Saturday, January 16, 2010

Ingredients to avoid.

With a ridiculously huge selection of bath, body and beauty products available for sale locally and online, it's sometimes hard to wade thru the endless list of ingredients to find the "perfect product" let alone to even see what potentially harmful ingredients may be in that product. Some of these ingredients are irritants, some may even cause cancer.

Here are just a FEW ingredients which cause irritation or skin damage with prolonged use you should avoid at all costs. This will be an ever changing blog post as I will be always working on it to add more.

A general rule of thumb is, if you can't pronounce it, you shouldn't put it on your skin!

Imidazolidinyl Urea and Diazolidinyl Urea: Used as preservatives to prevent bacterial growth although ineffective against fungi. Known to be a relatively common cause of contact dermatitis. Two trade names for these chemicals are Germall II and Germall 115. Germall 115 may release formaldehyde, a potentially toxic chemical. Potential for low level skin damage in the long term is unproven but appears likely.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, abbreviated SLS, is used primarily in bubble baths, shampoos, liquid soaps and other products where good lather is saught. It is even found in toothpastes. At the time of this writing, it is even used in the Tom's of Maine line of natural toothpastes - with the exception of its newer non-SLS line). SLS, however, draws moisture from the skin and can cause drying and irritation. Those with psoriasis, eczema or other skin conditions should avoid or at least limit use of products with SLS. SLS is sometimes used as a model skin irritant in the experiments where skin protectors are tested. Avoid products with sodium lauryl sulfate. Every skin cleansers should rather be without it.

Mineral oil: Mineral oil, also known as baby oil, is a byproduct of petrolium production. Mineral oil is inexpensive and is a common ingredient in many skin care products including lotions and cosmetics. Even high end lotions and cosmetics can include mineral oil. Mineral oil, however, clogs pores and prevents the skin from breathing or eliminating toxins. Mineral oil may also interfere with normal perspiration and other skin functions.

Synthetic Colors: Whether synthetic colors are completely safe or mildly damaging in the long run is unknown. Since they serve no useful purpose, they are best avoided They are labeled as FD&C or D&C, followed by a color and a number, e.g. FD&C Red No. 6 or D&C Green No. 6. They also are reported to be carcinogenic. They also may cause skin sensitivity. Look for products that promote they are colored with natural botanicals.

Synthetic Fragrances: There are over 200 synthetic fragrances used in cosmetics. There is no way to know which particular ones are in your product, since on the label it will simply say "Fragrance." Safety of most synthetic fragrances is an open question. Best to avoid them since they provide no skin benefits. True, it is good to have a nice smelling cream. However, apart from the questionable safety, frangrance may mask spoilage of your product, an effect you would want to avoid.

Ethanolamines (Monoethanolamine aka MEA, Diethanolamine aka DEA, 

Triethanolamine aka TEA): common pH stabilizers; when exposed to oxygen/air form nitrosoamines, which may be irritating and/or toxic. The amount of nitrosoamines formed during typical use of skin care products with ethanolamines is unclear.

Parabens (e.g. Methyl, Ethyl, Propyl and Butyl Paraben): Used as preservatives; inhibit microbial growth and extend shelf life of products. Methyl paraben may degrade releasing methanol, a potentially toxic chemical. However, the amounts of methanol that might be released from methyl paraben in skin care products are too small for any known systemic effects. Most people don't have an obvious skin reaction to parabens. However, more research is needed to determine whether they are truly nontoxic or may cause low level skin damage in the long term.

Nanoparticles: Nanoparticles are ultra fine particles that possess certain special properties due to their exceedingly small size. This may include the ability to accumulate in the body, possibly even via topical use, and the ability to trigger potentially harmful chemical reactions. As a result, some experts raise concerns about the use of nanoparticles is skin care and cosmetics. Currently, nanoparticles (such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles) are most commonly used in sunscreens.

