The 7 ingredients I always avoid

There are many ingredients around the web that tout as the dirty dozen list to avoid at all cost. Even though there are some truth in what most of these websites are saying, my advice to you is to know what ingredient irritates you in a certain way and then make note to avoid them. Some people are more particular with the ingredients in their products than others, and some are pretty much alright with most ingredients except for a few that they may be allergic or sensitive to.

For myself, there are these 7 ingredients that I avoid no matter what, as I found that when I use products with any of these ingredients in them, my skin gets extremely dry and/or irritated.

1. Alcohol, Isopropyl (SD-40)

Alright, even though I list this as the first, I tend to be more lenient on this ingredient if the other ingredients in the list are from natural organic sources, or if it doesn’t feel too drying on my skin. Most ladies I know avoid alcohol in their products, and I would too if not for the fact that it’s kind of hard to find products for combination skin that doesn’t have alcohol in it.

It is said to be a very drying, irritating solvent and dehydrator that strips your skin’s natural acid mantle, making you more prone to viruses entering and may even promote brown spots and premature aging of skin.

2. Anionic Surfactants

Examples of anionic surfactants are: Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS), ammonium laureth sulfate (ALES), TEA (triethanolamine) lauryl sulfate, TEA (triethanolamine) laureth sulfate, lauryl or cocoyl sarcosine.

Some shampoo that claims to be SLS free usually have ALS to replace it, and that ingredient is no better than the notorious SLS. These ingredients are under the same category of surfactants that may be contaminated with nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic. Surfactants can pose serious health threats and are used for quick and effective cleansing properties.

You can find these ingredients in shampoos, body wash, facial wash and basically about 90% of personal care products that foam, but did you know that these ingredients are also used in car washes, as garage-floor cleaners and engine degreasers? I particularly avoid these ingredients because they always dry out my skin and trigger my eczema.

3. DEA (diethanolamine), MEA (monoethanolamine), TEA (triethanolamine)

These ingredients can cause allergic reactions and will lead to eye problems, dryness of the skin and hair over prolonged usage. Could be toxic and potentially carcinogenic if absorbed into the body over a period of time. Because of its known carcinogenic effects, these chemicals are already restricted in Europe. 

4. Mineral oil/paraffin oil/paraffin wax/petrolatum/liquidum paraffinum

Derived from petroleum by-product, this ingredient covers the skin like plastic, suffocating and clogging pores while interfering with the skin’s ability to eliminate toxins. By slowing down skin functions and cell development, it could promote acne growth and premature aging. Mineral oil derivatives can be contaminated with cancer causing PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) and it is said that the only reason companies use it is solely because it’s cheap.

5. Phthalates

It is a toxic chemical found in certain plastics and containers. Could be found in some hairsprays, cosmetics and nail varnishes, all which are readily absorbed by the body. When research and tests were done in controlled groups, an astonishing amount of people found phthalates in their body. Avoid products in plastic that bears the recycling symbols (the little triangle made with arrows and a number inside) 3,6, and 7.

6. Polyethylene glycol (PEG) compounds and propylene glycol/butylene glycol 

These potentially carcinogenic petroleum-derived ingredients are known to penetrate the skin and weaken protein and cellular structure. Again, this ingredient can cause premature aging and leave your skin vulnerable to bacteria. In cases that requires workers to handle these ingredients, the EPA warns against skin contact to prevent consequences such as brain, liver and kidney abnormalities, and made workers wear protective gloves, clothing and goggles to dispose of these solutions quickly by burying them in the ground.

While these health hazard warnings are everywhere in manufacturing companies that handle these ingredients, not one warning label is on the products that made it to our houses and used on our very own bodies, such as deodorants.

7. Parabens preservatives (methyl-, propyl-, butyl-, and ethyl-)

Most people are aware that parabens, used as preservatives to prolong the shelf life of products, are toxic and known to cause allergic reactions and even skin rashes, but hardly anyone is reading the ingredient list of the next lip product they are buying. Most ladies end up consuming these chemical preservatives that are from their lip products, and you guessed it right, parabens are also found in most humans’ bodies when tests were done.

The controversy of genetically modified foods (GMO)

Some people choose to buy organic because of the unnatural way many companies have chosen to produce their crops or livestock. We have been subtly introduced genetically modified foods since the middle of 1990s and look at us now – we cannot even tell the difference between foods that are genetically modified and foods that are planted and harvested by conventional methods. Documentary (part 2) by journalist Jane Moore went on a mission looking into origins of our foods these days and the truth will shock you if the term ‘genetically modified’ does not already.

