Ten Ingredients To Avoid in Your Face Products

A quick skim of this list reads like a prescription from Dr. Obvious. Clearly nobody wants lead or petroleum on their faces, right? But if you’ve been reading this series, our blog, or our book...

A quick skim of this list reads like a prescription from Dr. Obvious. Clearly nobody wants lead or petroleum on their faces, right? But if you’ve been reading this series, our blog, or our book, you know that the cosmetics industry uses all kinds of ingredients in its products—some dangerous, some just plain confusing. What many of them have in common is that that don't belong anywhere near our largest organ.

Here’s why: Many of them have pretty damning scientific data on record. They’re also not doing anything for your appearance—and in some cases they may be making matters worse. And thus, here is our mantra: If you can't be sure a product is safe, and it isn't doing your looks any favors, why bother using it? With that in mind, here’s a top-10 list of common ingredients, contaminants, and byproducts that are bad for your health and duds for your face.


\n1. Petroleum and related petrochemicals The danger risk for this group of ingredients ranges from a mellow yellow to code red. Petroleum distillates are toxic solvents used in mascara, hairspray, and callus treatments. But your run-of-the-mill moisturizer probably contains something like mineral oil or paraffin in it, which are not considered dangerous per se, they're just really, really bad for the environment and they suffocate the skin and may interfere with perspiration.

\n2. Lead-tainted lipstick In 2009 the FDA discovered that of 20 lipsticks it tested, 20 were contaminated with lead. In many cases, the lead levels exceeded those set by that same FDA for candy—and since they don’t set restrictions for cosmetics, this feels like a fair model of comparison, right? Not so according to the FDA, which claims that we don’t eat our lipstick. Lead is a neurotoxin and lipstick goes on our mouths, which combine to make this debate officially ridiculous. Go for organic small-batch lipstick lines, or kiss a beet instead.

\n3. Formaldehyde-leaching preservatives Our crusade for clean cosmetics started after the discovery of formaldehyde in a hair treatment (and later in our nail polish), but this known carcinogen is also “donated,” as the pros like to say, by preservatives such as quaternium-15, DMDM-hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, and diazolidinyl urea. That means it’s both pervasive and often unlisted, not appearing as an ingredient on labels. It's considered a human carcinogen by many health agencies worldwide, and when it’s not giving rats nose cancer, it might still be giving you a rash.

4. Fragrance It’s broken-record time, but here goes: Fragrance is in everything from your fancy perfume to your face wash. It represents a concoction of mystery ingredients, whose secrecy is protected by industry-ass-kissing trade laws. Lab studies by the EWG have shown them to contain a whole cocktail of hormone disruptors (among other things). Which is nice, since our hormones regulate, oh, everything: genital size, fertility, weight, acne, and beyond.

\n5. Parabens This popular preservative group used in more than 10,000 products became very controversial when their presence was discovered in the tissue of breast tumors. What that data actually means is hotly debated but studies have shown that certain parabens mimic estrogen, the female sex hormone. This could be bad news for both men and women. Look for ingredients on the label with "paraben" as a suffix to avoid these bad boys.

6. Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES) These surfactants get a lot of finger wagging when we talk about shampoo: That’s because they strip out natural oils, force you to use more products, and are sometimes contaminated with a carcinogen called 1,4-dioxane. This last fact is actually making more news in China than it is here, and carcinogens aside, they also strip your skin and scalp of their protective barriers, which we need for protection. Surfactants are also known irritants.

7. Triclosan This very powerful antimicrobial—used in everything from hand soap and face wash to deodorant and acne treatments—has a serious ugly side. For one, it stays in our bodies. There’s concern that regular exposure to the stuff may actually be creating resistant strains of bacteria and hermaphroditic marine life, just like Atrazine. It may also impact thyroid function. It's easy to find on labels. If it says triclosan, put it down.

\n8. Chemical Sunscreens We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again: Your best sunscreens are ones formulated from physical blockers like titanium dioxide and zinc. Popular chemical sunscreen ingredient oxybenzone is a suspected hormone disruptor that penetrates skin easily and quite possibly brings its toxic friends with. It’s also considered a common allergen that can result in a variety of unpleasant and unsightly skin reactions.

\n9. Hydroquinone This skin-lightning ingredient is objectionable for so many reasons: It’s incredibly toxic, it speaks to a disturbing cultural beauty standard, and it’s easily abused to detrimental effects. Exhibit A: It’s a suspected carcinogen that, according to industry “guidelines,” shouldn’t be used in formulations above 1 percent or be left on skin. But it is, and it’s available at 2 percent over the counter and 4 percent by prescription. Exhibit B: It’s banned in Europe. Exhibit C: Blue-black lesions are also a possible side effect.

10. Nanoparticles These itty-bitty particles are a new industry favorite despite how little we actually know about them or their safety. According to Dr. Michael DiBartolomeis, a toxicologist and the chief of the California Safe Cosmetics Program, a nano may be able to “get into places it shouldn’t get into—like cells or DNA.” And what else will this cat drag in? Hard to say, but some experts suspect a lot. We certainly wouldn’t want them in the same products as the nine ingredients listed above, would you?

This is a series inspired by No More Dirty Looks: The Truth About Your Beauty Products and the Ultimate Guide to Safe and Clean Cosmetics, a book by Siobhan O'Connor and her Alexandra Spunt.

Read more on their blog

Illustrations by Brianna Harden

via Collection of the New-York Historical Society / Wikimedia Commons

Fredrick Douglass was born into slavery in 1818. At the age of 10 he was given to the Auld family.

As a child, he worked as a house slave and was able to learn to read and write, and he attempted to teach his fellow slaves the same skills.

At the age of 15, he was given to Thomas Auld, a cruel man who beat and starved his slaves and thwarted any opportunity for them to practice their faith or to learn to read or write.

Keep Reading Show less
via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

RELATED: 'High Castle' producers destroyed every swastika used on the show and the video is oh-so satisfying

In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

via Chela Horsdal / Twitter

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

The show is loosely based on an alternative history novel by Philip K. Dick that postulates what would happen if Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan controlled the United States after being victorious in World War II.

Keep Reading Show less
via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

RELATED: Alan Turing will appear on the 50-pound note nearly 70 years after being persecuted for his sexuality

Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?


Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet