Harmful Ingredients in Skin Care

June 6th, 2008

How do harmful ingredients in skin care affect your skin. I remember like it was yesterday, finding out that my husband and I were going to be parents. I think all of us feel that it is a life-changing event, this bit of news. No longer was I responsible just for my own health and well-being, I was responsible for both mine and my son’s.

While you are pregnant, a woman must strike a delicate balance between what is right for you and what is right for the baby growing inside of you. I remember being worried about the internal damage and stress that a pregnancy can cause to a woman’s body.

And an additional concern, hate to be so shallow, were stretch marks, cellulite and furthermore the skin can become flaccid after the pregnancy, losing its elasticity. So I started purchasing all sorts of skin care products, creams and oils to be proactive. However, none of these skincare creams were organic, and as you might imagine, potentially harmful.

One skincare cream I remember in particular. It was one of the most popular creams on the market for getting rid of and preventing stretch marks. I opened the bottle and was overcome by a distinct smell- kerosene. I couldn’t put it on my body because it smelled toxic. Immediately I looked at the box it came in to see what the ingredients on this skincare cream were. In really small print, so small I did not see it when I bought it, it said “Not for use during pregnancy or while nursing.”

It scared me that I could have used a skin care cream that had toxic or poisonous ingredients. This could have potentially harmed me and my son, and from that point on, I was a different person. I read the labels of every single skin care products that I owned and threw nearly everyone away. I started to educate myself rapidly and was horrified to find out that so many skincare and personal products have as their ingredients known carcinogens and other potentially harmful ingredients.

This article is dedicated to making the consumer, all of us, more knowledgeable on what exactly is being put into everyday personal care and skincare products and how harmful they really are. It is also a supplication for you to start buying and using organic skin care products. Not only that, but in fact, consume only organic foods and adopt a green-life-style.

We are being sold products with TOXIC ingredients by cosmetic, skin care and personal care companies. That’s right, toxic, poisonous ingredients in our skin and personal products. Many companies are counting on our ignorance so they can continue to sell the cheapest, easiest thing available to them in order to maximize their profit. The problem is not just our own lack of knowledge, but also the assumption that it must be safe if it appears on the shelves of our local markets and specialty stores.

Additionally, we as consumers need to be aware of the fact that just because a company claims to be selling an organic or natural product, it does not mean that the product is chemical free. The industry is not yet regulated and the definitions of such terms as “organic” and “natural” are not standardized.

We still need to read the ingredient list ourselves and know what to look out for as we read. Here is a short list of ingredients that you should look out for in your skin care and personal care products. Interestingly enough, they can also be found in common household cleaning supplies and disinfectants. Its strange to say, but only a handful of ingredients have been banned by our FDA. In Europe, at least one thousand such ingredients have been banned already! Everyone should be savvy and discerning. Educated choices are essential for you and your family!


Alcohol denat, (denatured alcohol): A petrochemical byproduct. Can cause allergic reactions or irritation upon coming in contact with the skin. Used in all commercial perfumes. Also used as a solvent!

Aluminum ingredients: Common skin irritant. Are linked to Alzheimer’s Disease, lung disease.

Ammonium ingredients: Are known carcinogens- extremely toxic!

Aroma/Fragrance: usually a mix of synthetic and natural fragrances. Most of them are highly allergenic. A company can simply list “fragrance” and does not have to say what chemicals are contained within the fragrance! Contains quantities of toxins and chemicals not disclosed.

Fragrance-free: This means that fragrance chemicals have been added to the product to mask the natural aromas of the ingredients!

Benzoates: Known carcinogen. Implicated in a wide variety of health problems including testicular cancer, cell mutation, and other cancers.

Benzyl alcohol: A petrochemical. Harmful if swallowed, inhaled or ABSORBED THROUGH THE SKIN. Severe irritant for eyes, skin and respiratory system.

BHA and BHT: Encourages the breakdown of vitamins such as vitamin D, can cause lipid and cholesterol levels to increase!

Coal tar: A petrochemical. Low-level exposure is linked to cancer.

Colorants: Known carcinogens. Causes skin irritation and acne.

Dimethicone: Has caused tumors and mutation in lab animals.

DEA ingredients: All ingredients with DEA after the first word such as cocamide dea are known carcinogens.

Formaldehyde: A common preservative often hidden in other ingredients. Is banned in Sweden and Japan due to its inability to inhibit the growth of acid producing bacteria and it’s link to cancer.

Glycerin: Is a petrochemical if it is not VEGETABLE GLYCERINE.

Hydroquinone: Highly toxic! Can cause bruising, skin irritation, skin abrasions. Banned in Europe.

Imidazalidol urea: Causes skin irritation. May also contain formaldehyde

Laureth family: Sodium lauryl sulfate, any ingredient with laureth or lauryl in the name is a carcinogen and a skin irritant.

Methylisothiazolinone: Is an antibacterial agent found in some shampoos and hand creams. Prolonged exposure to low levels of methylisothiazolinone (MIT) may have potentially damaging consequences to a developing nervous system, a troubling bit of news if you are pregnant!

Octyl stearate: Known skin irritant. Causes acne, contact dermatitis, allergic reactions.

Parabens: Are petrochemicals. Methyl, propyl, or any ingredient with paraben at the end of the word are of the paraben family and are the source of many health issues. Causes allergic reactions and has been found in the breast tissue of women. Has been found stored in fat cells.

Peg ingredients: Known carcinogens. Causes contact dermatitis and acne.

Petroleum: Is a petrochemical. Petrolatum, mineral oil and vaseline are carcinogenic. Can cause dry skin, acne, dizziness. Also a respiratory toxin.

Phenoxyethanol: Synthetic ether alcohol preservative. Synthetic preservatives are considered by leading dermatological associations to be the number one cause of contact dermatitis.

Phenonip: preservative blend of Phenoxyethanol, Methylparben, Ethylparaben, Butylparaben, Propylparaben, & Isobutylparaben. Please see Parabens above.

Phthalates: Found in common household plastics – squeeze bottles, shower curtains, soft plastics. Known carcinogens, mutation agents, stored in fat cells-they make perfume set and plastics bend. Found in most mainstream cosmetics, glues and nail polishes.

Propylene glycol: easily absorbed solvent that causes contact dermatitis, skin irritations, acne and allergies

Stearics: Are carcinogenic.

Talc: Can actually contain asbestos!! DO NOT use on babies as it is a respiratory toxin.

TEA ingredients: Not tea we drink, but rather ingredients with TEA in front such as Tea lauryl sulfate are severe irritants and can contain ammonium salts. An eye irritant.

Tocopherol acetate: Is synthetic vitamin E. Causes contact dermatitis and is suspected to cause cancer.

As always I look forward to seeing you at Joanna Vargas Skincare Sanctuary in New York City where you can get the best facial in NYC. And as a first time client GET $50 off any facial or skincare treatment.