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Ten Toxic Ingredients to Avoid in Your Skincare & Beauty Products

toxic free natural skincare products flat lay.

There is no legal definition or regulation of claims such as 'natural' beauty products, 'clean', 'toxic-free', 'no nasties' and 'chemical free' and you only have to look at the back of a shampoo bottle to realise the amount of synthetic chemicals inside everyday cosmetics. We prefer to avoid synthetic ingredients and for those with sensitive skin, it's particularly important to avoid skin irritation. Choosing natural and organic skincare products will help you avoid toxic ingredients but there are many loopholes to be aware of...!

It's important to note that Cosmetic regulations in the EU are the strictest in the world giving you some comfort, banning over 1300 ingredients, compared to just 30 in the US, but depsite this there are still many ingredients we think you should avoid to detox your beauty routine as although they may be deemed 'safe' in certain doses, many still used today are known skin irritants and apparently linked to health issues such as hormone disrupters and cancer.

Whether these health claims are true or not, choosing natural means being in harmony with nature, opting for seed to skin gentle products and supporting smaller independent brands. Being a natural beauty brand also encompasses sustainability, conscious living, cruelty-free and some specilist free-from products for those with allergens.

We've put together our top 10 toxic ingredients you should avoid in your personal care products so you feel empowered to shop safely. If you want to research yourself, check out EWGs Skin Deep Database of ingredients.

The Toxic Ten

1. Aluminium

Aluminium compounds are used in antiperspirants to stop the sweat ducts from releasing sweat to the surface of the skin. Some health studies report links to breast cancer and alzhiemers. Regardless if this is true or not, your body is designed to sweat and using aluminium prevents that. Over time our bodies can become accustomed to whichever antiperspirant we are using, so people are told to change them frequently to avoid becoming immune to their sweat blocking properties. Interestingly, research published in the archives of the Dermatological Research show that regular use of antiperspirants can actually lead to more body odour!

Opt for: Natural deodorant which work by eradicating the odour causing bacteria. By killing the bacteria, your sweat has nothing to interact with and no odour is produced. Deodorant does not block pores to inhibit perspiration.

palmarosa and mandarin the natural deodorant in glass jar.

Clean Natural Deodorant Balm 55g, £11

2. SLS/SLES

SLS and it's chemical cousin SLES (sodium laureth sulphate) are cleasning agents known as surfactants that help to remove oils and allow foam to form, meaning it cleans and produces the lather we see in shampoos and shower gels (did you know they were originally formulated for laundry!). Because they are used so much, they cause mass irritation. They are not an allergen but are known to prematurely cleanse the dye from your hair and an irritant to eyes and skin, particulary those with sensitive skin and problems such as eczema, who have a weakened skin barrier and may be more vulnerable because more SLS can be absorbed, increasing the likelihood of irritation,

There are more than 100 different varieties, some synthetic or derived from petroleum-based products but they can obtained from natural sources, like coconut or palm oils.

Opt for: SLS/SLES free products with natural foaming agents such as this natural shampoo bar by Zero Waste Path which uses coconut oil for the ultimate natural cleansing foam.

2in1 solid shampoo bar naked.

2in1 Solid Shampoo Bar for Normal Hair, £7.50

3. Parabens

Parabens are preservatives that help products last longer and some research suggests that parabens may disrupt the way our bodies work (although parabens haven’t been directly linked to any serious health conditions). Common parabens include methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben. One loophole is to remove parabens and replace them with other synthetic preservatives, leaving the rest of the formula relatively untouched. This is commonly known as ‘greenwashing’.

Opt for: Look for paraben free labelling or you can opt for water-free based products such as an oil based cleanser which does not require a preservative in the first place.

Oil Cleansing Method Cleanser.

Oil Based Cleaner, £20

4. Sythetic colour

Synthetic colours are derived from petroleum or coal tar sources and are suspected human carcinogens, linked to ADHD in children and known skin irratants. The EU has banned them in food but they are still used in some makeup especially lipstick, eye shadows, other high pigment products and colourful personal care products. Look out for D&C Red 27 as an example. The letter D&C followed by a colur and number.

Opt for: Organic make up such as our Zao make up range which os both organic and refillable. Try their lipstick.

zao organic and refillable lipstick

Organic & Refillable Balm Lipstock, from £13.50

5. Synthetic fragrance

The term 'fragrances/parfum' was created to protect a company’s proprietary formula and is associated with many allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system since it can cover so many ingredients. Since they do not disclose what the ingredients are, these products are best to avoid altogether.

It's found in perfume, deodorant, hair products, body wash, moisturiser, baby products, air fresheners, and scented candles/melts/diffusers. Basically found in anything that isn’t scented entirely with real essential oils.

Opt for: Organic and vegan perfume by Flaya

organic and vegan perfume by playa.

Vegan & Organic Perfume, £27

6. Sunscreen

Certain chemicals should be avoiding in sunscreen for both your health and the health of the ocean. Common names for chemicals to avoid in your sunscreen are Benzophenone, PABA, Avobenzone, Homosalate and Ethoxycinnmate. These chemicals function as a sun-blocking agents, absorbing UV rays. They are known endocrine disruptors and are easily absorbed into the blood stream and can cause skin irritation.

They are also toxic to aquatic life. Many researchers worldwide have deemed oxybenzone and octinoxate potentially harmful to aquatic life and coral reefs. But they aren’t the only ingredients that may be damaging to marine life and since there is no legal definition for 'Reef Safe' sun cream, be sure to check ingredients for any green washing. Other ingredients you want to avoid are: Microplastic sphere or beads, Nanoparticles like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide (our zinc oxide is not in nanoparticle form), 4-methylbenzylidene camphor, Octocrylene, Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Propylparaben, Butylparaben, Benzylparaben and Triclosan. This is particularly important when purchasing sunscreens outside the EU!

Opt for: Non-nano particle zinc-based spf products.

spf 15 by antipodes natural sun protection face moisturise rin tube.

Skin Brightening Face & Body Moisturiser SPF 15, £28.99

7. Phthalates

Phthalates are a group of chemcials used in hundreds of products to increase the flexibility and softness of plastics. The main phthalates in cosmetics and personal care products are dibutyl phthalate, diethyl phthalate (DEP), and dimethyl phthalate. They are known endocrine disruptors and have been linked to increased risk of breast cancer, early breast development in girls, and reproductive birth defects. Unfortunately, they are not disclosed on every product as they are hidden under the term, fragrance.

Found in nail polish, deodorants, perfume, fragrance and cologne, denatured alcohol, hair spray, hair dye, and face/body moisturisers.

 8. Propylene Glycol

 A skin conditioner used in many personal care products. This chemical penetrates the skin deeply, causing organ system toxicity and irritation to the eyes, lungs and skin from long-term exposure. It has also been associated with dermatitis and hives. The sensitization effects can be manifested at concentrations as low as 2% in any one product.

Found in moisturisers, sunscreen, cosmetics, makeup, deodorant, conditioners, shampoo, hair spray, ice cream and processed foods.

9. Triclosan

A widely used antimicrobial chemical, known skin irritant and possible endocrine disruptorStudies are also raising concerns that triclosan contributes to making bacteria antibiotic-resistant. There isn’t enough supporting evidence that shows washing with antibacterial soaps containing triclosan provides any benefit over washing with good-old-fashioned hot, soapy water hence why Triclosan is definitely on the list of chemicals to avoid.

Found in toothpaste, antibacterial cleansing products, hand sanitisers, and deodorants.

Opt for: Natural hand sanitiser or a simple bar of soap.

Natural & Organic Hand Sanitiser 70% Alcohol (100ml).

Natural & Organic Hand Sanitiser 70% Alcohol, £12

10. Formaldehyde

Mostly banned in the EU since July 2019 in personal care products only, the EU allows the use of Quaternium-15 up to 0.2% as a preservative in cosmetic products. Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (FRPs) help prevent microbes from growing in water-based product but can be absorbed through the skin and have been linked to cancer and allergic skin reactions.

Found in nail polish, nail glue, eyelash glue, hair gel and hair-smoothing products (mostly outside of the EU).

Opt for: 10 free nail varnish

10 free natural and vegan nail varnish

10 Free Natural & Vegan Nail Varnish, £11.50

You'll be pleased to know that all personal care products are The Kind Store are free from the above 10 ingredients and much more. If you want to understand more about natural and organic beauty, keep reading...

Are organic beauty products free from toxic chemicals?

In short, yes. If you are using organic products, the ingredients are naturally derived and will not contain toxic chemicals. However 'organic' is not a legal term in skincare, so brands are free to use it as they like, even if they only contain a small amount of one organic ingredient.

For full assurance, look for products bearing a certification label, such as COSMOS, EcoCert, EWG verified or the Soil Association in the UK. Brands will have had to meet strict criteria including a certain percentage of organic ingredients (typically at least 95 per cent) in order to carry the label. However, there is even variation in standards between certifiers.

Did you know? In skincare, it is almost impossible to make 100 per cent organic formulas; ingredients such as clay or water, for example, are both natural and harmless, but cannot be farmed and therefore cannot be called organic.

It's important to be aware though that there are plenty of smaller organic brands and products out there that are 100% natural and organic but cannot afford the organic certification process.

Why are some natural products also allergens?

An allergen is an substance which produces as abnormal immune response. Cosmetic products are a common cause of contact allergic reactions as many of the toxic ten above. The two most common sources of allergens in cosmetic products are preservatives and fragrances. Most natural products are fragranced with essential oils and although natural, can cause allergic reactions to those with sensitive skin. If you have sensitive skin, opt for lower % or calming essential oil blends, or go completely essential oil free.

 Why shouldn't we just go naked and leave our skin cosmetic free?

Our skin needs cleansing and hydration due to our daily lives and the environment. Removing makeup or dirt from just stepping outside. If we are exposed to skin, or dry harsh winter, our skin needs help. Younger skin doesn’t need as much, but as we mature, our skin cells don’t turn over as rapidly. Those with dry skin have a naturally weaker protective layer of lipeds therefore your skin can feel tight, flaky and look dull whatever the weather and should improve with a boost of natural oils and balms.

A bit more info on cosmetic reguations for those who want to know!

Cosmetic regulation in the EU

Cosmetic Regulation (EC 1223/2009) is the main regulatory framework for cosmetics products on the European market which lays down all rules for product and ingredient safety assessments. It lists all substances that must not be used owing to their toxicity, substances that can only be used in specified circumstances, and the substances approved for use in cosmetics like colouring agents, preservatives and UV filters. In cosmetics alone, the EU has banned or restricted more than 1,300 chemicals.

Cosmetic regulation in the U.S

The cosmetic industry in the US has mostly been self-regulated for the past 100 years. The Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act was passed in 1938 and since then, hundreds of thousands of chemicals have been created, but only 30 have been banned!

Cosmetic regulation in the rest of the world

Canada has banned over 500 chemicals so is somewhat a half way house between the UK and Canada. Asia and Africa are even further behind the U.S. For a product to be sold in the UK, even if it is manufactured abroad, it must adhere to EU regulations which does provide us a lot of comfort compared to the rest of the world.

We hope this post has provided some insight as to why it is so imporant to read labels when purchasing personal care products. At The Kind Store we have done the research for your so you can shop safely with us, but we think it's always best to be equipped with the knowledge yourself too!

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