What follows is a quick consultation guide on the cosmetic ingredients you should be able to recognize and avoid
These substances are derived from petroleum, are not skin-compatible, are generally inert and do not allow the skin to “breathe”. Their long-term use can be harmful.
On labels, they are: paraffinum liquidum or mineral oil, paraffin, and microcrystalline wax.
These are numerous and it would be difficult to list them all. The principal families of synthetics are:
- Aggressive and potentially irritating surfactants: sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). They are most commonly found in cleansing products: shower washes, shampoos, toothpastes, but also in floor cleaners and engine degreasers. They can potentially cause permanent damage to the eyes (Journal of the American College of Toxicology) and possible harm to the immune system.
- Substances that contain the syllable “eth”, ethoxylated, or in other words, are part petroleum product and a potential irritant (e.g. ceteareth-12)
- Substances that end in “–amine” or a similar fashion: these may release nitrosamines (carcinogenic substances) (e.g. 2-nitro-p-phenylenediamine (a hair dye))
- Substances whose names contain 3 or 4 upper-case letters: e.g. DEA, MEA, MIPA, EDTA
- Polyethyleneglycole (PEG), Polypropyleneglycole (PPG). A category of synthetic emulsifiers. They are used in cleansers and shampoos to obtain viscous emulsions; in creams, they make it possible to obtain emulsions with an emollient and humectant effect. This effect is limited to appearances only, as they do not provide any real moisturisation, but instead conceal the skin’s actual state. It is especially important to avoid using PEG6, PEG20, and PEG75 on sensitive or damaged skin.
- Propylene glycol, butylene glycol, polypropylene glycol
These are used as solvents and diluents in emulsions. They promote fluidity and stability, keeping the components from separating. Their degree of skin penetration is high, which is why they are also used as vehicles to transport active ingredients. Continuous use of these substances causes sensitisation and increases skin permeability. Propylene glycol is also used in phytocosmetics, to extract active ingredients from plants.
- Substances that contain “-trimonium”: these are ichthyotoxic, in other words, harmful to the environment (e.g. cetrimonium chloride)
- Synthetic polymers: these are generally used as product thickeners. On the label their names contain “-acryl” or “-polymer” (e.g. polyacrylamide”, acrylates copolymer, carbomer).
- Isopropyl alcohol is a solvent and denaturant, but it is also used as antifreeze!
Synthetic substances that are not skin-compatible, used to improve the feel of a product by giving it a velvety or silky texture. Silicones also prevent a white film from forming during the application of creams, and they are used in conditioners to improve comb-through. The immediate results are excellent, but they can cause sensitisation problems in the long-term.
On the label, their names end in “-one” (e.g. dimethicone, cyclomethicone) or “-xane” (e.g. cyclopentasiloxane)
- Formaldehyde. Carcinogen. Its use has been subject to regulation for years, but it is frequently employed nonetheless. On the label: “formaldehyde”.
- Quaternium-15: is harmful because it is a formaldehyde releaser, is toxic and causes sensitisation.
- Parabens: commonly used for years, but cases of intolerance, allergies and sensitisation are becoming more and more frequent. On the label: methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, etc.
- Isothiazolinones: widely used and now suspected of being potential irritants. On the label: methylisothiazolinone, methylchloroisothiazolinone.
- Imidazolidinyl urea and DMDM hydantoin can release formaldehyde (carcinogenic).
- Triclosan, a very widely-used antibacterial, especially in liquid soaps, is also a pesticide. It has been given a high human health and environmental risk rating. Suspected of being carcinogenic.
INGREDIENTS OBTAINED FROM DEAD ANIMALS
The traditional cosmetics industry often uses ingredients that are strictly banned from organic cosmetics. They may be concealed in numerous ingredients, such as sodium tallowate (obtained from animal fat, often found in soaps), collagen, elastin, keratin, squalene (obtained from shark liver), ostrea (from oysters), the dye known as C.I. 75470 (obtained from the cochineal insect). Animal marrow and placenta (hydrolysed placental protein) are also banned
Butylated hydroxyanisole, known by the acronym BHA, is among the most commonly used antioxidants. This substance, when metabolised by the human body, has been recognized by the European Commission as a carcinogen and can have negative effects on the endocrine system. For this reason, the FDA (the Food and Drug Administration - a US Government agency) has set a maximum allowed limit for the use of this substance.
Another frequently used antioxidant is BHT, which can cause allergies, but be careful, because its use is not regulated by the European Commission.
The Naturaequa range of cosmetics does not use these ingredients.