The reason why many people shun organic food is because of the price, and because there has been no proper education given on the technology that is used on foods known as genetically modified organisms (GMO). Genetically modified foods are separated into two categories. The first one is genetically modified crops and the second is the way live stocks are being bred to produce meat that is virtually sold everywhere today. The GM crops are created by introducing genes in existing plants to produce ‘superior’ and ‘purer’ harvest that are supposed to be resilient to pests and weeds, to be easier to grow, and supposedly to be higher in nutrient levels.  Most live stocks including cows, chickens, pigs, and even some salmon fish farms, are usually injected with growth hormones and antibiotics that will make them grow faster and bigger than what was considered normal size about a decade ago.

While these GM foods are supposed to be better, they are not everything they claimed to be. Companies creating these GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are also companies that sell the pesticides used on these crops as it turned out GM crops are even more in need of pesticides and herbicides. Despite its claims, GM crops are harder and more expensive for farmers to sustain, and whether it is safe for the environment is another issue.

Government bodies would have assured you that there has been no direct health or environmental concerns linked to the use of genetic modifications, but many concerns have been raised regarding the long term side effects of consuming GMOs in accumulative amounts. Some states in Brazil have entirely banned GM crops, and the Brazilian Institute for the Defense of Consumers, in collaboration with Greenpeace, has prevented the importations of GM crops. In Europe there are large numbers of consumers unhappy with the increase in GM crops, leading them to mandate labeling of GM foods and non-GM foods so people have a choice.

A Genetic Modification Advisory Committee (GMAC) in Singapore was set up in April 1999, however, all foods containing GMOs entering Singapore must be proven safe by competent national regulatory bodies of the exporting country before being allowed into Singapore. This would mean we do not have our own national guidelines regarding GM foods. In regards to labeling of GM foods in Singapore, a consumer writing in to Straits times questioning the safety of international food safety standards was replied by GMAC that “The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) requires GM food intended for sale in Singapore to be subject to rigorous assessment and approval in the developed countries.”.  This “rigorous assessment and approval in the developed countries” would include the very confused regulatory process in the United States, which has three different government agencies that have jurisdiction over GM foods.

In the United States, they have the EPA, USDA and the FDA. In a nutshell, the EPA is in charge of evaluating crops for environmental safety, and the USDA evaluates whether the plant is safe to grow. Companies creating GM crops do not require a permit from USDA if they meet these 6 criteria:

1) The plant is not a noxious weed;

2) The genetic material introduced into the GM plant is stably integrated into the plant’s own genome;

3) The function of the introduced gene is known and does not cause plant disease;

4) The GM plant is not toxic to non-target organisms;

5) The introduced gene will not cause the creation of new plant viruses; and

6) The GM plant cannot contain genetic material from animal or human pathogens (see http://www.aphis.usda.gov:80/bbep/bp/7cfr340 ).

Image from 'http://www.whatisall.com/science/what-are-genetically-modified-foods.html'

Not one of those criteria involves checking for long term effects when consumed by humans in accumulative amounts. Lastly, the FDA evaluates pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and food products and additives, not whole foods. And so asking FDA to regulate something like corn, or apples and soybeans is not possible because these are considered “whole foods”.  The FDA’s take on GM foods is that they are  substantially equivalent to unmodified, “natural” foods, and therefore not subject to FDA regulation. When consumer interests groups asked the FDA to include their evaluation on whole foods, they replied that “the agency currently does not have the time, money, or resources to carry out exhaustive health and safety studies of every proposed GM food product”.

I believe consumers have the most say in deciding what foods they want. I find it highly unfair that this technology so widely used in our foods today is not being thoroughly explained or even made known to every consumers. People should be more aware and selective when it comes to food, as many people get too comfortable and trust blindly what is laid out there, instead of reading what’s on the label of their purchases.

Why organic skincare too?

If you are like me, you would be wondering at one point or another, how in the world does ‘organic’ apply to the skincare department. Truth is, though widely known but never really emphasized, our skin is our largest organ covered all of our body. And it does absorb what is being slathered on it too.

Some of you think the amount being absorbed is too little to cause much damage. But do you know our body accumulates toxins? Think of all the products you have used on your body in your lifetime, and imagine if just one of them has a teaspoon amount of toxic ingredient, do you think you would have accumulated quite a substantial amount by now? Truth is, most of the products you are using have at least one ingredient that is a known carcinogen.

This video does a very visualized and simple explanation why you should opt for organic products that are free of man-made chemicals and from natural ingredients. Though organic skincare are the best options, if you ask me, I would say get what you need from your diet and work on looking good from inside out.