Our skin is our largest organ, and everything we put on our skin finds its way into our bloodstream. Some things just get trapped under the skin, where they perpetually damage surrounding tissues the way tattoo ink remains for a lifetime. These chemicals disrupt our hormones, can cause cancer, and can even make our skin more sensitive to the sun leading to skin cancer. All of the chemicals listed here are banned in other countries, and despite plenty of evidence that they are contributing to disease and infertility, remain in the majority of skincare and cosmetics products on the shelves, even in some brands marketed as “natural” like Meyer’s Clean Day.
BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole) & BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene)
Found In: Face powder, Lipsticks, Eyeshadow, Moisturizers, diaper creams, blush
All of these “butylated” chemicals are not good for healthy beauty. They’re known carcinogens that can cause allergic reactions and mimic estrogen. They are known to be toxic to the liver, kidneys and thyroid. In seafood, they’ve been shown to bioaccumulate, so we may also be getting it from fish. One of the most common forms of BHA in skincare products is salicylic acid, which also interferes with our metabolic enzymes.
The sad truth is the healthiest option for your skin is no make-up at all but we understand that might not be an option for some people. The fewer products you use on your skin the better. This is a great moisturizer option and this is the best lipstick option I’ve ever found!
Found In: Shampoos, body wash, body lotions, facial cleansers, foundations, pomade-based beauty products
Parabens also mimic estrogen, and are the most common antimicrobial used in cosmetics and hygiene products like antiperspirants. They’re linked to increased risk of breast cancer and lowered sperm counts. Many types of parabens are banned in the EU, but not in the US. It’s one of the most commonly found chemicals found in umbilical cord blood.
Many shampoo and soap companies have begun removing parabens from their products. We love the Dr. Bronners Sugar Soap as a baby wash and shampoo. This a great paraben (and all the other stuff) free foundation option.
Found In: Antibacterial soap, soap bars, hand sanitizers, toothpaste and shaving cream
Triclosan is ubiquitous in antibacterial soaps, so basically any time you wash your hands in public you’re going to be exposed. It’s directly linked to lower sperm counts and implantation failure, as it’s another endocrine disruptor that messes up our hormones. It’s even linked to obesity, and is banned in the EU. Recently, its safety has been brought into question and more people are becoming aware of its dangers.
ALL Soap does a great job of removing viruses and bacteria. Our favorite soap for hands, face, and body is Dr. Bronners.
Octinoxate and Oxybenzone
Found In: Sunscreen, moisturizers, face and body creams, foundations, lipstick, nail polish, perfumes and fragrances, hair products
In animal studies, these chemicals have been shown to affect the size of both male and female reproductive organs. They’re linked to destruction of coral reefs, and are found in every American’s blood. Studies show they reduce testosterone levels in adolescent men, and they also show up in fetal and umbilical cord blood. As designated endocrine disruptors, they affect sperm count and can increase estrogen levels. They absorb UV light which can actually increase damage from sun exposure and skin allergies.
Mineral sunscreens are far superior in coverage in addition to being free of toxic chemicals. Our favorite brand is Badger Balm (they also have tons of other great personal care products!!)
Found In: Nail polishes, hairspray, scented hygiene products, fragrances and perfumes
Most often listed as “fragrance” or “parfum” on scented products, phthalates have an established track record for all kinds of problems. They’re also carcinogenic and endocrine disruptors linked to birth defects and early puberty in girls. Breast cancer tissues often contain intact phthalates the body cannot eliminate or break down. Increased exposure increased the risk of miscarriage in animal studies, and human exposure has been directly linked to infertility in both men and women. It is important to remove all products that contain synthetic fragrances, all perfumes that do not explicitly say they are made with natural ingredients and fragrances contain the yucky synthetics.
Essential oils are a much healthier alternative to synthetic fragrances, but be careful because certain essential oils (lavender & tea tree) are both known to also be estrogenic and potential endocrine disruptors. This is one great example for natural perfume. Unfortunately there are no nail polishes that are truly natural and free of synthetic ingredients, even ones that are “less bad”.
Step one is to assess your skin care and beauty supplies for these chemicals, check them out on the Think Dirty app, and start looking for safer alternatives. If you’re concerned about specific skin or hair problems that you’re treating with chemicals, it’s imperative to stop exposing yourself to more chemicals, and begin to work on the internal conditions causing your skin and hair problems. You don’t have to endlessly treat these symptoms like dandruff, eczema, acne, hair loss and aging skin with chemicals, when you can support healthy, radiant skin and hair from within.