Your mom always told you it’s what’s on the inside that counts—and the same goes for beauty products. We've had many customers tell us that they are being more careful about the products they use on their hair, skin, and body, and spending more time scrutinizing those ingredient labels. To make that task easier, we’re introducing Ingredient-Conscious Picks, a new Birchbox Shop category. Every product featured is free of the five ingredients that concern our customers the most: parabens, phthalates, sulfates, petrochemicals, and GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Here’s a quick primer:
Parabens are synthetic preservatives that inhibit the growth of bacteria, fungus, and other microbes in makeup and skincare. They are easy to spot on labels because they end with the word paraben (ex: proplyparaben, isobutylparaben, butylparaben). While the FDA has determined that parabens are safe in cosmetics, some studies have shown that they are potential endocrine disruptors, which have been linked to developmental and reproductive issues.
Phthalates are chemicals used in many beauty products, including hairspray, deodorant, nail polish, and perfume, to give them more staying power. Phthalates are potential endocrine disruptors, as well. They’ve also been associated with asthma and allergies.
You’ll commonly see sulfates listed on your product labels as either Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) or Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES). All sulfates essentially do the same thing, which is to act as a foaming agent in products like shampoo, soap, and toothpaste. For some people, they can be irritating to the scalp, gums, and skin.
Petrochemicals such as mineral oil, petrolatum, petroleum jelly, and liquid paraffin are made from crude oil and natural gas. These ingredients are used lipsticks, lubricants, and sunscreens to give them an emollient quality. Some sources claim that they can cause irritations and hormonal disruptions, but the biggest concern surrounding petrochemicals is that they can generate 1,4-dioxane, a potentially toxic substance.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
There’s been a lot of chatter about GMOs in food, but they can be found in many beauty products too. GMOs are defined as plants or living organisms whose genetic material has been modified using genetic engineering techniques (read: they're not natural). The long list of ingredients potentially derived from them include corn flour, soybean oil and vitamin C. Most of the health concerns surrounding GMOs, such as infertility and insulin regulation, relate to ingesting them in food. While the FDA has concluded that food and cosmetic ingredients derived from GMOs are just as safe as those produced through conventional means, some are still concerned about health risks and supporting companies that use GMOs.