5 Personal Care Ingredients to Avoid & Why
With the hopes that this helps you feel like a more informed and confident consumer, here are the top 5 personal care ingredients I personally choose to avoid and WHY! If you want to avoid the drugstore label reading exercise altogether, I've also included links to a few companies that I trust completely towards the end of this article.
Have you ever walked into the personal care isle at the convenience store (think soap, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, etc.) and thought to yourself, “which of these are the safest for me to use?” It’s a simple question with a not-so-simple answer. The “is this safe?” waters are murky, especially when you’re standing in front of a sea of products with inconsistent ingredient labeling and pretty packaging. Which do you rely on? Do you trust the packaging or do you take a deep breath and try to make sense of the inconsistently labeled ingredients? It’s a tough call and to be honest, I used to give up before I found any answers. With fresh cuts of meat sitting in my shopping cart and packages of butter getting soft, I just couldn’t talk myself into taking the time to dedicate myself to reading labels in the personal care isle. SO, I’d just go back on old faithful! I’d judge a book by its cover (hm, this toothpaste looks like more natural packaging, I’ll get this one!) OR just fall back on what I know works (Dove deodorant hasn’t failed me in over 10 years). Sound familiar?
I spend a lot of time and energy making sure that I’m fueling my body with healthy, wholesome, healing foods. I make sure I drink plenty of clean water, get quality sleep, and care for my body with a mixed fitness program. I avoid pesticides, choose organic where possible, put an importance on sourcing grass-fed/pastured proteins, and hold my breath when I walk past a neighbor’s yard who just dusted with ant killer. I do all of this, but I wasn’t paying much mind to what I was putting ON my body. It was a disconnect – and one I’ve worked to right size (with baby steps) for years.
The point of today’s post is to help provide you with a quick cheat sheet of the 5 ingredients that I recommend avoiding in personal care products.
Yes – there are MORE than 5 ingredients I choose to avoid, but sometimes more information is daunting, not helpful. So I’m narrowing it down to 5 so we can have a little more confidence when we walk into that personal care isle. Hopefully, you’ll be able to quickly scan labels for the following terms and feel like a more powerful, informed consumer.
5 Personal Care Ingredients To Avoid (and why)
A synthetic antimicrobial (antibacterial) chemical that is used in most antibacterial soaps, toothpastes, and antiperspirants. It is proficient at killing both good and bad bacteria. Some studies report that the use of triclosan-containing cleansers can actually support the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (scary mutant bugs). Triclosan is also a suspected endocrine (hormone) disruptor that is known to accumulate in body fat, resulting in a myriad of potential terrifying conditions to include decreased fertility, liver damage, and nervous system complications.
A large group of chemicals used in a multitude of products to help make fragrances stick to skin and products more flexible. Actually banned from personal care products in the European Union, you can usually find them in nail polish, perfumes, deodorants, lotions, and hair spray. They're highly suspected endocrine (hormone) disruptors with some reports of fetal birth defects. They can be absorbed orally (think of the dizzying fumes in a beauty salon) and through the skin. It's important to note that phthalates are not always labeled – this is because they're likely considered by the producing company as an ingredient in their signature fragrance, whose lists are protected as “trade secret.”
3. Polyethylene Glycol, Propylene Glycol, and Other PEG Compounds
A petroleum-based thickener, solvent, and softener used in creams, shampoos, makeup, and sunscreens to help carry moisture and provide that luscious cream base we know and love. PEG compounds are skin irritants – making skin even more penetrable, allowing for other not-ideal ingredients easier passage into our blood stream. Products with this listed on the ingredient list (or not listed) are highly likely to contain other carcinogenic compounds such as ethylene oxide, a known carcinogen (cancer-causing agent).
A preservative typically used to extend the shelf life of products by preventing the growth of bacteria and mold. They’re highly suspected male and female endocrine (hormone) disruptors that are absorbed by the skin, with some reports of them showing up on biopsies from breast tumors. They're believed to have properties that mimic our own estrogen and can confuse the body by adhering to our estrogen receptors. They’re found in shampoos, face cleansers, body wash, body lotion, and many foundations. Of the ingredients on this list, parabens are probably one of the most known, which is why you'll likely see products specifically labeled as “paraben-free.”
5. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS and SLES)
These are detergents and surfactants that are found in an incredible number of personal care products on our (USA) isles. They help make products foam and bubble (think face wash, bubble bath, shampoo, dish soap, + even car wash) and are known irritants causing damage to the skin and eyes. Like PEG compounds, they're likely contaminated with ethylene oxide (cancer-causing) and may also react with other common associated chemicals to produce nitrosamines, which are more lovely carcinogens. SLS & SLES can even have an impact on your skin's ability to retain moisture naturally – meaning, you’ll become more dependent on store-bought moisturizers, causing a nasty, chemical-laden, sneaky-healthy consequence cycle!
All that being said, below are a few safer beauty companies that I DO trust completely. They do NOT use any of the above ingredients (+ exclude several more). To shop these companies, simply click on their name below.
They make my favorite deodorant, body butter, toner, and lip balm!
I personally love PLO for spa-like specialty products such as their Fire & Ice Skin Treatment and Vitamin C-Serum.
Adore for the “Myrrhaculous” face oil, oil cleansers, and tallow-based moisturizers.