Amanda’s Take: How to Read Makeup Labels

This post is by no means a complete treatise on reading labels (that’s more like a book!). It’s more like one newbie’s attempts at greening her makeup kit!

I tried something the other day which I found to be very educational. I took out some of my favorite beauty products and read the labels. The truth is, I could barely pronounce the ingredients listed. I realize that sometimes natural products have their ingredients’ latin names listed (and those aren’t easy to say either!), but it did make me wonder about what I was actually smearing on myself when I wanted to change my look.

Here are some ingredients that many cosmeticians (and researchers) believe to be the most harmful.

#1 Diazolidinyl urea

Is an antimicrobial preservative used in cosmetics. This first ingredient is known to be highly toxic, and can be found in cleansers, lotions, shampoos, makeup, and even in makeup removers!

#2 Parabens: methyl, propyl, butyl, and ethyl

One of the most used preservatives in cosmetics, especially in the USA. This is a tricky one. Most people believe that parabens aren’t good for you, but some say that they are an effective and safe preservative with little or no side effects. There appear to be no clear answers on this particular issue; certainly no conclusive studies. In fact some even believe that the chemicals that many natural brands use to replace parabens are even more harmful or may lead to bacterial contamination of the products! Yuck!

What do you think about parabens? Have you noticed if there are any in your deodorants, cleansers, eye makeup, and other beauty products?

#3 PVP/VA Copolymer

A petroleum-derived chemical that can be found in hairsprays and other cosmetics. This ingredient can be found in many hair products, including hairspray. I have very long, thick, and wavy hair, and I worry about the effects of inhaling a petroleum-derived chemical. If it goes in your lungs, can you get sick? No clear answers on this one either. But I think I’m going to err on the side of caution.

#4 Synthetic colours

These are mostly derived from coal tar. A few synthetic colours have been banned from cosmetics, especially in lipsticks, since there is direct contact with the mouth. However, hair dyes and shampoos also contain synthetic colours, which the skin absorbs.

#5 Synthetic Fragrances

When a label says that there are fragrances in a given product, that could mean that there are thousands of different ingredients in it. Most people prefer fragrance-free products because they are very sensitive to smells. I am definitely one of those people. With the exception of Betsey Johnson’s Perfume, I can’t stand the smell of perfumes. The problem though, is that some natural products still contain synthetic fragrances. Instead, it is best to opt for natural products that contain essential oils.

I learned a lot from this exercise, and I suggest that you do the same so that you can get rid of any harmful ingredients. What ingredients do you know of that we should all avoid?

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