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If scanning the beauty aisle is overwhelming, tackling the list of foreign looking ingredients on the product label is must be a nightmare. Common sense probably tells you that the more ingredients a product has, the worse it is—and that’s usually correct. The cosmetic industry is a 20 billion dollar industry, yet the majority of our beauty products have never been evaluated for safety. With the average woman absorbing five pounds of chemicals per year through her cosmetics, looking out for some of the most toxic chemicals is pretty important to your health.

The more you know, the wiser you can shop. Now you can look for better alternatives, and feel better knowing you’re making informed choices. After all, most cosmetics penetrate into the inner layers of our skin (our body’s largest organ!). Now, here are the top 5 chemicals to look out for next time you raid the beauty aisle!

1. Parabens

The group of chemicals known as parabens were actually banned by the European Union in 2003. Parabens are used to preserve products such as nail polish and hair spray—and are linked to breast cancer and reproductive disorders. To identify parabens, look out for any prefixes that contain “propyl,” “isopropyl,” “butyl,” or “isobutyl.”

2. Synthetic fragrance

This is a sneaky ingredient because it’s typically listed last. Found in everything from deodorant to lotion and shampoo, “fragrance” or “parfum” is really a euphemism for thousands of different synthetic chemicals. Federal law doesn’t require companies to list the chemicals in their “fragrance,” so buy “fragrance-free” products as much as you can. Exposure is known for triggering allergies and sensitivities and wreaks havoc on your central nervous system.

3. DEA

Diethanolamine, known as DEA, is a wetting agent that provides lather to your hair products—and is found in antifreeze and brake fluids. Enough said!

4. Sodium Lauryl sulfate

The suds in your shampoo and toothpaste are extremely toxic—and important to avoid!

5. Triclosan

Triclosan is widely used in soaps, disinfectant gels, and household products with horrible effects. It actually ranks as a pesticide to the EPA, which renders it highly toxic.


Bonus Tip: It’s vital to pay attention to the order of the ingredients. The first chemicals listed constitute the greatest percentage of the product. It’s a good sign if the first ingredients named are natural, and it’s not so good if they’re at the end of the list.

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