Let’s get one thing straight: Just because a beauty product contains chemicals with names you can’t pronounce doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad for you. Still, if your favorite potion has a long list of gibberish under “ingredients,” take a minute to check for these nasty names. There are some chemicals with long-term effects that really cancel out short-term beauty — and unfortunately, you won’t find this information on the label.
Note the quotation marks. What is fragrance, exactly? In today’s beauty world, it could be hundreds of different things — and sometimes is hundreds of chemicals, which can include anything from allergens to endocrine disruptors. The manufacturer isn’t required to publish what, exactly, their “fragrance” contains. Unless you trust the brand or have run it past the Environmental Working Group’s database, watch out for those products that smell like green apples and cinnamon, with no logical explanation.
Say that five times fast (it’s pronounced “THAL-ates”, in case you want to try). Phthalates, unfortunately, are in everything from nail polish to makeup to perfume. It’s unfortunate for two reasons: First, they’re known carcinogens and hormone disruptors, which means they’re quietly wreaking havoc on your body chemistry. Second, phthalates are substances added to plastics to change their consistency. Which means that products containing phthalates contain plastics. Who knew you were shrink wrapping your face?
Specfically, sodium laurel sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate. These two are getting to be pretty well-known as the agents that add suds to your shampoos, toothpaste and detergent. Scarily, they’re also very harsh on the hair, skin and gums you clean them with — not just damaging your tissue, but arguably polluting your body and the water supply. Finding sulfate-free products gets easier every day, but you’ll still find these two sudsing agents in the vast majority of personal care products out there.
This one might sound a little familiar to you. Why? Because it’s often advertised as the bacteria-smiting agent in antibacterial soaps, gels and wipes. Triclosan is a heavy-duty chemical that does its best work in the hospital fighting infections. In your daily life, not such a good idea. Not only does it irritate your skin, but a new study from UC Davis claims it may impair muscle function in your heart and lungs. Maybe not the best thing to let your kids use daily.
Feeling a little freaked out? Never fear. The Environmental Working Group has put together an excellent guide to chemicals in beauty products, to help you leave these nasty additives behind and start using safer, healthier products for your beautiful body.