7 Skincare Ingredients With An Undeserved Bad Reputation

by Gio
7 skincare ingredients with an undeserved bad reputation


Parabens will give me breast cancer?

Propylene Glycol is an anti-freeze?

Even talc isn’t safe anymore? What have I been doing to my children all this time?!

*throws away all skincare products*

I hear ya. Consulting Auntie Google to find out what’s lurking in your skincare products is scary. According to her, EVERYTHING will you give you cancer. She likes to panic that way.

So, don’t ask Auntie Google. Ask Lady Science. She has a different opinion on the bad boys of skincare. Below, she sets the record straight on 7 cosmetic ingredients with an undeserved bad reputation:

parabens and formaldehyde controversy

1. Parabens


Preservatives. Parabens kill any germ, bacteria and fungi that dares slither its way into your precious lotions and potions, so you don’t get an infection. The most common parabens found in skincare products are:

  • Butylparaben
  • Ethylparaben
  • Methylparaben
  • Propylparaben


There are two main rumours that are scaring people off Parabens:

  • Parabens were found in breast tissue affected with breast cancer, so that’s incontrovertible proof they’re the only thing that could have caused the disease.
  • Parabens are hormone disruptors.


Let’s start debunking the cancer myth. There’s only one study that found a “link” between cancer and parabens and it’s riddled with holes:

  • Small sample: Only 20 people were tested.
  • No control group: Scientists didn’t bother comparing the diseased tissue with healthy tissue. If parabens were found in healthy tissue, too, then they CAN’T be the cause of cancer.
  • Unknown patients’ history: researched didn’t record what (if any) skincare products patients used. How can you blame skincare products with parabens if you don’t even know patients used them?!

And their estrogenic activity? That’s too low to do you any harm.

P.S. That’s just a brief recap. I go into more details why Parabens are safe in this post.

Related: Parabens Are Safe: Why Science Says You Shouldn’t Fear Them

Want to know what ingredients you really need to avoid in your skincare products? Sign up to the newsletter below to receive the “Skincare Ingredients To Avoid” cheatsheet:

neutrogena t gel 2 in 1 dandruff shampoo

2. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate


Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is a cleansing agent. It helps oils and dirt mix with water so they can be rinsed away.


There are a few rumours going around SLS:

  • SLS is irritating as hell
  • SLS causes hair loss
  • SLS gives you cancer


SLS IS irritating as hell. I’ll give you that. I personally avoid it for this reason. If there are gentler options, we should those, right?

But I’m also a stickler for the truth. SLS is irritating enough as it is, there’s no reason to make up rumours to make it sound even more dangerous. Yet, that’s what people are doing.

The last two rumours are BS:

  • I couldn’t find ANY proof that SLS causes hair loss.
  • SLS isn’t classified as carcinogenic by any regulatory agency or cancer authority.

These last two claims are completely made up.

Related: Should You Avoid Products With SLS?

mineral oil myths debunked

3. Mineral Oil


Mineral oil is a byproduct of oil that’s a godsend for dry and sensitive skin. It’s so moisturising, it leaves it soft and smooth for hours. Plus, it creates a barrier on the skin that protects it from environmental aggressors, such as harsh weather and pollutants.


  • IT’S A BYPRODUCT OF OIL! What more proof do you need to realise it will kill you?
  • It makes you break out, too.


Yes, mineral oil is a byproduct of oil but that doesn’t mean that you’re slathering oil on your face. Cosmetic Grade Mineral Oil (the only type of mineral oil allowed in cosmetics) undergoes a strict purifying process that removes all the toxic, nasty stuff in it. The end result doesn’t even resemble petroleum anymore. It’s a completely different thing.

What about pimples? There’s a kernel of truth here. Mineral oil is NOT comedogenic. It’s just occlusive. It creates a barrier on the skin that traps moisture in. But if your skin is dirty or you’re using products with comedogenic ingredients, then it will trap those, too. And those CAN make you breakout.

In plain English: use mineral oil alone is fine. Using it with comedogenic ingredients will make you breakout.

