Be Wary: 5 Un-Pretty Beauty Ingredients

by Kezia on June 17, 2008

Last week I wrote about the woeful state of regulation in the cosmetics and personal care industry. That got me thinking about the potential toxicity of all the cosmetics, skincare and hair care products (not to mention cleaning products) in my apartment.

I decided to finish the products I have and be more mindful of what I buy going forward…

Because I tend to be an alarmist, my first thought was to box everything up and throw it away. Of course, that wouldn’t work — adding hazardous materials to a landfill wouldn’t exactly ease my burden. Plus, what a waste of money. Instead, I decided to finish the products I have and be more mindful of what I buy going forward. I’ll be especially wary of products with any of the following ingredients:

1. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)

What: A surfactant found in shampoos, cleansers, creams and toothpaste.
Why: It’s linked to rashes, skin inflammation, hair loss, tooth damage and may have an estrogenic effect.

2. Polyethylene Glycol (PEG/ PPG)
What: Propylene Glycol is used as a humectant (binds moisture). It’s in deodorant, shampoo/conditioner, face creams and makeup.
Why: PEG compounds sometimes contain Ethylene Oxide, which is linked to leukemia, uterine, breast, and brain cancer.

3. Phthalates (DBP, DMP, DEP)
What: The most common forms of phlalates are Dimethylphthalate, Diethylphthalate, and Dibutylphthalate and (compounds comprising) fragrance. Found in perfumes, hair spray and deodorants.
Why: Phthalates can cause birth defects in male reproductive systems, pre-mature sexual development in girls and asthma. They are also linked to breast cancer.

4. Parabens
What: Petroleum-based preservatives that extended a product’s shelf life. Parabens are found in many skincare products and soap. .
Why: In large amounts, parabens may cause liver problems, breast cancer and reproductive problems in children exposed to the chemical in the womb.

5. Formaldehyde
What: Another preservative used in cosmetics and beauty products.
Why: Formaldehyde can irritate the skin and damage the nervous system and has been linked to certain forms of cancer.


Image by: Akira Ohgaki

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ashe Mischief June 17, 2008 at 6:19 am

You may want to try out Method products for household cleaning (in addition to hand soaps, dish soaps, laundry det., etc.). They are naturally derived, non-toxic, and biodegradable, too.

I had heard something about the use of aluminum in deodorants/anti-perspirants leading/contributing to breast cancers as well. But I’m not sure the statistics.


2 moi June 17, 2008 at 7:24 am

I had to stop using deoderants/anti
persperants with aluminum in them years ago because of a terrible rash - now I use that crystal stuff.


3 Liebling June 17, 2008 at 7:25 am

Thanks for this, now I can go shopping armed with what to look for and avoid in products.


4 Poochie June 17, 2008 at 11:07 am

Method is great and mainly what we use at home.

It’s almost impossible to find shampoo and conditioner with out Sodium Lauryl Sulfates. We had an easier time finding it for our dogs than for us. Even Aveda has it in their stuff.

I’ve only found two brands so far. Burt’s Bees is one that I remember.

It’s amazing all the bad stuff in our products.



5 SwanDiamondRose June 17, 2008 at 1:06 pm

oh god. often i don’t look at the ingredients because i don’t know where to start with sorting this all out.


6 Mothra June 17, 2008 at 1:22 pm



7 kezia June 17, 2008 at 5:15 pm

I haven’t found shampoo/conditioner without SLS either. Or rather, I haven’t found one that I like that doesn’t leave my hair dry/tangled.


8 Imelda Matt June 17, 2008 at 7:25 pm

I’m just going to lock myself away…it’s so over whelming! I’d like to use chemical free products (that work) but locally I can’t seen to find any. I flirted with Newways a couple of years ago but buying the damn products was so time consuming (sitting through all those cultish videos) and exhausting!


9 meli June 18, 2008 at 12:58 am

Im a big fan of your posts! this is great info put in a way too easy form to follow some HW
Sounds odd and Im not sure how long (8-9 years) ive made the switch to a some call it’hippie’ deodorant. (I use an aluminum-free one) & (in my head, could be actually true) I think that anti-presps. & hard non sweating things could stain clothes badly, more so than your actual sweat. not sure, but all my white t-shirts are not stained at all, whatsoever. I mean not to mention my skin has def. benefited from it over time.


10 jennine June 18, 2008 at 1:39 pm

i know a woman who stopped wearing deodorant. she didn’t smell bad at all.

she said, that deodorant actually causes an imbalance in the glands causing the bad odor. a healthy person should have little or no offensive smell.

she also said, it took a few weeks for her body to regulate once she stopped wearing deodorant.. it was awkward.

i wonder if deodorant is really a necessity.


11 Beth June 18, 2008 at 2:35 pm

This is a worthy project! I think we need much more information about the things we put on our body.

Don’t worry about the deodorant thing, though. There is no established link between breast cancer and deodorant-and that’s according to reputable sources like the American Cancer Society.


12 Kezia June 18, 2008 at 4:26 pm

Thanks for all your wonderful posts! I go back and forth on deoderant/anti-persperant. I like the crystal deoderant, but I tend to be really sweaty (especially when I’m nervous).


13 Marian Azdril June 20, 2008 at 7:26 am

Great article, thank you for reminding us to read labels!
How can I find your article about make-up? I am a new reader.


14 Kezia June 20, 2008 at 4:49 pm

Marian- the post to which I was referring:


15 Kate August 2, 2008 at 10:18 pm

I have to admit I’m getting frustrated. If we know that these cause problems, significant ones at that then why do we allow them to remain on the market at all?


Leave a Comment

CommentLuv Enabled

Previous post:

Next post: