Toxic and Natural Skincare Products Cause Concern

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Most of us are well versed in the health benefits of natural food products. But what about skincare products? Is natural always best?

An increasing number of us are learning to read labels, opt for natural, and avoid toxic chemicals like:

  • phthalates and parabens (considered “endocrine disruptors”– chemicals which may alter hormones)
  • lead
  • mercury
  • DEA/TEA/MEA
  • formaldehyde
  • and others

Although the FDA says, “At this time, the FDA doesn’t have any information showing that cosmetics containing phthalates and parabens are harmful to consumers when the products are used as intended. We’ll continue to evaluate new data on these and other ingredients as it becomes available.”

We’ve even learned that “fragrance” is something to avoid when listed as an ingredient in skincare products. The term is considered a trade secret among manufacturers as they do not legally have to disclose chemicals or other ingredients it comprises.

Lauren Sucher, a press officer for the FDA, says, “In general, cosmetic manufacturers may use any ingredient they choose, except for a few ingredients that are prohibited by regulation.”

The concern over toxicity is because the skin is our largest organ and what you put on it, topically, is absorbed through our system in a process known as “dermal absorption.”

That brings us to natural skincare products.

A growing awareness of toxic substances in skin care products has sent U.S. sales of high-end “natural” cosmetics soaring at a more than 25% increase between 2013 and 2015 according to NPD Group Inc., a market-research firm.

New choices are welling up as companies proliferate like newly launched RAW IS EVERYTHING, run by a female powerhouse team of Harvard and Columbia grads. Days after opening, RAW began packing orders. Their catalog consists of “four single-ingredients products that range in price from $45 to $55, including its Age-Defying Concentrate (rosehip oil), Facial Moisturizer (passionfruit seed oil), Antioxidant Treatment (raspberry seed oil) and Clear-Skin Treatment (tanamu oil). The products are all sustainably sourced, unrefined and cold-pressed to ensure these oils retain their integrity, safety, and efficacy.”

However, natural may not work for everyone. For some, “natural substances can set off allergic contact dermatitis, with symptoms of rash and occasionally blisters. Some dermatologists who specialize in the condition say they are seeing more cases tied to ingredients such as lavender, peppermint, and jasmine. ‘These ingredients are ubiquitous,’ says Nina Botto, assistant professor of dermatology at University of California, San Francisco. ‘Everybody is starting to see more of this’.”

While botanical ingredients are harmless for most, researchers have compiled a list of roughly 80 plant-based oils that can trigger allergic reactions. Here are a few.

7 Most Common Allergies to Natural Skincare AdditivesAllergies to 7 Common Ingredients in Natural Skincare Products

  • Tree tree oil
  • Ylang-ylang oil
  • Jasmine oil
  • Peppermint oil
  • Lavender oil
  • Propolis, a bee derivative
  • Compositae, chamomile, and chrysanthemum fall within this family

Skin “patch tests” are generally used by dermatologists to determine potential allergens associated with contact dermatitis. Patients can also conduct similar tests at home by dabbing a bit of product on the same spot for a few weeks to see if they break out.

Amazon is a great resource for natural skincare and beauty products searchable by brand and attributes like “Fragrance Free.” Natural Beauty Products


Written by 

Stephanie Wilson is an author, blogger, publisher, and former television news writer and producer. She lives in the Puget Sound area with her husband and teenage son.