25/02/2020 | by MÁDARA Organic Skincare

We’ve listed 10 questionable, yet commonly used skincare and makeup ingredients, explaining why we think it’s a good idea to avoid them. Save your little blacklist and use it as you shop.

1. PARABENS

Parabens are cost-efficient and widely used synthetic preservatives – present in shower gels, body lotions, shampoos, conditioners, face moisturisers, deodorants and makeup products since 1950s. Their job is to prevent the growth of bacteria in the formulations.

Studies show that some parabens can mimic oestrogen, the primary female sex hormone, in the body, messing with your endocrine system. It has been scientifically proven that parabens bind to oestrogen receptors, and even low concentrations of these compounds are enough to evoke a biochemical response. Parabens have been found in breast tumours and breast milk – should we say more?

In 2011, the Danish government banned the use of parabens in products intended for children, as kids are especially sensitive to their hormone-like effects. Following Denmark’s initiative, the European Commission amended the EU Cosmetic Regulation, prohibiting the use of five parabens (isopropylparaben, isobutylparaben, phenylparaben, benzylparaben and pentylparaben) in cosmetics. However, a group of parabens is still allowed and widely used in beauty – see the list below.

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KEY RISKS

health, skin irritation

HOW THEY HIDE ON PRODUCT LABELS

Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Butylparaben, Ethylparaben, Alkyl parahydroxy benzoates

MÁDARA ALTERNATIVE

naturally derived ethyl alcohol, Sodium Benzoate, organic acids (for example, Benzoic Acid), airless packaging that helps to prevent contamination of the product with microorganisms.

2. MINERAL OILS

A byproduct of crude oil cracking (gasoline production), mineral oil is a cost-efficient base oil, commonly used in cosmetics. The mass market baby oil is basically a perfumed mineral oil! Although the dermal absorption of mineral oil is low, there is substantial evidence of the accumulation of mineral oil hydrocarbons in the body fat.

Mineral oil hydrocarbons are also detected in breast milk. Studies suggest that nursing women should avoid breast salves containing mineral oils to prevent babies from ingesting them and the possible side effects.

Mineral oil products are not readily biodegradable, are toxic to the environment, plant, fish and wildlife.

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KEY RISKS

health, environment

HOW THEY HIDE ON PRODUCT LABELS

Mineral Oil, Paraffinum Liquidum, Liquid Parafin, Petroleum Jelly, Vaseline, White Mineral Oil, Paraffinum Subliquidum, Paraffinum Album, Paraffinum Flavum, Petrolatum Base, Soft Paraffin

MÁDARA ALTERNATIVE

natural plant oils and emollients

3. CHEMICAL UV FILTERS

Widely used in conventional sunblocks, chemical UV filters are often called synthetic and organic – but don’t be mistaken, they have nothing to do with organic ingredients. They are organically synthesised compounds, hence the name.

Chemical sunscreens penetrate the skin and absorb sun rays like a sponge. Studies detect a certain health risk associated with these filters – from accumulation in the body to irritation and potential endocrine disorders. Last but not least – chemical UV filters are very persistent in the environment. There is no chemical UV filter that would ensure broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection, so what you usually get when choosing a conventional sunscreen is – a cocktail of these chemicals.

There are places in the world where certain chemical UV filters will soon be banned – after swimming they persist in the ecosystem, endangering marine life and even entering the food chain (sick, we know). Hawaii has banned sunscreens containing Oxybenzone and Octinoxate starting from 2021 – due to their toxicity, these ingredients harm coral reefs.

The only alternative – mineral (also known as natural and physical) sunscreens that use only natural UV filters that physically reflect the harmful UV rays. Go for a natural, mineral-based sunscreen – look for Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide at the top of the ingredient list.

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KEY RISKS

health, skin irritation, environment

HOW THEY HIDE ON PRODUCT LABELS

Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3), Octinoxate (Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate), Octocrylene (Octocrilene), Avobenzone (Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane), Homosalate (Benzoic acid, 2-hydroxy-, 3,3,5-trimethylcyclohexyl ester), Octisalate (Ethylhexyl Salicylate)

MÁDARA ALTERNATIVE

our certified mineral sunscreens use Zinc Oxide only, which ensures broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection. Suitable for the whole family and even ready to go to Hawaii with you.

