The Never List!


If you have been my client and/or friend, chances are, I’ve already preach to you about, “harmful chemicals and toxins” found in most ingredients in beauty, cosmetic and hair products. As I've recently been introduced to a clean, organic, and natural line of beauty products, I thought it would be a good time for me to consolidate everything I’ve researched and learned on this topic.

While many people are diligent about checking the ingredients the food they put into their bodies, the same level of diligence isn’t always present when it comes to what's in our makeup, beauty, and skincare products. Despite the ever-increasing common knowledge of organic and natural food, it’s easy to forget that the ingredients in our beauty products can also have a negative impact on our health.

As I have become increasingly more aware of the importance of clean beauty products, I came to a startling realization. I was spending loads of money to have the trendiest or “it” brand hair and makeup products, so my kit would impress my clients and make them feel good about me and my abilities as an artist. As it turns out, I was inadvertently putting my health and my clients’ health at risk.

Did you know that most of the makeup and hair products in department store—regardless of whether they are found at the “high-end” or “lower-end” counter—are loaded with toxic chemicals that are hormone disruptor and are linked to cancer and birth defects? Neither did I. Until I did my homework.

As most cosmetics require a long shelf life, they are adulterated with lead, dibutyl phthalate, diethylhexyl phthalate, formaldehyde, formaldehyde releasers, mercury and related compounds, isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben, butylparaben, propylparaben, toluene, triclosan, carbon black, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), and many other, unpronounceable substances that act as preservatives. As I became more conscientious about reading labels, I began to realize you need a chemistry degree to make sense of most of the products on the market. And the craziest part is how incredibly common these ingredients are in makeup, perfumes, lotions and hair products.

Here are the few main “Never List” ingredients that you have to know so you can familiarize yourself and avoid them completely on your cosmetics and beauty products.

Lead is most commonly found in lipstick and hair dye. Lead, a known neurotoxin, has been linked to reduced fertility in men and women, and it can still be harmful in small doses. While the dangers of lead seem obvious, it's been found in lipsticks in the U.S. from various brands.

Phthalates, make nail polish stronger and are often hidden in ingredient lists under the catch-all label “fragrance.” They are most commonly found in perfume, deodorant, nail polish. They can cause reproductive and developmental problems. Phthalates can lead to a slew of hormonal health problems, this ingredient has been linked to developmental defects, fertility issues, and obesity.

Petroleum distillates are most commonly found in mascara. This ingredient also goes by other names on ingredient lists, such as “paraffin wax.”

Parabens are commonly found in lotion, foundation, and plenty of other beauty and hair products, allowing them to last longer by inhibiting growth of bacteria and mold. They’re carcinogenic and can disrupt hormone function. They have been linked to breast cancer, skin cancer, and decreased sperm count. Because of these risks, five different parabens have been completely banned in other countries (isopropylparaben, isobutylparaben, phenylparaben, benzylparaben, and pentylparaben), while others are strictly regulated. Here in the U.S., the FDA does not believe that parabens present a danger to our health when used in cosmetics.

Formaldehyde serves as a hair straightener, nail polish and nail hardener. It is known to be a carcinogen, it's also associated with respiratory problems, it too can give you cancer.

Hydroquinone, in the U.S., hydroquinone is most commonly found in products used to lighten skin and fade freckles, age spots, and discoloration. A possible carcinogen, It has most commonly led to photosensitivity, which means your skin is ultra-sensitive to the sun, among other skin conditions.

Quaternium-15 it's most commonly found in eyeshadow, shampoo, body wash. This ingredient is a formaldehyde donor, meaning that it is chemically bound to formaldehyde and will release it over time. A possible carcinogen, it has also been proven in patch tests to be a common allergen. However, there’s a research that says that quaternium-15 is safe for use in cosmetics in concentrations up to 0.2%, you decide.

Mercury and the pigment carbon black can be found in eye makeup. They’ve been linked to cancer and reproductive toxicity.

Triclosan is most commonly found in toothpaste, antibacterial soap, and hand sanitizers. This ingredient is banned in many other countries for being an endocrine disrupter that can lead to a variety of health problems involving our hormones, including obesity and fertility issues.

Although these ingredients have been banned from cosmetics in other countries, in the US it’s really a “buyer beware” situation; cosmetics companies can use any raw material that they like and there’s no way to know if they are safe before they reach the shelves. Except for color additives and a few prohibited ingredients, a cosmetic manufacturer may use almost any raw material as a cosmetic ingredient and market the product without an approval from FDA.

Most people use multiple personal-care products every day—makeup, shampoo, soap, lotion, deodorant—with no knowledge of what to avoid in their products. Without knowing what are the harmful ingredients that can damage one’s health, it is easy to fall prey to all the misleading marketing without ever realizing what is in their daily products.

While the industry has taken some minor steps in the right direction, as a whole, it is far too little. Thus, it’s up to us to ensure we are steadfast in our search for only the cleanest products.

My advice: Become an avid reader of ingredients. You don’t need a degree in chemistry, you just need to read labels to ensure none of the items listed in “The Never List” above (and all 1500 more ) are contained in your beauty products. If you find any of these ingredients on the label, simply pass on that product.

*If you want to learn more about clean cosmetics and personal-care products that prohibit the use of over 1500 harmful ingredients enter Beautycounter.


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