Think Twice Before Buying Drugstore Skin Care Products

Think Twice Before Buying Drugstore Skincare Products

When heading to the store to purchase skincare products for ourselves or our families, we tend to assume that what we are buying is safe. If it’s stocked on shelves at major chain stores, it has to be safe, right?


Unfortunately, the answer is ‘not always.’


Everyone from seniors to parents, and even children use personal care products every day, ranging from items such as shampoo and hand soap to deodorant and lotion. What we often don’t know is what ingredients are actually in the products we are using.


The scary truth is that these everyday personal care products we are using, referred to as ‘cosmetics’ in the law, can contain chemicals and toxins that are extremely harmful to our health. In fact, The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has stated that consumer and skincare products are subject to less oversight than cosmetics and even though many of the toxins and contaminants in personal care products pose little risk, serious health problems have been linked to their exposure.


So, what can we do to protect ourselves from these harmful toxins and what ingredients should we be looking for in our skincare products?


The Most Common Toxic Ingredients Found in Skincare Products 

Chemicals and toxins found in skincare products can interfere with the hormone function in our bodies.


This is referred to as endocrine disruption and is especially harmful during pregnancy—causing reproduction complications such as developmental malformations. Toxic chemicals in skincare can also impact our immune system and nervous function, but scariest of all, increase our risk of developing cancer.


Although ingredient lists can be quite long in every drugstore skin product, we need to be extra cautious and take the time to read through them. The following are the most common toxins in which we need to look for and avoid.

  • Parabens - A group of chemicals widely used in skincare products to prevent the growth of mold and bacteria to increase the product’s shelf life. They can cause skin rashes, irritation, and disrupt hormones (especially estrogen).

  • Phthalates — These are salts and plasticizing chemicals used to help a product spread more easily. They are used in things like perfumes, lotions, nail polish, and shampoo. They are considered very harmful to reproductive and developmental health. 

  • Talc — Used to absorb moisture and typically found in baby powder, blush, and deodorant. When talc is mined, it often becomes contaminated with asbestos, since both are naturally occurring minerals that develop alongside one another in the earth. Talc-based cosmetic products that contain asbestos have been shown to cause ovarian and lung cancer. 

  • Triclosan — A chemical preservative that is used for its antibacterial properties. It is often found in shower gels, soaps, and toothpaste. It can cause severe dermatitis, allergic reactions, hormonal imbalance (especially the thyroid), and also cause resistance to antibiotics. 

  • Coal Tar (Synthetic Colors) — Coal tar is made up of hydrocarbons and is a thick and viscous liquid with a strong odor. Often found in highly pigmented eye shadows and lipsticks, coal tar can increase your the risk of cancer, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and everyday rashes.. 

Skincare Toxins Are Disguised on Labels

It is not enough to just know which ingredients have toxic properties because each one (and there are many more not listed) is disguised on labels under many different names.


Since the average woman’s skin is exposed to roughly 168 chemicals every single day—not including what products men, children, and babies are using—it is no wonder why we cannot decipher what is good or bad for our skin and what we are supposed to avoid.


So, how are we supposed to understand these confusing labels when looking at the ingredient list? Aside from looking for some of the toxic ingredient names listed above, the following helps in understanding how to read a skincare ingredient list and details what alternative names toxic chemicals could be labeled as.


  • Avoid products with ingredients that look like this: methyl-, ethyl-, propyl-, isopropyl-, butyl- and isobutylparaben.
  • Toluene is often labeled as benzene, phenylmethane, toluol and methylbenzene.
  • FD&C or D&C represent artificial colors. F means food and D&C means drugs and cosmetics.
  • SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) and SLES (sodium laureth sulfate) are the common sulfates that you spot on the labels of your shampoos and other personal care.
  • Diethanolamine is abbreviated as DEA on skincare products.
  • Mineral oil, benzene, paraffin wax and compounds that end in -eth are also petroleum ingredients.
  • Chemicals under methyl, butyl, propyl classes fall under parabens.
  • PEGs can be spotted as numbers like 100, 120, 14M, 30, 32, 40, 75 and so on.
  • Formalin, formaldehyde, glyoxal and bronopol on the labels of skincare products indicate formaldehyde.
  • Ethanol, methanol, denatured alcohol, ethyl alcohol are all drying alcohols.


Safe & Non-Toxic Skincare Options

The safest way to avoid toxic chemicals in our skincare products is to not purchase anything with ingredients we are unsure of or if the label cannot be clearly understood. That is typically a red flag right away and should be a warning that there are probably hidden ingredients in the product that could be hazardous to our health.


Instead, look for products labeled as “100% natural/organic,” “paraben-free,” or “phthalate-free”—these types of ingredients will not be hormone disruptors, carcinogens, or allergens. Additionally, choose personal care products without fragrance listed as an ingredient. Look for skincare items like this Luxe Oil from SIBU that is all-natural, USDA organic, and has a transparent label that includes only natural oils and no hidden ingredients.


The drugstore skincare industry will never make it a priority to disclose every ingredient that is in their products, so it is our job to train ourselves to be educated consumers. We need to do our own research and switch to safer ingredients for the health and well-being of our bodies. Be the CEO of your health and monitor not only what is going into your body, but also what you are putting on it.