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Top 10 Harmful Chemicals to Avoid in Skin Care

5 min read 26 Comments

Many of the chemicals used today in various skincare and cosmetic products are gaining attention because of the negative effects it can have on our skin and health. Here is a list of the top 10 chemicals to avoid if possible. (Orgaid does not include any harmful chemicals or chemical preservatives for maximal safety of skin health, but has developed a way to naturally preserve the product and effectively deliver beneficial ingredients deeper into skin.)

Parabens

Parabens are used as chemical preservatives in wide array of personal care products such as moisturizers, shampoos, foundations and many more. Over the past few years there has been a huge debate whether parabens are safe to use or not. Some say excessive amount of exposure to parabens may lead to breast cancer, but some argue that daily cosmetic exposure to parabens does not cause you any harm. Basically, everyone’s skin reacts differently depending on various chemicals and skin type. If you would like to take caution, you can definitely find many products without parabens.

Sulfates

Again, one of the ingredients that is widely disputed whether it is safe to use or not. You probably are contacting with sulfates on a daily basis. Sulfates are also found in variety of products from toothpaste to cleansers to also help with foaming. There are a lot of different types of sulfates, but the ones that are used most commonly are sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). Sulfates are known to strip away valuable moisture and protective barriers, irritating the skin more. Some say it causes no problem in small amounts, but others say it can cause cancer when combined with other substances or is heated. 

Phthalates

Phthalates are used in cosmetics as lubricants (softeners). You can find these in products such as nail polish, moisturizers, shampoos, hair sprays, toys, detergents, and other variety of products. They are known to be endocrine disruptors that is linked to breast cancer and reproductive birth defects in males and females. Phthalates is also known to have some possible effects on hormones. Unfortunately, this is included in many "fragrances" so it is hard to detect in products. Here are some ways to avoid phthalates.

Fragrance

"But I like nice smelling things!!" some people say. Why is fragrance (also called perfume) bad for your skin? Fragrance is basically a blend of aromatic extracts from natural and synthetic ingredients. Used in nearly 50% of beauty products, it actually has a LOT of unknown toxic chemicals that can be harmful to you. Without you knowing, fragrance can irritate skin, have toxic hormonal effects, and may even cause cancer. It may smell fabulous, but it can lead to not-so-fabulous effects on your skin and health. As an alternative, try to find natural fragrances that are chemical free.

Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable gas. Widely used as preservatives in skincare and cosmetics, it is mainly used in nail polish, makeup, lotions, and deodorants among many other products.  Short term exposure can cause skin irritation, difficulty in breathing, watery eyes and burning in the nose when inhaled. Also, according to The International Agency for Research on Cancer, formaldehyde is classified as a human carcinogen. If your job (such as nail artist, salon stylist etc) requires you to be exposed to copious amount of formaldehyde, make sure your work environment has ventilation or windows so that you can reduce exposure to it.

Phenoxyethanol

Used as an anti-bacterial in cosmetics and stabilizer in perfumes, phenoxyethanol is actually very harmful. It is harmful if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through skin, especially to nursing mothers or infants. Phenoxyethanol can have an effect on the brain and the central nervous system. It irritates skin and eyes, and can cause blistering on skin as well. Although many skin care products (even some organic products as well) use phenoxyethanol in small amounts that is “not harmful” to skin, if you use the product multiple times a day, every day, it can cumulate and possibly affect you.

Alcohols

There are good and bad alcohols. Bad alcohols are methanol, isopropyl alcohol, propanol, benzyl alcohol, and sd alcohol (alcohol denat.) to name a few. They can be extremely drying and irritating to skin, but also may even cause inflammation because they strip the skin off of its natural protection. By breaking down the skin’s barrier, alcohols destroy the substances that protects your skin’s health over then long term. Although alcohols may feel good because they are light and make your skin not feel greasy, because it damages the skin barrier, it leads to increase of acne causing bacteria and makes inflammation worse. 

PEG

PEG (polyethylene glycols) compounds are widely used in cosmetics as thickeners and softeners. It also functions as absorption enhancer which allows both good and bad ingredients to be absorbed faster into deeper parts of skin. If used on broken or damaged skin, it can cause irritation and system toxicity. In addition, PEGs can reduce the skin’s moisture levels and speed up skin aging.

Propylene Glycol

Also called PG, is used in variety of products from lipsticks to shampoos. It actually is classified as an irritant by the National Library of Medicine. Due to its property as penetration enhancer, it aids harmful chemicals to enter into your skin faster, causing irritation. PG is derived from petroleum. PG tends to sit on the surface of skin after you rinse it, dissolving the fats and oils your skin needs to stay nourished. Your skin reacts by becoming parched and dry and requiring more applications of moisturizer, which make skin dryer, requiring more moisture. It’s a sad cycle.

Butylene Glycol

But..but.. what is this?! Derived from petroleum, Butylene Glycol is used as a preservative, solvent (dissolves other ingredients), and humectant (holds moisture to skin). It is used in many products from mascaras and concealers to sunscreens and hairsprays. Some say that small exposure to butylene gylcol isn't harmful, but some say no matter what, it is harmful for you. Side effects could be depression, drowsiness, skin irritation, dermatitis and hives. It is found in so many personal care products that it is difficult to keep track of how much a person is exposed.

 

Final thoughts

It is really on you to make a decision to use products that include these chemicals or not. While they may be helpful in keeping the products safe from bacteria and help other ingredients perform better, some chemicals can also irritate and harm your skin and health. You should look carefully at the labels and use products with right ingredients for your skin, as everyone’s skin type and sensitivity varies. Be wise, think, and know what’s best for your skin!


26 Responses

Julie
Julie

November 06, 2019

I use, love and sell Arbonne International. The products do not contain any harmful toxins.They are a almost 40 year old company does not test on animals. We follow strict guidelines from the European, they are so much more into safer products than the United States. We use only plant and botanical based ingredients.We are #1 in the world. We put an enormous amount of money in research and development. As well as continually keeping an eye on our factories.. I’ve been using most of the products they have over400 to date. I have become clean from the inside out. I was very ill when I started a year and 4 months ago. I have lost 94 lbs., I ‘m no longer diabetic, 2 pills a day gone, I no longer have Roseca on my face, and 1 antibiotic pill which causes leaky gut syndrome still healing my gut up, took the antibiotic for five years daily bad, bad. No medication to my face. I also had atopic dermatitis on my scalp no more prescribed steroids to my scalp anymore. I. Have more energy, a firmer and less wrinkled face, my joints don’t ache anymore. I still have a long way to go but it took years of eating wrong and using wrong or toxic stuff in me. But I I guarantee you it took years of bad choices to get Ty his way so I have patient and will keep on using mine. Arbonne. Thank you for reading. My web site is www.josephtrout.arbonne.com
I’m not here to sell. I’m here t Oi tell my story and my wish is that at least 1 person is helped by. my story. Do you want to keep
paying the copays prescriptions that you are chained to? Or do you want to pay for quality products that do not have words you can’t pronounce preservatives etc our products do not last a lifetime. We are pure and beneficial. I promise you. Take care and get healthy.

Sax
Sax

October 09, 2019

wow someone didn’t do their home work did they? LMAO. The information you have provided on Propylene Glycol is completely incorrect! Fist there are 2 main types of Propylene Glycol Industrial and commercial, industrial is made only for industrial applications only! the second is commercial [ food grade ] which is not the same as Industrial lol!

The Truth About Propylene Glycol, According to any Chemist
An ingredient found in many personal-care products like shampoo, hair conditioner, and styling product, propylene glycol is widely used because of its relatively low cost and versatile nature. Its inclusion in a formula can fulfill a variety of purposes, which makes it a popular choice by the cosmetics chemist. However, some manufacturers have recently made the decision to no longer include propylene glycol in their products.
This is possibly due to misinformation and propaganda circulated on the Internet in the interest of marketing “natural” products. I am an avid supporter of using natural products, avoiding putting toxins into our bodies whenever possible or practical. I get frustrated by the dissemination of inaccurate and incomplete information in an attempt to frighten consumers into using different products. In this article, I seek to clear up some misconceptions about this chemical.
The chemical facts about propylene glycol
It is water-soluble.
It is synthetic.
It is non-toxic.
It is easily metabolized.
Propylene glycol (also known as 1,2 propanediol) is a relatively small molecule with two alcohol (hydroxyl) groups (-OH). It is a colorless, odorless liquid that is completely water-soluble. PG is a synthetic product obtained from the hydration of propylene oxide, which is derived from petroleum products. I do not personally consider a petroleum-sourced product to be a bad thing, as I consider the final structure and its properties to be more relevant than the source (unless contamination is a concern).

The FDA has categorized propylene glycol as “Generally Recognized as Safe.”
Even with prolonged direct exposure, there is little to no skin irritation or sensitization. It subsides quickly once the area is flushed. The MSDS recommends avoiding direct handling due to potential irritation, which is a smart recommendation for any chemical—this is not an indication of the level of toxicity. Remember: in the chemical industry when a worker is exposed to continuous and large quantities of a chemical in its concentrated form, it is imperative to use the strongest safety precautions possible. This is not relevant to consumers using a product by the teaspoonful, if that.

Propylene glycol is non-toxic when ingested, even in reasonably large amounts.
Unlike its dangerous and frequently lethal cousin, ethylene glycol, PG is easily metabolized by the liver into normal products of the citric acid metabolic cycle, which are completely nontoxic to the body. Approximately 45 percent of any ingested PG is excreted directly from the body and never even comes into contact with the liver. The elimination half-life for propylene glycol is approximately four hours, and there is no bioaccumulation (buildup in the body over time). A few rare incidents have occurred where a person ingested a large quantity of propylene glycol and suffered some liver and neurological effects as a result, but these were short-lived and subsided once the material was metabolized and excreted.

Both experimental and anecdotal evidence to date indicate PG to be completely non-carcinogenic, despite its “petroleum-based” origin. In an interesting study, some rats were fed propylene glycol at amounts equal to 5% of all of their food intake every day for two years, which is a pretty huge volume over a large portion of their lifetime. There were no observable effects on their health or behavior.

What “antifreeze” really means for consumers
The word is frequently used to alarm consumers, and is simply a scientific term used to describe the lowering or depression of the freezing point of a liquid. An example is the application of salt to roads and walkways in a snowstorm. This process helps melt snow and ice and prevent development of dangerous icy conditions. The salt accomplishes this by lowering the freezing point of water. This is an example of a “safe” chemical being used as antifreeze. Do not be alarmed by the term antifreeze or by the chemical, propylene glycol. While few chemicals are entirely without risk, propylene glycol is considered to be safe at the low concentrations, used in personal care products and even food products.

Propylene glycol in personal care products
It is an effective humectant.
It is a solvent for fragrances and preservatives.
It can be used as an emulsifier or co-surfactant.
It is used as a solvent for pigments in cosmetics.
It can be used as a preservative due to its antifungal and antimicrobial properties.
It is frequently used in deodorants and antiperspirants.
It is found in hand cleansers and disinfecting gels.
It is a common additive in shaving creams and gels.
I think for those of us with curly hair, propylene glycol’s main benefit is the fact that it is a humectant, and a pretty effective one at that.

How propylene glycol affects hair
It applies like a humectant (attracts water to the hair).
It won’t cause build-up.
It will not evaporate easily (which may cause dry hair).
The application of propylene glycol that is most relevant to those of us with curly hair is as a humectant. All the usual cautions apply with regard to its capabilities to attract water to the hair from the environment or to draw water from the hair to itself. Unless you have the perfect atmospheric conditions, you may experience problems with this ingredient.

Propylene glycol is a completely water-soluble material that will not build up on the hair. It is also important to note that it is a diol with low volatility, meaning it will not evaporate easily and cause dry hair in the manner of low molecular weight alcohols such as SD alcohol and isopropyl alcohol.

Curl Chemist’s conclusion: Don’t fear propylene glycol
Propylene glycol should not be a feared ingredient. If product manufacturers are finding replacement ingredients to fulfill the same purposes in their formulas served by propylene glycol, I see no harm in that. However, I hesitate to support marketing materials that use this as a selling point.

As a curly, it would be wise to be aware if you are using products that contain this ingredient, just in case you observe increased frizz or dryness. Use plenty of moisturizing products to help lock moisture into your hair shaft, which can help prevent any potential problems caused by a humectant.

Christina
Christina

September 21, 2019

Does anyone have any suggestions of products that are not harmful?

ma
ma

September 21, 2019

This article has no author and lists no references whatsoever. You cited no valid scholarly articles or studies to support your claims. We need data. The composition has errors as well — like not using the article ‘a’, or using the plural form where it should be singular or vice versa.

Euchay
Euchay

August 02, 2019

If all of the chemicals mentioned above are harmful what then should be used?

