Cosmetics are to serve the aesthetics of our appearance, allow us to relax or improve our mood. However, manufacturers often have a slightly different business than ours - they simply want to sell a given product. To do this, they are looking for a way to reduce production costs and put a lot of energy into finding cheap substitutes for their preparations. They do not always care about the potential side effects of the product. A conscious consumer must learn to read the ingredients of cosmetics and, above all, find those substances that not only do not help us, but can even harm us. Reading this text will allow you to familiarize yourself with some of them, which will allow you to make an informed decision about purchasing products containing them in their composition (INCI).


SLS, also known as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and SLES Sodium Laureth Sulfate, are very often used detergents in drugstore cosmetics. Producers use them a lot in their products, which means that they are usually high in the composition. You do not need to look far for examples: Pantene Pro-V Intensive Care SLES shampoo second in the composition, Head & Shoulders Supreme Purify & Volume SLES shampoo also second in the composition, Nivea Creme Soft creamy liquid soap again SLES second in the composition ... The examples can be multiplied and multiplied. However, since well-known brands are so eager to use these strong detergents, maybe they are not that harmful? Nothing could be more wrong. There are many reasons to avoid SLS and SLES. First, the said detergents have been used in the past to wash machines, engines, and ships, and thus remove large amounts of heavy dirt. Second, information from the findings of the 2016 Cosmetic Ingredient Review shows that there is strong evidence that cosmetics containing SLES cause irritation in various parts of the body. SLS and SLES dry the skin, which causes a violation of the lipid barrier, which increases the susceptibility to various types of infections. You should be particularly alert to the presence of these detergents in cosmetics for children and babies. The lipid barrier and the microbiome of toddlers' skin are just taking shape, so they require very gentle care. There are reports that SLS and SLES can also penetrate into the bloodstream, accumulate in the body, and possibly have a mutagenic effect. Therefore, special care should be taken when using them.

Paraffin oil

Paraffin oil, paraffin, marked in the composition as paraffinum liquidum, mainly used as an emollient. This is a very popular scam used by manufacturers of various cosmetics, guaranteeing the "wow" effect after the first use. It works great on the skin and hair, as it smoothes and softens them, making them pleasant to the touch and they appear to be extremely well-groomed. Nothing could be more wrong. This effect takes place because the oily structure of the paraffin allows the body surface to be coated with a thin layer, which makes it more pleasant to the touch. In fact, however, long-term use of paraffin does not nourish the skin and hair. There is evidence that paraffin so high in composition (usually right after water) prevents other beneficial substances from penetrating the skin or hair. Thus, after discontinuing the use of a paraffin product, consumers often find that the condition of the above-mentioned has deteriorated drastically. Paraffin is often added to cosmetics dedicated to sensitive, dry, very dry skin that requires special protection. For example, paraffin is present right after water in cosmetics such as: L'Oreal Paris Rare Flower in milk for sensitive skin or in body milk Nivea Moisturizing Power Serum. What's worse, paraffin also reigns in the composition of cosmetics for children, for example in the Sudocream cream used to lubricate the butt in case of chafing (some mums even use it prophylactically). But also in children's olives, for example by the Bambino company, or in care creams recommended for children from the first day of life, such as a product of the well-known company Ziaja, in a series dedicated to children - Ziajka.

Why is it worth avoiding paraffin? Its action does not support skin regeneration, it only creates an occlusive layer, which prevents excessive evaporation of water from the epidermis, but at the same time prevents the care ingredients from getting into the deeper layers of the skin. Moreover, this layer cuts off the supply of oxygen, which favors the growth of anaerobic bacteria, which is not a physiological phenomenon in this area of ​​the body and may cause inflammation. Paraffin is quite difficult to wash off, and if it is not done properly, various contaminants, such as dust or pollen, can stick to the occlusive coating. Alarming information on the use of paraffin can also be found in the data from the Environmental Working Group Skin Deep, where scientists compare the compositions of everyday products to information from nearly 60 toxicity databases. There, liquid paraffin is classified as potentially harmful to the human immune system, and strong evidence has been found that it is harmful to the respiratory system. It may be a potential allergen.


