Myth No. 16 - If it’s a Health Canada restricted ingredient, it won’t appear in everyday products
And here we are, the last of our three-part series breaking down the Skincare Dirty Dozen in everyday layman's terms. This month's blog exposes four unassuming ingredients that try to sneak their way into our everyday skincare products, even if it’s restricted for use in Canada and banned in other parts of the world!
Petrolatum, mineral oil, petroleum jelly...this is one of the most popular ingredients in commercial skincare because of its long shelf life, odorless property, ability to seal in moisture completely, and well...low-cost of production. That's because it's a byproduct from the process of refining crude oil - to be specific, if you scrape off the buildup that is found on oil rigs and take it away to be distilled, the resulting product is petrolatum.
Health Concerns: Petrolatum that is not properly refined may be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons ("PAHs") that causes skin irritation, allergies, and cancer. The EU actually classifies petrolatum as a carcinogen unless its full refining history is known and it's proven to be non-carcinogenic. Sadly, in Canada, we don't have the same restrictions. If you're interested in learning more, check out another blog article targeting the use of petrolatum in lip care products here.
Siloxane is a milder component of silicone that can be combined with other chemicals to help give a cosmetic product, a lighter, smoother, easier glide. It's found in most make-up products and also in moisturizers under different chemical names ending in "methicone" or "siloxane", such as Dimethicone (polydimethylsiloxane), Amodimethicone, Cyclomethicone, Decamethylcyclopentasiloxane, Cyclotetrasiloxane, Cylcopentasiloxane and Cyclohexasiloxane.
Health Concerns: Even though the cosmetics industry has argued this is safe in moderate doses, the EU has classified cyclotetrasiloxane and cylcopentasiloxane as endocrine disruptors, meaning they have the ability to disrupt our hormone functions that can impair human fertility. They may also harm our nervous, reproductive and immune systems. From an environmental health perspective, siloxanes doesn't dissolve or break up over time. Instead, it has the ability to intoxicate our waste water, entering and accumulating in the bodies of aquatic species, in some cases, killing them off together with plant life that feeds off this water source.
11. Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)
Who is a fan of hotel shampoos and body washes? I'll be honest here, I was a total hoarder of the cutely packaged mini kits until...I became a natural skincare formulator. In looking through my "stash" collected over the years, I started noticing this ingredient in a number of these products - and often it comes up as the first primary ingredient! I don't blame them, SLES is designed to give a product more foam, more lather, more emulsifying power, and all that makes it a better clean. Oh, did I forget to mention, it's also an extremely cheap ingredient.
Health Concerns: The manufacturing process for SLES makes it prone to contamination by a known carcinogen ethylene oxide and a possible carcinogen 1,4-dioxane. Worthy of note, SLES is often confused with SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate), an equally popular ingredient in cleansing products. Though SLS doesn't have the same potential for contamination as SLES, there is evidence that long term exposure can lead to skin irritation.
With the amount of hand sanitizers we use and handwashing we do these days, this is one ingredient to watch out for. Triclosan primarily functions as an antibacterial agent added to well, just about everything that can be labelled antibacterial - soap, lotions, toothpaste, deodorant, even children's toys! To identify triclosan, look for triclosan (TSC) or triclocarbon (TCC) on the product label.
Health Concerns: Triclosan can pass through skin and accumulate in human bodies. It is restricted for use in Canada due to its ability to cause skin and eye irritations and environmental damage, and is suspected to disrupt our hormonal functions as well as contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Note that restricted for use in Canada doesn't mean it's a banned ingredient, it may still be used in concentrations below an established threshold. However, Health Canada does require explicit labelling to highlight these restricted ingredients, so make sure to read those product labels! Ultimately, practicing effective handwashing with regular soap and water is proven to provide better hand hygiene than the use of antibacterial soaps.
Thank you for sticking with me through this three-part series! Congratulations for empowering yourself with the knowledge to help protect you and your family from the skincare dirty dozen!