At what price do you stop trying to achieve “beauty?” There are thousands of products tailored to each of our beauty insecurities. From acne astringents to eczema creams to collagen-boosting salves, our skincare regimen is a burgeoning health disaster. Toxic beauty ingredients are in everyday items, and they are destroying healthy microbes on our skin microbiome.
Not only can these products have lasting implications on our gut health and immune system, but they can do even more damage to your skin. Let’s take a look at some common toxic beauty ingredients for which you should keep an eye out.
What are Toxic Beauty Ingredients?
Toxic beauty ingredients are the fillers, artificial dyes, and emulsifying agents in health and beauty products. Their purpose is to make mass-produced items more appealing. Manufacturing companies use toxic beauty ingredients to give cucumber-inspired face masks a greenish hue or to increase the shelf life of a moisturizing serum.
Notice that there are many reasons why companies include toxic beauty ingredients in our products? Then you can safely make the assumption that thousands of skincare products contain toxic beauty ingredients.
Let’s take Jergen’s Original Scent “Cherry Almond” Lotion. This product smells like a nutty and tart treat. However, there is no cherry, almond, or almond oil in the formula. They use the ever-elusive “fragrance” to create the scent.
It also contains non-biodegradable synthetic ingredients, such as dimethicone, methylparaben, and ethylparaben. Suffice to say, of the 16 ingredients in the formula, the only one that seems to come from a natural source is “water.”
This lotion isn’t the only one guilty of implementing toxic beauty ingredients. One study found that the average woman has 515 synthetic compounds in their daily beauty routine . Let’s take a look at why these sorts of skincare regimens can be detrimental to our health.
Why Are Toxic Beauty Ingredients FDA-Approved?
The reason why many people have such a blind eye to toxic beauty ingredients is that all of these additives are Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved. Therefore, many of us assume all of these ingredients are okay. However, we fail to recognize that these items are analyzed under different circumstances and unique situations.
When the FDA approves an item, such as triclosan (an antiseptic for things like toothpaste), there’s a vast asterisk attached.
In small doses, on its own, triclosan has low toxicity levels. The FDA isn’t taking into consideration how many products an individual uses per day that have this item. This list includes face wash, lotion, and night masks.
Then you also have to add in all the other 514 ingredients looming on our skin microbiome. It’s like adding a bunch of straws onto a camel’s back. Eventually, the camel will collapse. Our skin microbiome is that camel, and these FDA-approved products are the straw that’s destroying our gut health.
Top Toxic Beauty Ingredients to Look Out For
Anytime you go shopping for cosmetics, make sure to read the label. Get familiar with some words that should serve as a red flag. Here are some of the top toxic beauty ingredients you should stay away from.
Parabens are skincare additives that have made some noise in the news over the last couple of years. We’ve been using these little bead-like molecules in beauty products for decades. Now, we’re finding out the lasting implications of this decision.
According to the FDA, the purpose of parabens are:
“Parabens are a family of related chemicals that are commonly used as preservatives in cosmetic products. Preservatives may be used in cosmetics to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and mold, in order to protect both the products and consumers . “– Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
When looking at an ingredient’s list, don’t look for the word “parabens” to pop up. It’s a suffix added to individual ingredients.
Common parabens include:
These FDA-approved additives have a low solubility level. Thankfully, these non-biodegradable additives haven’t disrupted our drinking water. However, they have popped up in swimming pools. Furthermore, parabens have been tested positive in wastewater, too. That means our skin is absorbing a lot of these synthetic ingredients .
Having elevated paraben levels can serve as a significant problem for humans. Research shows that parabens mimic estrogen . As a result, long-term exposure to parabens can mess up hormone production. This consequence can lead to potential issues, such as breast cancer or infertility.
An analysis found that triclosan is present in the urine of 75% of Americans . This antiseptic additive was believed to help destroy viruses and potentially harmful bacteria from penetrating the skin.
Now, it’s thought that elevated doses of triclosan can destroy beneficial bacteria, as well.
