Many skin lighteners have harsh and even toxic ingredients. These skin lightening products are made up of chemicals that end up being absorbed by the skin and enter the bloodstream. Many of these chemicals are detrimental to the skin and may have repercussions on your health.
Some companies only list some of their product’s ingredients. The main active ingredients are generally listed but there’s no way to fully know and avoid every synthetic chemical that may exist in these products. This is one of the main reasons to use skin lighteners that contain natural ingredients.
If It’s On The Shelf Is it Safe?
Many people are under the impression that if a product is available commercially, it has undergone testing to verify its safety. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The FDA doesn’t regulate cosmetics. From their website: “Under the law, cosmetic products and ingredients do not need FDA premarket approval, with the exception of color additives.”
This does help many skincare companies get their products on the market. But it doesn’t help you. As a consumer, it’s up to you to learn about the ingredients used in skincare which are potentially harmful. Some stay in the body for a long time. Additionally, these ingredients aren’t always being used because they’re effective. Often they’re put in products simply because they’re cheap or readily available. There are so many skincare products on the shelves what can you do?
Best Fade Creams has made up a list of the most common toxic ingredients in skin lightening products and other beauty, skincare, and hair care products.
Skin Whitening Ingredients To Avoid
Check the ingredients label! Ingredients found in many skin creams have been linked to everything from allergic reactions to hormonal disruptions to cancer. What’s worse is that they can go directly into your bloodstream and build up over time when applied to the skin.
- Hydroquinone: Used In skin lighteners. The FDA has proposed a ban on this toxic chemical but it has not yet been acted on. Its use in over the counter skin creams is banned in Japan, the European Union, Australia, and many other countries. The FDA warns that this skin-bleaching chemical can cause a skin disease called ochronosis. It may cause “disfiguring and irreversible” blue-black lesions on exposed skin. It has also been linked to possible cancers.
- Mercury: Used in skin lighteners. Banned in the US illegally imported skin lighteners can contain mercury. It can poison adults and children and is especially toxic during pregnancy. Never put mercury on your skin! Be wary of imported skin lighteners, don’t buy products without ingredients clearly labeled, and always avoid products with “mercury,” “calomel”, “Mercurio” or “Mercurio chloride.”
- Parabens: Used in skin lighteners, makeup, moisturizers, shampoo, and other skincare products. This synthetic preservative, whose purpose is to prevent bacteria growth in skincare and beauty products has cancerous side effects because of its estrogen-mimicking component. Parabens are preservatives found in everything from soap to lotion to makeup. If it has water in it, it probably has a paraben to keep it from growing bacteria. Examples include methylparaben, propylparaben, isopropyl paraben, and isobutylparaben. If “paraben” is in the word, avoid it. The FDA acknowledges several studies linking parabens, which mimic estrogen, to breast cancer, skin cancer, and decreased sperm count. It has not ruled that it is harmful. Paraben-free products will be labeled as paraben-free.
- Oxybenzone: Found in sunscreens. Most skin lighteners recommend using sunscreen as your skin may become sensitive to sunlight. Oxybenzone is one of the highest-risk chemicals found in sunscreen. Studies on cells and laboratory animals indicate that oxybenzone and its metabolites may disrupt the hormone system. It also has high rates of skin allergy. Chemical sunscreens should be avoided at all costs—especially with children. Oxybenzone can also be found in moisturizers, lip balm, and makeup. Opt for safe, physical sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium oxide instead. These are chemical-free, mineral-based ingredients.
- Artificial Fragrance/Parfum: Found in some skin lighteners, moisturizers, and many other products. Federal law doesn’t require companies to list on product labels any of the chemicals in their fragrance mixture. Recent research from the Environmental Working Group and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found an average of 14 chemicals in 17 name-brand fragrance products. None of them were listed on the label. Fragrances can contain hormone disruptors and are among the top 5 allergens in the world. Buy fragrance-free or a product containing natural essential oils wherever possible.
- Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS): Found in shampoos, soaps, various beauty, and cleaning products. SLS has been shown to cause or contribute to skin irritation, canker sores, disruptions of skin’s natural oil balance and eye damage. It is also widely believed to be a major contributor to acne (especially cystic acne) around the mouth and chin. They are surfactants that can cause skin irritation or trigger allergies. Additionally, chemical compounds that are known as “nitrosamines” are common by-products of the sulphation process. 90% of nitrosamines are believed to be carcinogenic.
- Polyethylene Glycol (PEG): Found in some skin lighteners, scrubs, body wash, makeup, toothpaste. PEG is often contaminated with both ethylene oxide (a known carcinogen) and 1,4-Dioxanewhich readily penetrates the skin. Polyethylene has been noted as a skin irritant and should never be used on broken skin. It’s banned in Canada. Many exfoliating washes are made from polyethylene because they’re gentler on the skin than natural exfoliators like walnut shells.
- Triclosan and triclocarban: Found in antibacterial soaps. Triclosan is an antibacterial agent once used in antibacterial soaps. Even the FDA agrees that there is no health benefit to humans who use triclosan, and in 2013 ruled that manufacturers using it had to demonstrate that there were no long-term detrimental effects. Triclosan (in liquid products) and triclocarban (in bar soaps) have been linked to hormonal disruptions, bacterial resistance, impaired muscle function, impaired immune function, and increased allergies. Instead, use naturally antibacterial and antiseptic agents like tea tree oil.
- BHA: Found in cosmetics. The National Toxicology Program classifies butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” It can cause skin depigmentation. In animal studies, BHA produces liver damage and causes stomach cancers such as papillomas and carcinomas and interferes with normal reproductive system development and thyroid hormone levels. The European Union considers it unsafe in fragrance. Opt for a BHA and phthalate-free perfume.
These ingredients, however toxic, constitute a vast majority of products in circulation. Before using anything on your skin, do your research and look into all the ingredients on the label to stay safe.
Tips On How To Choose Safer Cosmetics
There are so many chemicals in our products how can you remember all of them? If you are unsure a quick and easy way to check is at the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database. Type in the ingredient and you will find what you need to know about it. Each product is given a score based on the ingredients it contains. It’s a quick and easy way to figure out if the products you are using on yourself and your children are safe
According to the Environmental Working Group, the average woman uses 12 products containing 168 unique ingredients every single day. Most contain endocrine disrupters, which can affect hormonal balance and fertility. Some contain ingredients with clear links to cancer.
There is almost zero federal regulation of the cosmetics industry in the United States. There are over 1,300 chemicals banned for use in cosmetics in the European Union alone due to questions over their safety. In comparison, the U.S. has only banned 11.
If you complain the company does not have to report the complaint to the FDA. And even if the FDA is alerted of the complaint? The FDA has no authority to issue a recall of cosmetic products. That means there’s basically no way to be sure a product is safe before it’s sold, and no way to get unsafe products off of store shelves. There are lots of chemicals that are known to be dangerous but are still widely used in the cosmetics industry.