Winter season is here, so is dry skin and the increased use of lotion. We love our lotions. We slather it to our skin. They do the job of protecting, moisturizing and softening our skin. And most of them even have a really nice fragrance to it.
For most of us, each time we apply lotion to our skin, we assume we are taking the proactive step forward to keep our skin nourished, moisturized and healthy.
But before you reach for that bottle of lotion in your purse or on the bathroom shelf, what’s in your lotion may not be as innocent as it looks!
There are so many different types of lotion out there and some of them even contain ingredients that actually do more harm to your body than good.
Have you ever taken the time to read the label on your favorite lotion? If your answer is “no,” I highly recommend you read this post to the end.
In this article, I am going to talk about the importance of reading lotion bottle labels, and 9 harmful ingredients to identify and avoid.
So without further ado, let’s get started!
Table of Contents
- The Importance of Reading Lotion Bottle Labels
- Lotion Bottle Labels – 9 Harmful Ingredients to Look for and Avoid
- 1. Parabens
- 2. Retinyl Palmitate
- 3. Fragrance
- 4. Phthalates
- 5. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) / Sodium Laureth sulfate (SLES)
- 6. Petrolatum
- 7. Mineral Oil (also called liquid paraffin, liquid petroleum, paraffin oil)
- 8. Polyethylene glycol (PEG compounds)
- 9. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)
The Importance of Reading Lotion Bottle Labels
Have you ever bought a lotion that says “natural,” “organic,” or “dermatologist developed” and simply bought it because of these words?
How many of you actually read the ingredient list before purchasing a bottle of lotion?
I was someone that used to just buy lotions because of these eco-friendly and safe sounding words without ever paying attention to the ingredient list.
A few months ago I bought a Lubriderm lotion all because it said dermatologist developed, so I thought it must be safe and healthy for my skin.
Dermatologists are experts in skin care, so they must know what products are safe and to recommend, right?
Well, recently I decided to read and research the ingredients on this Lubriderm lotion. After some time spent on researching, I was completely blown away to discover that some of these ingredients are actually carcinogenic and hazardous to health.
Below is an image of Lubriderm lotion ingredients. I will be discussing some of its harmful ingredients along with other questionable ingredients used in many common commercial lotions shortly.
What I learned from my research is that just because something is labeled as “natural,” “organic,” or “dermatologist recommended” doesn’t necessarily guarantee the lotion is safe and free of harmful ingredients.
In fact, the term “natural” is completely unregulated by the FDA. Any company can stamp the word on its product, even if the product is loaded with a chock-full of synthetic chemicals. But not all products with the word “natural” on their labels are frauds either.
So the best way to determine that is to study the ingredients.
You might be thinking “organic” must be the best and the safest way to go, right? Well, not exactly.
In fact, the word organic has several meanings. A lotion is labeled as organic doesn’t necessarily mean it meets the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s organic requirements. There are four categories of organic products.
- Organic = Product must contain 100% of organically produced ingredients. Products may display the USDA Organic Seal.
- Certified Organic = Product must contain at least 95 percent organically produced ingredients. Products may display the USDA Organic Seal.
- Made with Organic Ingredients = At least 70% of ingredients are certified organic. Products may not display the USDA Organic Seal.
- No Label Claims = Less than 70% of ingredients are certified organic. Products may not display the USDA Organic Seal.
To be sure you’re getting the real deal, look for the USDA label.
Most of the time, “natural,” “organic,” and “dermatologist recommended” are nothing more than a marketing strategy for companies to cover up questionable ingredients in their products in order to get people to buy.
Don’t be fool by the branding or wording, and always study the ingredient label.
When it comes to reading lotion ingredients, it may feel like reading a foreign language. Many words are hard to understand which makes it difficult to know which ingredients to identify and avoid, how to compare products, and what it all means.
With so many different lotions available on the market, choosing the right and the safe lotion for your skin is undoubtedly overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to if you know what to look for. After reading this post, you should have a pretty good understanding of what to look for.
