MUST AVOID Toxic Substances, Part 1: “The Top Five”

By Charlene Bollinger February 11, 2024

At CHARLíS, we take great care with every single ingredient we put in our unique, one-of-a-kind luxury skin and body care formulas. I encourage you to read through our detailed ingredient listings to see for yourself!

What you may not know is that we put just as much care into what we leave out of our formulas as with what do what we include. Read on to be in the know about the Top 5 MUST AVOID toxins, so common in other luxury skincare products, that you will never find in any CHARLíS formula.  

The Toxic State of the Cosmetics Industry

Today there are more skin care products to choose from than ever before. Just because there is a vast selection, however, doesn’t mean that there are more healthy options out there. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the government agency tasked with determining which chemical substances are safe for the population. Out of the thousands of new substances created by the $200 billion dollar cosmetics industry, the US FDA has banned less than a dozen. Many other countries, on the other hand, have made upwards of 1,000 or more toxic substances illegal to put into consumer goods, sundry products, and food products because of evidence-backed concern for human health and safety. (1)

It is unfortunate that the American institutions responsible for keeping us safe are not doing their job, but that doesn’t mean that you have to suffer as a result! It is up to each one of us to take care of our own bodies, including our skin, and the very first step is to learn what substances to avoid.

The Top 5 MUST AVOID Toxins in Skin Care

Of the thousands of synthetically produced, potentially toxic fillers, emulsifiers, preservatives, fragrances and other substances that the cosmetics industry can legally include in their formulations, there are a handful that “rise to the top” based on how commonly they are used, as well as the sheer damage they can do.

Be sure to always read labels whenever you shop. Even products that may appear to be free of toxins may, in fact, not be. For more information about the sneaky way some manufacturers mislead consumers on their labels, be sure to read this article. 

All that being said, are there specific substances we should just stay away from across the board? You bet! The following are my “Top Five” substances (going from very bad to the absolute worse) that you will never find in any CHARLíS product:  

#5 “Fragrance”

The ubiquitous term “fragrance” makes my Top 5 not only because of what substances within this term (more about that in a minute) can do to harm the body but also because of the sneaky way manufacturers use the term itself in order to avoid disclosing exactly what they are putting in their products.

In a nutshell, when a company creates a unique “fragrance blend,” the ingredients used to create the blend are considered part of a “trade secret” and are protected under federal law. Companies are not required to disclose what specific substances went into the formula, even if some or all of them could be harmful to the body.

There are an estimated 3,000 different chemicals available to industry-sponsored chemists for the creation of proprietary synthetic fragrance blends. (2) The consumer organization “Campaign for Safe Cosmetics” estimates that each time “fragrance” is listed on a label, it actually represents about 14 different chemicals. (3) Just one example is benzyl alcohol, which is found naturally in pungent flowers such as jasmine. The synthetic version, however, can create respiratory failure and sudden drops in blood pressure. (4)

Unless a company makes a commitment to use only natural, organic essential oils (like CHARLíS does), it is a very safe bet that most if not all “fragrance” ingredients are going to be toxic.

#4 Formaldehyde

 Next in line is formaldehyde. You may have heard of this super toxic substance as one to avoid in new furniture and carpet, but did you know that formaldehyde can also be found in the “gentlest” of skin care products? Some products that typically contain formaldehyde include face moisturizers, shower gels, and even baby bath soap.

Surface-level risks of formaldehyde exposure can include skin rash as well as irritation in the eyes, throat, and nose. Long-term exposure is connected to immune system issues, respiratory conditions, and cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified this substance as a human carcinogen. (5) Other studies have linked it to nasopharyngeal and sinonasal cancers as well as leukemia.

Formaldehyde also makes the “Top 5” because of the sneaky way manufacturers sometimes include it in their formulas. Formaldehyde often goes by other names on ingredient listings, including sodium hydroxymethylglycinate,

D.M.D.M. hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, quaternium-15, and methenamine. (6) 

#3 Sodium Lauryl Sulfate & Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS)

SLSs are foaming agents (surfactants) found in hundreds of sundry products (such as face cleansers and shampoos) because they have the ability to attract both oil and water. However, SLSs are created using substances that are found to be harmful, especially if they are used around the eyes or in sprays.

Ethylene oxide is a residue found in SLS which can cause eye damage and is considered a carcinogen by the David Suzuki Foundation as well as the International Agency for Research on Cancer. (7) Other studies have found that ehtylene oxide can damage the nervous system. 1,4-dioxane is a byproduct of SLS manufacturing that can cause kidney and liver damage, according to a 2012 health advisory put out by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. (8)

#2 Parabens

Parabens are commonly used artificial preservatives that have been shown to have a negative effect on the reproductive and endocrine systems. They mimic harmful forms of estrogen in the body, a fact to which even the FDA admits. (9) Synthetic estrogen mimics such as parabens are called “xenoestrogens.” Exposure to parabens was connected to low male sperm count in a 2009 Portuguese report. Xenoestrogens in general are a common cause of breast cancer in both men and women, according to multiple studies. (10) (11)

To make matters worse, according to Tasha Stoiber, PhD, Senior Scientist at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), parabens accumulate rapidly in the body because of the way they progressively lodge themselves in tissue. This means that their xeonestrogenic effects can be exponential. (12) 

Methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and ethylparaben are some common names parabens can go by on ingredient labels.

#1 Phthalates

Phthalates top the list as the most toxic skin care ingredient because of the havoc they can wreak on both the endocrine and nervous systems. They are used in conventional skin care products as solvents and stabilizers. Some products that use phthalates include lotions (including aftershave lotions), cleansers, and shampoos.

Like parabens, phthalates are also considered xenoestrogens and are particularly harmful for men. A study done at Yale University found that phthalates target testosterone production in particular, creating increased male reproductive cancer risk. (13)

Women are not immune to the harm phthalates can cause, however. A report put out by Harvard Health found that phthalates can interfere with a healthy pregnancy and may even encourage gestational diabetes. (14)

Phthalates have also been shown to cause harm to the nervous system, especially for the young. A 2021 study found that even low dose exposure to phthalates can cause nervous system damage and slow development during puberty. (15)

The (kind of) good news about all this is that, under the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA), the FDA does require that phthalates (as well as other harmful toxins) be disclosed in product ingredient listing whenever they are used. However, as I mentioned above, this disclosure does not include harmful substances, phthalates included, which are part of the creation of a company’s proprietary “fragrance” or “flavor.” (16)

The other names that phthalates may go by include di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP), diethyl phthalate (DEP), dimethyl phthalate (DMP), di-2-ethylhexyl (DEHP), and benzylbutyl phthalate (BzBP).

Make the Switch to Healthier Skin with CHARLíS!

My hope is that this “Top Five” list will give you the inspiration you may need to “make the switch” to healthier skincare products. Be sure to always read ingredient labels of the cosmetic products you are considering for purchase (and if they don’t offer an ingredient listing, don’t buy them!).

Better yet, connect with a company that you know has the highest integrity and the cleanest (and most naturally effective) luxury skincare and body care products out there.  

Hands down, that would be CHARLíS! Every single bottle in the CHARLíS Luxury Skincare line as well as the CHARLíS Luxury Body Care line must pass rigorous independent lab testing before it is ever considered for purchase by you. For more information about our unique ToxicFree® label (and the ToxicFree® Foundation, run by CHARLíS formula designer Linda Chae, who does the testing), be sure to check out this article.

Also be sure to read Part 2 of this 2-Part series, where I will disclose even more skincare substances to ABSOLUTELY avoid—harmful toxic chemicals that you will see regularly in commercial skincare products, but you will never find at CHARLíS!

References:

(1) Prohibited & Restricted Ingredients in Cosmetics.” Food and Drug Administration
(2) 3,163 ingredients hide behind the word “fragrance”
(3) Not So Sexy the Health Risks of Secret Chemicals  in Fragrance
(4) Benzyl Alcohol
(5) Formaldehyde and Cancer Risk
(6) Formaldehyde may be found in cosmetic products even when unlabelled
(7) The Dirty Dozen: Sodium Laureth Sulfate
(8) Toxicological Profile for 1,4-Dioxane.
(9) Cosmetics Safety Q&A: Parabens
(10) Parabens in male infertility—Is there a mitochondrial connection?  
(11) Estrogen and Xenoestrogens in Breast Cancer
(12) “What are Parabens, and Why Don’t They Belong in Cosmetics?” Environmental Working Group. 
(13) Bisphenol A Mimics Estrogen, Phthalates Target Testosterone
(14) Exposure to phthalates may raise risk of pregnancy loss, gestational diabetes
(15) Effects of pubertal exposure to low doses of di-(2-ethylexyl)phthalate on reproductive behaviors in male mice 
(16) Phthalates in Cosmetics

 

At CHARLíS, we take great care with every single ingredient we put in our unique, one-of-a-kind luxury skin and body care formulas. I encourage you to read through our detailed ingredient listings to see for yourself!

