What’s Hiding In Your Facial Cleanser

A look at 3 common drugstore cleansers

Have you ever read the ingredients on your facial cleanser? Yes, the one that gives you squeaky clean skin.  Reading ingredient labels has become a sort of obsession for me lately.  Every time I find myself in a skin care aisle, I pull out my phone and start photographing the front and back labels of skin care products.  Yup.  Pretty exciting stuff, huh? What intrigues me the most is comparing the front label – the smart marketing that actually makes me think that this product is good for my skin – to the actual ingredients on the back label.  You’d be surprised to see what’s hiding in your facial cleanser!

According to Julie Gabriel, author of The Green Beaty Guide: Your Essential Resource to Organic and Natural Skincare, for every dollar you spend on a skincare product, only seven cents go into its ingredients.  With these drugstore brands, you definitely get what you pay for.  However, this formula can also be applied to a small jar of a more expensive product which is full of petrochemicals, preservatives, and synthetic fragrances.  The point here is, don’t be blinded by the complexion of the twenty year old model who’s been hired to sell a face wash or face cream to women in their late 30s and 40s.  Also, ignore their taglines, which are usually full of promises they don’t keep.  Turn the bottle over and ask yourself, “What am I paying for?” and “Show me the good stuff!” Hopefully.

You don’t need to memorize a ton of ingredients in order to make smart choices when you shop.  What’s the first ingredient? Is it water? If yes, you’re probably paying for a lot of that; probably over 80%, so keep that in mind when paying the big bucks.  What’s next? Some kind of foaming agent? That would be near the top, too.  I would recommend reading the top of the ingredient list to find what makes your cleanser lather, checking the middle and bottom of the list for preservatives (parabens are the top ones to avoid) and also the bottom or near the bottom for parfum or fragrance.  Stick to products whose ingredients you understand and that are not scented or if you are someone who likes a bit of smell, makes sure it comes from natural sources.

Here are some of the ingredients to watch out for in three big drugstore brands I researched.  I’ve changed their brand names a bit to keep it fun and see if you can guess the real brand yourself.  Is your favourite cleanser in there?

1) Spectacular Cleanser contains

· Diazolidinyl urea – a formaldehyde releasing preservative which is classified as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

· Dimethicone – a Polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS); a silicone polymer produced from D4 and and which contains residual amounts of D4 and D5. D4 and D5 — are toxic, persistent, and have the potential to bioaccumulate in aquatic organisms.  The European Union classifies D4 as a endocrine disruptor, based on evidence that it interferes with human hormone function, and a possible reproductive toxicant that may impair human fertility.

· Butylene glycol – another petroleum product that will dry out the skin; not harmful but it’s not doing anything for your skin.

2) Bionic Deep Pore Charcoal Cleanser contains…(where’s the charcoal?)

· Sodium Laureth Sulfate – may be contaminated with measurable amounts of ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane; The International Agency for Research on Cancer ethylene oxide as a known human carcinogen and 1,4-dioxane as a possible human carcinogen.

· Parfum (fragrance) – represents a complex mixture of dozens of chemicals; about 3,000 chemicals are used as fragrances; most have not been tested for toxicity, alone or in combination. Many of these unlisted ingredients are irritants and can trigger allergies, migraines, and asthma symptoms.

· CI 77499 – coal tar-derived colours;  P-phenylenediamine is a particular coal tar dye used in many hair dyes and has been linked to tumours in laboratory tests conducted by the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

3) Cheapo and Cringy Morning Burst cleanser contains

· Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Ethylparaben – parabens! Endocrine disrupters that may interfere with hormone functions.  For one, they mimic estrogen and have also been found in breast tumor tissue.  It’s important to note that Methylparaben has been found to lead to skin aging and DNA damage because of the way it reacts with UVB rays.

·  Cocamidopropyl Betaine – a surfactant which removes oil and dirt from your face;  it has been associated with irritation and allergic contact dermatitis, reactions that could be due to the ingredient itself or to impurities present in it, such as 3-dimethylaminopropylamine.  It’s also suspected to be an environmental toxic by Environment Canada.

· Parfum (fragrance) – represents a complex mixture of dozens of chemicals; about 3,000 chemicals are used as fragrances; most have not been tested for toxicity, alone or in combination. Many of these unlisted ingredients are irritants and can trigger allergies, migraines, and asthma symptoms; nobody really knows what’s in there.

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