Related: Is Mineral Oil Bad For Skin?

cult 51 immediate effect serum 01

4. Silicones


Silicones are a family of ingredients that give slip to products, fill in fine lines and wrinkles and lock in moisture. Its most famous members are Dimethicone, Cyclomethicone and Cyclopentasiloxane. If it ends in “cone,” it’s usually a silicone (there are exceptions).


Silicones suffocate the skin and make you break out. Those are the rumours, anyway.


Let’s get something out of the way. Skin can’t breathe. It doesn’t have lungs. Silicones (or anything else, for that matter) CAN’T suffocate it.

The rumour started because of the misunderstood nature of the barrier silicones create. Most occlusives, like mineral oil, create an even barrier on the skin. But, silicones have a special molecular structure made up of huge molecules with gaps between each one.

This allows silicones to trap water into the skin without interfering with skin perspiration or the absorption of active ingredients.

P.S. If you have oily skin and use them with comedogenic ingredients, you’ll still break out. But silicones alone can’t give you pimples.

Related: Do Silicones Prevent Active Ingredients From Penetrating The Skin?

epionce renewal facial lotion review

5. Petrolatum


You probably know it as vaseline. It’s another super moisturising byproduct of oil. Like mineral oil, it creates a barrier on the skin that moisturises it and protects it from environmental aggressors.


IT’S A BYPRODUYCT OF OIL!! IT’S THE DEVIL! It will give you cancer. That’s why it’s banned in the European Union.

That’s what critics say…


I guess those who spread this rumour have never visited Europe. I’m an Italian living in London who’s travelled around the continent a bit and I can assure you, vaseline is available in every European country.

Again, pure petroleum can’t be used in cosmetics. But vaseline is refined and processed to make it safe. It’s not dangerous and it won’t give you cancer. There is no scientific study claiming otherwise.

bioderma pigmentbio daily care spf 50+

6. Propylene Glycol


Propylene Glycol is an organic alcohol derived from oil (are you starting to see a theme here?). It keeps your lotions and potions from freezing at low temperatures and melting at high ones.


IT’S AN ANTI-FREEZE! That MUST give you cancer. Or so they say…


First things first. Propylene Glycol IS used an anti-freeze… at 100% concentrations! In skincare products, it’s usually around the 5% mark. Too low to cause any problems.

Don’t believe me? Even the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry doesn’t list it as a carcinogenic. 

Related: Is Propylene Glycol Dangerous?

7. Talc


Talc is a mineral used to absorb excess oil and improve the feel of products.


Talc causes ovarian cancer. Recently, Johnson & Johnson has lost several trials involving claims talc in its products cause the disease. If they’ve been found guilty of using a carcinogen in their products, talc must be dangerous, right?


I know it’s scary when even the law believes the claims that talc causes cancer. But remember that juries are composed of people who know nothing about science. They don’t know how to read scientific studies, but are terrorised at the mere mention of cancer (for good reason).

When the news came out, scientists were surprised. They’ve been repeating ever since that there’s NO link between cancer and talc. 

Although there are some studies showing talc may increase the risk of cancer, these are flawed and report no direct causation. Truth is, we need more studies to be 100% sure one way or another.

In the meantime, I don’t use talc on your private parts (just to be on the safe side). But there’s no need to avoid talc completely.

Related: Is Talc Dangerous?

The Bottom Line

I personally wouldn’t use SLS because it’s irritating and avoid talc on my private parts, but there’s no reason to avoid the other ingredients. They’ve been unfairly maligned because of their synthetic origin.

Are you surprised by what science says about these unfairly maligned ingredients? Share your thoughts in the comments below.



theetinygoat December 15, 2010 - 2:31 pm

Thank you!! It’s nice to finally hear someone address these ingredients in an unbiased way!

beautifulwithbrains December 15, 2010 - 4:17 pm

Theetinygoat, you’re welcome and I’m glad you liked this post! I’m tired of reading scary claims about these ingredients when there is no proof that they are harmful for human health and I hope this post helps set the record straight on them.

