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4 Harmful Ingredients To Avoid In Skincare

Harmful Ingredients To Avoid In Skincare

It’s important to be mindful of what goes in and on our bodies and there is no shortage of information about harmful skincare product ingredients online. However, today I’d like to highlight a few ingredient categories that are definite no-nos for me, not only in regards to my body but also the environment.

(And then, because you know I just can’t not talk product, I want to share some of my all-time favorite clean products as well as some new ones that I have become fully obsessed with this year.)

One of my top sources for ingredient intel and up-and-coming brands is Beauty Heroes. I’ve been a huge fan for years – I can’t even count how many products and brands Jeannie and the team have brought into my life, and I never have to worry because Beauty Heroes has the strictest ingredient standard in the industry for people AND the planet. Ingredients that negatively impact the environment (whether that be how they are sourced, packaged, or if they aren’t biodegradable) simply aren’t welcome at Beauty Heroes. I love that.

Not to mention I’ve had the Beauty Heroes’ handy little pocket guide in my wallet for eons – even clean beauty bloggers have brain farts once in a while and need a little cheat sheet. #iblameperimenopause Beauty Heroes just released a brand new and updated version that you can download here. It’s super helpful!

Let’s take a look at some of the harmful ingredient categories that are no-nos for me…

4 Harmful Ingredients To Avoid In Skincare

Ethoxylated Ingredients

This entire class of ingredients goes through the chemical process of ethoxylation which may leave products contaminated with 1,4 Dioxane, a known carcinogen and nerve toxin. 1,4 Dioxane is a solvent and stabilizer used in all kinds of products such as adhesives, inks, nail polish. And is listed as one of the ingredients known to cause cancer under California’s Prop 65.

But wait. If it’s in adhesives and inks, why is it in skincare products? Well, the truth is that 1,4 Dioxane is a by-product of the process of ethoxylation. So while it’s not listed specifically in the ingredient list, it most definitely can still be in your products. Ethoxylated surfactants are found in personal care products such as toothpaste, body wash, bubble baths, and hair care products. Not cool.

Look out for these common ethoxylated ingredients:

Acrylates Copolymer
Ceteareth -12, -20, -25, -30
Cocamidopropyl Betaine
Emulsifying Wax
Isosteareth-20
Laureth-7

Silicones and Petroleum-Based Ingredients

Not gonna lie – silicones make hair and skin silky smoooooth, but Jeannie from Beauty Heroes really gets to the heart of the issue with silicones in this post:

“Silicones in skincare are highly functional, practically indestructible, water and heat resistant and made from one of the most abundant resources on earth, silica, meaning it’s cheap and easy to produce. When used in skincare and makeup, silicones are responsible for that airbrushed quality we all want, superficially filling in fine lines and wrinkles so skin looks smooth.

Silicones provide an emollient slip to the surface of the skin and hair, and because of silicones’ molecular size and structure, they are both porous and resistant to air. This means that they form a breathable barrier on top of the skin, protecting moisture loss, while other active ingredients will be absorbed. Sounds like a pretty amazing ingredient for skincare, and the vast majority of skincare brands and their formulators agree.

But there’s an invisible truth to silicones that is slowly coming to light: how this ingredient is affecting our environment.

Whether we are talking about tiny particles added into your favorite lip gloss, or the flexible rubbery plastic covering for your favorite kitchen utensil, silicone is derivative of silicon, the most abundant element on earth after oxygen. Silicon, an element that results from heating silica (sand) at a high temperature, is called a metalloid element, which means it contains the properties of metals and nonmetals. Silicones are made synthetically of the element silicon bonded with other elements, most commonly hydrocarbons from fossil fuel, to form what we classify as silicone; and it’s got a very different makeup than where it started.

The methods for obtaining and processing silicones have received much criticism from environmentalists.

