Be Well: Skincare

Skincare Ingredients to Avoid by Alder New York CEO, Nina Zilka.

The Top Five Skincare Ingredients
Beauty Brand CEO, Nina Zilka, Says You Should Avoid

As CEO of Alder New York, a clean, vegan skincare and haircare brand, I often get asked what is the number one dirty ingredient to avoid? For many consumers the list of clean beauty no-no’s can be overwhelming. While you want to avoid all the ingredients that can be harmful to you and the environment, it can start to feel like a full-time job. That’s why I’ve narrowed down the list of thousands to my top five ingredients to avoid.

Triclosan is an antibacterial ingredient that shows up a lot in hand sanitizers, toothpastes, and – until the FDA recently banned it – soaps. Triclosan is a known hormone disruptor, and its ubiquity makes it even more dangerous because of repeated exposure. Even though it’s no longer allowed in soaps, keep your eye out for it in toothpaste – Colgate lobbied and won to keep it in their products. If you see triclosan or triclocarban listed in a product’s ingredients, put the product down and keep looking; this one goes on the Do Not Use List.

Oxybenzone is a chemical sun blocker that is in many sunscreens, especially more old school brands like Banana Boat and Coppertone. Oxybenzone is a known hormone disruptor, which is already enough to make it onto the dirty list. It’s also becoming hugely damaging to coral reefs, so much so that it’s been restricted in Hawaii.

If you see oxybenzone or octinoxate as an active ingredient in your sunscreen, skip it. Stick to mineral sunscreens that use zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as their active ingredients, or, if you really want to use a chemical sunscreen, avobenzone, which is much less dangerous.

Synthetic Fragrance
The problem with synthetic fragrance is that legally, companies do not need to list the individual ingredients that make up their fragrance. So when you see “Fragrance,” or “Parfum” on a product, you don’t actually know what that means. Many synthetic fragrances use phthalates, which are known hormone disruptors, and can often cause cancer. Stick to products that specify that they use natural fragrance (e.g. essential oils) or none at all.

Butylated hydroxyanisole, aka BHA, and Butylated hydroxytoluene, aka BHT, are synthetic antioxidants often used as preservatives in personal care products. There is strong evidence that they are hormone disruptors, human allergens, carcinogenic, and cause liver damage.  You even find them in many processed foods.

Photo Credit: Alder New York

Similar to BHA and BHT, formaldehyde is an ingredient used for preserving products. It’s a tricky one- because the ingredient “formaldehyde” isn’t listed. look out for ingredients like: Dmdm hydantoin, Diazolidinyl urea, Imidazolidinyl urea, Tosylamide/Formaldehyde resin, Quaternium-15, Sodium hdroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-Diol, Polyoxymethylene urea, 5-bromo-5-nitro-1,3 Dioxane, Glyoxal, Methenamine, and Benzylhemiformal. All of these ingredients are referred to as formaldehyde-releasers and are carcinogenic, neurotoxic, and skin irritations.

Stick to Brands You Can Trust
The good news is that there are more and more safe ingredients on the market every day, and brands like Alder New York keeping up with the latest science to formulate products free from dirty ingredients. And if you aren’t sure about a brand or product, don’t worry about memorizing every bad ingredient out there- just keep your eye out for the top five.