Top 5 Dirty Beauty Ingredients

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The European Union has banned 1,300 ingredients in personal care products while the United States has banned a paltry 30. The US Food and Drug Administration does not actively regulate the personal care or cosmetics industry, so unfortunately consumers have to take matters into their own hands.

Below are our Top 5 Dirty Ingredients to look out for in personal care products. These are some key ones but there are many more toxic ingredients to look out for. A great resource for further information is the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep website and app and Ruth Winter's A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients.

1. Parabens 

Parabens are the most common preservatives used in the United States. Methylparaben and propylparaben appear in up to 90 percent of products, including shampoo, conditioner, body washes, lotions and sunscreens. Parabens have estrogen-like properties and have been linked to breast cancer.

2. Petrochemicals

(PC) are found in almost all conventional beauty products in one way or another. You might want avoid petroleum in your products for countless reasons both environmental and health-related. Here is a list of the most common petrochemicals you can find in beauty products:
  • benzene butyl words (e.g., butylene glycol)
  • DEA (diethanolamine) -eth words (e.g., laureth)
  • MEA (ethanolamine) methyl words (ex. methylparaben)
  • mineral oil paraffin wax
  • PEG (polyethylene glycol) petroleum jelly phenoxyethanol propyl words (ex. propylene glycol) toluene

3. Phthlates

Phthlates are used to give flexibility to plastic, and serve the same function in personal care items and cosmetics. They also help extend the scent of perfume. The most common phthalates found in products are diethyl phthalate (DEP), dimethyl phthalate (DMP), and dibutyl phthalate (DBP).

4. Propylene Glycol

Used as antifreeze and engine coolant, propylene glycol is also one of the most widely used ingredients in personal care products. You can find it in makeup, sunscreen, baby products, deodorants, aftershave, creams, and mouthwash. It is a preservative, humectant and solvent. It has been linked to eye, skin, and lung irritation as well as organ-system toxicity.

5. Synthetic Fragrance
It lurks in unexpected places, scenting everything from soap, lip balm, and shampoo to toilet paper and trash bags. Almost one hundred percent of synthetic fragrances are made from petroleum. Watch out for the words “parfum” and “fragrance” lurking in an ingredient list. Companies do not currently need to disclose their fragrances, since they are classified as trade secrets. Synthetic fragrances not only smell bad, but are known allergens that can cause headaches and nausea, cause topical reactions such as rashes, hives and eczema and lead to serious respiratory issues. Many of the ingredients found in synthetic fragrances are known to cause reproductive issues, are endocrine disrupters and have been linked to cancer. Buy from companies that clearly display their ingredient list on their packaging. If there is anything you do not recognize in the list, including "fragrance," beware and do further research. If a company exclusively uses essential oils to scent their product, it will be proudly displayed on their packaging. 
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