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Beauty Product Bandits

There are certain guidelines that must be followed in order for the beauty products we purchase to be deemed safe for use. Most of us trust when we pick up a product at the store it has been vigorously tested and will help us look our most radiant.  But the more I looked into the ingredients on the labels of my beloved beauty products, the more I began to wonder if ‘safe for use’ and health promoting were even in the same realm. How far could I trust the intended product use when looking at the ingredients told a very different story? 

Did I only need my moisturizer because I was stripping my natural oils away with harsh cleaning agents?

Would my skin naturally heal itself and become soft, glowing and beautiful if I simply got out of its way and let it achieve its natural balanced state?

Was I drowning myself in hormone disrupting chemicals from the lotions and potions I assumed were helping?

When it came to my beauty regime, was the reason I needed so many beauty products because I was using so many beauty products?

The researcher in me had to investigate. I began looking up some of the ingredients on my beauty product labels and it didn't take long to find some concerning culprits.

Here are the top 5 ingredients in my beauty products that I will now be avoiding.


What to look out for on the label: SD alcohol, denatured alcohol, isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol), ethanol, methanol and Benzyl Alcohol.

Common products: Foundations, Concealers, Face wash, Acne treatments

In addition to its anti-bacterial properties, alcohol is often found in products marketed towards oily skin. It gives the product a lightweight feel and quick-drying finish. These alcohols stunt the skins natural renewing process and strip the natural oils from the skin causing dryness that can then be followed by an excess production of oil as your skin strives to maintain homeostasis. This drying process can also create minuscule cracks in the skin, just large enough for bacteria to creep in, giving you acne. Which is great (if you're a cosmetic company), because you will soon be perusing the selves for another product to banish your new spots!


What to look out for on the label: Any ingredient that ends with “paraben”

Common products: Make-up, Hair care, Lotions, Creams, Deodorant, Soaps

Even if you haven’t taking a closer look at the ingredient list on your products, chances are you have already heard parabens are a big no-no. “Paraben-free” has been popping up for years on our beloved beauty products and toiletries. Parabens have been used as a cheap preservative to prolong shelf-life and prevent bacteria from growing inside the bottle. Sounds great right? Well it was, until researchers found out how easily absorbed by the body they were. The parabens started showing up in blood and urine samples within hours of application.  Likewise, when malignant breast tumours cells were analyzed guess what showed up in the lab report? That's right, our pervasive little parabens.  Even more suspicious, most breast cancer tumours develop on the side of the breast nearest the armpit…right where paraben filled deodorants are applied daily. 

The endocrine-related effects of parabens on the thyroid, hormone-related cancers, obesity and reproduction have all been documented but a causal link is yet to be established.  Still, it’s a good idea to steer clear of any products with a pesky paraben in the ingredient list to be safe.

Petroleum (Mineral Oils, Polymers)

What to look out for on the label: Mineral oils, Fragrances, Propylene glycol, Isopropyl alcohol, Liquid paraffin, paraffin oil, Carbomer, Sodium polyacrylate, Polyethylene glycols (PEGs), Polyimide-1, Polyquaternium-11….pretty much look for the prefix ‘poly’.

Common Products: Moisturizers, Cleansers, Foundations, Sunscreens, Hair care and Petroleum jelly.

Petroleum derivatives come in many different varieties on our product labels, each with their unique hell to raise. Mineral oils, often found in moisturizers, create a seal on top of the skin in order to lock in moisture. Problem is, this barrier also locks in bacteria and is known to clog pores.  Petroleum products are highly absorbable through our skin but are not able to be metabolizedSome research estimates that 1g of our body weight is actually mineral oil. Yuck. Add in the possible cancer and hormonal imbalance connections and I’d say we should be thinking twice before slathering on this jelly in any form.


What to look out for on the label: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) , Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), Sodium Lauroyl Isoethionate, Sodium Lauroyl Taurate, Sodium Cocoyl Isoethionate, Sodium Lauroyl Methyl Isoethionate, Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate

Common products: Soaps, Shampoos, Body washes, Face cleansers and Toothpastes

The soft lather of white bubbles that makes you feel like your a 17 year old model in a TV commercial is a product of sulfates. Sulfates are cheap, harsh detergents that can be found in most cleaning products (including laundry, household and dish soaps). These little buggers are quite impressive as they attract both the oil and water. They are able to pull the oil off the surface of your skin, and bind it to water so you can wash it down the drain.

The problem is, sulfates do too good of a job stripping your natural oils. Your skin and scalp produce oils for very important reasons. These oils are protective against the many environmental baddies you come up against throughout your day. Without these oils, detrimental microbes, pollutants and allergens have free access to the sensitive layers of your skin, scalp and hair. In fact, sulfates actual lift up your hair cuticles, allowing damage to occur at the cortex of the hair shaft. This weakens your hair, causing more breakage, while leaving hair dull and frizzy, with split ends galore. Fun times. But don’t worry; I’m sure the shampoo company sells a deep conditioner to combat at least some of the damage their shampoo has caused your doo.


What to look out for on the label: DMDM hydantoin, Imidazolidinyl urea, Diazolidinyl urea, Quaternium-15, Bronopol, Hydroxymethylglycinate

Common products: Skin care, Nail polish, Nail polish remover, Chemical hair straightening/smoothing products, Toothpaste, Perfume, Baby wipes.

Formaldehyde is used to extend the shelf life of your beauty products. While you may not see it explicitly labeled as ‘formaldehyde’ (although I did) this known carcinogenic (when inhaled) can sneak into your products in the form of ‘formaldehyde releasers’. These chemicals can produce formaldehyde over time as they come into contact with water. 

Even though I didn't see any research finding a causal relationship between the Formaldehyde in beauty care and illness, my intuition tells me I shouldn't continue to risk my health waiting to see if science finds one. Bye-Bye Formaldehyde!

Researching these common beauty ingredients was enough for me to start tossing products in the bin. The problem was, when I started looking into 'natural' and 'organic' products, I started to see some suspicious ingredients living in those products as well! Check back next week, before you start replacing your conventional products with their 'green' counterparts because in the world of cosmetics and beauty products, I'm learning nothing is what it seems!

Thanks for reading!



  1. Extremely useful information which you have shared here. This is a great way to enhance knowledge for us, and also helpful for us. Thankful to you for sharing an article like this.
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