The Top 10 Ingredients to Avoid In Skincare Products

A couple of questions you might ask yourself when using skincare products are:  "Do I really know what I am putting on my skin?" and "Which product is best to use?"

Truly understanding what is inside our skincare products can be tricky, especially with the confusing list of long - winded ingredient names. If you do end up researching on the internet, there's so many opinions and trigger words - like "clean", "organic", and "paraben - free" - to sort through. 


Why it Matters

The skin is the largest and one of the most important organs of our body. Our skin may absorb up to 60% of what we put on it, and the toxic chemicals that slip through may have adverse affects to our body systems. Some of the ingredients that make up the personal care products we use may produce negative impacts such as allergic reactions, eczema, even reproductive or endocrine issues. 

Bellavana Beauty is here to bring awareness to the lack of regulation in the US and how this may be affecting the health of consumers. 


How to Start

Skincare shouldn't be confusing or mysterious, and as a consumer, you should be given the opportunity to be fully informed on what you're purchasing, what you're putting on your skin, and how it will benefit you. When purchasing a skincare product from a brand, considering these questions is a good place to start to becoming an informed consumer:

  • Do they list all the ingredients directly on the website?  

When brands list all of the ingredients for products on their website, it keeps you informed of what you're actually buying. It provides transparency and since you're not at the store to flip the product around to read, it's imperative to list the full ingredients on the site. 

  • Does the brand produce products at mass scale, or are they handmade? 

Some popular brands produce their products at mass scale, and with very low, attractive product prices and very high profit margins. This may imply that some part of their production process may be cheaper as well, and could mean the ingredient formulation was shortchanged to the less expensive ingredients, which may not be the safest options. 

While creating handmade products in small batches may give the brand more control over the production and choice of ingredients, ingredients available for purchase may be limited or the brand may lack the necessary experience and qualifications to produce safe products.

  • Do they have a parent company, or financial obligations to certain organizations that may interfere with their ability to be trusted? 

Some brands may be associated with or controlled by other companies with different motives, which may sway their mission or values. They may also have shareholders or be associated with organizations that have their own agendas or motives which may influence the brand. Consider that Dasani Water is a sub - company of the massive sweetened beverage brand, Coca - Cola, and what that may imply for Dasani's operations.


    What Ingredients to Avoid?

    The best way to choose clean products is to develop a basic understanding of some of the potentially harmful ingredients in your products, and why you should avoid them. The following are the top 10 ingredients to avoid in your skincare products: 

    1. Phenoxyethanol, EWG Score 2 - 4 
    This is the most commonly used chemical preservative. It is found in moisturizers, sunscreen, shampoo, lip gloss/balms, hair products, lotions, soaps, sanitation products, and even baby products. Its use is to chemically preserve and stabilize a product. Phenoxyethanol is classified as a skin, eyes, lung irritant, and also potential organ system toxicant. This ingredient has been linked to allergic contact urticaria and dermatitis. The permissible limit of this ingredient in formulations is only 1%.

    Other Names / Forms:

    • 2-Hydroxyethyl Phenylether
    • 2-Phenoxy-Ethanol
    • 2-Phenoxyethyl Alcohol

    2. Triclosan / Triclocarban, EWG Score 7
    This is found in antibacterial soaps, color cosmetics, teeth whitening products. Its use is as an antimicrobial agent but is classified as a skin, eyes, and lung irritant. More serious health concerns Triclosan has been found to cause are; possible endocrine disruptor, potential organ system toxicity, negative affect immune function, and possible environmental toxin.

    Other Names / Forms:

    • 5 Chloro 2 (2,4 Dichlorophenoxy)


    3. Parabens, EWG Score 7 - 8 

    Parabens are found in shampoos, conditioners, lotions, facial cleansers, exfoliants. Parabens are used as an artificial preservative in these cosmetic and body products. It is known to trigger irritant and allergic reactions in the skin; potentially linked to tumour growth in breast cancer. Parabens are also known to disrupt hormones which can cause decreased menstrual cycles or decreased fertility. Parabens are also linked to environmental harm in oceans. 

    Other Names / Forms:

    • Methylparaben
    • Propylparaben
    • Butylparaben


    4. Coal Tar, EWG Score 10

    This ingredient is found in shampoos, soaps, and used in topical treatments for skin disorders. It can cause the skin to shed dead cells and slow down the growth of skin cells, decreasing dryness/ scaling. This is a known carcinogen by the National Toxicology Program and International Agency for Research on Cancer. This is also known as a human respiratory, skin, and possible environmental toxin.

    Other Names / Forms:

    • Animals Oils / Musks / Fats
    • Tarmac


    5. Hydroquinone, EWG Score 8 

    This product is a well-known skin lightener in the beauty industry and is heavily marketed for deeper skin colors. This ingredient is found in facial moisturizers, facial cleansers, hair conditioners, and serums. It is known as a human respiratory and skin toxicant. It has been linked to cancer and possible reproductive toxicity.

    Other Names / Forms:

    • 1,4-Benzenediol
    • 1,4-Dihydroxybenzene


    6. Toluene, EWG Score 10

    This ingredient is mostly found in nail polishes, nail treatments, and hair dyes. This is used to suspend color in products. This is a known human respiratory, reproductive, and immune system toxicant. This also leads to allergic reactions and more detrimental, can affect human development. Toluene has also had possible evidence of cancer.