Lotion Bottle Labels – 9 Harmful Ingredients to Look for and Avoid
The is not a comprehensive list. It would be impossible to fully explain and list all toxic ingredients in a brief blog post, but this will give you some idea on common ones to look for and to avoid.
- Parabens are found in practically all commercial lotions and are the most widely used preservative in cosmetics. They prevent bacteria, mold, and fungus from growing in lotions, creams, concealers, and many other personal care and cosmetic products.
- Parabens are also used as fragrance ingredients, but consumers won’t find that listed on the label. Fragrances are considered trade secrets, so manufacturers are not required to disclose fragrance chemicals in the ingredients list.
- Parabens are known endocrine disruptors that can mimic estrogen in the body. This effect is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer and their use may also influence the development of malignant melanoma.
- A study has shown that parabens can affect the mechanisms of normal breast cells and potentially influence their abnormal growth, leading to increased risk for breast cancer, such as increased cell growth, decreased cell death, metastasis, and blockage of chemotherapy agents
- Another study shows that parabens may also interfere with male reproductive functions by reducing sperm production and lead to reduced testosterone levels.
- On labels, you’ll see them listed as Propylparaben, Butylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Isopropylparaben, Methylparaben, Ethylparaben and other ingredients ending in paraben.
2. Retinyl Palmitate
- Retinyl palmitate is a widely used ingredient in skin care products, which is the most controversial form of vitamin A.
- Studies have shown mice exposed to retinyl palmitate developed a frightening number of tumors after exposure to sunlight.
- Retinyl palmitate enhances photocarcinogenicity (any substance that becomes a carcinogen on exposure to light), increases skin lesions, and increases the presence of squamous cell neoplasm – the beginnings of skin cancer.
- When use lotion that contains retinyl palmitate, be sure to avoid the sun. This ingredient could lead to damage, aging, and cancer if exposed to sunlight.
- If you are going to use a lotion that contains retinyl palmitate, do so at night.
- Cosmetic products are not subject to FDA approval, with the exception of color additives. In general, cosmetic manufacturers may choose to use any ingredient they like, except for a few ingredients that are prohibited by regulation.
- When you see the word “fragrance” on the ingredients label, it is also known as hidden chemicals. There is no way to know what the chemicals are because formulas are protected under federal law’s classification of trade secrets. So basically cosmetic companies can choose to put any ingredient they want in their products under the name fragrance without having to tell you what they are in order to protect their “secret formula.” This prevents the consumer from making fully informed decisions.
- It will simply read “fragrance” or “parfum” on a label.
- Some problems caused by these chemicals include hormone disruption, skin irritation, rash, dizziness, headaches, and the list goes on.
- Don’t buy a cosmetic that has the word “fragrance” or “parfum” on the ingredients label. Look for labels that say, “phthalate–free”.
- Phthalates are a group of chemicals used to make plastics more flexible and harder to break. They are often called plasticizers.
- Phthalates are used in personal care products to moisturize the skin and as a solvent, are almost synonymous with fragrance.
- Phthalates can be found in perfume, hair spray, deodorant, shampoo, air freshener, laundry detergent and almost anything fragranced, nail polish, insect repellent, carpeting, vinyl flooring, the coating on wires and cables, shower curtains, raincoats, plastic toys, and your car’s steering wheel, dashboard, and gearshift. It’s ubiquitous.
- Independent testing has found high levels of phthalates hiding under the ingredient “fragrance”.
- Phthalates are not shown on every label as it’s added to fragrance in order to protect companies’ “secret formula”.
- Phthalates are potent hormone disruptors linked to pre-term births, loss of pregnancy, gestational diabetes, weight gain, disrupted reproductive function, decreased sperm counts in men, reduced female fertility, and a worsening of allergy and asthma symptoms.
- Phthalates also have influenced the function of the immune system, and even alter behavior.
- Animals studies have suggested that phthalate exposure can result in developmental and reproductive effects, cancer, immunotoxicity, diabetes, and obesity.
5. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) / Sodium Laureth sulfate (SLES)
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (commonly known as SLS) is a widely used and inexpensive surfactant found in many mainstream personal hygiene products such as lotion, toothpaste, mouthwashes, soaps, detergents, shampoo, and body wash, along with Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) and Ammonium Laurel Sulfate (ALS).
