Breaking the skincare barrier

Toxic chemicals in skincare products can harm teens.


Sticky cleanser being lathered into your skin. Feeling cold moisturizer touch your freshly washed face. Basking in the scent and cool feel of spraying your skin with facial toner. Some of these things happen in a regular skincare routine. 

   Retinol, salicylic acid, ceramides, vitamin C, glycerin, chemical and physical exfoliants are all ingredients in a skin cleanser. Only two out of six people asked could recognize those ingredients and the effect they have on the body. 

   According to, when it comes to dangerous chemicals in skincare, beware of the “toxic twelve” some of which include: mercury, which can damage the kidneys and nervous system; Isobutyl and isopropyl parabens, which disrupt hormones and harm the reproductive system and PFAS, which have been linked to cancer.

   “I feel like most steroids and anything that’s artificial in a sense could be deemed dangerous just because I think it can be addictive and people can become over-reliant on it,” senior Maxwell Perschon said. “Not saying it’s going to kill you, but it definitely does something to your skin.”

When trying to find the perfect skincare item there are many things to look for. There are walls and walls around local stores full of body and skin products. As the years have gone on, skincare has become more prominent. There is also the concern of harmful ingredients. This makes it difficult to find the good from the bad when there are many different brands to pick from. “I know there are a lot of brands that use harsh chemicals. I try to stay away from those because of my skin disorders, so I know quite a few good skin products to use,” said senior Shelby Adams.

   According to, the skin is the body’s largest organ. It can be difficult to protect it from outside pollution and chemicals, but what someone consumes every day has an even greater impact. A high-sugar, processed-food diet can cause inflammation, acne outbreaks and premature skin aging. 

   “I just focus on my diet and I try to keep my diet seed oil-free,” Perschon said. “Seed oils are any oil that’s deprived of a seed. They’ve been linked to acne and many other health issues like inflammation which can be seen on the skin.”

   According to, it’s reasonable to assume the cosmetics someone uses has been thoroughly tested for safety before making their way into the shopping cart. This is not true. Unless it is a color additive, the FDA does not pre-approve cosmetics or ingredients. They do intervene in response to consumer complaints.

   Before engaging in any form of marketing, cosmetic companies are expected to ensure their products and ingredients are safe. They must also properly label their products, avoid using prohibited ingredients and adhere to the agreed-upon limits on restricted ingredients.

When looking at many individuals’ shower routines, you can see a very major step has become more popular for people of all ages, although a lot of times we forget about the skin on our face it is actually very important to our body’s. “Skincare is important to me because it’s all over your body so it’s important to keep it clean as much as you can.” senior Maxwell Perschon said.

  This can create ambiguity for consumers. A study published this year found high levels of

fluorine in makeup products such as foundations, mascaras and lip glosses. When fluorine appears in this manner, it indicates the presence of potentially toxic chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the products.

   “Lots of companies advertise dangerous skincare habits like harmful skin scrubs, or things that clog your pores and the only reason they are doing this is to get money,” freshman Rory Willadsen said. “You want to find healthy products with natural resources to actually be able to clean your skin and clean your pores so that way you’re avoiding every dangerous brand.”

Lots of companies advertise dangerous skincare habits like harmful skin scrubs, or things that clog your pores and the only reason they are doing this is to get money,

— freshman Rory Willadsen said

   According to, there have been numerous studies on the short-term effects of skin care product ingredients. Most, if not all, products are more likely to cause skin irritation than cancer, but knowing what’s in those products is important.

   The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) is investigating the health effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), which are found in many of the products people use on a daily basis. Even though there is limited scientific evidence on the harmful health effects of these chemicals, researchers are concerned because many cancers are caused by hormonal changes.

   Potentially harmful ingredients found in some products include: oxybenzone, formaldehyde, BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene), boric acid, sodium borate, coal tar ingredients, PEGs/polyethylene compounds, retinyl palmitate, retinol, lead acetate, methylisothiazolinone, hydroquinone, (SLS) sodium lauryl sulfate, (SLES) sodium laureth sulfate, toluene, triclosan and triclocarban.

   “I usually research different companies that don’t test on animals or have chemicals that are bad for your skin that I should avoid,” Willadsen said. “If I am shopping in a store, I’ll remember certain things or certain brands that are good for me.”

   According to, what people put on their skin is important, but researching and comprehending what’s in beauty products can be difficult. That’s why the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Skin Deep Database and the Think Dirty app have science-based certification and rating systems to help you identify toxic ingredients in skin care, cosmetics and other personal care products.

   The Skin Deep database has been run by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group since 2004. The service provides ratings and a certification called EWG Verified for products which earn the best ratings. EWG’s database has a total of more than 79,000 rated products, including over 1,900 that have earned the stamp of EWG Verified.

   To research specific brands, enter the name on the database website or on the EWG Healthy Living app. The app also allows people to scan a product’s barcode and search the database this way.

   Think Dirty is an independent for-profit company which was given foundational funds by the Canadian government in 2012, some non-profit organizations and “investors who have no affiliations whatsoever with any beauty industry,” according to the site’s partnership page. The app launched in the summer of 2013 with 68,300 products listed. 

   In order to be listed in the app, brands have to pay per product reviewed and an ongoing fee to be evaluated under the brand’s criteria. While the app is for-profit, the organization claims to be mission-driven. Once a product is submitted to the site for rating, evaluations are performed by the company’s chemistry team and advisory board.

   “Skincare is important to me because it’s all over your body so it’s important to keep it clean as much as you can,” Pershon said.