Olivia December 15, 2010 - 3:35 pm

Passerò per la polica di turno, ma non affatto d’accordo con te: per dire che molti di questi ingredienti, in particolare petrolati, olio minerale e siliconi, non fanno bene alla pelle, ho provato sulla mia di pelle… oltre a non avere alcun tipo di buon effetto, me la lasciano spenta e disidrata. ovviamente poi il mio non è un rifiuto a priori, guardo sempre in che posizione sono nell’inci, ma ritengo che i prodotti a base di attivi vegetali in genere siano nettamente superiori. poi ci sono delle eccezioni, per esempio l’acido jaluronico

beautifulwithbrains December 15, 2010 - 4:30 pm

Olivia, non passi per polemica, ognuno ha le sue opinioni e le sue esperienze ed è giusto che le esprima. Non mi aspetto certo che tutti siamo sempre d’accordo con me.

Come ho detto alla fine dell’articolo non penso che tutti questi ingredienti facciano bene a tutti. La pelle di ognuno di noi è diversa e quindi lo stesso prodotto o ingrediente funziona in modo diverso. La mia pelle per esempio è l’opposto della tua. Io uso sia prodotti naturali che quelli sintetici tradizionali e onestamente la mia pelle si trova molto meglio con i secondi. Poi certo ci sono delle eccezioni e un paio di prodotti naturali di cui non posso fare a meno.

Quello che volevo dire però è che se una persona prova un prodotto con i petrolati per esempio e vede che le lascia la pelle spenta come è successo a te, allora è giusto che li eviti. Ma se uno mi dice che i petrolati fanno venire il cancro perchè derivano dal petrolio allora mi “incavolo” perchè non è vero.

Poi che ci sono persone a cui questi ingredienti non danno alcun beneficio e possono invece provocare irritazioni o altro è vero, solo non mi sembra corretto far circolare le voci che provochino il cancro o altre malattie, perchè questo non è vero.

Olivia December 15, 2010 - 3:50 pm

la polica??? ahahah :), volevo dire polemica ma mi si sono intrecciate le dita mi sa

beautifulwithbrains December 15, 2010 - 4:30 pm

Olivia, non ti preoccupare, sono cose che capitano, lol. 🙂

Eli December 15, 2010 - 3:50 pm

Well, thank you. Hopefully, more people will read that. Almost all products contain some “dangerous” ingredient or another. Yes, if there is a healthier substitute, companies SHOULD use it, but if it’s not proven, if it’s just a speculation, I won’t stop buying a product I like, just because it contains something supposedly carcinogenic. Not to mention that almost all ingredients turn out to be carcinogenic to a certain degree. But, let’s face it – most companies would use a cheap ingredient no matter how dangerous it can be. Even big companies do. This is the policy which should be changed.

beautifulwithbrains December 15, 2010 - 4:38 pm

Eli, I hope this post will be useful to people. We often forget that it’s the dose that makes the poison and that most ingredients aren’t even absorbed into the skin anyway so they’re harmless. There are some ingredients that can be toxic in very high concentrations, but then those are very strictly regulated by the FDA and the EU and can only be used in very small, minuscule concentrations which have been proven by scientific studies to be harmless. It’s fake cosmetics we should worry about as they could really contain toxic and carcinogenic ingredients and it’s not always easy to spot they’re not the real thing.

Shamini December 15, 2010 - 6:05 pm

Very nice post, thank you. 🙂 Nowadays everything’s dangerous, unhealthy or not good for you in some way or another.

beautifulwithbrains December 15, 2010 - 7:43 pm

Shamini, you’re welcome. I’m glad you enjoyd it. And you’re right, everything seems to be bad for us these days, we’re really shouldn’t use or do anything at all if we don’t wanna get ill or worse *rolls eyes*

Nikki December 15, 2010 - 7:38 pm

Nice post, though I don’t think any of those chemicals are safe(except Vaseline). Parabens are absolutely, a 100% dangerous no matter what people say. We live in the 21st century where everything is synthetic(and usually toxic), because its really cheap compared to natural solutions. Nowadays the pharmaceutical and cosmetic monopolists control everything, if you have noticed 90% of the researches of the safety of chemicals are payed by the same monopolists. The other 10% usually prove that those chemicals are dangerous. And another thing, they may be safe in very low concentrations but most of these chemicals create a buildup in the soft tissues of the body. And when you use products containing parabens9for example) for 10 years imagine what a build up you will have and it wouldn’t be strange if cancer develops. So my suggestion is to avoid these chemicals as much as possilble for your own good.

beautifulwithbrains December 15, 2010 - 10:38 pm

Nikki, do you have any proof of what you say or any links where I can verify your claims? I’m sorry but I still have to see a single study saying that parabens cause cancer and are bad for you. The only one I know of is badly flawed and therefore doesn’t prove anything.

As for chemicals accumulating in your body, that’s not really true. Our skin is made to keep external substances out and not let them get inside our bodies easily so most of the ingredients used in cosmetics aren’t absorbed by the body. The few that are absorbed are generally expelled through urine and sweat so they do not accumulate in the body.

Chemicals (and plants ARE chemicals) are actually safer than natural substances because they are created in a sanitized lab and therefore don’t contain resins, dirt and all the other impurities that are found on plants and can cause allergies and irritations. As for your claims that we can’t believe pharmaceutical studies but should look for the alternative, are you referred to studies done by supporters of natural products? Wouldn’t they be biased too? The studies I refer to are peer-reviewed, third-party researched though.

We live in a very polluted world. Who knows what crap is in the water we drink, the food we eat, the air we breathe. If we get cancer, it’s because we live in a polluted world, or because we smoke or don’t wear sunscreen or just because we’re genetically predisposed to it. All these things are much more likely to give us cancer and a lot sooner than any cosmetics. These have all been proven to kill, while I still have to hear of a person that died from using a cosmetic or developed cancer because of them.

If you can give me proof that support your claims, I may change my mind. But till then, there is just no proof in the scientific community that any of these things are harmful for us.

Nikki December 16, 2010 - 1:23 pm

Ok I’ll give the links you asked for:
It’s true that i didn’t find any info that these chemicals are a 100 % toxic. But the researches I have read state that there is quite a serious possibility that the chemicals are toxic or in some way dangerous.
As for cancer, you are right that everything is so pouted and probably that’s why cancer is so common nowadays. If we start to check everything we eat, drink or even wear – it contains some chemical that is potentially toxic and there is just no way to avoid all of them. We should at least try to avoid those that are proven or are suspected in a higher level to be hazardous\dangerous\toxic etc. Actually may be a week ago i was doing a little research on toxic chemicals and somewhere i read something really interesting, but sadly i can’t find the link :(. Anyway, it was about a professor in a university in the USA(cant remember the name) who stated back in the 60s that the human race has reached an era of chronic symptomless intoxication, so it turns out that all of these chemicals are killing us without us feeling it at all. I hope this will change your mind(especially about parabens). I’m sorry that I couldn’t find the link for the last material i mentioned, I’ll look for it again. 🙂

beautifulwithbrains December 16, 2010 - 5:43 pm

Nikki, thank you for the links. I have just read them all very carefully but I still don’t think there is enough proof to support claims these ingredients are bad.

The first study about parabens was done ex-vitro and simply claims that high levels of parabens can penetrate the body, but it doesn’t say whether once inside the body they cause any harm. As far as I know, parabens (at least most of them) are just execreted through urine. The second study was done on breast tissue from women with breast cancer and in 18 out of 20 of them a certain level of parabens were found. However, no one took tissue from healthy women so the study is inconclusive. What if healthy women have the same levels of parabens? Besides, the study doesn’t state how the parabens got there. Through food? Through personal care products? And just because parabens were in the tissue, it doesn’t mean that it was them that caused the cancer.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying they are lying or anything like that. These articles pose interesting food for thought and I’m the first to admit that further studies need to be done on parabens to determine once and for all if they really pose a threat for human health. I understand where you are coming from and I respect people like you that prefer to avoid parabens until we have conclusive proof of their safety (or lack of it). After all, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

However, I do think that, up until now, we only have studies that hint to the fact that we need to do more research and the “evidence” is too superficial and inconclusive to claim they are dangerous. In my opinion, is someone is really worried about chemical exposure they should first worry about the food and water they drink, move somewhere where the air is clearer and less polluted or grow their own vegetables and things like that because what we ingest is far more likely to give us cancer or other diseases than what we topically apply on skin. And parabens are very used in food too so if it should turn out they are dangerous, we have a higher risk of them harming us when we eat them.