What you may not know is that we put just as much care into what we leave out of our formulas as with what do what we include. Read on to be in the know about the Top 5 MUST AVOID toxins, so common in other luxury skincare products, that you will never find in any CHARLíS formula.  

The Toxic State of the Cosmetics Industry

Today there are more skin care products to choose from than ever before. Just because there is a vast selection, however, doesn’t mean that there are more healthy options out there. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the government agency tasked with determining which chemical substances are safe for the population. Out of the thousands of new substances created by the $200 billion dollar cosmetics industry, the US FDA has banned less than a dozen. Many other countries, on the other hand, have made upwards of 1,000 or more toxic substances illegal to put into consumer goods, sundry products, and food products because of evidence-backed concern for human health and safety. (1)

It is unfortunate that the American institutions responsible for keeping us safe are not doing their job, but that doesn’t mean that you have to suffer as a result! It is up to each one of us to take care of our own bodies, including our skin, and the very first step is to learn what substances to avoid.

The Top 5 MUST AVOID Toxins in Skin Care

Of the thousands of synthetically produced, potentially toxic fillers, emulsifiers, preservatives, fragrances and other substances that the cosmetics industry can legally include in their formulations, there are a handful that “rise to the top” based on how commonly they are used, as well as the sheer damage they can do.

Be sure to always read labels whenever you shop. Even products that may appear to be free of toxins may, in fact, not be. For more information about the sneaky way some manufacturers mislead consumers on their labels, be sure to read this article. 

All that being said, are there specific substances we should just stay away from across the board? You bet! The following are my “Top Five” substances (going from very bad to the absolute worse) that you will never find in any CHARLíS product:  

#5 “Fragrance”

The ubiquitous term “fragrance” makes my Top 5 not only because of what substances within this term (more about that in a minute) can do to harm the body but also because of the sneaky way manufacturers use the term itself in order to avoid disclosing exactly what they are putting in their products.

In a nutshell, when a company creates a unique “fragrance blend,” the ingredients used to create the blend are considered part of a “trade secret” and are protected under federal law. Companies are not required to disclose what specific substances went into the formula, even if some or all of them could be harmful to the body.

There are an estimated 3,000 different chemicals available to industry-sponsored chemists for the creation of proprietary synthetic fragrance blends. (2) The consumer organization “Campaign for Safe Cosmetics” estimates that each time “fragrance” is listed on a label, it actually represents about 14 different chemicals. (3) Just one example is benzyl alcohol, which is found naturally in pungent flowers such as jasmine. The synthetic version, however, can create respiratory failure and sudden drops in blood pressure. (4)

Unless a company makes a commitment to use only natural, organic essential oils (like CHARLíS does), it is a very safe bet that most if not all “fragrance” ingredients are going to be toxic.

#4 Formaldehyde

 Next in line is formaldehyde. You may have heard of this super toxic substance as one to avoid in new furniture and carpet, but did you know that formaldehyde can also be found in the “gentlest” of skin care products? Some products that typically contain formaldehyde include face moisturizers, shower gels, and even baby bath soap.

Surface-level risks of formaldehyde exposure can include skin rash as well as irritation in the eyes, throat, and nose. Long-term exposure is connected to immune system issues, respiratory conditions, and cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified this substance as a human carcinogen. (5) Other studies have linked it to nasopharyngeal and sinonasal cancers as well as leukemia.

Formaldehyde also makes the “Top 5” because of the sneaky way manufacturers sometimes include it in their formulas. Formaldehyde often goes by other names on ingredient listings, including sodium hydroxymethylglycinate,

D.M.D.M. hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, quaternium-15, and methenamine. (6) 

#3 Sodium Lauryl Sulfate & Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS)

SLSs are foaming agents (surfactants) found in hundreds of sundry products (such as face cleansers and shampoos) because they have the ability to attract both oil and water. However, SLSs are created using substances that are found to be harmful, especially if they are used around the eyes or in sprays.

