We’re pros at deciphering food labels but what about beauty product labels? The average woman uses up to 15 cosmetics—from skin and hair products to makeup and fragrances—every day. Sometimes scary sounding ingredients can actually be skin benefiting vitamins but often harmless sounding items could be skin toxic chemicals. An Environmental Working Group (EWG) report says 89 percent of 10,500 ingredients used in personal care products haven’t been evaluated for safety by the (FDA) Food And Drug Administration. Pretty worrying since 60 percent of what you put on your skin gets directly absorbed in your bloodstream. So sit up and take note of some of the harmful ingredients you should try and give a miss.
Used as a disinfectant and preservative in many beauty products including nail polish, soap, deodorant, shaving cream, eyelash adhesive and shampoo, formaldehyde is on the EU ban list because of its potential health risks. Exposure has been linked to breathing difficulties, eye irritation and cancer. It’s also a common ingredient in hair straightening formulas. So forget chemical treatments and opt for straightening irons like Roots Professional HSLM Hair Straightener
, Nykaa Nail Enamels
and Innisfree Green Tea Mint Fresh Shampoo
are other great formaldehyde-free options.
Synthetic fragrances, also labelled fragrance or parfum—commonly found in perfumes, baby lotions, wipes and air fresheners—are best avoided because they can cause severe allergies and rashes. EWG researchers have found that more than 75 percent of products listing “fragrance” as an ingredient contain phthalates known to disrupt hormone activity, cause reproductive malformation, and have been linked to liver and breast cancer, diabetes and obesity.
Parabens are a group of compounds commonly used as a preservative in cosmetics to increase their shelf life. In fact, more than 80 percent of common beauty products contain parabens, from lotions and lipsticks to skin creams and shampoo. Parabens have been linked to tumors, breast cancer, weight gain, birth abnormalities and even depression. “That doesn’t mean you should bin all your cosmetics just yet,” says Nykaa skin expert, Dr. Dhimant Goleria. He suggests using some of your favourite beauty products but switching to paraben-free, natural skin and hair formulas as far as possible. Nykaa suggests the hair, bath and body range from Khadi
, The Body Shop
and luxury offerings from L’Occitane
This is a group of chemicals in cosmetics which is added to increase their shelf life. It’s added to nail polishes to reduce cracking, in hair sprays to help avoid stiffness, and as a solvent and fixative in fragrances. Researchers have linked phthalates to asthma, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, breast cancer, obesity, Type II diabetes and reproductive problems. Take your pick of phthalate-free brands on Nykaa such asL’Oreal Paris
Triclosan, an antibacterial and antifungal, is commonly added to soaps, body washes, toothpastes and deodorants. It has been linked to hormonal imbalances, developmental disturbances and liver toxicity. The EWG has concluded that soaps and hand washes with triclosan don’t have any benefits over plain soap and water. Therefore, it’s best to avoid hand and body washes listing triclosan as an ingredient. Instead choose products from triclosan-free brands H20+ and Sebamed.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) are foaming agents used in shampoos, toothpaste, lotions and creams. However, studies indicate that these chemicals in cosmetics can cause eye damage, depression, and scalp and skin irritation. A Japanese study revealed SLS can even alter cellular genetics. Nykaa recommends you read labels carefully and opt for brands that clearly state “SLS/SLE free” in the list of ingredients. For instance, Sebamed, Himalaya Herbals, Lotus Herbals
and Vaseline products
are all free of SLS and SLES.
This metal is frequently used as a colouring dye in lipsticks. An overdose has been linked to brain, nervous system disorders and blood disorders. In 2011, the FDA reported that 400 popular lipsticks contained lead but the levels were too minute to be harmful, just above 1 part per million. Dr. Goleria says that it’s important to note that lead per se is not used in lipstick, it’s just a trace by-product of the pigments used to colour lipsticks. So what’s a girl who loves her lippie to do? “Use, but with caution, and re-apply only once or twice through the day,” he concludes.