Take a closer look at what’s inside typical beauty products — the facts get pretty ugly. From harsh chemicals that pose health risks to the prevalence of petroleum-derived ingredients, you might be surprised to learn that what’s inside all those bottles and tubes is ruining the planet and harming your health.

harmful ingredients in conventional beauty products

The first great difference between natural and conventional beauty products lies in the choice of the ingredients. First of all, the derivatives of oil, the chemical preservatives and the chemical dyes typical for conventional industry are excluded in a certified organic cosmetic. Without counting their harmful effects for the health of human beings, these ingredients are also extremely detrimental for the environment.

Another difference lies in the process of obtaining the ingredients and the finished product. Only processes respectful of the environment are used for the manufacture of an organic cosmetics product and only physical transformations are allowed: drying of the plants, wild gathering, extraction by distillation, filtration and purification, mixture, cold pressure, inter alia , which allows the preservation of all the properties of the active ingredients. Conventional industry uses processes of chemical extraction (by solvent), hot refining, of essential oils diluted to the maximum, irradiated clay, heated honey.

The vitamins are synthetic for conventional industry whereas they are natural for certified organic industry, and the minerals are extracted by solvent for the first and by processes paying a detailed attention to the site of extraction and the environment for the second.


Top Conventional Harmful Products and Their Ingredients We Use Everyday
Most conventional balms are made from petroleum-derived ingredients along with synthetic fragrances and parabens, endocrine disrupters that may contribute to reproductive and development disorders. Look for more natural alternatives that use a base of shea butter, cocoa butter or beeswax.
A swipe of lipstick may leave lead on your lips. A 2007 study commissioned by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found detectable levels of lead in 20 of the 33 top brand lipsticks tested. Lipstick is often ingested and even trace amounts of lead can build up in the body over time, leading to a host of health problems. Other eco-trouble in the tube: Petroleum-based waxes, synthetic colors and man-made oils. Since you won’t see lead listed on the ingredient list, choose lipsticks labeled “lead-free.”
Where there are bubbles, there’s usually sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) or sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), two harsh surfactants that are known eye and skin irritants. SLES is the gentler of the pair, but it is often contaminated with 1,4 dioxane, a probable human carcinogen, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). When this chemical swirls down your drain, it enters the waterway and can build up in marine life. Buy bottles labeled “sulfate-free.” You won’t get the same bubbling action, but your hair will get clean — guaranteed.
Traditional sunscreens are petroleum-based and don’t biodegrade. According to a study published in the Journal of Environmental Health Perspectives, about 6,000 tons of sunscreen enter the reefs through tourists, and it can lead to rapid coral bleaching. Many formulas also contain oxybenzane (linked to hormone disruption, cellular damage and allergies) and nanoparticles, which can have adverse health effects, linger in the environment and damage beneficial microbes. Choose organic SPF instead.
Like antibacterial hand soap, many deodorants contain triclosan. In addition, many formulas contain a laundry list of other potentially dangerous ingredients including formaldehyde, fragrance, parabens, phthalates, aluminum, talc and petroleum distillates. Natural and organic beauty brands such as Burt’s Bees and Dr. Hauschka boast chemical-free alternatives that generally call on citrus and herbal oils to keep you smelling fresh.
Many antibacterial products contain the germ-killing chemical triclosan, a hormone disruptor that is beginning to build up in our oceans. In fact, a 2009 study tested bottlenose dolphins off the coast of South Carolina and found the substance in one-third of the animals’ blood. Triclosan also kills algae, the first link in the marine food chain. Plain old soap and water should do the trick, but if you want extra germ-fighting power, look for natural and organic products that rely on essential oils or botanicals such as thyme or pine.

Many cleaning supplies or household products can irritate the eyes or the throat or cause headaches or other health problems. Some products release dangerous chemicals, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Other harmful ingredients include ammonia and bleach.
Many cleaning supplies or household products can irritate the eyes or the throat or cause headaches or other health problems. Some products release dangerous chemicals, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs). 

Products containing VOCs and other toxic substances can include:

  • Aerosol spray products, including health, beauty and cleaning products;
  • Air fresheners;
  • Chlorine bleach;
  • Detergent and dishwashing liquid;
  • Dry cleaning chemicals;
  • Rug and upholstery cleaners;
  • Furniture and floor polish; and
  • Oven cleaners.

What do you use to clean house or to clean your body everyday? Were you aware of the harmful effects?

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