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6 Blacklisted Ingredients

1. Parabens

These preservatives include methyl, propyl, butyl and ethyl parabens.  They are most common in shampoos, conditioners and styling products because they effectively inhibit microbial growth and extend product shelf- life

Issues: They are known to be allergenic and have been associated with cancer. These claims have not been validate by the FDA as parabens continue to be used as preservatives even in processed food. However, these alarming concerns continue to be investigated

Solution: If you must, use products that have parabens listed among the last ingredients in the products. Ingredients list are hierarchical so whatever is listed first is most abundant.  Opt alternative natural preservatives like essential oils, vitamin E and rosemary extract.

2. Urea

These preservatives that include Imidazolidinyl, Diazolidinyl Urea are used as antiseptic and deodorants. After parabens, ureas are the most commonly used preservative cosmetics and personal care products.

Issues:  The American Acadaemy of Dermatology linked exposure to Urea with contact dermatitis.

Solution:  If using a product with Urea, keep product off face and rinse body thoroughly.

 3. Formaldehyde

These inexpensive preservatives include Merthaldehyde, Methanal, Methyl Aldehyde, Formalin, Formic Aldehyde, Oxomethane, Oxymethylene and are used in anhydrous (containing water) hair care products to inhibit microbes.

Issues: Formaldehyde is a suspected carcinogen.  It may also cause severe allergic reactions and respiratory irritation. The major concern is cosmetic manufactures have weaseled their way out of listing formaldehyde as an ingredient in their hair care products.

Solutions: Keenly check product ingredients and avoid products with any type of Formaldehyde.

4. Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate (SLED/SLS)

This is a heavy-duty industrial detergent used in most shampoos, shaving creams, and bubble baths for its cleansing and foaming properties. Some labels say “derived from coconut”.  Although there are many websites claiming SLED/SLS are carcinogen, the American Cancer Society has taken the position that SLS and SLES do not cause cancer. In 1983, a group of independent physicians from the cosmetic industry deemed SLES/SLS to be safe if rinsed off quickly and thoroughly.  Hence the uses in products like shampoo, conditioners and toothpaste

Issues: SLS strips the hair of its natural oils — often leaving it dry and brittle. SLS has also been linked to hair loss, allergic reactions and eye irritation.

Solution: Shikakai and Aritha are great natural shampoos. The African black soap is another alternative. If you must use an SLS shampoo, do one wash with an immediate thorough rinse to minimize damage.

Read product labels. Other non-stripping shampoo bases like Akyl Polyglucoside have found their way into the market.  Polyglucoside are made from sugar of glucose and sucrose and have no known side effects.


DEA (diethanolamine)

MEA (momoethnanolamine)

TEA (triethanolamine)

These synthetic surfancts are commonly referred as “coconut derived” and used in products that foam like bubble baths, body washes, shampoos, soaps and facial cleansers. DEA and MEA are usual listed on the ingredients label in conjunction with the compound being neutralized. Thus look for names like Cocamide DEA or MES, Lauramide DEA.

Issues: These, readily absorbed, ingredients may be contaminated with nitrosamines, a potent class of carcinogens.

Dr. Samuel Epstein, Professor of Environmental Health at the University of Illinois found that “repeated skin applications of DEA-based detergents resulted in a major increase in the incidence of two cancers – liver and kidney cancers.” John Bailey, who oversees the cosmetic division for the FDA said the new study is especial important since “the risk equation changes significantly for children.”

Solutions:  If avoiding products with these ingredients is not possible, check to see if Vitamin A and C are also present.  These vitamins significantly reduce risk by acting as blocking agents.

 6. Propylene Glycol

This is a petroleum derived solvent, humectant, carrier and surfactant present in most shampoos, lotions, after-shave, deodorants, mouthwashes, and toothpastes to give a product “glide” or “slip.”  Propylene Glycol is also present in food like ice cream, baked goods and children’s cough syrup.

Issues: Propylene Glycol and its cousin Polyethylene Glycol may cause allergic reactions, dermatitis, dry skin, hives, and eczema.  Industry Propylene Glycol is used to breakdown protein and cellular structure. This is the same ingredient used in hair care products– presenting a hazard because hair is made of protein.

Solutions”: Avoid products with Propylene Glycol and Polyethylene Glycol not only in hair care products but also in food products as well. Opt for hair care products with glycerin – a vegetable based lubricant.

Do you have other black listed ingredients?