Our skin microbiome has evolved to provide the best line of defense for our microbes and immune cells. Unfortunately, triclosan weakens this wellness moat.
An analysis conducted by the Time confirmed,
“In the journal PLOS ONE, researchers at Oregon State University exposed 45 adult zebrafish to either normal food or food with triclosan for up to seven days. After that, the researchers analyzed the microbiomes of the fish and found that exposure was linked to significant shifts in the diversity and structure of the fish’s microbiome . “– Time
While zebrafish aren’t the same as humans, the analysis looks at what’s going on at a molecular level. When you break things down to the atom, we’re not much different than any another sentient being.
Unfortunately, this toxic beauty ingredient isn’t just in cosmetics. You can also find triclosan in cookware, toothpaste, and hand soap.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) are additives that act as a foaming agent. They are very popular in hand soaps and cleansers. So, anything with a pump probably has one of these two items in it.
While SLS and SLES are great for creating suds, they actually are quite abrasive to our skin. In turn, some of us may receive allergic reactions when we use products that contain these additives. This sentiment is especially true for those with sensitive skin.
One study involving SLS and skin irritation noted,
“Results showed that of the 1600 tested patients, 668 (41.8%) had an irritant reaction to SLS which exceeded 2 + in only 41 patients. Seasonal variation was statistically significant, showing reduced SLS reactivity in summer vs. winter .”– Contact Dermatitis.
Even more interesting is that those who showed sensitivities to SLS tended to experience skin irritations from the following 10 ingredients:
- Fragrance Mix
- Cobalt Chloride,
- Balsam of Peru (Myroxylon Pereirae)
- Lanolin Alcohol
- 4-Phenylenediamine Base (PPD)
- N-Isopropyl-N’-Phenyl-P-Phenylenediamine (IPPD)
- 4-Tert-Butylphenol-Formaldehyde Resin
While we’re not going to go in-depth about these ingredients like we just did for SLS, you should also get to know them. These are other potential toxic beauty ingredients that can dry out your skin, kill off beneficial bacteria, and harm skin cells.
Your eyes didn’t deceive you. The preservative we used on dead animals to experiment on in biology class is actually used in beauty products. While formaldehyde is most dangerous in a gaseous state, this preservative is still a potential danger as a toxic beauty ingredient.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released this statement about formaldehyde,
“Ingestion of as little as 30 mL (1 oz.) of a solution containing 37% formaldehyde has been reported to cause death in an adult. Ingestion may cause corrosive injury to the gastrointestinal mucosa, with nausea, vomiting, pain, bleeding, and perforation. Corrosive injuries are usually most pronounced in the pharyngeal mucosa, epiglottis and esophagus. Systemic effects include metabolic acidosis, CNS depression and coma, respiratory distress, and renal failure .”– Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
While it’s doubtful that someone will use one ounce of formaldehyde in one sitting, why would you want beauty products that contain this item?
What’s even more unsettling is that the CDC noted that formaldehyde was commonly used in the production of:
Now, does one ounce of formaldehyde seem more likely? Also, why are we using a product for beauty and food ingredients that’s also used in creating rubber?
Lastly, you’ll be hard-pressed to see formaldehyde on a cosmetics label. It just screams “embalming fluid” to consumers. Instead, you’ll see items on the label that release formaldehyde over time.
Look out for:
- DMDM Hydantoin
As these items oxidize, they secrete formaldehyde into the formula. That’s why brands containing these items can legally say their product contains “natural preservatives.”
These synthetic ingredients are used in so many products of our everyday lives. They are used to give products, including plastic, more flexibility. They provide softness to a moisturizing cream or can help soothe the abrasiveness of an exfoliant.