As for the theory of that professor, it is definitely interesting but I do think that if chemicals were bad for us, scientific studies would demonstrate it.

I will keep researching about this subject for sure and if I should find any proof that parabens (or any other ingredient mentioned in this aticle) is bad, then I will definitely change my mind and post my new findings on the blog. But I personally feel that, at the moment, there’s no serious reason to worry about them. Those that wanna follow the precautionary principles until more data turns out are free to do it. After all, we should all reason with our own head and make up our own mind, the important thing is that we do it on data based on science instead of fear.

Thank you for your comments though, as I said they pose interesting food for thought and I hope I’ll be able to find more info on these issues in the future.

Nikki December 16, 2010 - 8:29 pm

Thanks for your thoughts and you comprehensive reply. You really do sound like a beautiful girl with brains. 🙂 I guess one will never be sure about the safety of the additives that are put in everything, but one should try to avoid them as much as possible.
After all I’ll continue with my little research and keep in touch if something interesting pops up. 🙂 I’m very glad I found this article and this site, so it loud be my pleasure to follow the activity. 🙂

beautifulwithbrains December 16, 2010 - 9:49 pm

Nikki, thank you and I’m glad you stumbled on my blog too. I hope to see you around often. 🙂 That’s great that you will continue your research and so will I. Let me know if you find anything new and I’ll do the same too. It is so important to learn about the stuff that we put on our skin so that we can use the safest products we can. 🙂

Ashley December 15, 2010 - 9:20 pm

What a great post, Gio!
I started playing around with makeup over three years ago but in my second year, I was reading all these scary stories about ingredients that would give me cancer.
I immediately made a list of things to avoid and if I product I liked had it, I would not give it a go. Then there were more and more informative and unbiased posts like this one & I calmed down. I do care about what goes in my products but aslong as it wasn’t/isn’t tested on animals or made of animal by product, I don’t mind!

beautifulwithbrains December 15, 2010 - 10:28 pm

Ashley, thank you! I used to be like you when I first got into cosmetics and started researching the ingredients. I was so worried about all the scary information around but the more I researched the more I realised they aren’t dangerous at all. Most of these claims are just made up! If an ingredient doesn’t work for someone or they have ethics/believe that prevents them from using certain ingredients because they have been tested on animals or something that’s fine. We should only use what works for us and what we feel comfortable using but scaring people like this is just wrong!

Citrine December 15, 2010 - 10:44 pm

I totally LOL-ed at that “don’t apply talc to your private part” ….Anyway, I think I am OK with most of these items as long as they don’t use a load of them in a particular items.

beautifulwithbrains December 15, 2010 - 10:51 pm

Citrine, lol. I can see why some people are worried when two or more of these ingredients are used in the same products or their concentrations are too high as not everyone can tolerate them well. It’s the whole “they cause cancer” and claims like that that irritate me as they just aren’t true.

Nikki December 16, 2010 - 2:32 am

This is a very informative post! I love this! I agree with you, most people have this issues on some ingredients and when they read it in a bottle, they’ll drop it like a hot potato! I agree that some people can tolerate certain ingredients! I may have the sensitive skin but surprisingly, I can tolerate silicon! 🙂 Some people can’t! So it’s a matter of trial and error 🙂

beautifulwithbrains December 16, 2010 - 3:11 pm

Nikki, thanks. I agree with you that it’s a matter of trial and error. We should use what work for us not avoid an ingredients just because we’re told they’ll give us cancer or something when there is no proof it will. 🙂

Eleanor December 16, 2010 - 4:39 pm

An excellent article. I appreciate you taking the time to do this research and report it to us.

As an aside, I was watching Dr. Oz the other day, and he mentioned that even though there is currently no data, he believes that in the future (e.g., 20-years) there may be problems with women having silicosis, because they are grinding powders (e.g., loose mineral makeup, loose setting powder, etc.) so finely that they are able to be breathed into the avioli, and when silicas are worked with in industrial settings, the workers are required to wear breathing gear. Apparently, the sizes of these powder particles have been measured, and it is well known the size particles must be to reach the avioli. He said that pressed powders are larger particles, so they aren’t breathed into the avioli.