While silicone is arguably more environmentally friendly than plastic in the kitchen when used in skin and haircare, tiny particles that are impossible to filter get washed down the drain and released back into our waterways and oceans. Whether silicones ever fully biodegrade is arguable, but we know that if they do, it takes a very long time. And in the meantime, these particles are being introduced into our water and food sources as invisible micro-silicone particles that we can’t see or sense, but we are ingesting. When you consider that somewhere around 50 percent (give or take) of all beauty and personal care products introduced into the marketplace contain one or several silicone ingredients, the sheer amount of this synthetic, persistent ingredient being introduced into the environment is staggering.

Until recently, these microparticles have been mostly ignored because if we can’t manage the volume of visible, large scale ocean plastic pollution, it seems futile to try to convince consumers that we must also stop invisible micro silicone particles from being introduced into our environment. It’s tempting to think that if you can’t see it, it can’t be doing that much harm. But, we know better.”

Look out for these ingredients:

Cyclomethicone
Cyclopentasiloxane
Dimethicone
Dimethylsilanediol
Isopropyl Alcohol
Mineral Oil
Nylon
Paraffin Wax
PEGs
Polydimethylsiloxane
Propylene Glycol
Propyl Alcohol

Fragrance (Parfum)

Uggghhhh, the ingredient “fragrance” or “parfum” is really such a buzzkill, y’all. These two terms can mask one, ten, or hundreds of ingredients that are totally toxic. Thanks to trade secret laws developed by our government decades ago, brands don’t have to disclose this information. They simply have to list “fragrance,” period. Make sure you know the exact components of a product’s fragrance.

I posted about this specific issue in detail, as well as some of my favorite natural fragrances here.

Reef-Harming Chemical Sunscreens

While reef-harming chemical sunscreens like Oxybenzone and Octinoxate are being banned in states and countries around the world, there are other chemical sunscreens cropping up all the time and it’s been proven that chemical sunscreens penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream after just one use. Until they are thoroughly studied, the best choice for our bodies and environment are mineral ingredients such as Non-Nano Zinc, and Titanium Oxide.

My Favorite Safe Skincare Products

Here’s a short list (Hey, I kept it below 10! That’s great for me.) of some of my very favorite clean beauty products. Some probably aren’t surprises. Nut I have a new deodorant, dry shampoo, and concealer in my life this year that I can’t get enough of lately. You can purchase all of these from the Beauty Heroes shop. And don’t forget to check out the great gift with purchase at the end of this post!

Le Prunier Plum Beauty Oil

I started using Le Prunier Plum Beauty Oil as my daily moisturizer about a year ago and I’m still enamored. The oil has one ingredient only -Prunus Domestica Seed Oil. (Comes from the seed of a plum.) When it comes to oil moisturizers, I prefer the least amount of ingredients as possible. And you just can’t beat ONE ingredient here. For me, the more ingredients you have in a product, the more chances you have for experiencing irritation, sensitivity, and/or congestion. So if a new product launches boasting 27! Botanical! Ingredients! you can bet I’ll be running the other way.

So what does Prunus Domestica Seed Oil do for the face? Well, it’s 8x more powerful than Argan oil and 6x more powerful than Marula oil in protecting the skin from damaging free radicals, so that’s a nice start…it’s also an anti-aging, multi-purpose oil that balances, restores and refreshes the skin. Le Prunier’s patent-pending blend of plum varietals is naturally abundant in essential antioxidants, nourishing omega fatty acids 6 & 9 and powerful polyphenols, all of which help protect the skin from damaging free radicals. It’s also rich in pro-Vitamin A & E to assist with healing and hydration.

The viscosity of this oil is so luxurious.

It has the perfect slip on the skin – thick enough to feel nourishing and hydrating. But weightless on the skin and absorbs very rapidly. Normal/Dry skin types are going to love this one. (By the way, this oil is ideal for all skin types – especially acne-prone, extremely sensitive, and/or allergy-prone skin.)

You guys, let’s talk about the scent for a second because it is EVERYTHING. Smells like marzipan and/or almonds and I just want to bathe in this stuff all day long. It makes that last skincare step so lovely because I can smell the amazing scent lingering throughout the day and evening.

