Top Ten Tuesday: Beauty Ingredients to Avoid

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

It seems like there are tons of ingredients we're supposed to be avoiding these days: high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils in our food, ammonia in our hair dye, sulfates in our shampoo...It seems that every beauty product has something we're supposed to avoid in it. While certain ingredients are merely irritating or drying, some are known carcinogens and are best to avoid at all costs. Today I have a round-up of ten ingredients to avoid in your beauty products and a couple products free of these ingredients. (Keep in mind I haven't tried most of these products: I've just verified they're free of the indicated ingredient. If you want to know more about an ingredient, or how your beauty products stack up, visit ewg.org/skindeep. Paula's Choice also has some good information, although some of it is biased, seeing as it's a company.)

Formaldehyde, Toluene, Phthalate
I think it's safe to say something used to embalm bodies (and gives biology labs their nasty smell) should generally be avoided in beauty products. Formaldehyde is one of the three ingredients that are omitted in "3-free" nail products. Formaldehyde is a 10 on the EWG's hazard scale (the highest score.)
3-free products:
Wet n Wild MegaLast Nail Color 
REVLON Core Nail Enamel
Sally Hansen Hard as Nails Color
Formaldehyde-free products:
Almay Cosmetics
(Also, you know how you're supposed to replace your mascara every three months? Part of that is to avoid bacteria etc., but it's also because some ingredients in mascara can break down into formaldehyde.)

There are many different kinds of parabens, the worst ranking a 10 on the EWG's hazard scale (propylparaben, see why here.) They are "endocrine disruptors," meaning they mess with your hormones. Since they're so icky, there are a lot of paraben-free products on the market.
Paraben-free products:
Jordana Best Volume Extreme Volumizing Mascara
Hempz Treats Body Lotion
Herbal Essences Naked Moisture Shampoo
Yes To Brand
e.l.f. Mineral Line

Acetone can be very drying on your skin and nails and can irritate your lungs as well. However, it's not particularly dangerous, so if you have a strong preference for acetone over non-acetone nail polish removers (which are often less effective,) you can probably use it anyway.
Acetone-free products:
Cutex Non-Acetone Jar Twist and Scrub Sponge
(You can find acetone-free nail polish remover at just about any drugstore.)

The thing about fragrance is that it refers to an undisclosed list of ingredients that make up a product's smell. In some cases, such as Yes To products, this can refer to essential oils and other natural ingredients. However, synthetic fragrance can be harmful: it received an 8 rating on the EWG's hazard scale. And, if you have sensitive skin, it might be best to avoid all fragrance, even the natural kind.
Fragrance-free products:
Almay Cosmetics
Burt's Bees Shea Butter & Vitamin E Fragrance Free Body Lotion
Jason Fragrance Free Daily Shampoo
Aveeno Active Naturals Fragrance Free Skin Relief Body Wash
Olay Regenerist Daily Regenerating Serum Fragrance Free Moisturizer
Neutrogena Body Oil, Light Sesame Formula, Fragrance Free
Products with Natural Fragrance: 
Yes To Brand

Sulfates (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate/Sodium Laureth Sulfate)
While the health effects of sulfates aren't particularly terrifying, they can irritate your skin and aren't the best for your hair (people with colored and/or curly hair are usually instructed to stay away from them.)
Sulfate-free products:
L'Oreal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Color Care System Moisture
Aveeno Active Naturals
WEN Cleansing Conditioner
Burt's Bees Very Volumizing Shampoo
Products lower in sulfates:
Suave Keratin Infusion Shampoos

While it's not particularly dangerous (denatured alcohol only scores a 4 on the EWG scale), alcohol can cause irritation and dryness, which can exacerbate both dry and oily skin (your skin will produce more oils to compensate for the dryness alcohol produces.) Keep in mind that fatty alcohols, such as cetyl alchol, are not skin-irritants and can actually be beneficial for dry skin.
Alcohol-free products:
Neutrogena Alcohol-Free Toner
Yes To Cucumber Hypoallergenic Facial Towelettes
Stri-Dex Medicated Pads
Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisture Sensitive  (no drying alcohol)

Diethanolamine (DEA)
A 10 on the EWG scale, diethanolamine has many derivatives and relatives. There aren't many DEA-free options on the market, but if you have the choice between a DEA-containing product and a DEA-free one, it might be smart to opt for DEA-free.
DEA-free products: 
Pre de Provence Soap Shea Enriched Everyday French Soap Bar
TotLogic 2 in 1 Body Wash & Shampoo

Are there any ingredients you avoid in your beauty products? Do you have any favorite natural beauty products?

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