The Biggest Myths About Toxic Beauty Ingredients

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The subject of what exactly is in our beauty products is a hotly debated one; so do you or don’t you have to worry? The experts tag these myths as ones that may be misleading you.

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Myth 1: If it's a chemical, it could be toxic.
New York dermatologist Doris Day, MD, stresses that this fact is the most important to understand about skin care ingredients: “Everything is a chemical. That doesn’t mean it’s bad,” she says. “If you are concerned, you can rest assured that the bigger brands take many important steps to make sure these products are safe and effective.” The bottom line: “Beauty companies do extensive testing on their products.

Myth 2: If you order a product online, you’re in the clear.
Another, somewhat newer, area of concern for toxicity and adverse reactions comes from the growing popularity of purchasing beauty products over the Internet. “It is an increasing problem that counterfeit or contaminated topical products are available online,” Greenwich, CT, dermatologist Lynne Haven, MD, says. “It is important for the consumer to be sure that the source where they are getting products online is a reliable one, so that they can avoid potential toxicity with these counterfeit or mislabeled products.”

Myth 3: Sunscreen is highly suspect.
One big area most experts will agree on is that sunscreen really gets a bad rap in the safety department. “The best example of a mistaken ‘beauty belief’ is that sunscreens are toxic or can cause skin cancer,” says Dr. Haven. “Skin cancer rates are rising and sunscreen has been well-established as a tool to reduce DNA damage from ultraviolet radiation.” Cincinnati, OH, cosmetic chemist Kelly Dobos adds that sunscreen is one area that the FDA is rather “conservative” on, mainly because it’s considered a drug so it gets special attention. “The FDA process is complicated, but to say that the FDA doesn’t give a lot of thought to what it’s approving in relation to sunscreen ingredients simply isn’t true.”

Myth 4: Parabens are the biggest “toxic” beauty ingredient out there.
Dobos says that, in her opinion, this is a skin care safety issue that is seriously misunderstood. “Cosmetics need good preservatives that protect against bacteria, yeasts and molds and that’s where parabens come into play. They are a class of preservatives that have a long history of safe use, but have come under intense scrutiny. Considerable scientific research has demonstrated that parabens are metabolized and excreted harmlessly by the body and that they are a safe, effective preservative in cosmetics.” Likewise, she explains, oftentimes chemicals are maligned as “toxic” for marketing purposes.

Myth 5: The FDA doesn’t regulate the cosmetic industry, which is why it’s so dangerous.
“Cosmetic regulations explicitly state that it is unlawful to use any ingredient that is harmful when used as intended,” Dobos says, adding that, under U.S. law, cosmetic manufacturers have a legal responsibility for the safety their products. “The FDA can and does take action against cosmetics that do not comply with the law.” 

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