4. TALC

Talc, the softest known mineral, is mined from rock deposits. This white, opaque powder is used in a wide variety of cosmetics products – from deodorants, blushes and eyeshadow to baby powder.

In nature, talc is found close to asbestos (which is a well-known carcinogen), so if mining sites are not selected carefully and if talc is not purified properly, it may be contaminated with the thin fibrous crystals of this deadly mineral. Exposure to asbestos causes several types of cancer and other diseases. Studies link the use of contaminated talc products to the causes of mesothelioma, lung and ovarian cancer.

There are thousands of lawsuits as of January 2020 against cosmetic companies who use talc in their products in the USA. Johnson & Johnson, who have produced talc-based baby powder for more than 100 years, have lost a number of them and paid millions in compensation to cancer victims. In October 2019, Johnson & Johnson recalled around 33,000 bottles of Johnson’s Baby Powder after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found traces of asbestos in the sample of this popular product1 .

1FDA News Release, 18 October 2019. Baby powder manufacturer voluntarily recalls products for asbestos. Available online at http://bit.ly/3bONgGt

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KEY RISKS

health

HOW THEY HIDE ON PRODUCT LABELS

Talc

MÁDARA ALTERNATIVE

rice powder or natural silica mineral powder.

5. SYNTHETIC GLITTER

Shiny plastic particles, born to dazzle for the duration of an Instagram story. After that, they turn into microplastic debris, often ending up in the environment or the ocean, fooling both aquatic and terrain organisms. Most of those shimmering particles are made of plastic (usually PET) and coated with aluminium to give them a metallic lustre.

According to the Plastic Soup Foundation, the use of glitter has grown tremendously during recent years, and it feels terrible to realise that there is no way of how to recycle these particles. Washed down the drain, plastic glitter adds to the Earth’s microplastic burden. The small plastic particles are consumed by fish, marine animals and birds. Not fantastic!

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KEY RISKS

environment

HOW THEY HIDE ON PRODUCT LABELS

Polyethylene Terephthalate

MÁDARA ALTERNATIVE

natural mica, which is a sustainable, eco-friendly alternative to synthetic glitter. Mica crystals reflect light, and depending on their particle size, shape and composition, they can give your skin anything from a delicate shimmer to a blinding light.

6. SILICONES

Silicones (siloxanes) are a group of synthetic materials, widely used in cosmetics to give beauty products a spreadable texture, but your skin and hair – the temporary impression of a silky feel. Silicones are used as shampoo and conditioner additives due to their ability to produce a slippery film. That’s why we sometimes call them deceitful – they have nothing to do with real improvements in the texture of your skin or hair.

Many consumer goods (mug lids) and industry products (lubricants, construction chemicals, medical implants) are manufactured from silicone. Silicones are stable and inert compounds, which make them highly functional, but therefore extremely persistent in the environment. More research is needed on environmental hazards of silicones, but the existing data indicates that many types of silicone score high in environmental toxicity and are very bioaccumulative.

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KEY RISKS

environment, health

HOW THEY HIDE ON PRODUCT LABELS

Dimethicone, Amodimethicone, Cyclopentasiloxane, Disiloxane, Trisiloxane, Simethicone, Polydimethylsiloxane, Methicone

MÁDARA ALTERNATIVE

natural oils and emollients. A unique alternative of silicone in MÁDARA hair care – natural, chanterelle-fungi-derived polysaccharides that deliver ultra-smoothing benefits (see GROW Shampoo, GROW Conditioner and FEED Mask).

7. POLYETHY LENE GLYCOL (PEG)

Polyethylene glycols (PEGs) are a wide range of molecules synthetically produced from ethylene oxide and commonly used in cosmetics as surfactants, thickeners, cleansing agents, emulsifiers, conditioners and humectants. An outstanding property of PEGs is their solubility in water and ability to solubilise other substances, thus you will often find them in conventional skin cleansers. However, these chemicals can strip the skin’s natural moisture.

The main safety concerns of cosmetic use of PEGs are associated with their production process and by-products generated during the manufacturing. Possible contaminants are ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane, a suspected human carcinogen. Many PEGs are not easily biodegradable and pose environmental risks.

