When selecting skincare products to add to your daily routine, the priority should be for safety. While many of these products can effectively prevent skin damage, rejuvenate a dull complexion, and battle against fine lines and wrinkles, some can do more harm than good. Manufacturers are responsible for following the standards set by health and safety organizations like the FDA or Health Canada, but it is also your responsibility to understand what you are applying to your skin.
Paying attention to the products you use can prevent many health issues associated with certain ingredients. Whether you’re upgrading your skincare regimen or just starting one, take into account some of the most common skincare ingredients you need to watch out for:
Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that 67% of sunscreens are not effective and contain ingredients that can cause health problems.
- Ultraviolet (UV) Filters – UV filters are meant to protect you from excessive exposure to harmful UV rays. However, some of these substances can interfere with the endocrine system, trigger skin allergies, and lead to skin inflammation.
Not all UV filters are harmful, but you need to be wary of:
- Padimate O, or Octyl Dimethyl para-Aminobenzoic Acid (PABA) or Ethylhexyl Dimethyl PABA.
- Homosalate, including Homomenthyl salicylate, HMS, HS; 3,3,5-trimethyl-cyclohexyl-salicylate
- Octinoxate, or Octyl Methoxycinnamate; also watch out for Parsol, Parsol MCX and MOX, Escalol, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate
- Oxybenzone (benzophenone-3 and benzophenone-4)
- Avobenzone, or Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane
- 4- Methylbenzylidene Camphor
Lotions, Moisturizers, or Anti Ageing Creams
- Parabens – Parabens are preservatives used to maintain product freshness and ward off harmful bacteria, fungi, and microorganisms. Although studies have not yet found conclusive evidence that exposure to parabens causes health risks, a specific type (methylparaben) was observed to increase the size of breast cancer tumours. Organizations, like the European Union, posit that parabens should not be used until they are proven safe.
- Petrolatum – Petrolatum, commonly known as petroleum jelly, is an FDA-approved emollient used to treat dry skin, including the sensitive area around the eyes. It does not pose any health risks IF they are correctly refined. Otherwise, petrolatum may become contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). PAHs contain carcinogens that can lead to cancer development. Products with petrolatum are safe to use only if the petrolatum is indicated as fully-refined white petrolatum. Read the label or check the company website to be certain.
- Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) – PFOA is used to produce polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), or Teflon®. Yes, the compound used mainly for non-stick cookware can be found in your skincare product and is responsible for its sleek, smooth finish. While Teflon® itself is not known to cause harm if it is made with PFOA, which is a toxic substance linked to endocrine disruption and cancer. This makes Teflon® a controversial material. Fortunately, no current evidence suggests that Teflon® used for cosmetic products contain PFOA.
To be sure, avoid products that have the following on the label:
- Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE)
- Polyperfluoromethylisopropyl Ether
- DEA-C8-18 Perfluoroalkylethyl Phosphate
- Placental Extracts – No scientific evidence indicates that placenta (whether consumed or used in skincare) has any health benefits. On the contrary, hormones like progesterone and estrogen that are present in the placenta may interfere with the endocrine system.
- Polyacrylamide – Polyacrylamide is used as a binder and thickener in various skincare products. Although it is not harmful in itself, it has the potential of releasing acrylamide, a neurotoxin and carcinogen.
Avoid products containing:
- UV Filters (see under “Sunscreens”)
- Butylated Compounds – These include Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) and Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA). BHT and BHA function as preservatives to many skincare products and even certain foods. Though they are widely used, they have been associated with a variety of problems including cancer, organ (liver, kidney, lung, and thyroid) problems, developmental and reproductive issues, and endocrine disruption.
Steer clear of products with:
- BHA (i.e. Butylated Hydroxyanisole, should not be confused with Beta Hydroxy Acid, which is also abbreviated BHA)
- 1,4-Dioxane – 1,4-Dioxane is not an ingredient; it is a contaminant produced when specific components are combined. It can cause cancer, non-reproductive organ system (gastrointestinal, respiratory, cardiovascular) toxicity, allergic reactions, irritation (of the eyes, skin, and lungs), and neurotoxicity. It is also suspected as a cause in some congenital disabilities.
Unfortunately, companies are not required to indicate 1,4-Dioxane on the label, since it is a byproduct of the manufacturing process and not an ingredient.
To avoid this chemical, keep from purchasing products containing:
- Sodium Laureth Sulphate
- Polyethylene glycol (PEG) compounds
- Polysorbate (20, 60, and 80)
- Substances with the clauses Ceteareth, Oleth, and Xynol
- Hydroquinone – Hydroquinone is a skin-lightening agent for treating hyperpigmentation. While it effectively treats conditions like age spots, acne scars, melisma, and the discolouration caused by psoriasis and eczema, it can also cause issues like cancer, respiratory tract irritation, organ system toxicity, and ochronosis (an irreversible bluish-black skin discolouration).
Avoid products containing:
- Tocopheryl Acetate
- Formaldehyde and Formaldehyde Releasers – Formaldehyde acts as a preservative to hinder the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms in cosmetic products. Although it is present in low levels, it was determined that exposure—even at those levels—could still be hazardous to human health.
Exposure to formaldehyde can cause cancer, organ toxicity in respiratory and sense organs, allergic reactions, and skin, eye, and lung irritation. For economic reasons, manufacturers use formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (FDRs) instead. However, some of these products are allergens and sensitizers.
Avoid products containing:
- DMDM Hydantoin
- Imidazolidinyl Urea
- Diazolidinyl Urea
- Polyoxymethylene Urea
- Bronopol (2-Bromo-2-Nitropropane-1,3-Diol)
- Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate
Cosmetics (Eye Shadow, Blush, and Face Powders)
- Titanium Dioxide (TiO2) – TiO2 is an effective UV filter and is considered one of the safer options when used in sunscreens, creams, and lotions. However, when aerosolized, it is a possible carcinogen, making it a harmful substance in powders.
TiO2 is safe in products except:
- Pressed powder
- Powderized foundation
- Spray-on sunscreen
- Carbon Black – Carbon black is carbon in its natural form. It is used as a pigment in cosmetic products like eyeliner, eye shadow, mascara, blush, lipstick, and foundation. It has been found to cause cancer, respiratory issues, and cardiovascular disease.
Avoid cosmetics containing:
- Carbon black
- D & C Black No. 2
- Acetylene black
- Channel black
- Furnace black
- Thermal black
Care for your skin without risking your health by taking this extra step. A few minutes reading the labels or searching online for a full list of ingredients.
em clinic & spa offers a selection of SkinCeuticals products as well as an extensive list of treatments that target skin deficiencies. SkinCeuticals offers high-quality skin and beauty products with advanced formulations designed to correct damage, moisturize, and protect healthy skin. Products by this brand are widely used by dermatologists, plastic surgeons, and medi-spa specialists. The items are safe and do not contain harmful chemicals.
Look and feel your best. Call us at (519) 668-7449 to book a complimentary consultation.