Harmful substances in cosmetics – how to recognise them?

Harmful substances in cosmetics – how to recognise them?

Nowadays, it has become more common for people to suffer from allergies, contact dermatitis and other diseases. Most do not even realise that it can be caused by everyday cosmetics.

Although there are certain laws governing the production of cosmetics and regulating what the manufacturer may or may not include in the product, there are substances that may have undesirable health effects. Over the years, medical research has led to a growing list of substances that have an adverse effects on human health. Many substances are known to be carcinogenic – having a potential to cause cancer, and when such risk is identified, they are banned, but the process is far from speedy and more than often such recognition happens de facto. There are other hazardous substances for the immune system, which can develop birth defects, pose a risk of various diseases, affect the endocrine system, cause allergic reactions, or irritate the skin.

All LABRAINS products are developed based on the latest research on the health effects of the substances. If there is the slightest risk that a particular substance could be affecting the endocrine system or be very irritating, it is not used, regardless of whether it is permitted by law or even allowed in natural cosmetics. LABRAINS does not even use substances widely used in natural cosmetics, which are considered to be irritating by scientists, especially for problematic or very sensitive skin – for instance, sodium benzoate, benzoic acid, benzyl alcohol, alcohol… There are substances, such as salicylic acid, which are efficient in reducing pimples and pores, but their negative effects are increasingly being considered scientifically, and cosmetic legislation has minimised their permissible concentrations in the product, however, its harmful effects on the body are not sufficiently investigated among various specialists, such as dermatologists.

How to recognise harmful substances?

If you were asked what harmful substances you might name, you would no doubt be the first to mention parabens. Recently, it also serves as one of the marketing weapons, indicating in large letters on the packaging that the product does not contain parabens, thus calling for the choice of this product. In fact, it is only to be welcomed that also manufacturers of synthetic cosmetics are thinking about how to improve the composition of their products. For a long time, parabens were considered mild preservatives until researchers found them in breast cancer cells. Studies have shown that parabens mimic the action of the hormone estrogen and can cause breast cancer. Similarly, mineral oil or paraffinum liquidum, a cheap by-product of oil refining, is currently listed in the literature as a carcinogen. In addition, this substance, if not sufficiently purified and is added to cosmetics, covers the skin with a non-breathable layer, causing comedones (blackheads, inflammation, acne).

Polyethylene glycols (PEG) are another type of harmful substances widely used in cosmetics as surfactants, cleansers, conditioners, as well as thickeners, emulsifiers, and moisturisers. They are very soluble in water and can dissolve other substances. Therefore, they can be found in many synthetic skin cleansers. However, these chemicals can damage the skin's moisture and protective barrier and are therefore not recommended for sensitive and irritated skin. But the biggest concerns about the safety of these synthetic ingredients are mainly related to the manufacturing process that produces various harmful by-products. For instance, ethylene oxide and 1,4–dioxide are potentially carcinogenic. Many other undesirable substances have similar effects.

LABRAINS has compiled a list of substances that should be avoided when choosing gentle skincare and washing products for delicate or problematic skin:

  • phenoxyethanol
  • benzyl alcohol
  • sodium benzoate
  • benzoic acid
  • alcohol
  • dehydroacetate
  • butylene glycol
  • pentylene glycol
  • glyceryl (mono) caprylate
  • phenols
  • parabens (Methyl, Butyl, Ethyl, Propyl)
  • PEG (Polyethylene glycol), EDTA, SLS, SLE – Sodium Laureth sulphate, Sodium Lauryl sulphate
  • urea


LABRAINS produces cosmetics that are safe for health, environmentally friendly, allergen-free and developed according to the latest scientific research. We guarantee that our products do not contain: microplastics, microbials, silicone-derived ingredients, synthetic and naturally occurring preservatives such as alcohol, benzyl alcohol, benzoates, phenoxyethanol, PEG, parabens, phthalates, etc., which may cause skin irritation or adverse effects to the endocrine system.

LABRAINS uses gentle active ingredients, and you will not find phosphates, sulphates (SSL, SSV) and even such natural derivatives as sodium coconut sulphate in our cosmetics.

Also, LABRAINS does not use scientifically contradictory ingredients in their products – synthetic fillers, genetically modified (GM) ingredients, genetically engineered (GE) ingredients, artificial dyes, allergenic fragrances, chemical sunscreens, mineral oils, BHA (butylated ethylamin) listed allergens (e.g., limonene, linalool).


If there is no cheat-sheet at hand

Sometimes it is enough to read the name of a substance more carefully to understand what lies beneath it. For example, Polyethylene! What does polyethylene associate with you? With plastic bags! Polyvinyl – with vinyl records, acrylate – with nail polish and paints! If you learn to recognise even a few substances, then you will already understand whether this product is suitable or not.

We often hear people say that they have been using a shampoo for three years, and everything was fine, and all of a sudden, they became allergic! Unfortunately, or fortunately, the body has its own threshold of resistance: it accumulates everything and then at some point releases it, causing allergies and other serious illnesses. The question is, should you put yourself at risk if you can avoid it?

We are already lazy enough – we start exercising when we feel bad, not regularly. Perhaps this is a step towards a healthier life – to evaluate what cosmetics we use. And consider how willing we are to change our habits.

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