- A major concern about SLS is its potential to interact and combine with other chemicals to form nitrosamines, potent carcinogens that cause your body to absorb nitrates, which are known to be carcinogenic as well. These combinations can lead to many health problems such as kidney and respiratory damage.
- Yes, petroleum is what you put in your car. Would you apply petroleum on your skin knowing that is what is on there? Petrolatum, commonly known as petroleum jelly, is a byproduct of petroleum, which requires refining.
- During the refining process, if Petroleum Jelly becomes contaminated, possible Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons and other carcinogenic agents may get into the jelly, which has been linked to breast cancer and cause allergic reactions such as skin irritations and rashes.
- Petroleum Jelly seals off the skin from air and water which blocks the pores and the skin’s natural respiration process.
- The airtight barrier created by Petroleum Jelly on the skin also acts as a penetration enhancer. This means absorption of any of the toxic ingredients below will be increased.
7. Mineral Oil (also called liquid paraffin, liquid petroleum, paraffin oil)
- Mineral oil is colorless and odorless oil that’s made from petroleum, a by-product of the distillation of petroleum to produce gasoline.
- During the refining process, if mineral oil becomes contaminated, Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) and other carcinogenic agents may get into the oil; PAHs are considered potentially carcinogenic and have links to breast cancer. Is that something you want to put on your skin?
- Similar to petroleum jelly, mineral oil suffocates your skin with an airtight barrier layer and prevents it from normal breathing. Meanwhile, it attracts and draws moisture from the lower layers of the skin into the top layer of the skin, helping your skin appear smooth and soft. Great for a short time, but definitely not ideal for a long time.
- As you increase the usage of mineral oil, those lower layers gradually dry out. Your skin will eventually appear dull, exacerbating the look of any fine lines or wrinkles.
8. Polyethylene glycol (PEG compounds)
- Propylene glycol comes from propylene, which is a chemical produced as a side effect of petroleum refining.
- This ingredient helps to keep products constant at various temperatures, helps mix together a variety of ingredients, and helps formulations to attract and hold onto moisture. Because it can do so many things and because it’s economical, propylene glycol is used across several industries.
- Propylene glycol actually creates an airtight seal over your skin and suffocates your skin rather than moisturizes it similar to the effects of mineral oil on the skin.
- It’s classified as a skin irritant and penetrator. It has been associated with causing dermatitis as well as hives in humans.
- The dangers of Propylene Glycol include skin irritation and allergic reactions, potentially toxic to the kidneys and liver, probably not safe for infants or pregnant women, neurological symptoms, cardiovascular problems, respiratory issues, potentially bioaccumulative in certain cases, and may be a pathway for more harmful chemicals
9. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)
- Butylated compounds are primarily used as a preservative to extend the shelf life of a variety of personal care products. Both of these chemicals are also used as preservatives in foods.
- Butylated compounds have been linked to endocrine disruption, organ system toxicity, developmental and reproductive toxicity, cancer and respiratory irritation.
- You’ll see butylated compounds on labels as BHA or BHT.
There are many other toxic chemicals used in skin care products. By avoiding these 9 toxic ingredients, you can dramatically reduce the amount of chemicals you put on and end up in your body.
You probably wonder why these chemicals are being used when they are so hazardous to our health?
The answer is very simple. It’s all about money!
Synthetic ingredients are much cheaper than the natural ingredients. Synthetic ingredients have the ability to kill all germs, mold, and bacteria. They also allow the products to have a much longer shelf life and therefore more profit for the cosmetic companies.
Be sure to buy from reputable, organic skin care brands that are more conscientious and selective in the ingredients they use in their lotion formulations.
Better yet, make your own lotion.
You can actually make your own lotion using a few simple ingredients. Check out this post for more information.
Anyways, I hope you enjoyed this article. If you have any questions or concerns, please leave them in the comments below. And I will get back to you as soon as I can.
Thank you for visiting and have a wonderful day!