I think it is reasonable to be cautious with finely ground products, such as silica based powders. I have noticed that the Makeup For Ever setting powder I have is so finely ground that it floats into the air when I open the jar. So, I am looking for a suitable replacement to this powder, and when I use it I use it in a different room from where I do my makeup, hold my breath, and am careful to tap out as little as possibly needed, so that it doesn’t fly everywhere. I also use one of those velvet-like powder puffs, since this seems to prevent fly-away much better than using a brush.

beautifulwithbrains December 16, 2010 - 5:53 pm

Eleanor, thank you. I haven’t watched that episode of Dr Oz I’m afraid but I researched silica a while ago and, at least at the time, silica powders didn’t seem to pose much of a threat. As far as I know, silicosis is caused by crystalline silica while the type used in cosmetics is silica microspheres. We also have to consider that miners that work with silica breathe it in extremely large quantities, while the amount we may inhale from cosmetics is minuscule in comparison.

I guess it’d be possible though, that if a person uses loose powders a lot, especially in a place that isn’t well ventiled, over a few decades, they could be harmful. There is no proof stating that at the moment like Dr Oz himself admitted but there’s definitely no harm in being careful. I personally don’t use loose powders a lot because they are messy but if one is careful with them like you are, they shouldn’t be a problem.

I personally wouldn’t worry too much about it now as the data we have so far states silica (the type used in cosmetics) is safe, but being careful with them and having fly aways and breathing powder as much as possible is something we should all do anyway. 🙂

Brittany December 16, 2010 - 7:54 pm

This was beyond helpful! Passing it along. Excellent post!

beautifulwithbrains December 16, 2010 - 9:43 pm

Brittany, I’m so glad you find it useful and thank you for passing it along, I appreciate it. 🙂

Jeni December 16, 2010 - 10:37 pm

I’m not afraid of any of these ingredients, but I know a lot of people are! I was surprised when I went to my Dermatologist last month and she thinks I have a Propylene Glycol allergy that was making my hair fall out too much. I don’t think this is true, but now she has me paranoid and I’ve stopped using shampoo with that in it, but my hair dye still contains it. Anyway, I currently use skin care products with parabens, mineral oil, talc, petrolatum, etc.

beautifulwithbrains December 17, 2010 - 11:43 am

Jeni, I know a lot of people that are afraid of them too and it is such a shame as in most cases, the claims they are harmful are just made up or just twisted. At the moment, there really is no proof they cause cancer or anything like that.

I never heard anything about Propylene Glycol making hair fall out. I guess it is possible you can be allergic to it (after all, any ingredient can cause an allergy to someone), but whether that causes hair to fall out is something new to me. I’m not sure it’s true either but I guess there’s no harm in avoid products with this ingredient.

Phyrra December 18, 2010 - 8:06 am

Excellent post. I’ve often had people ask me about my sensitive skin and silicones, and they just don’t bother me. However, SLS can be awful sometimes!

beautifulwithbrains December 18, 2010 - 2:45 pm

Phyrra, thanks and I’m glad silicones don’t cause problems for your skin. I agree about SLS, I think it should only be used in rinse-off products and not too often either. But at least it’s good to know it doesn’t cause cancer or any other disease, but only an irritation/allergy.

LatestGirls December 28, 2010 - 6:15 am

The research about talc is quite scary 🙁

I hope it doesn’t affects if you apply it on your face.

beautifulwithbrains December 28, 2010 - 4:14 pm

LatestGirls, talc is only a problem when applied on your private parts. It is safe when used on the face. 🙂

Dalila January 4, 2011 - 5:19 am

I disagree with your Talc and your SLS comments completely.
Have you looked up why it’s not being used in the UK??? It’s now no longer being used by the newest mineral makeup lines because it’s bad for your skin and can clog pores.
On top of this Talc is used in dry shampoo products, so using it on your head isn’t the best idea either.
SLS is used in your local auto mechanics shops and grocery stores to degrease there floors…so for all of you who love dry irritated skin keep using that product with SLS.

beautifulwithbrains January 4, 2011 - 1:14 pm

Dalila, thank you for your comment but I’m afraid I disagree with you. Talc is still very much used in the UK and if some companies choose not to include this ingredient in their products is simply because of the bad reputation it is getting, not because it is dangerous for human health or bad for skin. Yes, Talc can clog pores but it’s a concern only for some skin types. I have combination skin and talc has never clogged my pores or caused breakouts and I’m not gonna stop using it because someone I don’t know had a bad reaction to it.