Zakari
Zakari

July 13, 2019

Hi all,

I read the article at
https://www.forceofnatureclean.com/avoid-preservatives-chemical-free-products/

Currently looking for a laundry softener, and I would like to ask you, if the ‘cationic surfactants’ group (aka Benzalkonium Chloride , Cetalkonium Chloride , Cetrimonium Chloride , Lauryl Dimonium Hydrolysed Collagen , Stearalkonium Chloride) is also needed to be avoid ?

Thank you

Momof2boys
Momof2boys

July 09, 2019

Doing further research on this I ran across this article from Paula Begoun, an expert and trusted consumer advocate in the skin care industry for over 35 years. 20 bestselling books on beauty, regular talk show appearances on CNN, Oprah, The Today Show, 20/20 Dateline, The View, and Dr. Oz,

I’m not being compensation or paid in any way to post this just wanting to share a different view.

https://www.paulaschoice.com/who-we-are/about-us

https://www.paulaschoice.com/ingredient-dictionary/preservatives/phenoxyethanol.html

Jared
Jared

June 19, 2019

I find it interesting that someone will look to a site like this that pushes it’s own products for educational information. What disturbs me is where you pull your data from. Is it from reputable sites? Or is it from another blog that someone with little experience in the chemical industry has posted. My prime example is Butylene Glycol. Butylene Glycol in itself has shown that it has no effect on skin up to a 40% dosage level (which is substantially higher than you would find it in products). Butylene Glycol does however increase the penetration of ingredients into the skin. So if you have a reaction to one of the other ingredients, Butylene Glycol will increase that sensitivity. Now maybe the real story of why to stay away from this glycol is that it is traditionally produced through a petroleum feedstock. This presents another argument that is completely valid.

I will tell you that I work with a BioTech company that has now produced Butylene Glycol through the fermentation of sugar. This is a natural process from a natural and sustainable feedstock and can be found in nature. So if you are looking for a natural product that has proven science behind it that will give you all the properties of butylene glycol and not made from petroleum, visit BrontideBG.com. We can clean up the beauty industry by getting to more “CLEAN” & sustainable ingredients but let’s get away from the misinformation that is floating around and use real science.

Lori M.
Lori M.

June 14, 2019

Anyone can be allergic to anything at anytime. I am allergic to all essential and aromatic oils; no fragrance, no lemongrass, no lavender, rosemary, bergamot, citrus oils, clove oil, tea tree oil, etc. Also allergic to balsam of peru, sorbitan, phenoxyethanol. The only real solution to avoid preservatives is to buy products that are hermetically sealed, although, they are expensive. LaRoche Posay makes a few. There is also a company from Japan that is emerging in they arena called FANCL. When I use the wrong thing on my skin I end up with blisters and I am out of action for 2-3 weeks. It’s a frustrating search but it’s a must if you have hyper sensitive skin. I finally broke down and went to Mayo Clinic and got patch tested. It was worth the time and effort. I now use a program they recommended called Skin Safe. They load your known allergens and the program will automatically let you know what is safe and what is not specifically for you. It’s not comprehensive because some companies do not want to divulge their proprietary ingredients. But you can still work the list yourself. Good luck!

Dawn
Dawn

June 13, 2019

Of I mean a list of products other than yours.. some of your are a bit pricey. Especially, if your raising a family on a budget.

Dawn
Dawn

June 13, 2019

Ok so how about a list of products that are without these things or product alternatives! Thanks

Casilda
Casilda

June 13, 2019

Last week I bought a moisture boost serum that contains phenoxietanol. I have been using it for a week and today my face is completely red and with rash.
I’m going to the doctor tomorrow but please let’s be careful of what we by!

Darlene Goode
Darlene Goode

June 04, 2019

I recently had a bad reaction on and under my eyes.. finally figured it must be my fairly new moisturizer Dermal Dab.. using their hyraulonic acid and collagen serums which both have the Phenoxyethanol in them. Being that both had this I looked it up and see it can cause skin irritation.. altho they tell me it’s small amounts evidently it’s enough that caused me 2 trips to urgent care in 3 weeks. Noe I find this article. I have stopped using those products for over a week now and so far have not had another issue. Kind of disturbing but at least I figured it out

Alex
Alex

May 06, 2019

That’s the thing, Freja. We are made up of chemicals and are natural too – they’re in everything! I’m curious about caprylyl glycol also. I am trying to make a facemask but it needs to have a real preservative in it, but I want it to be the least actually or potentially harmful to skin as possible!