Parabens are chemically esters of para-hydroxybenzoic acid and its analogs. In the composition of cosmetics, they are marked as Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Propylparaben, Butylparaben. They have been used for several decades as preservatives. As they have antifungal and antibacterial properties, in addition to their preservative properties, they are also used in anti-perspirant soaps or anti-dandruff shampoos. These ingredients are very controversial because they can migrate through the skin and accumulate in fat cells. They are often sensitizing substances, but generally do not cause an allergic reaction stronger than itching, erythema or atopic inflammation at the point of contact. The European Union restricted the use of parabens in 2014 - propylparaben and butylparaben (their isomers and salts) were banned in products for children under three years of age. The reason was the negative effect on the functioning of the endocrine system. Also, isoparabens such as Isopropylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Pentylparaben, Benzyloparaben and Phenylparaben have been banned in cosmetics because there are no studies confirming their safety. This shows that parabens are potentially very harmful substances for users of cosmetics containing them, and they are found in creams of many popular brands, for example in the Eveline Cosmetics Gold Lift Expert cream we have Methylparaben, Butylparaben, Ethylparaben and Propylparaben (in the order presented in the composition). Children's products also contain parabens, such as in the aforementioned Ziajka cream from the first day of life - Methylparaben and Ethylparaben.

PEG glycols (PPG, PEO)

PEG is polyethylene glycol, which is a polymer containing multiple molecules of ethylene oxide glycol. The molecules differ from each other in the length of the ethylene glycol chain. Depending on their size, they are often used as emulsifiers, humectants, washing, stabilizing, viscosity increasing substances or simply as a solvent. PEGs can cause slight eye irritation and potentially sensitize. Controversy is raised not so much by the PEGs themselves as by the proven carcinogenic 1,4-dioxane compound classified as category 2B by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). 1,4-Dioxane can be formed as a by-product during the production of PEGs. Companies are required to control levels of dioxane contamination.


Alcohols are a large group of chemical compounds that have different properties. Those that really have a harmful effect and instead of nurturing drying and irritating the skin are composed as Alcohol, Alcohol Denat., Ethanol, Isopropyl Alcohol. They are antibacterial and for this purpose they are used in cosmetics dedicated to oily and acne-prone skin. Their other important role is to facilitate the penetration of active ingredients into the skin. Due to their chemical properties, alcohols facilitate the penetration of the lipid layer of the skin. This has a double effect, because as much as it is good if an active substance reaches the skin, it is often the ingredients of fragrances or preservatives that go to the deeper layers with it. This is not the desired effect. Also, be careful with benzyl alcohol (Benzyl alcohol), which can irritate the skin. Alcohol is quite common in hair care products, such as styling preparations. We find it very high in the composition of the Schwartzkopf Taft Magic Volume volume spray or the Isana birch water balm for normal hair and with dandruff. As it is denatured alcohol, it is very likely that these products can dry out the scalp or hair after prolonged use. This in turn leads to the development of infections such as yeast (dandruff) or allergies.


Right after paraffin, one of the most frequently used substances to ensure the "wow" effect after the first use. Silicones or siloxanes are polymers that provide smoothness and glide. They improve the consistency, thicken and stabilize the cosmetic. They are hydrophobic, so the silicone layer is impervious to water. They are commonly used in hair conditioners, creams, lotions, make-up cosmetics ... everywhere. Cyclotetrasiloxane and cyclopentasiloxane are considered particularly harmful. They can affect the human endocrine system as well as negatively affect its reproductive capacity. The use of silicones in cosmetics for dry skin can lead to counterproductive effects. As with paraffin, silicones form a water-impermeable layer on the skin's surface, which makes the skin or hair softer and smoother. In the case of hair cosmetics, where silicones are especially willingly used, after discontinuing popular drugstore shampoos and conditioners, the appearance of the hair suddenly deteriorates and it turns out what its condition really was. So why were they in good condition when using silicones? Silicones tend to accumulate on the surface of the hair, so they are not washed off from shampooing to shampooing. However, they do not care for the hair, but improve its appearance, masking defects such as laxity, lack of shine, dryness. They can also hinder the penetration of ingredients that are in the cosmetic and are beneficial for the hair. The effect of long-term use of silicones can therefore be only one - weakening and deterioration of the hair condition. Silicones can be found in many products, for example in Garnier Fructis Goodbye Damage shampoo - Dimethicone and L'Oreal Paris Elseve Rapid reviver concentrated conditioner for colored hair - Amodimethicone, the third one in the composition.