Anti Aging Products
Products that contain DMAE should be avoided. Not only do they have NO effect on wrinkles (they provide a temporary "optical illusion" type of effect that leads users to believe that it is working, when really it is not) but it is also VERY damaging to the skin.

DMAE (dimethylaminoethanol) is a skin care ingredient enthusiastically touted by many skin care vendors. One of the reasons for its popularity is that it is one of the very few agents (perhaps even the only one) shown to produce some skin tightening and modestly reduce facial sag.
However, a 2007 study published in the British Journal of Dermatology raised safety concerns regarding topical DMAE. Dr. Morissette and colleagues, from the University of Quebec, studied the effect of DMAE in human skin cell cultures and rabbit skin.
The researchers found that adding DMAE to the cultures of fibroblasts (key type of skin cells) produced the effect known as vacuolization. Vacuolization is often observed in cells after various types of damage as cells try to encapsulate and excrete foreign agents and/or their own damaged components. Hence the researches concluded that the vacuolization induced by DMAE was suggestive of cell damage. They also observed that DMAE impaired the ability of fibroblasts to divide. Notably, the above adverse effects reversed after DMAE had been washed out of the culture following a short-term exposure. (Long-term exposure has not been studied.)
The application of 3% DMAE to the skin of rabbit ear resulted in the thickening of epidermis and the so-called perinuclear swelling (swelling of the area around the nucleus) in epidermal cells. This effect was an indirect indication of vacuolization and cell damage.
Dr. Morissette's study is noteworthy but is difficult to extrapolate to typical cosmetic use of DMAE. Ideally, one should conduct a human clinical trial where the subjects are treated for at least several weeks with topical DMAE formulas with the range of concentrations and pH levels typical in skin care products. (The control group would be treated with inactive vehicle only.) After that, all the skin layers should be carefully measured and analyzed.
What to do until such data is available? To be on the safe side, you could just wait and refrain from using topical DMAE.

Fragrance Oils / Perfume Oils
Fragrance oils, sometimes referred to as perfume oils, usually contain synthetic substances. Over time, some individuals become sensitive to the aroma of fragrance oils and experience headaches. Others may develop skin sensitivities/excema to the fragrance oils contained in skin care products. Fragrance oils are typically listed as "fragrance" on ingredient labels.

Paraffin Wax
Like mineral oil, paraffin wax is a byproduct of petrolium production and is not healthy for the skin. Paraffin wax is also the wax most commonly used in candle making. When burned, paraffin wax emits toxins that can be harmful when inhaled. See AromaWeb's Aromatherapy Candles article for more information on the ingredients you should look for in natural candles.

Propylene glycol is still used in skin care and cosmetic products. It, however, is known to cause sensitization.

Diethanolamine, abbreviated DEA, is used for its emollient and emusification properties. Studies have revealed that DEA is carcinogenic and should be avoided.

Isopropyl Alcohol
Isopropyl alcohol is drying and can cause sensitization. Although isoproyl alcohol can kill germs and is helpful medicinally, it should be used sparingly. For perfumery and room freshening applications, high proof vodka or perfumer's alcohol is considered acceptable to use as a very limited quantity of alcohol contacts the skin.

Flower/Floral Water
Not to be confused with hydrosols/distillate waters, floral/flower waters are waters that are scened with synthetic fragrance oils. Some manufacturers use the term hydrosol and floral water interchangably, so be sure you're getting a natural hydrosol.

Phenoxyethanol - Preservative- Optiphen Plus
Phenoxyethanol is the aromatic ether alcohol.

This ingredient:
yes, weakCancer
yes, moderateViolations, restrictions & warnings
yes, moderateAllergies/immunotoxicity
noOther strong concerns for this ingredient:
Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), Occupational hazards
noOther moderate concerns for this ingredient:
Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive)
Lesser or emerging concerns for this ingredient:
Neurotoxicity, Endocrine disruption, Data gaps

A few other extremely raunchy and horrible ingredients are:
Disodium Lauryl Sulfosuccinate

Tetrasodium EDTA 

More to come