Which Ingredients to Avoid in Your Skin Care Routine?

by Becky Elmuccio on January 15, 2014

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As a busy mom, my daily skin care routine needs to be fast and easy. I don’t have time to read the ingredients list on bottles or think about correct applications. Thanks to recent conversations with folks as diverse as my hairdresser and my friend Becky of Crafty Garden Mama, I’m making the decision about the ingredients in personal care products at the grocery store before I buy them.

While it’s important to protect our skin from the sun and chemicals, the products we use shouldn’t adversely affect our bodies, negating our daily skin care routines. Today, Becky of Crafty Garden Mama helps us understand which safe ingredients to look for in skin care products, and which ones to avoid.

Which Ingredients to Avoid in Your Skin Care Routine

Over a decade ago, I started to become more aware of what ingredients were in my personal products. From makeup to shampoo, I started to be mindful of certain ingredients to avoid in my skin care routine.

3 Main Ingredients to Avoid in Personal Care Products

I have three main ingredients to avoid in personal care products. Parabens, lead and formaldehyde are my top three to steer clear of in shampoos, lotions, makeup and soaps. When I first started to research information, the most written about ingredient was parabens. A family of chemicals, parabens act as endocrine disruptors. They are used as product preservatives, but are really doing just the opposite to our bodies.

As a woman of childbearing years, this was a big concern for me. It’s been a big concern for a lot of people, as I can see when I check the shelves and see more and more products that are listed as paraben-free. I definitely read all of the ingredients on the back of the bottles, especially lotions for myself and my family.

Lead has long been known to be unsafe, but did you know it is still found in lipsticks? This is definitely one that you do not want to be absorbing day in and day out. As a parent, I am aware of the neurological damage that lead can wreak on my child, so I also look to make sure it is not in any of my makeup.

Formaldehyde. Ugh. Just the word makes my skin crawl. A known carcinogen, formaldehyde may not be directly listed on the container, but there are many other ingredients that create formaldehyde.

As Johanna Congleton, an EWG Senior Scientist, notes in her article, “Is Cancer-Causing Formaldehyde in Your Cosmetics?”, these are the ingredients to avoid:

  • DMDM hydantoin
  • Imidazolidinyl urea
  • Diazolidinyl urea
  • Quaternium-15
  • Bronopol (2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol )
  • 5-Bromo-5-nitro-1,3-dioxane
  • Hydroxymethylglycinate

How to Find Safe Natural Skin Care Products

So, you may be wondering how to find safe, natural products that don’t have these ingredients to avoid. Start with Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database which lists the ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products. Bring the Skin Deep Cosmetic Database to the store with you on your smartphone, Android or iPhone.

EWG Skin Deep App
Screenshot of the EWG Skin Deep App

1) Whole Foods and Wegmans – Both stores have really expanded their beauty and skin care sections. I often find a good selection of good baby products and shampoos at Wegmans. Whole Foods even carries makeup. So, grab your EWG Skin Deep app (as pictured above) and look up products as you go. You want to try for items that score 0-2.

Jing Ai Organic Makeup
Photo courtesy of Jing Ai

2) Jing Ai – Recently, I found this organic makeup line at a neighborhood holiday shopping party. I have fallen in love with the duos that the founder, Donna Cristino, offers and her lip liner and lip gloss. Jing Ai is available through its website and also on QVC. QVC currently has the Picadilly shade in stock and will have others available in February when Donna returns for another session with her beautiful line of cruelty-free cosmetics.

3) Ayla – I tried everything for my skin when I was in my teens and twenties. A couple of year ago, I discovered Ayla. Dara Kennedy, one of my sorority sister’s and college classmates, founded the company in order to help woman to choose products that are right for their skin and safe for them too. Dara has closely vetted the products that she carries and provides private consultations in order to steer you in the right direction.

Overall, I think the skin care industry is taking some steps forward to giving us safe products, but you do need to do your homework. So, take your time, read the ingredients lists and ask questions when you are uncertain.

What are some ingredients that you avoid? What safe products have you discovered lately?

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Meet Becky Elmuccio

Becky Elmuccio has written 2 posts.