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KEY RISKS

health, environment

HOW THEY HIDE ON PRODUCT LABELS

PEG-6, PEG-7, PEG-8, … and so forth! Polyethylene Glycol

MÁDARA ALTERNATIVE

natural plant-derived emulsifiers, emollients, humectants.

8. SYNTHETIC COLOURANTS

Widely used in conventional sunblocks, chemical UV filters are often called synthetic and organic – but don’t be mistaken, they have nothing to do with organic ingredients. They are organically synthesised compounds, hence the name.

There are currently 153 different colourants allowed in cosmetic products in the EU, and most of them are synthetic. A group of chemically produced colours, called azo dyes, are by far the most popular colourants due to their cheap price. A recent study shows that azo dyes might have mutagenic, genotoxic and carcinogenic effects. Other group of synthetic colours, called xanthene dyes, are also often used because of the bright red colour they give. However, they are sometimes reported to damage skin, causing roughness.

EU authorities have previously banned a number of cosmetic colourants due to the increasing evidence of their toxicity.

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KEY RISKS

health, environment

HOW THEY HIDE ON PRODUCT LABELS

Azo dyes:

CI 16035 (Red 40),
CI 12085 (Red 36),
CI 12490 (Red 5),
CI 14700 (Red 4) and others;

Xanthene dyes:

CI 45410 (Acid Red 92),
CI 45430 (Erythrosine, Acid Red 51) and others

MÁDARA ALTERNATIVE

uniquely treated, pure mineral pigments and/or plant-based pigments

9. CARMINE

Widely used in conventional sunblocks, chemical UV filters are often called synthetic and organic – but don’t be mistaken, they have nothing to do with organic ingredients. They are organically synthesised compounds, hence the name.

Although it is natural and does not pose substantial risks to human health or the environment, we include it on this list due to ethical considerations. Carmine is a natural red colourant used in many consumer goods, including food, cosmetics and makeup for its vibrant red tone. However, it is an animal-derived ingredient, produced from tropical insects – cochineal bugs.

Up to 100,000 beetles are killed to produce 1 kg of carmine. Obviously not a vegan-friendly or cruelty-free ingredient, even though it is allowed in Natural and/or Organic certified beauty products. There is also evidence that carmine might cause allergic reactions.

So, if you have a classic red lipstick, it’s either a synthetic dye or carmine that gives it that blood red colour. It’s the answer to why you won’t find a bright red lipstick or lip gloss in the MÁDARA Organic Makeup range – until we find a suitable alternative.

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KEY RISKS

ethical concerns, not vegan and not cruelty-free

HOW THEY HIDE ON PRODUCT LABELS

CI 75470, E120, Cochineal, Carminic acid, Carmines, Carmine

MÁDARA ALTERNATIVE

natural mineral or plant-based pigments.

10. ARTIFICIAL FRAGRANCES

Synthetic perfumes are used to fragrance consumer products from cosmetics to candles and laundry detergents. There is no regulation that requires the listing of aromatic ingredients on the cosmetic product label; they all remain unclear, except for the 26 most common allergens. So, thousands of chemicals can hide under the name fragrance, parfum or perfume.

Most of the ingredients used in the contemporary fragrance industry are synthetic, so a scent is basically a cocktail of hundreds of man-made chemicals. Some aromatic chemicals, like synthetic musks, are linked to reproductive toxicity (some musks have been banned in the EU), while others are reported to cause headaches and allergic reactions.

Another serious concern – fragrance molecules are volatile and evaporate in the air where they can form secondary pollutants, including formaldehyde, which leads to toxic indoor air. Some fragrant ingredients can be toxic when released in the environment.

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KEY RISKS

health, environment

HOW THEY HIDE ON PRODUCT LABELS

synthetic and natural fragrances cannot be distinguished just by reading the ingredient list – the aromatic composition will be simply labelled as Parfum, Aroma or Fragrance. To avoid synthetic fragrances completely, you should opt for Natural or Organic certified beauty products.

MÁDARA ALTERNATIVE

natural aromatic substances, like floral and resin extracts, essential oils. ECOCERT/Cosmos certified beauty products only use natural fragrances.

And the list goes on! Concerned about other beauty product ingredients that you would like to learn more about or discuss with us? Suggest in the comments.

SAVE THIS BLACKLIST

Make wiser and more responsible choices – use this skincare and makeup ingredient blacklist as you shop.