Despite the glossy packaging and the satisfying feeling of applying makeup in the morning, it's hard to know whether your daily beauty products are healthy...or actually ruining your skin. And it's especially hard to tell when the ingredients label of your favorite eyeliner contains an extensive list of chemicals that you can barely pronounce. So we've consulted with experts and are here to explain some of the most common beauty products and how you can avoid potentially harmful ingredients found in them. Before you go trying crazy beauty trends, make sure you know what you're getting yourself into!
Related: 6 Beauty Hacks You Should Never Try
1. Nail Polish
Trust me, we wish it weren’t true.
We all love getting a manicure every once in a while and to horde a bunch of nail colors for some DIY fun. But let’s be real: nail polish isn’t good for you and most still contain a toxic trio of a carcinogen (formaldehyde) and two reproductive toxins (dibutyl phthalate and toluene). According to Slate, in 2006 Essie, OPI and several other nail polish brands agreed to eliminate the toxic trio from their nail products. However, in 2012 the California EPA’s Department of Toxic Substances Control randomly tested 25 brands and discovered ten out of every dozen brands still contained toluene. Although OPI is thankfully in the clear, smaller nail polish companies such as Golden Girl, Chelsea and Dare to Wear were mislabeled as being "three free," when in reality they contained toxic chemicals. Substances such as DBP and toluene impact prenatal development—Slate also speculates that these chemicals could be connected to a trend of early puberty in girls. Next time, we recommend you keep an eye out for whether your favorite nail polish brands contain any of these three toxic substances.
Choose scents over fragrances.
Perfumes are the perfect finishing touch to any beauty routine before you walk out the door, but be careful about the ingredients your favorite perfume may contain. Why? "Approximately 2 to 4 percent of the general population and up to 10 percent of the North American population has an allergy or sensitization to fragrance," says Dr. Amy Kim, who is a board certified dermatologist and Founder of Baby Pibu, an infant skincare line. Dr. Kim explains that there are over 2800 chemicals that can make up a fragrance, with at least 100 of those being common substances causing allergic reactions. Fragrances causing allergic reactions can lead to women developing a skin rash on the face and hands, termed allergic contact dermatitis (ACD). In fact, in 2014 the European Union's Scientific Committee recommended a ban on common perfume ingredients HIC and moss extracts atranol and choroatranolwhich. These moss extracts were actually found in iconic perfumes including Chanel No. 5 and Dior's Miss Dior.
So, Dr. Kim recommends using 'scents' instead of 'fragrances.'"Since repeated exposure to fragrance can increase the likelihood of developing an allergy to fragrance, scented products with essential oils can be considered," she says. "Essential oils causing the least allergic reactions are lavender, rosemary, and thyme oils." It's time to embrace natural scents, ladies. If you're not ready to do away with your favorite perfumes right now, the least you can do is make sure your skin isn't reacting or becoming irritated by your signature fragrance.
3. Deodorant (and more!)
Parabens are an ingredient that all beauty junkies should know about. It is an extremely commonly used preservative in cosmetics products, meaning that it is supposed to defend against mold and fungus developing. That's a good thing, right? But in 2004, the Journal of Applied Toxicology published a game-changing paper that found traces of parabens in breast tumors. The theory was that parabens have estrogen-like qualities and therefore may contribute to the development of breast cancer tumors. Ultimately, the paper did not prove a direct correlation and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not discovered enough evidence to vilify parabens. However, Dr. Kim recommends using paraben-free skincare products: "Oil of Olay Age-Defying Classic Night Cream is what I use as my oil-free facial moisturizer for day or night application," she says. "It is free of parabens and does its basic job of moisturizing without clogging pores."
4. Old Mascara
Why you should twist, not pump.
Admit it—you probably use the same mascara until it runs dry. And depending on how often you coat your lashes, that can take any amount of time between a couple of months to over a year. But according to Vision Source, mascara is especially susceptible to housing bacteria because mascara tubes are dark, moist environments. And this is no innocent infestation; bacteria in these tubes can cause serious eye infections like pinkeye or styes. Since bacteria accumulates, infections can become threatening to your vision. So no matter how much is left in your tube, make sure to throw out your mascara within three to four months of opening.
Another tip is to twist, not pump your mascara wand. For those of you who absolutely cannot leave the house without at least three coats of mascara—we feel you. But you should also know: not only does pumping your mascara wand allow the product to dry faster, but it also creates a more fertile breeding ground for bacteria. Pop Sugar explains that when you repeatedly pump your mascara wand into the tube, trapped air combined with the potential bacteria from your eyelashes both increase.
5. Soaps with a pH Imbalance
You can be basic; the soap you use shouldn't be.
Our skin is full of amazing qualities, one of which is that our skin has an acidic mantle that protects the skin from bacteria, viruses, and other potentially contaminating substances. Pretty amazing, right? Except that while our skin is normally at an acidic pH of 4.5 to 5.5, most soaps have far higher, or more basic, pH levels of around 9. As a result of this pH imbalance, soaps will strip the acidic mantle from our skin, making us more susceptible to bacteria and making our skin feel drier. It's far safer to choose a soap that achieves a better pH balance to our skin. Dr. Kim personally recommends the white Dove Bar Soap, citing, "Soaps that make us feel squeaky-clean are actually soaps with a basic pH, and these soaps strip us of our natural oils. pH-balanced soaps like Dove bar soap get us clean without the squeakiness and stripping of natural oils."