We often hear about harmful ingredients in cosmetics, but how to acknowledge the good ones and the bad ones? It took me a long time to learn all the ingredients and make a list. 

Consumer associations fought hard for the right to know the components of each cosmetic product. Although the fight took years, in the end, the European commission won the battle. Thanks to that, now we can see the whole list of INC (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) on each cosmetic product. 

Nevertheless, the transparency of ingredients doesn’t mean that the components are harmless. It only gives information to consumers to know what is inside of a particular product. The most important thing is to understand what each ingredient means. 

Sometimes there are many ingredients and it can be overwhelming, but remember that the most important are the first 5 that represent 80 to 90% of the product. This is an example of a comparative table of regular face cream.

Face cream composition
Conventional Cosmetic Organic Cosmetic
AQUEOUS PHASE water hydrolat, flower water
EMULSIFIER PEG, glycol emulsifying natural wax based on vegetable oil
OILY PHASE mineral and synthetic oils, silicone vegetable oil and butter
PERFUME phthalates natural extracts, essential oils
ACTIVE INGREDIENT synthetic, plants, animals, extracts plants extracts
PRESERVATIVE formaldehyde, paraben benzyl alcohol, dehydroacetic acid

 

I tried to describe each ingredient to help you to understand it affects your health and the environment. There is a whole list at the end of the article.

Sulphates

Sulphates are emulsifiers = surfactants. They act as foaming agents and detergents. Sulfate compound emulsifies fatty substances with water and may contain traces of 1.4 dioxane which is carcinogenic+++. Once it absorbed through the skin it affects the estrogen. It alters the hydrolipidic film and destroys the skin’s lipid structure. Sulfated detergents are responsible for dehydration of the skin resulting in dryness and tightness. This lead to many health risks, such as:

  • irritation
  • allergy
  • immunity problem
  • toxicity
  • dryness 
  • carcinogen
  • endocrine disruption

Sulphates are can also be written by abbreviations SLS, SLES, SDS.

Occlusive agents 

SILICONES, MINERAL OIL, QUATERNARY, AMMONIUMS

They stuck to the skin and hair forming an occlusive film. Occlusive agents suffocate the hair and the skin which prevents the active ingredients from penetrating. Yes, it gives your hair and skin a silky touch but only for a short period of time. 

Silicons are an inorganic compound made from the mixture of silicon, oxygen and plastic. Silicones aren’t dangerous for health, although they do harm the environment. They are derivatives of petroleum. It takes 500 years for silicones to degrade because of it.

Go by names DIMETHICONE, PHENYLDIMETHYLPOLYSIOXANE and all words ending on “-CONE“- XANE

What are the side effects? 

  • Skin: gives a smooth appearance and cover the skin complexion, but clogs the pores and therefore, provokes pimples, the formation of microcysts and blackheads, worsens the general condition of the skin.
  • Hair: the silicones remain on the hair fibres giving a detangling effect, but later hair become greasy.

Mineral oils are refined from petroleum, non-biodegradable and comedogenic. These oils  act as an occlusive film that limits natural water loss and artificially keeps the skin hydrated, but as soon as you stop applying the cream, you get dehydrated skin.

Quaternary ammoniums: cationic surfactant, preservative and silicone substitute “- monium,chloride” and “bromide or quaternium” followed by a number, NON-BIODEGRADABLE. Quaternary ammonium present in shampoos and conditioners.

Health risks:

  • Irritation
  • redness +++
  • may cause resistance to certain antibiotics

Can be recognised as PARAFFINUM LIQUIDUM, CERESIN, CERA MICROCRISTALLINA.

Preservatives

Preservatives prevent the development of bacteria, mold and rancidity in cosmetic products. But there are certain health risks.

Formaldehydes is a formalin liberator with water, DNA protein modifier, allergenic, irritant, carcinogenic. Can be written as METHANAL, OXYMETHYLENE, HYDANTOIN, METHYLISOTHIAZOLINONE (it is the famous replacement for parabens).

