Personal Care Products: Ingredients to Avoid

When it comes to products, it’s hard to know what’s safe, what’s not, what to buy, what not to buy, etc.

I thought I would do a little research and put together a short list of things to avoid in products. This is by no means a complete list, but at least some of the worst offenders to avoid. I hope you find this helpful. Happy shopping!

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate & Sodium Laureth Sulfate – Often called SLS
SLS is a surfactant. It is often used for it’s ability to lather and remove oils. It can be found in so many personal care products: Shampoos, Toothpastes, Body Wash, Shaving Cream, etc. It can also be found in Engine Degreasers, Household Cleaners, Car Wash Soap, etc. It can cause skin and eye irritation.

Parabens – Methyl, Ethyl, Butyl and Propyl Parabens (keep an eye out for anything ending in -paraben, there are lots!)
Parabens are used as preservatives in personal care products. There is some concern that these chemicals are carcinogenic, especially in breast tissue. They have also been found to mimic estrogen, again being found in breast cancer tumor samples.

Propylene Glycol – Also keep an eye out for Polyethylene Glycol and Polypropylene Glycol
Used as a surfactant and helps break down oils. Also a thickening agent. Known to cause rashes and dry skin. Also an ingredient in oven cleaners and antifreeze.

Phthalates – Look for “fragrance” DBP (Di-n-butyl Phthalate), DEP (Diethyl Phthalate) and BzBP (Benxylbutyl Phthalate)
These are hormone disrupting chemicals, often shown simply as “fragrance”. Try to find products that you know use natural fragrances, or say so on the label. Can also cause nausea and headaches.

Cocamide DEA, MEA and TEA – Diethanolamine, Momoethanolamine and Triethanolamine
Often used as a emulsifiers and/or a foaming agent. Suspected to affect hormones and produce carcinogenic nitrates and nitrosamines. Can cause eye and skin irritation, as well as other allergic reactions.

Diazolidyinyl Urea, Imidazolindinyl Urea, DMDM Hydantoin and Quaternium-15
Preservatives like Parabens. Can cause skin irritation, migraines and allergic reactions. Release formaldehyde (known carcinogen).

FD&C , D&C Color followed by a number – Synthetic Colors
Used simply for appearance, along with synthetic hair dyes. Many are carcinogenic.

Probable carcinogen. Shown to cause tumors. Related to carcinogenic asbestos.

Petrolium – Petroleum Jelly
Mineral oil, derived from crude oil. Interferes with the skin’s ability to breathe. Can lead to dryness and chapping.

Solvent used in nail polishes. Known to cause damage to the liver, kidneys and nervous system.

*If you think there is something that should be on this list, please feel free to comment or email me :)*

There are lots of great resources to check your products and ingredients. For a more indepth look at these things, please check out the Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database.

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  • Argh. That list is kinda scary, especially since it seems like most commercial body care products contain at least a few of these. Yikes.

  • Thank you so much for posting this…I try to use organic things, but they are much more expensive. There are times I can find some on sale though. I wish companies would not put these harmful things in their products…why can't we just have natural ingredients? Very annoying.

  • Jennifer is right. It's scary. Phthalates, especially, are in just about everything. Not only are they used in fragrances, they also are the primary group of chemicals used to soften PVC/vinyl to make it pliable. It's even used on crib mattresses to make the waterproof covering. Can you imagine babies breathing that stuff 15 hours a day? And these kinds of chemicals cause an even greater problem for kids since their bodies are still developing. But it's actually not difficult to find organic products without harmful chemicals. You can even make skin care products, cleaning products, and so on, yourself, often from ingredients you already have in your kitchen. That keeps the expense down as well. Of course, you can't make a crib mattress (I would check out Naturepedic crib mattresses for something you know is safe), or some of the big items. But there are plenty of places online to look for natural products, and some are not that expensive.

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