Ethylene oxide is a residue found in SLS which can cause eye damage and is considered a carcinogen by the David Suzuki Foundation as well as the International Agency for Research on Cancer. (7) Other studies have found that ehtylene oxide can damage the nervous system. 1,4-dioxane is a byproduct of SLS manufacturing that can cause kidney and liver damage, according to a 2012 health advisory put out by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. (8)

#2 Parabens

Parabens are commonly used artificial preservatives that have been shown to have a negative effect on the reproductive and endocrine systems. They mimic harmful forms of estrogen in the body, a fact to which even the FDA admits. (9) Synthetic estrogen mimics such as parabens are called “xenoestrogens.” Exposure to parabens was connected to low male sperm count in a 2009 Portuguese report. Xenoestrogens in general are a common cause of breast cancer in both men and women, according to multiple studies. (10) (11)

To make matters worse, according to Tasha Stoiber, PhD, Senior Scientist at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), parabens accumulate rapidly in the body because of the way they progressively lodge themselves in tissue. This means that their xeonestrogenic effects can be exponential. (12) 

Methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and ethylparaben are some common names parabens can go by on ingredient labels.

#1 Phthalates

Phthalates top the list as the most toxic skin care ingredient because of the havoc they can wreak on both the endocrine and nervous systems. They are used in conventional skin care products as solvents and stabilizers. Some products that use phthalates include lotions (including aftershave lotions), cleansers, and shampoos.

Like parabens, phthalates are also considered xenoestrogens and are particularly harmful for men. A study done at Yale University found that phthalates target testosterone production in particular, creating increased male reproductive cancer risk. (13)

Women are not immune to the harm phthalates can cause, however. A report put out by Harvard Health found that phthalates can interfere with a healthy pregnancy and may even encourage gestational diabetes. (14)

Phthalates have also been shown to cause harm to the nervous system, especially for the young. A 2021 study found that even low dose exposure to phthalates can cause nervous system damage and slow development during puberty. (15)

The (kind of) good news about all this is that, under the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA), the FDA does require that phthalates (as well as other harmful toxins) be disclosed in product ingredient listing whenever they are used. However, as I mentioned above, this disclosure does not include harmful substances, phthalates included, which are part of the creation of a company’s proprietary “fragrance” or “flavor.” (16)

The other names that phthalates may go by include di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP), diethyl phthalate (DEP), dimethyl phthalate (DMP), di-2-ethylhexyl (DEHP), and benzylbutyl phthalate (BzBP).

Make the Switch to Healthier Skin with CHARLíS!

My hope is that this “Top Five” list will give you the inspiration you may need to “make the switch” to healthier skincare products. Be sure to always read ingredient labels of the cosmetic products you are considering for purchase (and if they don’t offer an ingredient listing, don’t buy them!).

Better yet, connect with a company that you know has the highest integrity and the cleanest (and most naturally effective) luxury skincare and body care products out there.  

Hands down, that would be CHARLíS! Every single bottle in the CHARLíS Luxury Skincare line as well as the CHARLíS Luxury Body Care line must pass rigorous independent lab testing before it is ever considered for purchase by you. For more information about our unique ToxicFree® label (and the ToxicFree® Foundation, run by CHARLíS formula designer Linda Chae, who does the testing), be sure to check out this article.

Also be sure to read Part 2 of this 2-Part series, where I will disclose even more skincare substances to ABSOLUTELY avoid—harmful toxic chemicals that you will see regularly in commercial skincare products, but you will never find at CHARLíS!

References:

(1) Prohibited & Restricted Ingredients in Cosmetics.” Food and Drug Administration
(2) 3,163 ingredients hide behind the word “fragrance”
(3) Not So Sexy the Health Risks of Secret Chemicals  in Fragrance
(4) Benzyl Alcohol
(5) Formaldehyde and Cancer Risk
(6) Formaldehyde may be found in cosmetic products even when unlabelled
(7) The Dirty Dozen: Sodium Laureth Sulfate
(8) Toxicological Profile for 1,4-Dioxane.
(9) Cosmetics Safety Q&A: Parabens
(10) Parabens in male infertility—Is there a mitochondrial connection?  
(11) Estrogen and Xenoestrogens in Breast Cancer
(12) “What are Parabens, and Why Don’t They Belong in Cosmetics?” Environmental Working Group. 
(13) Bisphenol A Mimics Estrogen, Phthalates Target Testosterone
(14) Exposure to phthalates may raise risk of pregnancy loss, gestational diabetes
(15) Effects of pubertal exposure to low doses of di-(2-ethylexyl)phthalate on reproductive behaviors in male mice 
(16) Phthalates in Cosmetics

 

Reader Interactions

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *