Lesser Known Skin Care Contaminants

Sally B's Skin Yummies Blog: Lesser Known Skin Care Contaminants

Parabens, phthalates, and lead have become the poster ingredients of the non-toxic skin care message. These ingredients pose serious health risks and are commonly used in a number of skin care and makeup products. However, simply looking for these ingredients on a product label is not enough to keep you and your family safe. A label might say “paraben free,” but a number of toxic ingredients could still be lurking within the product formulation.

Today we highlight five commonly used, but lesser talked about, toxic ingredients so you can be a more conscious consumer in the skin care aisle.


The Concern: A known carcinogen and a petroleum byproduct, mineral oil is a commonly used ingredient in lips balms, lotions, and creams. According to John Hopkins University, it is the number 2 cause of aging. By creating an impermeable layer on the outside of skin it dehydrates the skin and slows the rate of cell reproduction and rejuvenation. This layer also keeps the skin from breathing, blocks toxins from leaving the skin, and clogs pores.

What Should I Use Instead: Mineral Oil is easy to spot on an ingredient label.  It is usually written as Mineral Oil and occasionally as Paraffinum Liquidum. So avoid anything containing this ingredient and choose products that use healthy alternatives like coconut oil.



The Concern: Linked to hormone disruption, brain damage, cancer, and environmental concerns, Tricolosan is a common ingredient in hand sanitizer and liquid hand soap. Studies have shown it to be present in breast milk, as well as 75% of human tissue samples taken. Despite its widespread use, the chemical has not undergone the necessary safety testing to actual deem it safe.

Not only a threat to our personal health, it also poses serious risk to our waterways because it is so commonly washed down the drains of our sinks. When exposed to sunlight in an aqueous environment Tricolosan is converted to dioxin and when combined with the chlorine in tap water forms chloroform, a known human carcinogen.

What Should I Use Instead: According to an advisory panel to the US Food and Drug Administration, tricolosan is no more effective in killing bacteria than plain soap and water. Choose hand soaps like our Foaming Hand Soap that do not contain this ingredient and are gentle. Side note: the European Union and Canada are working hard to ban this ingredient all together.



The Concern: A “probable carcinogen,” 1,4-dioxane is a byproduct of a petrochemical process called ethoxylation, which is used to reduce the risk of skin irritation for petroleum-based ingredients. After this process, 1,4-dioxane can be removed from products before they are sold, but it is a common missed step by manufacturers and there is no test to determine if it has been done. One common example of the use of 1,4-dioxane is the conversion from Sodium Lauryl Sulfate to Sodium Laureth Sulfate (the “eth” denotes the ethoxylation). While Sodium Laureth Sulfate may be a gentler ingredient, the addition of 1,4-dioxane increases concerns of organ toxicity.

What Should I Use Instead: Avoid products that use ingredients like Sodium Laureth Sulfate, PEG, Polyethylene Glycol, and others with “eth,” because these are most likely to contain impurities from 1,4-dioxane.



The Concern: Oxybenzone, an ultraviolet light absorber and uv filter, is the active ingredient in most sunscreens and SPF rated skin care products, including moisturizers and lip balm. It is easily absorbed into the skin and serves as a host assisting other ingredients through the skin and into the bloodstream. It has been flagged for its bioaccumulation, endocrine disruption, and organ system toxicity.

What Should I Use Instead: Look for sunscreen products that use Titanium Dioxide or Zinc Oxide.  These two ingredients act as physical blocks to damaging rays and are natural sun protectorates.



The Concern: Talcum Powder is a wildly used ingredient found in baby powder (it’s the number one ingredient) and cosmetics, especially eye shadows, blush, bronzers, and other powder makeups. This powdered ingredient can sometimes contain a small portion of aluminum silicate and/or be contaminated with asbestos fibers, both of which pose risks for acute or chronic lung irritation or even cancer since it is so easily inhaled. Since the 1970s, Talc particles have been routinely found in the tumors of ovary and lung cancer patients. Just like other cosmetic ingredients, the federal government does not regulate cosmetic grade talc and there are no restrictions to using this ingredient.

What Should I Use Instead: Look for products made with corn starch, rice powder, or oat powder, all of which are non-toxic, moisture absorbing powders that keep skin dry.

As consumers we have become accustomed to using a lot of these ingredients - mineral oil in our lip balm, talc in our baby powder, and tricolosan in our hand sanitizers. Creating a lifestyle shift away from these can be tough, but it's an important move to make. Even though you may not have yet experienced any health repercussions from the use of these ingredients, their cumulative exposure is a serious risk. Start phasing out these ingredients by always scanning ingredient lists before you buy. It might seem like a daunting task, but your beautiful skin and good health will thank you for taking the extra few seconds to make a mindful decision.

Check out Sally B's Skin Yummies Ingredients Resource Guide so you can feel good using our products and knowing what ingredients we put into our nontoxic skin care line. 

1 comment

  • Charlotte

    Right on and enlightening!

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