Becky Elmuccio blogs about eco-friendly lifestyle tips and gardening at Crafty Garden Mama. You can also find her sharing eco-friendly kids’ gear, toy and clothing reviews and giveaways, environmental news and organic gardening endeavors on Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram and Twitter.

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer O January 15, 2014 at 10:11 am

I really need to pay more attention to this for both myself and especially my two girls. This is a great start – thanks!!


Becky January 17, 2014 at 6:23 am

That EWG app is priceless, Jennifer. Keep it on your phone and you’ll be able to check on things as you go.
Becky recently posted..Mama’s Got a New Look Giveaway


Gina B January 15, 2014 at 10:19 am

There are two I really like. Anne Marie Gianni is all food-based and works great on older skin like mine. I mean, like AWESOME. But it’s pricy. 3girls Holistic is also food-based and is much more affordable, even the shipping is a flat fee of $5. Both are great, depends on your needs.
Gina B recently posted..Teaching Your Child to Be Safe


Barb January 15, 2014 at 1:24 pm

Does 3girls Holistic have a website or could I find them through Amazon?


Gina B January 15, 2014 at 4:14 pm

Yes, they have a website: http://www.3girlsholistic.com/ Basic toner, cleanser and cream with shipping is about $30. And they are the nicest ladies too! I think Paige Wolf told me about them. I did a review for them as well, that’s how I discovered them.


Becky January 17, 2014 at 6:24 am

Always great to hear about a new line!
Becky recently posted..Mama’s Got a New Look Giveaway


Cindy January 15, 2014 at 10:48 am

I’ve been trying to avoid all petroleum products lately. That includes anything with mineral oil, too. I have terrible psoriasis and the petroleum seems to irritate it so much. However, most of my psoriasis medications are in a petroleum based ointment, so go figure. :-/
Cindy recently posted..Beef Braciola (not pronounced brock-ee-o-lee) with arugula pesto


Becky January 17, 2014 at 6:27 am

Waxelene offers a beeswax based “Vaseline” that we use for chapped lips and dry skin here. They have a website http://www.waxelene.com and it is at Whole Foods.
Becky recently posted..Mama’s Got a New Look Giveaway


Brittany Thomas January 15, 2014 at 2:16 pm

I always stick to the “if I can’t pronounce it, I shouldn’t buy it” rule. :)
Brittany Thomas recently posted..In A Nutshell: 1/14/14


Becky January 17, 2014 at 6:27 am

Not a bad rule to follow!
Becky recently posted..Mama’s Got a New Look Giveaway


Caitlin January 15, 2014 at 2:43 pm

I try to use products with as few ingredients as possible. With hazel is great and castor oil for washing my face. I love Kiss My Face products too.
Caitlin recently posted..listen


Becky January 17, 2014 at 6:28 am

I’ve gone to using just plain coconut oil as a body lotion for that same reason.
Becky recently posted..Mama’s Got a New Look Giveaway


Shannon @ GrowingSlower January 15, 2014 at 2:59 pm

I had no idea there was still lead in lipstick! That is shocking!
Shannon @ GrowingSlower recently posted..97 Easy Ways to Save Money


Becky January 17, 2014 at 6:35 am

It was a big to do last year after a study came out. http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/05/study-lead-metals-lipstick-top-20
Becky recently posted..Mama’s Got a New Look Giveaway


Barb January 17, 2014 at 9:03 am

Another site I need to sign up to read!


Janelle @ Run With No Regrets January 15, 2014 at 8:39 pm

Great info! I am really interested in using healthier skin products, seems that drugstores are not where to go to find them!
Janelle @ Run With No Regrets recently posted..New Toys, Back to Back Running, and a Coaching Update


Becky January 17, 2014 at 6:38 am

Some places like Walgreens have started to carry some better lines and make their own green lines. It’s worth going to the drugstore with the EWG app and check your favorites to see what scores between the 0-3 range.
Becky recently posted..Mama’s Got a New Look Giveaway


Barb January 17, 2014 at 9:00 am

Definitely. Which reminds me, I need to load the app on my iPhone. And clean out some other stuff!


Kylie January 20, 2014 at 9:28 am

Thanks for putting this list together, there really is a lot of junk in many of the products out there!
Kylie recently posted..Keeping Your #GreenResolutions in 2014 – A Green Mom’s Network Twitter Chat


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