In addition, Talc is used both in cosmetics and dry shampoo because of its ability to absorb oil, thus making hair look cleaner. I don’t see why it is so bad to be honest.

SLS is very irritating, on that I agree with you and that’s exactly why I think it should be used only in rinse off products and not too often either. But the thing is, that the concentrations of SLS used in beauty products are much lower than those used in mechanics and grocery stores to degrease the floors. Yes, shampoos with SLS can be irritating but nowhere near as much as products used to degrease floors with SLS. They are two very different types of products that, despite containing the same substance, simply cannot be compared.

Emma May 10, 2011 - 11:17 am

Lovely article. I now feel so at home with the products i use. Would like to know more about lip products and their ingredints. What works and what doesnt. Whats good and whats dangerous. Thank you. Im delighted by what i’ve learnt.

beautifulwithbrains May 10, 2011 - 6:15 pm

Emma, thank you! I’m glad you enjoy the article and that you feel at ease with your products. Cosmetics are strictly regulated and most of the ingredients that have a bad reputation are actually safe. I will try and write more posts about ingredients in lipsticks in the future but for the moment, you can check out my post on lead in lipstick if you’re interested. Here’s the link: http://beautifulwithbrains.com/2010/10/19/whats-the-truth-about-lead-in-lipsticks/

You can also check out my “A-Z Ingredients” page at the top of the site for info on more ingredients.

Courtney Belyea May 30, 2011 - 11:30 pm

Thank you SO MUCH for writing this, it is so realistic. I have extreme OCD and obsess about EVERYTHING, you just gave me less to worry about so thanks for peace of mind. If we use up all natural things for cosmetics what will be left? Some “natural” cosmetic companies also use up really rare species of plants that they claim will do different things for your skin.
What should I know buying cosmetics in Japan? Are they safe there? I hear their cosmetics are ah-mazing
Also, is it true what people said a few years ago that a Chinese company was taking collagen products with the skin of executed criminals or was that complete rumor?

Peace out thanks for your great, unbiased posts.

beautifulwithbrains May 31, 2011 - 4:42 pm

Courtney, you’re welcome. Unfortunately there is so much misinformation around but when you look at the science behind cosmetics you realise there is nothing to worry about. I’m worried about companies using rare plants in their products too and I hope they do it carefully without exploiting nature too much, especially since most of those ingredients haven’t been proved to do that much anyway yet.

I haven’t trued Japanese cosmetics yet as they are hard to find here and usually very expensive but I had raves about them. In any case, they are safe.

I had that rumour too but I’m not sure what to think of it. It was reported by the Guardian which isn’t always a reliable source of information and I’m not sure why anyone would take collagen from people when there are other sources of collagen that are more easily available and more affordable. It doesn’t really make much sense..

Courtney Belyea May 31, 2011 - 9:17 pm

Also wanted to say I have had some freaking NASTY reactions to “natural” and “organic” products. I feel these products are pushed way to much on the general public and they make it seem like natural=safe and allergy-free which is far from the truth. Too much information is biased, or even done by the companies themselves.

beautifulwithbrains June 1, 2011 - 4:15 pm

Courtney, I’m sorry you had problems with natural and organic products. They often contain substances that aren’t natural at all and those that are natural can cause allergies and irritations too. Synthetic ingredients are made in a sterilized lab and usually contain a handful of compounds, while natural ingredients are made of tens of compounds (water for instance contains chlorine, copper, benzene and a lot more substances including minuscule amounts of lead) so they are more likely to cause a negative reaction. They can also contain pollen, resins and other impurities that can cause allergies so they are by no means safer. And there is no proof they work better than synthetic ingredients either. There are simply ingredients that work and others that don’t regardless of their origins but because consumers seem to feel natural things are better, of course cosmetic companies will jump on the bandwagon and promote them like they are better than what they really are.