Formaldehyde (also called formaldehyde) is a very dangerous substance commonly used in nail varnishes and conditioners. It is listed under the name Tosylamide / Formaldehyde Resin or Formaldehyde. It occurs naturally in the form of a gas that irritates the eyes and respiratory system. May cause allergic reactions. The previously mentioned International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) recognized formaldehyde as a substance with proven carcinogenic effect. Manufacturers of nail cosmetics use it because it strengthens the nail plate, ignoring the fact that as a side effect it can cause burning, pain, and even detach the nail plate from the bed. It can be found, among others, in Eveline cosmetics 8in1 Nail Therapy Professional Total Action conditioner and in Estee Lauder Pure Color nail polish.

Cosmetics often contain derivatives of formaldehyde, for example DMDM ​​Hydantoin (the preparation releases formaldehyde). It is one of the very commonly used cosmetic preservatives. Its concentration must be strictly controlled and, for safety reasons, it must not exceed 0.6% of the volume of the final product. It is found, for example, in White Deer, a hypoallergenic bath lotion (White deer is a brand associated with the gentleness and naturalness of cosmetics).


Aluminum, or aluminum, or rather aluminum chloride, is commonly used in antiperspirants and sweat blockers. They use its anti-sweat properties. Aluminum derivatives are, for example, the basis of the popular Dove brand deodorants. Unfortunately, there is growing evidence that it can be very harmful. As reported by the International Journal of Cancer, Professor Andre-Pascal Sappino's group showed that aluminum salts caused an extremely aggressive form of breast cancer in mice. In his speech, the professor even compared aluminum salts to highly carcinogenic asbestos. Aluminum has the ability to accumulate in the body, and the daily antiperspirants are not washed off well enough with the available cleansing agents. What's more, many people, by shedding their underarm hair, accidentally cause numerous micro-injuries that allow aluminum to penetrate the body. Also, inhalation of aluminum from aerosol deodorants can be harmful. As some studies show, inhaling aluminum in this form leads to an increased risk of neurological disorders and even Alzheimer's disease. Manufacturers, however, continue to argue that there is not enough scientific evidence to say that aluminum is harmful. It seems, however, only a matter of time.

Synthetic fragrances

Synthetic fragrances are often omitted by manufacturers, categorizing them collectively as "parfum". This secret is allowed by Polish law in the Cosmetics Act. It is argued for the uniqueness of the fragrance composition, that it is an extremely important part of the product, which often translates into the decision to buy it. It is not taken into account that a given cosmetic can cause serious irritation because its fragrance contains substances that are harmful to a given person. What's worse, due to the lack of information, it is impossible to judge it before buying. It is therefore an elegant scam. What are synthetic fragrances? They are imitations of natural fragrances produced in a laboratory, which translate into several thousand compounds. There are fragrances such as Tonalide (AHTN) or Galaxolide (HHCB), the effects of which can mimic the effects of hormones. They are often able to enter the bloodstream and cause inflammation caused by contact. Other fragrances have the potential to bioaccumulate and may be potentially carcinogenic in larger amounts. The consumer is unaware of this and has absolutely no control over how much of a given compound may remain in his body. According to the position of The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, an organization working for health, one fragrance mixture can be composed of up to two hundred ingredients, and each of them can be a potential allergen!

In summary, the ingredients listed in the article are potentially toxic, and at the same time can be found in most drugstore cosmetics. Often, toxic substances are very high in composition and allow you to achieve the desired effect very quickly. However, this is not an effect of phenomenal care, but of a short-term effect of a given substance, such as paraffin or silicones. Skin or hair treated with cosmetics containing harmful ingredients may be more prone to irritation, dryness, various infections and much more. So let's be conscious consumers, read the ingredients and choose wisely products for our body care.

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