(Interestingly enough, one of the reasons I adore the Beautycounter Countermatch Adaptive Body Moisturizer and use it every day on my body is the scent. And come to find out, it has plum seed oil in it as well, hence the lovely smell! I obviously have a thing for plums, peeps.)

Oh, and let’s not forget it’s a natural UV Sunscreen Booster. It helps to naturally fortify and protect the skin barrier from the sun and solar UV radiation. Oh! And you can use it on your hair. BONUS BONUS.

Josh Rosebrook Active Enzyme Exfoliator

Friends, I can promise you it’s a very rare occurrence if the Josh Rosebrook Active Enzyme Exfoliator isn’t on my face every Sunday. This exfoliator supports the feeling of healthy cell turnover with enzymes from honey, papaya, yucca, beetroot, and elderberry that naturally soften and brighten the skin’s appearance. And man, it does its job. My skin looks brand spanking new (not a dead skin cell in sight!) when I wash this off my face.

josh rosebrook active enzyme exfoliator

The great thing is that it’s a chemical (natural enzymes like papaya) and physical (very finely milled walnut shells) exfoliant, so you’re getting the best of both worlds. I’ve tried A LOT of exfoliators, and this one is seriously impressive.

Josh Rosebrook Nutrient Day Cream SPF 30

The Josh Rosebrook Nutrient Day Cream SPF 30 is a must-have! This dual-action day cream performs as a regenerating moisturizer and natural, broad-spectrum sunscreen. The Nutrient Day Cream delivers a potent combination of distinct herbal actives and plant oils to repair, moisturize and protect skin and the lightweight cream finishes matte, smooth, and comfortable without a white cast. A high-quality uncoated, non-nano, high micron zinc oxide provides effective sunblock against skin-damaging solar rays.

This cream is perfect for all skin types (including oily and acne-prone) and has a seriously impressive list of ingredients including organic oils of hemp, borage, and sea buckthorn, as well as bilberry, catnip, and marshmallow root, to name a few. Tons of antioxidants brighten and firm while enzymatic action ignites tissue cell metabolism, slowing down the aging process of the skin.

Long story short, this is way more than a daily SPF. It’s like a superfood for my skin and most importantly, looks great on. No white residue can be found immediately after applying which I know can be such a dealbreaker with other facial SPF products. It’s an SPF game changer in my book.

Innersense Whipped Cream Texturizer

The Innersense Whipped Cream Texturizer is a godsend for humidity and frizz! I apply this to dry hair as my last step in styling to add separation and texture. It also smells flipping amazing.

Harmful Ingredients To Avoid In Skincare

added texture and separation with the innersense texturizer

Cleo + Coco Dry Shampoo/Body Powder

Could it be, friends? COULD IT BE I’ve finally found a dry shampoo that I love?! I had all but given up on dry shampoo until I was introduced to Cleo + Coco Dry Shampoo/Body Powder in a Beauty Heroes discovery earlier this year.

I love the Basil Mint scent – it’s fresh, lovely, and helps to make 3rd-day bangs look less sad. It even blends well into my dark brunette hair. This gets a huge thumbs up from me.

(Oh! Post-workout, when you can’t hop directly in the shower, but your sports bra is quite damp with sweat? Pat a little of this super absorbent powder on your bra line and life will instantly feel better.)

Harmful Ingredients To Avoid In Skincare

Cleo + Coco Charcoal Deodorant

I thought I would never stray from my trusty Taos AER Deodorant, but when I tried the Cleo + Coco Charcoal Deodorant in Grapefruit Bergamot, I never looked back. I have seriously worn this deodorant every day since I applied it for the first time. No odor, no wetness, no staining…it is SO GOOD.

Comes in 3 scents…might try the Basil Mint next. But I really love the fresh, citrus scent of the Grapefruit Bergamot.

