Here at Mukti Organic Skincare we’re always going on about reading ingredients lists on cosmetics packaging. But a) who has time? and b) what the hell are all those ingredients, anyway?
We decided to do the hard work for you, so that next time you’re tempted to grab a chemical-laden skincare product instead of investing in a certified organic skincare product, you’ll stop and think.
We chose a big name cleanser from a line of cosmetics branded as ‘pure’ and ‘natural’. This cleanser had earthy packaging and the words “natural’, ‘hypoallergenic’ and ‘active’ on the front of the bottle.
If you were in a hurry to do the shopping so you could get home in time to watch MasterChef, you might just convince yourself it was safe and really quite wonderful for your skin.
In fact, far from being a natural skincare product, this is a chemical-laden, toxic, potentially cancer-causing facial cleanser. Not only are most of the ingredients toxic, they’re not even in there to help your skin — they’re mostly surfactants, preservatives and foaming agents.
Every single time you use a product like this one, you’re covering your face in a cocktail of chemicals that sink deep into your skin and may cause all manner of health problems, from cancer to hormonal imbalances.
I’ve listed most of the ingredients below, as they appear on the bottle, and explained the purpose of each, along with its possible side effects. Remember, ingredients are listed in descending order, as Mukti wrote about here, so the higher up in the list they are, the more of that ingredient is contained in the product.
Good old H2O. No problems there.
Sodium laureth sulphate ✘
This commonly used surfactant is a skin and eye irritant and endocrine disruptor. It goes through the process of ethoxylation during manufacturing, which means it is processed using ethylene dioxide, a known carcinogen. Another by-product of ethoxylation is 1,4-dioxane, also carcinogenic.
Acrylates copolymer ✘
A type of plastic that acts as a stabiliser or as a viscosity increasing agent in cosmetics. It’s a skin and eye irritant.
Peg-80 sorbitan laurate ✘
Human skin toxicant that is not safe to use on damaged or broken skin. As it is an exothylated compound it may contain 1,4-dioxane.
Di-PPG-2 Myreth-10 Adipate ✘
A ‘skin conditioner’ produced through ethoxylation, so it may contain 1,4-dioxane, a known carcinogen.
A surfactant, foaming agent, conditioner and emulsifier derived from coconut oil and fruit sugar. It has been listed as having a low irritation score.
Glyceryl Oleate ✔
The ester of glycerin and oleic acid, this is an emulsifier derived from naturally occurring oils and fats. It has been deemed safe to use in cosmetics.
Can be from a natural source or synthetic. It is a lubricant and humectant. Helps to hydrate the skin and is considered safe).
Soyamidopropyl Betaine ✔
A naturally derived foaming agent and viscosity builder. Currently deemed safe.
DMDM Hydantoin ✘
An antimicrobial formaldehyde releaser* preservative. Formaldehyde is a carcinogen. DMDM Hydantoin is a known human immune system toxicant, a human skin toxicant, eye irritant, restricted for use in some cosmetics in Japan.
Lauryl Methyl Gluceth-10 ✘
A conditioning humectant. According to the Environmental Working Group it has not been assessed for safety by an industry panel.
Sodium Hydroxide ✘
A highly caustic and reactive inorganic base, this is a pH balancer that is considered a strong irritant. Also known as lye, caustic soda, soda lye or sodium hydrate. Can irritate eyes, skin, mucous membranes and cause temporary loss of hair. The Cosmetics Database reports cancer concerns and says it is “expected to be toxic or harmful”.
An antifungal and a preservative. It is an endocrine disruptor, a human skin toxicant, interferes with gene expression. Parabens have been linked to breast cancer and mimic estrogen in the body. Read more about parabens here.
Tetrasodium EDTA ✘
This is a chelating agent. Classified as ‘expected to be toxic or harmful’ by the Cosmetics Database.
A mineral used in cosmetics for its shimmering appearance. Considered safe.
Titanium Dioxide ✘
A naturally occuring mineral, used as a whitening agent and UV blocker. A photosensitiser that can be absorbed by skin, resulting in increased production of free radicals. Has been classed as possibly carcinogenic to humans.
An antistatic agent, moisturiser and film forming agent. Classed as a low hazard ingredient.
This is an absorbing agent, also known as silicon dioxide. Its safety depends on the type of silica used. Amorphous silica is considered safe in cosmetics. Crystalline silica is linked to a variety of health concerns, including cancer, allergies and organ system toxicity.
PEG-16 Soy Sterol ✘
A surfactant and emulsifying agent, it is not safe to use on damaged or broken skin.
Butylene Glycol ✘
A solvent and thickness decreasing agent, a fragrance ingredient and skin conditioning agent. Strong evidence suggests it’s an irritant to eyes and skin.
Glycine Soja (soybean) ✔
Derived from soybean amino acids. Generally considered safe however it may block formation of new blood vessels, and some people have soy allergies.
According to the Cosmetics Database: “The word fragrance or parfum on the product label represents an undisclosed mixture of various scent chemicals and ingredients used as fragrance dispersants such as diethyl phthalate.” The Database gives it a ‘high hazard’ rating.
*In the U.S., approximately 20% of cosmetics and personal care products contain a formaldehyde-releaser and the frequency of contact allergy to these ingredients is much higher among Americans compared to studies in Europe. Source: EWG
If you’re using a skincare product that is not certified organic, then it’s likely to contain chemicals like these. Hopefully this post has prompted you to have a glance at your skincare packaging and find out what’s really in there. If you’re not sure about an ingredient, feel free to post it here under comments and Mukti will tell you everything she knows about it.