In the United States, neither the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) nor any other government organization does any direct testing or regulation for chemicals used in the skin care industry. The skin care industry has full freedom to use whatever they desire in their products. The one organization that the skin care industry defers to when deciding whether an ingredient is safe or not is the CIR (Chemical Ingredient Review) Board. The CIR is funded by the cosmetic industry trade association. It is the metaphorical fox guarding the hen house.
In fact, the United States is one of the worse regulated major industrial countries in the world when it comes to protecting its citizens from toxic chemicals used in skin care products. There are over 10,000 chemicals used in skin care products. The European Union has banned over 1,300 of those chemicals. Russia has adopted the same European Union Regulations as its own. China has banned over 1,200 chemicals from being used in skin care products sold in China. In those regulations (especially Europe and Russia) they also ban the use of animal testing.
While the rest of the world, based on solid testing procedures, is banning hundreds and even thousands of skin care chemicals, the United States has only banned a measly 11 chemicals. In addition, the USA has no restrictions on animal testing. When it comes to skin care products in the USA, it truly is buyer beware.
The EWG (Environmental Working Group) is a consumer advocacy group that tests, reviews and informs the public about skin care ingredients. They estimate that almost 90% of the ingredients used in skin care products are either not sufficiently tested and/or properly restricted.
With that in mind it is difficult, if not impossible, to put together a short list of skin care ingredients to be concerned about. There is no short list, only a long list. For instance, virtually any chemical formed from a petroleum base should be of concern. The body does not handle petroleum well. In addition, even so called “vegetable derived chemicals” can be of concern because during the processing they can be altered and infused with processing chemicals that are harmful to the body. With that in mind the following chemicals are some of the most frequently used and major toxic chemicals found in skin care products:
Formaldehyde or formaldehyde releasers such as Urea or Hydantoin are dangerous because of the unstable chemicals and water used in skin care products. Most skin care products use formaldehyde as a preservative, despite the fact that it is a known carcinogen. The American Cancer Society defines a carcinogen as any substance or action that causes a change in the human cells DNA that can lead to cancer. Unfortunately, formaldehyde is only one of many carcinogenic substances listed by the American Cancer Society that is used in skin care products that can cause cancer.
Especially Propylparaben and Butylparaben. Parabens are used in 1,000’s of skin care products as a preservative. They tend to mimic estrogen and therefore are very harmful and disruptive to the endocrine system.
Fragrances can contain up to 200 chemicals many of which are harmful at best, toxic at worst. Skin care manufacturers use the word “fragrance” in order to avoid FDA regulations. If a product is called a perfume, cologne or aftershave for the purpose of enhancing or making someone more attractive it is considered a cosmetic which has tighter regulations than a fragrance additive to a skin care product. They can be exactly the same formulas, but calling it a fragrance avoids regulations. Don’t buy a skin care product with “fragrance” listed in the ingredient list.
Triethanolamine is used as a PH adjuster in skin care products. It can also cause organ toxicity and is found in a lot of perfume.
Petrolatum is used to make the skin feel soft and moist. It is derived from petroleum and blocks the pores which affects the natural capability of those pores to discharge toxins and keep the skin clean and healthy. It can give rise to toxic build up, allergic reactions, acne and pimple formation.
There are hundreds of other chemicals used in skin care products that you should avoid. The best thing to do is read the ingredient list. If you see chemical names it probably is not good for you.