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Skin Care Ingredients: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

About once a month, I pop into a local Walmart, Target or Ulta and see what is hot in skin care and cosmetics. The marketing makes it all sound like it is better than hot buttered bread. (I love hot buttered bread).

I try to put myself in a consumer's shoes and think "Wow, I'm sold".

Instead of falling for these sneaky marketing ploys and getting captivated by claims that promise beautiful skin, I simply turn over the bottle and read the label. After scanning several lines of ingredients and vowel-heavy words that I can’t pronounce, I wonder if consumers have the same reaction as I do when I think about applying these formulas to my precious skin. I wonder if consumers are even reading the labels to begin with?

A whopping 60% of what we lather, spread, smear, and apply on our skin is absorbed by it. In order to keep this important organ as healthy as possible, we need to do our best to avoid using harsh chemicals or applying products with questionable ingredients in them.

When you read a label for potentially harmful ingredients, make sure you know what you´re looking for. According to a recent report on, many of the bad boys in skin care products include the following:

  1. Benzoyl Peroxide – Toxic by inhalation, it is a known irritant to eyes, skin and respiratory tracts and may act as a mutagen and possible tumor promoter.

  2. DEA (Diethanolamine), MEA (Monoethanolamine) and TEA (Triethanolamine) – Used as a foam booster it irritates eyes/skin and often causes contact dermatitis. It is easily absorbed into the skin’s tissue and can have a negative, cumulative effect on body organs and the brain.

  3. Mineral Oil (Petrolatum) – This is the leftover liquid that comes from distilling gasoline from crude oil. It can lead to clogged pores and possibly decreased lung function.

  4. Parabens – These are used mostly as a preservative in skin care/cosmetic products. They have been found in breast cancer tumors and as apparently contribute to accelerate the skin´s aging process.

  5. Phthalates – A solvent to help ingredients dissolve, but the harmful effects include toxicity to reproductive and developmental functions.

  6. Propylene Glycol – Over time, exposure can lead to buildup throughout the body’s internal and external workings

  7. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) – A degreasing agent that is used in most of the foaming personal care products on the market. Can cause eye damage, depression, difficulty in breathing, stomach issues, and skin irritation.

  8. Triclosan – An antibacterial agent that is suspected of interfering with hormone balance and possibly promoting allergies.

  9. Aluminum

Some studies have linked aluminum to Alzheimer’s disease, though recent research has cast doubt on the connection. Other studies have indicated that aluminum may be linked to breast cancer and other brain disorders. Aluminum, in the form of powder, is used in self-care products such as antiperspirant deodorants.

Aluminum is unequivocally a neurotoxin. It can cause irritation to the skin, it’s an endocrine disruptor, and it causes birth disorders in animals.

The average person will consume, absorb and/or eat three pounds of aluminum in their lifetime. Wow! Think about that next time you reach for Dove or Old Spice on the shelf. How about you ditch the toxic load and coat your pits with Primal Pit Paste instead. It’s a team favorite!

  1. Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen linked to leukemia, pancreatic and skin cancer, skin irritation, and cirrhosis. It is typically found in nail polish, eyelash glue, and hair smoothing and straightening products like the popular Brazilian Blowout treatment.

This chemical is a little more inconspicuous, meaning that it’s not often listed on a product label, but rather “released” from preservatives.


• DMDM hydantoin • Imidazolidinyl urea • Diazolidinyl urea • Quaternium-15 • Bronopol • 5-Bromo-5-nitro-1 • Hydroxymethylglycinate

  1. Dioxins

Belonging to the “dirty dozen” list of dangerous chemicals, dioxins are of high concern. Existing in the food chain as environmental pollutants, dioxins have made their way into many skin care products. Because they are persistent compounds, they linger inside of our body for long periods of time.

According to the EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database, dioxins are known endocrine disruptors, strongly linked to cancer and toxic to the organ system and human development. Dioxins will not be listed on a label, but are often contained in antibacterial agents such as triclosan and PEGs


Dioxins are also found in non-organic tampons, as most conventional cotton is genetically engineered, sprayed with pesticides, and treated with bleach. Ladies, next time you're having “moon-time,” phase out the conventional tampons and look for organic cotton instead, or try some other comparable alternatives.

Today we covered the Bad and Ugly. Next blog post we will cover the GOOD. REMEMBER...Read your labels before you buy.

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