There are many types of phthalates out there, including:
- Butyl Benzyl Phthalate (BBzP)
- Dibutyl Phthalate (DnBP)
- Di-2-ethylhexyl Phthalate (DEHP)
- Diethyl Phthalate (DEP)
- Di-Butyl Phthalate (DBP)
- Benzyl Butyl Phthalate (BBP)
- Diisobutyl Phthalate (DiBP)
- Diisononyl Phthalate (DiNP)
- Di-N-octyl Phthalate (DnOP)
- Dipentyl Phthalate (DPP)
- Di-Isobutyl Phthalate (DiBP)
- Di-Isononyl Phthalate (DiNP)
- Di-N-Octyl Phthalate (DnOP)
- Di-Isohexyl Phthalate
- Dicyclohexyl Phthalate (DcHP)
- Di-Isoheptyl Phthalate
One study involving DEHP and pregnant women found that this synthetic ingredient has a negative impact on the hormones of male embryos . The analysis looked at DEHP usage during the first trimester.
In their conclusion, researchers noted,
“First trimester urinary DEHP metabolite concentrations were associated with increased odds of any newborn genital anomaly, and this association was primarily driven by isolated hydrocele which made up the majority of anomalies in newborn males.”– Environ Res.
These statistics are scary. Women are a primary target for cosmetic items, including pregnant women. They’re inundated with advertisements about creams promising to relieve stretch marks or bring volume back to their breasts after breastfeeding.
With women using 515 synthetic ingredients per day in their beauty routine, fetuses are absorbing these additives at alarming rates. Therefore, these toxic beauty ingredients are going to cause us to develop more problems, including infertility at earlier stages of our lives.
What to Do About Toxic Beauty Ingredients?
Your best defense against toxic beauty ingredients is education. Become familiar with many of these additives. Steer clear of beauty products that have names in the ingredients list you can’t pronounce. True beauty products should have faster shelf lives and be filled with organic plants and minerals.
Also, help give your skin and gut biome a chance for survival. Boost your immune system, skin cells, and gut health with custom probiotics. Join the Thryve Inside Gut Health Program so we can determine which harmful stomach bacteria have set up shop. These microbes flourish in a world created by toxic beauty ingredients. Therefore, we need to help you come up with an action plan to defeat these intruders.
With the Thryve Gut Health Program, we test your gut bacteria and recommend custom probiotics. Together, we can help you create a stronger line of defense against these harmful additives.
 Persad, Michelle. “The Average Woman Puts 515 Synthetic Chemicals On Her Body Every Day.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 7 Mar. 2016, www.huffpost.com/entry/synthetic-chemicals-skincare_n_56d8ad09e4b0000de403d995.
 Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “Parabens in Cosmetics.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-ingredients/parabens-cosmetics.
 Haman, Camille, et al. “Occurrence, Fate and Behavior of Parabens in Aquatic Environments: a Review.” Water Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Jan. 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25462712.
 Engeli, R. T., Rohrer, S. R., Vuorinen, A., Herdlinger, S., Kaserer, T., Leugger, S., … Odermatt, A. (2017). Interference of Paraben Compounds with Estrogen Metabolism by Inhibition of 17β-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases. International journal of molecular sciences, 18(9), 2007. doi:10.3390/ijms18092007
 Weatherly, L. M., & Gosse, J. A. (2017). Triclosan exposure, transformation, and human health effects. Journal of toxicology and environmental health. Part B, Critical reviews, 20(8), 447–469. doi:10.1080/10937404.2017.1399306
 Sifferlin, Alexandra. “Triclosan Antibacterial Soap and Gut Bacteria.” Time, Time, 18 May 2016, time.com/4339866/triclosan-antibacterial-soap-safety/.
 Geier, J, et al. “Patch Testing with the Irritant Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) Is Useful in Interpreting Weak Reactions to Contact Allergens as Allergic or Irritant.” Contact Dermatitis, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Feb. 2003, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12694214.
 “Toxic Substances Portal – Formaldehyde.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.atsdr.cdc.gov/mmg/mmg.asp?id=216&tid=39.
 Sathyanarayana, Sheela, et al. “First Trimester Phthalate Exposure and Male Newborn Genital Anomalies.” Environmental Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Nov. 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27567446.