Sarah August 22, 2011 - 9:10 am

Fantastic article, I train therapists for a skincare company and I’m going to point them all this way when they start asking about parabens!

Totally agree about so called “natural” products. A product only has to contain a very low amount of natural ingredients to be permitted to put “natural” on the label, so many consumers are misled into thinking they are buying a wholly natural products (with all the associated unlisted compounds that make up a natural ingredient!).

beautifulwithbrains August 22, 2011 - 12:26 pm

Sarah, thanks. I’m glad you enjoyed the articles and thanks for sharing it with your students. It is such a shame that effective and safe ingredients get so maligned solely for their origin.

And it’s appalling how loose the regulations for natural products are. I see so many “natural” products around that aren’t natural at all! That shouldn’t be allowed.

Ningrum December 1, 2011 - 1:38 pm

Thank you so much again. 😀 Your blog is so informative and useful! 🙂

beautifulwithbrains December 1, 2011 - 3:54 pm

Ningrum, you’re welcome. And aww thank you! I’m glad you find it useful. 🙂

Caroline Helies August 18, 2018 - 5:40 pm

All in all, your article confirmed what I’ve known for a very long time: marketing nowadays is so powerful, it makes people believe anything and scares them only in order to sell specific products. It’s not just in skincare, but in food too (like the “superfood” term for example, which is a lot of poopidoo), in health (“eating that thing cured my cancer! Pharmaceutical companies know the cure too but don’t give it because of money!” and in life in general. It’s become difficult to differentiate real and fake news now, and the biased medias don’t help either. Propaganda and conspiracy theories have never been so prominent.
So it’s so refreshing to see a truthful blog like yours. I just wish your voice was joined by many others to restore common sense to the masses lol.

Gio September 7, 2018 - 1:48 pm

Caroline, thank so much for your kind words! Unfortunately, lies sell more than common sense. You need an insane amount of views to make money with ads and the easiest way to get them is by scaring people. 🙁

Michelle July 3, 2019 - 2:25 am

Aw man! This is my least favorite article of yours I’ve ever read. I feel so disappointed. I understand what you are saying, small quantities…kind of toxic…etc. BUT we are putting a dozen of these items on our bodies EVERY DAY, along with harmful things IN our bodies. So I get it, I understand what you’re saying. I do find it a gross conclusion to say it’s all good, it’s all safe. You speak of controlled studies, it’s just my opinion that these ingredients are toxic and can equate to cancer. It’s your opinion they do not. The only, absolute only way we would ever know would be to take some clones, who have the same lifestyle, diet, etc and one uses these products and one does not. Obviously that’s never going to happen. I do appreciate most of your articles, but you don’t KNOW 100% without any doubt that none of these chemicals causes cancer. Don’t give people the green light on using mass amounts of these products every single day. Again, I was insanely surprised by this article.

Gio July 6, 2019 - 2:35 pm

Michelle, I don’t recommend using massive amounts of these products every single day. If anything, I already recommend people to go with the shortest routines possible and only use what they need, not what’s popular at the moment.

Plus, using products doesn’t equate to getting cancer. First off, do these ingredients even penetrate the body? If they remain on the surface or penetrate only the most superficial, dead layers of skin, how can they make you sick? In the rare eventuality that something can penetrate the body, can your body get rid of them quickly? We know for example, that your body gets rid of parabens within 36 hours.

For something to give you cancer, there must be a mechanism of action, a series of factors (penetration, accumulation, etc) that leads to health problems. There’s NO proof any of these ingredients have been found to cause this.

Alina February 19, 2020 - 6:13 am

How about the ongoing topic that everything with an INCI “…acrylate”, or even more, “…polymer” is automatically Microplastics, therefore bad, dangerous, killing fishes in the ocean and should be avoided?

Gio March 6, 2020 - 6:47 am

Alina, the focus of this post is about harmful effects on humans, not the planet. That’s a different topic altogether and a more complex one. There are so many ingredients that are derived from the plastic, but on the other hand using too much land to grow plants for skincare isn’t good either. I need to do a lot more research on the topic before I can write about it. But in the meantime, it’s good to raise awareness of these issues so we can educate ourselves and become more mindful consumers. Thanks for raising the point.


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