Rituel de Fille Ethereal Veil Concealer

I can’t count how many times the Rituel de Fille Concealer has been recommended to me over the years and I’m not quite sure why it took me so long to pull the trigger, considering I thoroughly enjoy Rituel de Fille products!

Harmful Ingredients To Avoid In Skincare

Well, I’m glad I did because this product is exceptional. While the Kosas Concealer is still a huge favorite, this concealer acts a little differently on the face and I’ve been loving it this summer! I general, the Kosas concealer has a super creamy, glowy finish. Whereas the Rituel de Fille concealer is much more of a satin matte on the face. (Meaning it’s not as light-reflecting.) The textures are different too – Kosas is much more of a liquid and RdF is a cream base.

The concealer is super silky and blendable and doesn’t sit in my pores or look heavy at all. I love it as a spot treatment, undereye concealer, and a foundation. Key ingredients are Jojoba oil, Frankincense,  Castor oil, and Lanolin.

I wear the shade Metis in the warmer months when I have some color and Ceres works for my paler months. I highly recommend this concealer!

Fitglow Lip Serums

Fitglow Lip Serums are so much more than lip gloss. They plump, they hydrate, they make my lips look impossibly fuller. And the scent? Straight from vanilla mint heaven. Never sticky or too “glossy,” they feel absolutely amazing on the lips. I truly can’t say enough about these serums.

So how do these serums make my lips so dang soft and lovely? Well, they are made with Organic Pomegranate Plant Sterols, Beet Extract, Vegan Collagen, and antioxidants that help improve lip cell structure and health, as well as diminishing fine lines. (Which this 43-year-old very much appreciates.) Organic pomegranate sterols penetrate lips and hold double their weight in water to increase hydration, improve moisture barrier function, and enhance lip fullness. Vegetable micro collagen is fundamental to maintaining the structure firmness and plumpness of lips. And Organic beet extract improves lip circulation to promote detoxification and plumpness. And what about this plumping? How does it happen exactly? Well, it occurs due to a combination of organic phospholipids from bio ferment extracts that naturally plump the lips without irritation. The moisture in our skin causes these vessels to swell, resulting in a minimized appearance of fine lines and increased lip fullness.

BAM. Plump lips ahoy.

Right now, Beauty Heroes is offering a full-size Fitglow Lip Serum in Cherry (my favorite subtle red!) with a purchase of $100 or more with the code WHOORLFAVES. And as an added bonus, if you make a purchase of $125+ you’ll get both the Lip Serum and an Osmia Water Body Oil (1oz).

All of these products are massive favorites of mine – as always, let me know if you have any questions in the comments and I will be happy to help!

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4 Comments
  • Glenda

    August 17, 2020 at 2:15 pm

    I’ve been using Le Prunier oil for eight months now and it is amazing!!! Need to try the Josh Rosebrook exfoliator and the Rituel de Fille concealer. Great recommendations, as always. Thank you!

  • whoorl

    August 17, 2020 at 2:19 pm

    You are welcome! Both the concealer and exfoliator are must-haves!

  • Autum Wentworth

    August 17, 2020 at 9:41 pm

    I love your blog and all the recommendations but I’m curious why BC Adaptive Moisturizer is considered non-toxic and safe. One of the ingredients is salicylic acid which I thought was toxic and definitely not allowed to use while pregnant or breastfeeding. Am I wrong? I get a horrible Reaction when using salicylic acid. Maybe it’s just me?

  • whoorl

    August 18, 2020 at 5:01 pm

    Hi Autum, such a bummer to hear about your reaction to salicylic acid! Sounds like your issue is a personal allergy opposed to a toxicity issue. Salicylic acid, like many other ingredients, can become toxic at very high doses – usually above 6% when covering 40%+ of the body. Fortunately, it is not toxic in small doses – some doctors even say it’s okay to use in pregnancy in formulations with less than 2% although I always err on the cautious side.

    The Beautycounter Body Moisturizer has less than 0.5% salicylic acid in the formulation so it’s quite safe.