Parabens are an allergenic, irritant, an endocrine disruptor. Parabens have the ability to enter the body and mimic hormones. Known as BUTYLPARABEN, ETHYL P-HYDROXYBENZOATE.

Triclosan degrades into a toxic compound CARBANILIDE, TRICLOSAN 2.4.4. It damages the bacterial flora and is an endocrine disruptor. It can alter the liver, thyroid and heart muscle. But the most important thing that it is carcinogenic. 

Ethoxylated and propoxylated compounds

These compounds are made from ethoxylation. It is a chemical reaction with ethylene oxide. Ethylene oxide is a  reactive, toxic, carcinogenic and mutagenic gas. It is also used as a chemical weapon. The preparation process of ethylene oxide is heavy and polluting. Normally, the ethylene oxide is absent after the transformation, but there is a possibility of finding the dioxane which is carcinogenic +++

Listed as PEG, PPG, SLS, QUATERNIUMS, POLYSORBATES, DIMETHICONE COPOLYOL, POLLY SILICONES.

Glycol is a chemical solvent used to replace preservatives. It is also a texturizing agent and surfactants. These solvents also present in the electronic cigarette E1520, manufactured by ethoxylation. Known as PEG, PPG.

The health risks:

  • dryness of the skin
  • allergic reaction
  • deformation of the liver and kidney
  • there is also a study of infertility, menstrual disturbances, malformation of the fetus

Glycol ethers have been used since the 1960s. They present in many products such as paint, glue, ink, varnish, serves as a solvent for perfumes, etc.

The health risks:

  • toxic to the liver
  • toxic baby’s blood
  • neurotoxic
  • promotes urticaria
  • eczema
  • passes into the dermis and the placenta
  • causing reproductive disorder
  • suspected to be a carcinogen

Go by names PHENOXYETHANOL, PHENOXYTOL.

DEA MEA TEA

This is a foaming and creamy product (Biafine). It is toxic to wildlife. While reacting with other substances may cause allergic, carcinogenic reactions. DEA = diethanolamine TEA = triethanolamine MEA = monoethanolamine.

Emulsifier and synthetic organic compound (alkylphenol, ethoxylate, nonylphenol)

The health risks:

  • the European Union recognizes a potential risk for fertility and for the fetus
  • disrupts the endocrine system
  • carcinogen – stimulates breast cancer cells
  • can alter sperm and cause DNA damage

UV filter 

There are 2 types of U.V filters – chemical filters which absorb UV rays and mineral filters which reflect them.

The health risks:

  • endocrine disruptors
  • allergenic
  • carcinogenic
  • harmful to the environment

Chemical filters are the most dangerous. Can be written as  BENZOPHENONE, OCTINOXATE, ETHYLHEXYL SALICYLATE.

BHA-BHT 

It is an antioxidant in oily raw materials. Cosmetic manufacturers use BHA and BHT to prevent rancidity (lipstick, mascara, serum and in perfumes, in order to protect olfactory materials). It is popular because it is inexpensive and resistant to high temperatures.

The health risks:

  • modification of the immune system and blood count
  • Endocrine disruptor
  • affects the liver, thyroid, kidney and lung

They attach themselves to human tissue and land in the fetus. Carcinogenic causes the formation of tumours and produces allergic skin reactions. Toxic to aquatic organisms.

Go by names BHT = BUTYLHYDROXYTOLUENE, BHA = BUTYLHYDROXYANISOLE.

Aluminium salts 

Aluminium salts tighten the pores of the skin, thus blocking perspiration. The health risks:

  • aluminium crosses the skin barrier
  • accumulation of aluminium in the body
  • carcinogenic
  • toxic to bones and the nervous system (Alzheimer)

Can be recognised as ALUMINUM CHLOROHYDRATE, ALUMINUM STEARATE, ALUMINUM HYDROXY.

Phthalates 

This solvent is derived from naphthalene (from petroleum and tar) and used as a plasticizer in nail varnishes. Can be written as “perfume and fragrance” and does not appear clearly in the INCI list.

The health risks:

  • accumulates in the body
  • endocrine disruptor which can lead to reduced fertility
  • organ malformation, obesity
  • precocious puberty
  • breast and testicular cancer

Listed as PERFUME, FRAGRANCE, DEP = DIETHYL PHTHALATE, DIDP = DIISODECYL PHTHALATE.

EDTA

ETHYL-DIAMINO-TETRA-ACETATE is known under the name of E385. It is a preservative, chelator, stabilizer, antioxidant. EDTA is often used in cosmetics to prevent the fermentation of bacteria.

The health and environment risks: hardly biodegradable, is found in rivers and lakes with heavy metals, masks the toxicity of certain compounds EDTA, DISODIUM EDTA COPPER, TETRASODIUM EDTA.

Colourants

Colourants give products to their colour CL + 5 NUMBER colours.

The dangers: 25 of the dyes used in Europe (azo dye) have the ability to pass through the skin and damage the liver by releasing aniline.

Aniline is believed to cause the following health risks:

  • cancer
  • damage to organs
  • causes serious eye damage
  • may cause an allergic skin reaction
  • very toxic to aquatic organisms

LIST OF INGREDIENTS

Ethoxylates

Sodium laureth sulfate, PEG (emulsifiers, texture agents, solvent, active surfactants), polysorbates (emulsifiers + active surfactant),  quaternium (preservatives, conditioning agents), polysilicon (conditioning agents),dimethicone Copolyol (emollient), the suffix “Eth” or “oxynol”: Octoxynol, Nonoxynol, Butoxynol, Suffix «Eth» or  «oxynol»:  Octoxynol, Nonoxynol, Butoxynol or prefix  « hydroxyethyl »: Hydroxyethylcellulose.

INCI Butylparaben, Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, n.butyl p. hydroxybenzoate, Méthyle Parahydroxybenzoate propyl, parahydroxybenzoate de méthyle, PEG 8 ; -7 glyceryl cocoate, PEG 100 stearate, Polysorbate -20/-60/-80, Quatinium -5, Polysilicone -15, Polysilicone -11, Dimethicone copolyol, Buto xynol, octoxynol, nonoxynol, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Beheneth, buteth, ceteareth, cethethe, cocothe, laureth, myreth, oleth, paveth…..PEG, PPG, hydroxyethyl, oxynol, hydroxyl. 

Thiazolinone : Paraben replacement (allergenic, irritant, formalin liberator) 

INCI methylisothiazolinone, methylchloroisothiazolinone.

Silicon and mineral oils

SILICONE “-cone” « -xane » Toxic flora and fauna degrades between 400 and 500 years Dimethicone.

INCI Dimethicone, Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethylpolysiloxane, Pheldimitryphysaxane, Phenyl Diméthicone, Cyclomethicone

Synthetic fragrances

INCI: Parfum, Fragrance, Diethyl Phthalate (DEP), Diisodecyl Phthalate (DIDP)

Endocrine disruptors

ACHYL PHÉNOLS

INCI : Nonylphenol, Nonoxynol, Octylphenol, o- phénylphénol, propylphenol, hephylpehnol, dodécylphénol, methylphenol, ethylphenol, 4- test octylphenol, BHA –BHT, Bictythydroxytolirène BHT, Butylhydroxyanisole BHA

PARABENS

INCI:  Butylparaben Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, N-butyl p. hydroxybenzoate, Ethyl p. hydroxybenzoate, Methyl, Parahydroxybenzoate de propyle/De méthyle

Preservatives

INCI: Formol, formalin, Parapharm, Methanal, Methyl aldehyde, Methylene oxide, Oxymethylene, Oxo Méthane, Diazolidinyl Urea, Imidazolidinyl urea, Metheranime, Quaternium -15, Diazolidinyl urea, Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, Methenamine, 2- bronze – nitcprone, 3-did, Bronidox, 5-bromo nitro -1, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methyl Dibsomoguite, MDG Hydatina, Iodopropynyl Buth, Chloroxylenol, Chlorphenesin