Being a consumer these days can be confusing and overwhelming, especially when it comes to personal care products. You want to make safer choices, but you don't want to sacrifice function. I wanted to share the top five personal care ingredients I choose to avoid and why.
Do you get overwhelmed when you walk down the personal care aisle at the grocery store or drugstore? The answer to the question "which of these products is safe for me to use?" is not as simple as yes or no. Pretty packaging and inconsistent labeling can distract and confuse you even further. Is it safe to trust the packaging? Or do you try and decipher the ingredient list yourself?
Most of us give up and go back to whatever we were using, or grab the thing that is labeled as "all natural" or "organic" and looks nice in it's packaging and hope that it works for us and is safer than what we were using previously.
Like a lot of athletes, I spend a lot of time and energy making sure that what I put into my body is healthy and supports my goals. I try and drink enough water, get enough sleep, and make sure that my workouts are balanced and will help me reach my goals. I was paying so much attention to what I was putting into my body, but not caring at all about what I was putting onto my body.
I've been working on this for a couple of years now and I wanted to share some quick info so you have a place to start. I used to carry around a piece of paper with the list of almost 50 ingredients that should be avoided in skincare products. It was really challenging to stand in aisle of the store and compare the label of whatever I was buying to the list of ingredients to avoid.
Yes, there are more than five ingredients that I choose to avoid, but talking about 50 ingredients is probably overwhelming for most people and not at all helpful. So, I narrowed it down to the top five to make the task of finding better products less daunting.
If you want to skip the label reading game completely (I mean, you probably need a magnifying glass to read the tiny text anyway), I've listed a few companies at the bottom of this post that I use and trust.
5 Personal Care Ingredients To Avoid and Why
Triclosan is synthetic antimicrobial (antibacterial) chemical that can be found in almost all antibacterial soap as well as toothpaste and antiperspirant. There are many studies that report that products containing triclosan can support the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It is also thought to be an endocrine (hormone) disruptor that accumulates in body fat and causing many conditions such as fertility issues, liver damage, and impairment of muscle function.
Parabens are a preservative used to extend the shelf life of products by preventing the growth of bacteria and mold. It's highly suspected that they are both male and female endocrine disruptors. There are also some reports of them showing up on biopsies from breast tumors. They may also have properties that mimic estrogen which confuses the body when they fill our estrogen receptors. Parabens are found in shampoos, face cleansers, body wash, body lotion, and many foundations. These are probably one of the most well-known harmful ingredients, which is why you may see products that are specifically labeled “paraben-free.”
Phthalates are a large group of chemicals used many products to help make fragrances stick to skin and to make products more flexible. In Europe, phthalates are banned from personal care products. You can find them in nail polish, perfumes, deodorants, lotions, and hair spray. They are strongly associated with endocrine (hormone) disruption and there are some reports of birth defects. They are absorbed both orally and through the skin. It's also extremely important to note that phthalates are not always labeled because they are often considered to be an ingredient in the fragrances present in a product.
4. POLYETHYLENE GLYCOL, PROPYLENE GLYCOL, & OTHER PEG COMPOUNDS
These are petroleum-based thickeners, solvents, and softeners often used in creams, shampoos, makeup, and sunscreens to help carry moisture and provide that thick cream base we love in our lotions and hair products. PEG compounds are skin irritants. They make skin even more permeable which allows other harmful ingredients to pass the barrier of your skin and into your bloodstream more easily. Products with these compounds listed (or not listed) on the ingredient list are also likely to contain other potentially carcinogenic compounds like ethylene oxide.
5. SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE AND SODIUM LAURETH SULFATE (SLS & SLES)
These are detergents and surfactants that are found in a huge number of personal care products in the United States. SLS helps to make products foam and bubble (face wash, bubble bath, shampoo, and even dish soap) and are known irritants that cause damage to the skin and eyes. Like PEG compounds, these products are also likely contaminated with ethylene oxide (cancer-causing) and may react with other common chemicals to produce nitrosamines, which are also carcinogens (see, this stuff can get super confusing). SLS & SLES can also have an impact on the ability of your skin to naturally retain moisture. This means that by using these products, you'll become dependent on them which is good for the companies that sell them, but not good for your health!
After a lot of research and trying many less than stellar products, there are a few companies making safer skin and personal care products that I trust completely and products that work as well as their less safe conventional counterparts. These companies don't use any of the ingredients listed above (as well as several more).
They make my favorite deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo/conditioner, and I use their essential oils to make my own cleaning products and many, many other things (the topical blend is great for blemishes).
Before I discovered the Beautycounter charcoal bar, I used FATCO's face oils for oil cleansing and I LOVE the Myrrhaculous facial moisturizier. Right now I'm using the body butter for an all over moisturizer (everything except my face).