EDCs in Skin Care: Ingredients to Avoid

In the United States, skin care products are not well regulated or screened for true safety. While other countries have banned hundreds of ingredients in personal care products, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned only 11 chemicals. 

There’s no doubt that we can improve our health by avoiding EDCs.  So far, we’ve provided you with ways to reduce your chemical body load, product substitutes, and resources to do your own research to learn more about EDCs. 

But what about for those moments when you’re standing in the aisle of a store, starting at a label and wondering, “Is this product hormone-safe?” 

Turns out, our favorite everyday beauty products might secretly be packed with ingredients that are actually wreaking havoc with our hormones. 

An average woman uses 12 products with more than 168 chemicals in them every morning. Research shows that some of these chemical ingredients are EDCs, which throw our hormones out of balance and can trigger a variety of side effects, infertility, endometriosis, early puberty, altered nervous system function, immune function, certain cancers, respiratory problems, metabolic issues, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular problems, growth, neurological and learning disabilities, and more. 

When you look at an ingredients label for a personal care product, 6 of the most common ingredients that you should avoid are: 

  1. Synthetic Fragrance
  2. Phthalates
  3. Parabens
  4. BPA
  5. Sodium lauryl (ether) sulfate (SLS, SLES)
  6. Formaldehyde.

When it comes to ingredients, a fantastic resource is The Environmental Working Group (EWG).  EWG has an easy-to-use database called Skin Deep that contains information about ingredients used in personal care products.  You can also search for EWG approved products. 

However, if you’d like a quick, Hugh & Grace approved rundown on the skin care ingredients you should be avoiding and why you should avoid them, then this post is for you! 

Hugh and Grace products are always hormone-safe, meaning each product excludes known EDCs and are also designed to help detox, repair, and protect your skin from toxic chemicals and hormone disruptors. Our products are clean but go a step further and do not contain ingredients that are considered EDCs. 

 
Synthetic Fragrance 

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), Fragrance is the biggest cause of cosmetic contact dermatitis.  Fragrance has proven hormone disrupting effects and is associated with headaches, dizziness, asthma, allergies, and rashes. 

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) does not require fragrance ingredients to be individually listed on labels, even though they might contain synthetic, preservative, or allergy-provoking substances that you might want to know about.  This exemption was originally developed to protect a company’s proprietary perfume blend or trade secrets, under the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1966.  

Unfortunately, “fragrance-free” is not always enough.  Many companies use chemicals to mask fragrance, which defeats the purpose of avoiding the chemicals in fragrance. 

Instead, look for beauty products that plainly state what’s scenting it: On the back label, “fragrance” should be followed by a list of ingredients in parentheses. Or look for a product that uses essential oils instead of “fragrance (parfum).” 

Phthalates 

Phthalates are often added to personal care products, such as nail polish, perfumes, deodorants, hair gels, shampoos, soaps, hair sprays, and body lotions, to help lubricate other substances in the formula and to carry fragrances. 

Phthalates must be listed among the ingredients on product labels, unless they are added as a part of the “fragrance.” Under current law, they can then simply be labeled “fragrance,” even though they may make up 20% or more of the product. 

Many companies have voluntarily removed phthalates from their products, in which case the company will usually label its product “phthalate-free.” 

To avoid phthalates, steer clear of the follow ingredients: 

  • BBP: butyl benzyl phthalate 
  • DBP: di-n-butyl phthalate, most common phthalate added to nail polish 
  • DEHP: di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate 
  • DEP: diethyl phthalate, most common phthalate added to personal care products to enhance fragrance 
  •  DiDP: di-isodecyl phthalate 
  • DiNP: di-isononyll phthalate 
  • DnHP: di-n-hexyl phthalate 
  • DnOP: di-n-octyl phthalate 

Phthalates are also found in the containers that hold personal care products.  An easy way to check that a container is free of phthalates is to look for the number 3 inside the universal recycling symbol usually molded into the plastic on the bottom of the product. Avoid products with the number 3 within the arrows and the letters “V” or “PVC” below the arrows. 

Parabens 

Luckily, The FDA requires that the parabens be listed on the ingredients label if the product contains them. 

Parabens are a controversial ingredient and can be found in many everyday beauty products. They’re used as a type of preservative, to prolong shelf life, but are widely believed to disrupt hormone function by mimicking estrogen. Too much estrogen can trigger cell division and the growth of tumors, which is why paraben use has been previously linked to breast cancer and reproductive issues. 

In fact, a study published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology in 2004 detected parabens in breast tumors and discussed their estrogen-like properties. While this doesn’t create a direct connection with cancer, we recommend avoiding these ingredients. 

To avoid parabens, opt for products that are labeled “paraben-free” and avoid the following ingredients: 

  • Ethylparaben 
  • Methylparaben 
  • Propylparaben 
  •  Butylparaben 
  • Isopropylparaben 
  • Isobutylparaben 

BPA 

BPA has been linked to everything from breast and other cancers to reproductive problems, obesity, early puberty and heart disease. 

While BPAs probably won’t show up on an ingredients list, they could be present in the containers holding your products. 

Avoid plastics marked with a “PC,” for polycarbonate, or recycling label #7. Not all of these plastics contain BPA, but many do – and it’s better safe than sorry when it comes to keeping synthetic hormones out of your body. 

Sodium lauryl (ether) sulfate (SLS, SLES) 

Sodium laureth sulfate (sometimes referred to as SLES) is used in cosmetics as a detergent and to make products bubble and foam. It is common in shampoos, shower gels and facial cleansers.  

The same chemical can be found in many floor cleaners and even engine degreasers – gross! 

According to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database, SLS is a “moderate hazard” that has been linked to cancer, neurotoxicity, organ toxicity, skin irritation and endocrine disruption. 

The best way to avoid this chemical is to opt for shampoos, body washes, hand soaps, and toothpaste brands that are labeled as “SLS free.”  

Formaldehyde 

According to data from the federal Food and Drug Administration, nearly 1 in 5 cosmetic products contains a substance that generates formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen.  

Formaldehyde releasers were first put into cosmetics to keep them from spoiling and causing bacterial or fungal infections and to prolong their shelf life.  It can be found in nail products, hair dye, fake-eyelash adhesives and some shampoos. It has been banned in other countries. 

The product label will rarely tell you explicitly if formaldehyde is present. If you want to avoid products that contain formaldehyde-releasing chemicals, look for the following on the ingredients list: 

  • DMDM hydantoin 
  • Imidazolidinyl urea 
  • Diazolidinyl urea 
  • Quaternium-15 
  •  Bronopol (2bromo2nitropropane1,3-diol) 
  • 5-Bromo-5-nitro-1,3-dioxane 
  •  Hydroxymethylglycinate 

It can be overwhelming to find products that are hormone safe.  We recommend saving this post so that it’s easily accessible next time you find yourself staring at the back of a product in the pharmacy aisle. 

Remember, if you wouldn’t eat the ingredients, then you shouldn’t be putting it on your skin!