    Other Names / Forms:

    • Benzene
    • Methylbenzene
    • Toluol


    7. Quaternium - 15, EWG Score 7 

    This ingredient is a formaldehyde releaser and is found in hair conditioners, lotions, cleansers. This is used to chemically improve the performance of body care products. This is a potential human skin irritant/allergen, the potential for skin, eyes, and lungs. It also is a potential organ system toxin.

    Other Names / Forms:

    • Azonium-Adamantane Chloride
    • Hexaminium Chloride
    • Chloroallyl methenamine chloride
    • Hexamethylenetetramine
    • N-(3-Chloroallyl) Hexaminium Chloride


    8. Aluminum, EWG Score 2 - 3

    This ingredient has created a lot of stir in the public. This is a very common ingredient in antiperspirants to stop the sweat ducts from releasing sweat to the surface. This has been linked to breast cancer because of its ability to mimic estrogen in the body. Some studies have linked it to Alzheimer's.

    Other Names / Forms:

    • Alumina
    • Magnesium Aluminum Silicate
    • Aluminum Starch


    9. Resorcinol, EWG Score 6 - 7 

    This ingredient is common in hair shampoo, hair dyes, and acne products as a peeling agent. This is used to disinfect the skin and break down rough and scaly skin cells. Resorcinol is a skin and eyes irritant / sensitizer. It has also led to organ system toxicity and possible endocrine disruption (collection of glands that regulate metabolism, growth, tissue function, etc.)

    Other Names / Forms:

    • Resorcin
    • 1-3-Benzenediol
    • 3- Hydroxyphenol
    • CI Developer 4


    10. Insoluble Plastic Microbeads

    This ingredient is mostly found in facial & body scrubs but also some toothpaste. This non-degradable ingredient may bond with toxins because of the irregular shape leading to possible harmful effects. The more concerning effect of Insoluble Plastic Microbeads is its devastating negative influence on our environment. New studies show that waste water treatment plants are often unable to fully remove all microbeads during the purification process. This means these non degradable micro plastic beads are landing in our oceans and lakes.

    Other Names/  Forms:

    • Micro Plastic


    What's Being Done?

    People assume that the products in pretty packaging and fancy names on the shelves from well - known brands are tested and deemed completely safe because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) controls the regulation of cosmetic and personal care products in the US - however, this is not the case. "Neither the law nor FDA regulations require specific tests to demonstrate the safety of individual products or ingredients. The law also does not require cosmetic companies to share their safety information with the FDA." (1)

    The U.S. hasn't passed major federal legislation governing the cosmetics industry since 1938. Currently, there are only 30 banned or restricted ingredients, compared to over 1400 in the European Union (EU). (2)

    This topic is especially important to us, because we believe in ingredient transparency and using cleaner, safer ingredients in personal care products. We set high standards for our product formulations to promote transparency and to help empower women to reclaim control over their health. You can find more information about the ingredients we eliminated from our formulation process in our Ingredient Glossary. To learn more about the steps we're taking for a cleaner, safer beauty industry, click here

    We advocate for systematic change in the beauty industry and we exist to disrupt the current beauty standards that do more harm than good. Here are some of the regulations passed in the US by congress that are paving the way for better, safer skincare regulations:

    • Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015prohibits the addition of plastic microbeads in the manufacturing of certain personal care products, such as toothpaste. The purpose of the law is to reduce water pollution caused by these products.
    • Sustainable Chemistry Research and Development Act of 2019: agencies participating in the Entity must carry out specified activities in support of sustainable chemistry, including incorporating sustainable chemistry into existing research, development, demonstration, technology transfer, commercialization, education, and training programs.
    • Pollution Prevention for Our Future Act: bans chemicals and requires disclosure of harmful chemicals in a wide range of products from carpets and personal care products to electronics and building materials.
    • The Toxic-Free Kids Act of 2015: keeps a list of high priority chemicals of concern for children’s health and to report on the presence of those chemicals in products intended for children aged 12 and under
    • Cosmetic Fragrance and Flavor Ingredient Right to Know Act of 2020: require cosmetics companies to publicly disclose toxic fragrance and flavor ingredients present in beauty and personal care products sold in the state
    • California Assembly Bill 2762 (AB 2762): prohibits the sale and manufacture of cosmetics and personal care products with certain ingredients in California. 
    • Safer Products for Washington Actwomen, children, highly impacted communities, and marine life including salmon and orcas. The law directs Ecology to identify priority products that are a significant source of or use of PFAS, toxic flame retardants, industrial phenolic compounds, phthalates, and PCBs.  
    • House Bill 643 of 2021 in Maryland: prohibits sale and manufacturing of cosmetics and personal care products with certain ingredients in Maryland.


    What Should I Do Now?

    Do your own research. The first step to reclaiming control of your health when it comes to skincare products is to become an informed consumer. We curated this list of resources for you to begin your journey to clean beauty enlightenment:


    Watch this informational video to find out more information on ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products :


    Watch this video on how ingredients affect our children, and what we can do to help change that:





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