Ever been baffled by the long list of those ingredients in your skincare, hair care, and cosmetic products? Ever wondered why some of them come with disclaimers of being free of certain ingredients? The creams, lotions, serums, shampoos, conditioners, foundations, blushes, and many other products that you layer on your skin and hair are made up of many natural and chemical ingredients. They are added for specific purposes – some therapeutic; the others to improve binding, lend colour, impart a soothing fragrance, or to help preserve the formulation for a long time. While many are good for you, some become troublemakers, especially when used in the long run. Here are five such ingredients that you need to be wary of.
Parabens are a class of chemicals used as preservatives. They help skincare creams, shampoos, and cosmetic products stay longer in bathroom cabinets and vanity bags without developing moulds and bacteria colonies. Parabens are commonly found as methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben. The ingredient is a suspected carcinogen though there is no conclusive evidence to prove the same. It is also believed to disrupt hormone functions by mimicking oestrogen. However, there’s no need to panic. Parabens are typically found in really small quantities in the products that you use. Also, should you wish to keep away from them, there are many paraben-free alternatives available.
Sodium Lauryl Sulphate and Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulphate are degreasers that make cleansing products foamy. The detergent properties of this surfactant gives you a squeaky clean feel. It does so by stripping your skin and hair of moisture and natural oils. The trouble with SLS and SLES is that not only causes dryness but also irritates skin. The impact though may be lesser in rinse-off products. And with so many sulphate-free options available, it shouldn’t be a concern.
Mineral oil is found in a myriad of skincare products. This petroleum-derived ingredient is best known for its moisturising properties, which is achieved by sealing off the area that is applied to. This, sadly, is also considered to be the trouble. Though dermatologists are split on their views about this, some of them consider mineral oil to be pore-clogging and acne-causing. Also, the ingredient can sometimes be contaminated with carcinogens. The best choice? Consult with a dermatologist to see if mineral oil is what you really need. The oil may still be recommended for its benefits to people who live in extremely dry and cold climatic conditions, where other formulations fail to sufficiently moisturise skin. The doctor can direct you to the right product based on your needs and skin characteristics while keeping your safety in mind.
Benzoyl peroxide has the ability to kill bacteria and hence, is an ingredient found commonly in anti-acne treatment. Peeling, itching, irritation, and redness are common side effects experienced when using benzoyl peroxide-containing formulations. The chemical can also leave your skin more prone to sun damage. It is best that you use anti-acne formulations, which contain this ingredient, under medical supervision only. The doctor can prescribe the right concentration and dosage based on your needs, or suggest a milder alternative, if necessary.
Toluene is a colourless, water-insoluble liquid used as a solvent in nail colours. However, many nail colour brands are shying away from this ingredient for a reason. Short term exposure to toluene in low or moderate concentrations can cause tiredness, confusion, weakness, memory loss, nausea etc. Long-term exposure is riskier and the ingredient is definitely one that pregnant women need to stay away from as exposure to toluene during critical stages of foetal development could cause disruptions to neuronal development. But, there’s no need to panic. The FDA states that toluene is “safe for use in nail products at concentrations up to 50 percent” and that “any reported adverse effects occurred only at levels many times higher than those observed when people used nail polish”. And thankfully, there are many nail colours available today, which are free of this ingredient.