In order not to jeopardize the health and beauty of the skin, it is essential to carefully read the INCI of cosmetics and stay away from some harmful ingredients. Let’s see what they are.
Almost all cosmetics on the market are formulated with safe ingredients that respect the delicate balance of the skin microbiota. It is also true, however, that some substances present in the composition of these products can have harmful effects on health, so it would be better to avoid them.
Even when choosing the most expensive cream or the best face mask in circulation, it is essential to carefully read the INCI of the product to be more confident about what to apply to the skin. However, given that the list of ingredients is often incomprehensible and difficult to interpret, in this post we will reveal which are the most harmful substances and how to recognize them.
What is INCI
To defend ourselves from misleading advertisements that boast the effectiveness and wonders of beauty treatments, made above all of silicones, parabens and petrolatum, we have an infallible weapon that we should all use for conscious consumption. This weapon is called INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients), that is the list of ingredients used in the formulation of cosmetics, which has become mandatory for companies since 1997.
However, since most of these lists seem to be written in Arabic, often making it difficult to understand for the consumer, one ends up buying a pig in a poke. But let’s proceed step by step and try to clarify the subject so as not to leave anything to chance.
First of all, we specify that all the ingredients of cosmetics are listed in decreasing order of concentration, according to a standard terminology that refers to three mandatory rules: all substances of plant origin must be reported with the botanical name in Latin of the plant from which they are extracted ; those subjected to a process of chemical transformation are, on the other hand, written in English; while the dyes will always be preceded by the initials CI (Color Index) and by an identification number.
In this regard, we would like to clarify another fundamental concept that demonstrates how many of the alarmisms circulating on the web are absolutely without foundation: if after in-depth scientific studies it is shown that a substance is toxic to human health, European laws prohibit its use. use in cosmetics or, if the toxicity concerns only specific quantities, a maximum use threshold is set.
The substances to avoid
Now that we have clarified the INCI of cosmetics, in the following lines we offer you a detailed list of the ten substances that would be best avoided to safeguard the health and well-being of the body.
Silicones are indicated in the INCI with the suffixes “thicone”, “xiloxane” and “silanol”. These are petrochemical derivatives capable of creating a sort of invisible film on the skin that makes it smoother and softer to the touch. Despite this ability, they still have a film-forming effect that could hinder normal skin transpiration, favoring the appearance of blackheads and imperfections.
Present in most exfoliating products and indicated in the INCI with the name of Polypropylene (PP) and Nylon, the microgranules help to keep the skin hydrated, freeing it from dead cells and impurities that make it dull and uneven.
However, what most beauty addicts probably ignore is that these substances are often and willingly obtained from plastic, which are harmful not only for the dermis but also for the environment.
MEA, TEA and DEA are the scientific names that appear in the INCI of shampoos and hair masks to signal the presence of Cocamide, a foaming agent used mainly as a thickener. The danger associated with the use of this substance derives from the fact that, in some cases, it can carry nitrosamines, a compound classified as a carcinogen.
These are hydrocarbons derived from petroleum refining, but before being used in the formulation of beauty products, such as creams, shampoos, deodorants and make-up, they are filtered and freed from impurities.
Al pari dei siliconi, creano una barriera protettiva che protegge la pelle dagli agenti esterni e dalla disidratazione, ma per contro le impediscono di respirare causando occlusione dei pori e irritazioni. Vengono segnalate nell’INCI con le seguenti nomenclature: Paraffinum liquidum, Mineral Oil, Gelée de pétrole, Vaseline e Microcrystalline Wax.
Messi di recente sotto accusa per il loro potenziale cancerogeno, i parabeni sono presenti in quasi tutte le preparazioni cosmetiche, poiché ne favoriscono la conservazione e impediscono la formazione di batteri e funghi, oltre a mantenerne inalterata la composizione dopo l’apertura del flacone.
Sarebbe meglio evitarli perché potrebbero alterare la normale funzionalità delle ghiandole deputate alla produzione degli estrogeni, comportando problemi di varia natura come l’ipotiroidismo autoimmune e l’infertilità.
Proprio per questo motivo, alcuni parabeni sono stati vietati dalle normative europee (Isopropylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Phenilaraben, Benzylparaben e Pentylparaben); mentre quelli ammessi li troverete in etichetta con il nome Butylparaben, E216, E218, E219, Sodium Paraben e Potassium Paraben.
In passato, la formaldeide (PPD) era presente in tutte le tinte per capelli come reagente, mentre oggi il suo impiego si è alquanto ridimensionato perché rientra tra i più potenti allergeni che esistano, provocando diversi tipi di reazioni che vanno da lievi sfoghi cutanei a sintomi ben più gravi, come rigonfiamenti dei linfonodi e serie difficoltà respiratorie.
I Polietilenglicoli sono composti sintetici inquinanti, di derivazione petrolifera, usati come tensioattivi negli shampoo e nei saponi. Si riconoscono nell’INCI dalla sigla PEG o ETH seguita da un valore numerico che indica il numero di ossidi di etilene presenti nel composto.
Dal momento, però, che questi ossidi limitano la capacità dell’epidermide di assorbire l’umidità e i nutrienti, è preferibile scegliere un prodotto che contenga un PEG dal numero basso per non lasciare l’apparato tegumentario e il sistema immunitario privo di difese.
Presente nella maggior parte delle creme solari, il Benzofenone (nell’INCI Benzophenone-3 o BP-3), oltre a essere una sostanza allergizzante, è un interferente endocrino che potrebbe compromettere la normale attività delle ghiandole deputate alla produzione degli estrogeni.
Used to make plastics more malleable, phthalates (Phthalates) are mainly found in nail polishes, perfumes, deodorants and aftershaves to improve their blending and make them last longer. They are to be avoided both because they are considered endocrine disruptors and because they could increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Even if the purchased product has a very pleasant smell, this does not mean that the fragrance present in its composition is of natural origin. To keep costs down and earn more income, many cosmetic companies use chemically synthesized fragrances, often derived from petroleum, which could trigger severe allergic reactions.