve been linked to breast cancer, and since they act as a hormone disruptor they can lead to reproductive and fertility issues.

Most Commonly Found In: face cleanser, body wash, body lotion, foundation, shampoo
Swap For This: Calming Cleansing Milk, Nourishing Cream Cleanser, Cleansing Balm, Sugar Body Scrub, Citrus Mimosa Body Butter, Tint Skin Foundation, Daily Shampoo & Conditioner

2. Phthalates

Phthalates group of chemicals used to soften and increase the flexibility of plastics in cosmetics. This helps products stick to our skin.

Phthalates can be extremely dangerous to children, but it’s best to avoid them all together as they can be serious endocrine disruptors and even cause birth defects. Congress has actually banned several types of phthalates already from children’s products.

Most Commonly Found In: deodorant, lotion, fragrance & hair spray
Swap For This: Pure Deodorant (I love the lavender scent), Citrus Mimosa Body Butter, Volume & Shape Mist

3. Fragrance

This one doesn’t sound so scary, but “fragrance” is considered a trade secret which means that companies don’t have disclose what ingredients are inside. Often, the ingredients include tons of chemicals that can cause allergies, hormone disruption and lead to bigger health problems reproductive issues and infertility.

Most Commonly Found In: moisturizers, hand creams and hair products
Swap For This: Adaptive Moisture Lotion (this stuff is amazing!), Citrus Rosemary Body Oil, Hydrating Body Lotion, Citrus Mimosa Hand Cream, Sea Salt Spray

4. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and/or Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)

SLS and SLES are known to cause skin irritation and trigger different allergies.

Most Commonly Found In: shampoo, body wash, bubble bath
Swap For This: Daily Shampoo, Citrus Mimosa Body Wash, Kid’s Body Wash, Baby All-Over Wash (our favorite for Owen)

5. BHT

These are synthetic antioxidants that are used to extend shelf life and are likely carcinogens and hormone disruptors that may cause liver damage. Our liver is our bodies’ main form of detoxification and if that’s not functioning at its best, it’s likely that other organs are functioning at their best either.

Most Commonly Found In: lipsticks, moisturizers, diaper creams, and other cosmetics
Swap For This: Sheer Lipstick, Nourishing Day Cream, Calming Diaper Rash Cream, Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer

6. Retinyl palmitate and Retinol (aka, Vitamin A)

This one really surprised me! I always thought retinol was a good ingredient! It might help soften wrinkles, but it’s got some negative sides too. When I found out I was pregnant and was told by my doctor to stop using any products with retinol and vitamin A. Why, I wondered. It turns out that it may damage DNA and speed the growth of skin tumors when used on your skin. Two things you don’t ever want, but especially not when you’re pregnant! a nutrient that may damage DNA and speed the growth of skin tumors when used topically.

Most Commonly Found In: moisturizer, anti-aging skincare
Swap For This: Rejuvenating Day Cream, Rejuvenating Serum, Overnight Resurfacing Peel, Rejuvenating Eye Cream (one of my favorites EVER!)

7. Lead

Lead is a heavy metal and is a neurotoxin. It can cause serious behavioral and learning problems, like lowered IQ. It’s already been removed from things like paint and gasoline, but not the things we’re putting on skin. If you wear lipstick or lip gloss, think about how many times you reapply it during the day. Some of it will come off when you use a napkin, but plenty of it gets gets absorbed and ingested. Speaking of lipsticks, I also recommend avoiding products that include petrolatum as well.

Most Commonly Found In: lipstick, lip gloss
Swap For This: Sheer Lipstick (I love Currant and Scarlet), Lip Gloss, Color Intense Lipstick (9 to 5 is one of my favorites)

8. Formaldehyde

Yes, the stuff we used in high school biology to preserve dead animals. I was shocked to find out that it was used in cosmetics! It is a known carcinogen that is also linked to asthma, neurotoxicity, and developmental toxicity.

Most Commonly Found In: shampoo, body wash, bubble bath
Swap For This: Daily Shampoo, Citrus Mimosa Body Wash

Well, how did your beauty cabinet rank? Which products did you find to be the worst offenders? Any safe products you love? Share below!

BTW, I tried natural deodorant and this happened, and when should you start using eye cream?

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