Belle Ang
Belle Ang

March 14, 2019

I checking on this information because i smell the strong chemical smell while someone cleaning the stain using a “very effective” detergent. I checking the ingredients used and found this blog.
I was a science student and familiar with chemical smell. My classmate burn my skin just using the tube (joking) and the chemical didn’t touch my skin directly.
If u have sit in lab for the experiment to see how the chemical “boiling”. You will believe and stay far from it.
I am not saying all the contents are 100% true but it is definitely worth you to take note on these harmful products to your body/skins.
And there are many times the standard said within a certain content/weight is acceptable. We always omitted the “accumulated” content/weight may exceed the limited.
Be pre-caution then sorry.
Thanks for the information and i feel these information are very helpful. Individual may like to access your own risk though. Either you decided to continue using your products (it may be only a small amount that no harmful enough).
Best wishes to all.
Belle

Grace
Grace

February 17, 2019

Remove phenoxyethanol from all healthy products you put into creams cosmetics makes me sick when I think I’m buying a healthy products then I read that s*** is in there is there any healthy products out there organic products that don’t have all these hideous chemicals people use all this misleading products not knowing that harmful things are in there a lot of people don’t have any chemical education so public don’t know even if they read that they won’t know what they using people trust companies when they say product is natural organic it makes me very sad and upset everywhere you turn around somebody’s lying about something to make money at somebody else’s health don’t we have enough poison in everything it’s time to stop

Grace
Grace

February 17, 2019

Remove phenoxyethanol from all healthy products you put into creams cosmetics makes me sick when I think I’m buying a healthy products then I read that s*** is in there is there any healthy products out there organic products that don’t have all these hideous chemicals people use all this misleading products not knowing that harmful things are in there a lot of people don’t have any chemical education so public don’t know even if they read that they won’t know what they using people trust companies when they say product is natural organic it makes me very sad and upset everywhere you turn around somebody’s lying about something to make money at somebody else’s health don’t we have enough poison in everything it’s time to stop

izmir beauty
izmir beauty

February 15, 2019

Very much informative. I love your blogs and already a follower of it. I think that when it comes to Beauty stuff so it’s very necessary for new business to have beauty techniques and products that perfectly resembles their business and provides complete solution to connect with its consumers.

Freja
Freja

January 24, 2019

Just because something is chemical, doesn’t mean it’s bad. EVERYTHING is chemicals. Whether made in a lab or in nature.
It would really be beneficial if you’d post your findings as to why all of these are bad. The lack of sources is unnerving.

People who study bacteria know that there is no such thing as a natural perservitive. it just doesn’t really exist. On the microscopic level, even the strongest antiseptic, antibicrobial natural substance isn’t enough.

While companies often don’t care much about putting crap in their products, the whole organic movement isn’t any better, eschewing anything that they think sound chemically as dangerous and unnatural.

Uranium is natural, petroleum is natural, lavender is natural, we are natural. The term means nothing. Do yourself a favor and look at ncbi or other reputable scientifically studied and proven sources on research into these preservatives or any thing in make up or food, not a company trying to sell you a product like this one is. They are motivated to say their product is the best and everyone else is trying to harm you or passively doing so.

Stephen Brown
Stephen Brown

January 20, 2019

You have essentially, said all preservatives are bad. How can there be any water-based products without preservatives? What is the solution?

M
M

January 06, 2019

What about Caprylyl Glycol?

shahid
shahid

August 07, 2018

hi,kindly advise me safest preservative for my cosmetics products and its dose.thanks

Tanya
Tanya

June 01, 2018

May I use this information?
It will definitely help me show why my chemical free skin care products should be used!! Www.Getglowingtk.com

Becky
Becky

April 17, 2018

I recently bought a shampoo with Hexylene Glycol in it. Have not used it yet, Was wondering if I should?

Mariange Marti
Mariange Marti

January 20, 2017

Good day to you,
Two questions
May you private label?
Annd second what is your minimum purchase for retail at the Salon,I will love to try first and pursue the conversation.
But I have a very good feel about your product!

Milena
Milena

September 21, 2016

Hello, I’m wondering if you private labeling your products. Thank you!

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