Shopping for natural skincare products can feel like tiptoeing through landmines trying to dodge chemicals of concern. Even products marketed as “natural” will hit you with a mineral oil in the fine print.
Our commitment to ingredient purity inspires us to encourage you to treat your skin better with a refined list of no-no’s that should be avoided. Unfortunately, these substances are dangerously common. But with this guide, you’ll have all the power in the world to confidently decide what is welcomed on your skin and what’s not.
How could the scent of honey, vanilla, or cherry blossom pose a threat? It seems harmless.
But if fragrance, scent, or parfume/perfume are listed in the ingredient list, there’s a good indication that this concoction of ingredients isn’t sourced naturally.
Federal law doesn’t require companies to disclose the chemicals hidden under the name “fragrance”. Many fragrances are comprised of 10-20 different chemicals derived from natural raw materials or petroleum.
Where it’s Found
Fragrance, scent, or perfume can be found in moisturizers, setting sprays, facial masks, cleansers, and toners.
Outside of skincare, fragrance is found in makeup, perfume, shaving cream, and a terrifying portion of other beauty products.
The International Fragrance Association has identified more than 3,000 materials being used to create fragrance compounds.
Essential oils, flower waters, plant and botanical extracts all provide natural scents and do not hide behind an alias.
Parabens are often listed under the names ethylparaben, butylparaben, isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben, methylparaben, and propylparaben and are used as a preservative.
Where it’s Found
Facial cleansers, toners, serums, exfoliants, and anti-aging products are often laden with parabens. Outside of skincare, parabens can be found in nail polish, shampoo.
Parabens are toxic, endocrine-disrupting chemicals that can be absorbed through your skin, blood and digestive system. Studies suggest parabens, among other things, can damage DNA, cause cancer, and disrupt the reproductive system.
The damage of parabens doesn’t stop at our bodies. Parabens are a global issue. When parabens are washed off the body they enter the water system. For places that are able to properly decontaminate water, the parabens will be removed, altered chemically or released into the environment through sludge, destroying and contaminating other water sources. Parabens are found nearly everywhere from our medicine cabinets, makeup bags, and food. But parabens are not compatible with life and if there is one ingredient you’d like to ditch first, let it be this one.
A short self-life is a great indicator that the primary ingredients in your skincare are natural. However, there are safer, cleaner alternatives to parabens that are just as effective including:
Examples of these include ascorbic acid, castor oil, phenols, vitamin e, salt, vinegar, alcohol (not recommended for all skin types), sorbic acid, rosemary oil extract, oregano extract, benzoic acid, tocopherol, germaben ii, diatomaceous earth, grapefruit seed extract, and sugar.
Synthetic Sodium lauryl sulphate/sulfate (SLS) is a detergent, emulsifier, and anionic surface-active agent used in skincare products. SLS is the ingredient responsible for the thick lather sensation and the creation of bubbles that traps dirt and washes away. As an emulsifier, SLS is used to thicken and stabilize solutions.
Where it’s Found
Synthetic SLS can be found in cleansers, gels, makeup removers, car wash detergents, engine degreasers, and floor soaps.
It is suspected that the absorption of SLS is linked with the perpetuation of cancer cells, though enough data hasn’t come forward supporting the claim. However, SLS remains a known eye and skin irritant likely to cause drying, redness, and flakiness in the skin.
Natural forms of SLS can be found in the flesh of coconuts. Many premium organic skincare products will source their SLS this way. Other emulsifying alternatives include
Petrolatum is an FDA approved emollient skin protectant. Most common in moisturizing products, petrolatum itself does not contain moisturizing properties, rather it creates a barrier on the skin to keep moisture in. Made popular by Vaseline. Is also listed as Mineral oil, Paraffin wax, Benzene, names that end with ‘-eth’
Where it’s Found
Petrolatum is found in conventional hydrating masks, lip balms, anti-aging eye serums, hand creams, and lubricants for skin. However, Petrolatum by product is found in so many other things that have nothing to do with beauty or health including transportation fuels, fuel oils for heating and electricity generation, asphalt and road oil, and feedstocks for making the chemicals, plastics, and other synthetic materials. Yet somehow, it’s likely a primary ingredient in most of your skincare, too.
Petrolatum suffocates the skin. With the hope that it would lock moisture in, it, in fact, prevents skin from absorbing accessible moisture in the air and eventually dries it out potentially causing irritation. It is also comedogenic and likely to cause acne, blackheads, and clogs pores. Petrolatum is a byproduct of petroleum but when super refined can be safe in small amounts. However, because it is being mass-produced, contamination occurs more often than the FDA can keep up with.
Nature is full of goodies meant to hydrate and protect your skin, including
Another nasty ingredient meant to prolong shelf life is Triclosan, a preservative used to prevent the growth of mold or bacteria.
Where it’s Found
Triclosan can be found in soaps, laundry detergents, toothpaste, deodorants, face serums, lip plumping gloss, shaving gel, makeup, face masks, fabrics, plastic chopping boards, shoes, and sports equipment.
Triclosan bioaccumulation has been linked to hormone disruption and antibiotic resistance. It has also been labeled an environmental toxin. In 2013, the FDA required that manufacturers demonstrate the efficacy of Triclosan as antimicrobial before using it as an ingredient. The reason being, Triclosan, for all the risks it exposes, is no more effective than safer antimicrobial and antibacterial ingredients.
Natural alternatives to Triclosan, that serve as an antimicrobial, antibacterial, and preservative are as familiar as things you might find in your pantry.
You don’t have to wander the forest or pluck leaves from your garden for the cleanest skincare ingredients. There are readily available resources that can replace much of the chemically refined byproduct found in conventional skincare. BioFormulaSelect has done a little of both in the creation of our face masks. A little science, a lot of botanicals, and a whole lot more of natural goodness, we’ve made it our mission to create effectively, age-defying masks that keep you out of harm’s way.
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