The Fountain of Youth? The Shocking Truth About What's in Your Skin Care Products


There’s an ugly truth to beauty products and non-organic makeup brands.

So many ingredients that are ubiquitous in skin care products are actually terrible for your health and the beauty of your skin. Instead of making your skin look radiant and healthy (or maybe they even do, short-term), these products defeat your natural beauty over time and accelerate the aging process, in looks and in health.

Who is looking out for us? Certainly not the manufacturing companies, who may say such ingredients are “safe”. But the reality is that testing on the long-term and combined affect of many of these chemicals is unknown. We have to educate and protect ourselves!


Fragrance is in so many skin care and beauty products! You don’t always know what you’re getting with them because manufacturers aren’t required to list the individual ingredients that make up a fragrance on the label (they’d be giving away all their secrets, or proprietary information), but you can bet it’s likely a concoction of chemicals you don’t want on your skin or in your lungs. essential oilsThere are thousands of chemicals that could be combined to make fragrances.  When you don’t know what’s in a product, there’s also a possibility that you’ll unknowingly put something on your skin that will cause inflammation, and inflammation leads to premature aging.

If you want something that smells nice, look for natural skin care ingredients scented with essential oils instead of that catch-all, mystery ingredient, “fragrance.” If you didn’t know what something was, would you eat it? If you don’t know what’s in “fragrance” on your ingredients list, you shouldn’t be putting it on your skin or into the air you breathe, either.

This was rough for me, because I did used to love perfumes. But now I only wear them now on very rare, special occasions versus a daily spritz. There are essential oils that come in solid packages that I keep around though, so I can slather them on (they fade much more quickly however, so you have to reapply) to smell good. I love the Just B perfume by Sally B’s, it’s my fave! It lives in my purse.


Phthalates go hand in hand with fragrance, because they’re often added to personal care products to make the scents last longer. That’s not just for perfume and body sprays. When fragrance is added to shampoo, conditioner, cleanser, or lotion, there’s a good chance phthalates are part of the package, and they’re not necessarily on the list of ingredients because they’re locked under the “fragrance” umbrella.

Guess what else? There is very little testing done on phthalates’ effects on your health, even though they’ve been shown to cause problems with the male reproductive system in animal studies. They’re also associated with mimicking and blocking female hormones and early onset puberty. Frightening.

Mineral oil

mineral oilMineral oil is in facial oils, hair treatments (which could also end up on your skin), conditioner, body moisturizers, and other treatments, so you really have to read labels to avoid it.

If you’ve ever slathered your body in baby oil, which is just mineral oil with fragrance, you’re familiar with that oddly slick, yet not really moisturizing, coating you get on your skin. It doesn’t soak in completely (probably a good thing, actually), but it just sits there and prevents the skin from doing part of its job—detoxing. The idea behind using mineral oil is usually to lock moisture into the skin, but it blocks your pores and makes it more difficult to sweat toxins out of your body. Mineral oil has also been shown to increase the risk of tumors by about 21 percent in lab studies.

Try rubbing a small amount of coconut oil on your skin instead.

Nanoparticles and Oxybenzone

Sunscreen is touted as one of the best defenses about premature aging available, but is it always completely safe? Not really.

  • Nanoparticles may sound high-tech and cool to use, but the whole idea of nanoparticle technology is bad news for your skin and your health. Normal-sized particles that would be harmless on your skin otherwise, sitting on top of it (like zinc oxide in sunscreen, for example), and doing their job, are able to penetrate your skin when nanotechnology comes into play. Once they penetrate the skin, they can make their way into other parts of the body, like the brain, accumulate, and contribute to cell death. The nanoparticle of zinc oxide (remember, zinc oxide is typically deemed as a good choice for natural sun protection!) could cause cancer, increase oxidative stress,  and damage your DNA.
  • Oxybenzone may disrupt the normal functioning of the epidermis, plus it oxidizes quickly when exposed to sunlight. In addition, it reduces the capabilities of antioxidants, creating the perfect storm for free-radical skin damage. Oxybenzone also acts like estrogen once it’s absorbed into the body, and it could play a role in endometriosis in women and sperm production in men.

Look for sunscreens that do not boast of nanotechnology or nanoparticles, and choose natural sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as active ingredients.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES/1,4-Dioxane)

foaming agentIf you’re using a skin care product that foams (like your cleanser for face or body), there’s a good chance it contains sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate. These ingredients are added to everything from car washes and garage floor cleaners to facial cleansers and bubble baths.

Sodium lauryl sulfate tries to sneak by on labels that say “made from coconut” to make it sound natural. It’s not natural; the SLS is a result of a process involving coconut oil. One study in the International Journal of Toxicology says sodium lauryl sulfate has been shown to contribute to “a degenerative effect on the cell membranes because of its protein denaturing qualities,” while ammonium lauryl sulfate has, in animals, been linked to death. Both were shown to be skin irritants.

SLES is SLS after it has gone through a process where it reacted with ethylene oxide, which is a known human carcinogen. The Environmental Working Group says the reaction occurs and the end product is added to products like body washes in order to make the ingredients less harsh on the skin. If the ingredients are so harsh that they have to be forced to react with a cancer-causing compound in order to be better on the skin, it’s probably better to SKIP the products containing those things and opt for something gentler to begin with.

I simply use Dr. Bronner shower gel.


hand soapWhile the FDA does say that this ingredient hasn’t been shown to cause problems in humans, the site does admit that it has been linked to hormone disruption in animals. It’s used as an antimicrobial in body washes and soaps, but the EWG points out that triclosan and triclocarbon are actually pesticides, too. Why put pesticides on your body when you’re trying so hard to keep them out of your diet?

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)

These are popular in anti-aging skin care products (serums, treatments, and even moisturizers) because they exfoliate, soften, and cleanse the skin while reducing the appearance of fine lines and smoothing out the skin tone. However, they’ve also been shown to increase UV sensitivity, so they could potentially backfire with long-term, daytime use (or at least daytime use without a good, natural sunscreen). You’ll often see AHAs listed as glycolic acid or lactic acid.


cosmeticsParabens (isopropylparaben, isobutylparaben, butylparaben, etc) can be found in cosmetics, moisturizing creams, sunscreens, and more, whether you’re shopping in the drugstore or a high-end department store. The Environmental Working Group shows that some are more hazardous than others, but I recommend avoiding them all as much as possible in favor of more natural skin care. They’re used as preservatives in skin care products.

Methyl paraben has been shown to potentially cause skin damage when exposed to sunlight. Unless you’re only using your paraben-containing products at night (probably not, as parabens are everywhere), there’s a good chance you could actually be aging your skin with your skin care regimen. One study showed that methyl parabens combined with UV exposure increased oxidative stress and cell death, not exactly what you’re aiming for when you slather a product on your face to make it look better!

Aside from the aging factor, parabens have been linked to endocrine disruption and breast cancer.

Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide, a common ingredient in acne treatments, can be phototoxic when exposed to UVB rays.

Another Reason Why Detoxing Is Important

The problem with some of these ingredients is that, if they can make it through the barrier of your skin, they can make it into the blood stream and become lodged in your body, causing all sorts of problems over time. If you’re using these products daily, for years, as many of us do, imagine the accumulation of chemicals. This is why ongoing detoxing and cleansing is so important. The Beauty Detox lifestyle can help stir up and remove some of these toxins over time through a healthy diet and healthy habits. However, it’s also important to clean up your skin care routine so you’re not constantly re-introducing toxins to your body.

Dry brush to help your skin breathe and detox, and try a session in an infrared sauna. Both are amazing components of an ongoing detox program.



Last updated: Friday, June 19, 2015
  • Lindsey

    I found a great organic skincare line, the woman makes everything and the products are amazing!, the ingredients are fabulous!

  • cecilia

    hello Kimberly:
    what products would you recommend for the skin both face and body? I have been at the natural store products but there are tones of products that I feel overwhelmed that I do not have a clue which ones are good of bad. I’m over 40 and I need an extra help from a good face product.
    thanks so much for all you help in this topic and for keeping us informed.
    Cecilia A

  • Kim

    I love your books Kimberly. Thank you for posting this blog. More people need to be educated about what is in their personal care and cleaning products. That is why I am an educator and consultant for Ava Anderson Non toxic. We want to try and educate 1 million people about the dangerous toxins in their products and how to avoid them and be healthy and safe. I love the entire line of Ava Anderson Non Toxic products. They are some of the safest and totally non toxic products on the market for the entire family! Thanks for educating more people about this topic!

  • Kim

    Kim, thank you so much for this post. I appreciate you sharing with everyone the importance on watching not only what we put in our bodies but what we put ON our bodies. Our skin is our largest organ and it only takes 26 seconds for our skin care to enter our bloodstream. This news was shocking to me when I first heard it. This is also why after a battle with a very aggressive cancer an invasive surgery to help remove the cancer (HIPEC) I have switched over all of my products to Arbonne. It’s an all natural product developed by a 33 year old Swiss company. They abide by the highest of standards. One never has to worry about the danger of toxins while using Arbonne products. Again, thanks Kim for such a wonderful blog!

  • Krista

    What skincare line do you recommend for people with acne but concerned with aging as well?

  • Emcee

    What do you suggest for skincare products such as cleanser, toner, moisturizer and foundation? Please answer in your next “Ask Kim” segment on YouTube!

  • jonathan rivera

    Sorry… I apologize. I was just trying to impress you… and no, I don’t know how to pronounce it. your still the bomb… peace

  • Summer Pramer

    What shampoo do you recommend? I just discovered my shampoo contains cocamide MEA.

  • Abby

    Hi Kimberly! I was wondering if you use/have any recipes for homemade beauty products (things like lotion and hair masks) I know that the beauty detox solution serves the skin from within, but every girl likes to have their pamper days and I was just wondering if you had any tips for safe, natural, kitchen made beauty supplies.

  • Stephanie

    Great article! Very informative! Can’t express enough how important it is to be educated about the ingredients you are rubbing into your skin. I’ve switched to all-natural for pretty much everything. It’s also important to read the label, even when something says “all-natural” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for you. After many experiments with wholefoods brands and friend tips, my fave all natural brand is definitely Airelle. Great ingredients and awesome results!

  • JoAnn Hersh

    So I assume hair color is out for you also. Is there a natural alternative for that?

  • Iris

    I use alepsoap which has only 4 ingrediënts: olive oil, laureloil, water and sodium hydroxide. I think that’s a good one too, no?

  • Belinda Heflin

    Try soaking a graham cracker or saltine in baby oil for a few minutes. Instead of becoming mushy as you would expect; it becomes hard and waterproof. That is not a healthy environment for your skin. Not only does it seal the moisture in, but it does not allow your skin to breathe.

  • Lynn – Shopmysongs

    I remember hearing about Sodium Lauryl Sulfate from my hair dresser 25-30 years ago on how bad it is for your hair . It’s bad for perms and color. It’s in a lot of shampoos.

  • Alicia

    Kimberly, thank you for continuing to promote proper skincare as part of a healthy lifestyle. I feel like many people who are conscious of what they eat, neglect to ignore the dangers in every day beauty products. I had really bad acne for years from using too many chemical-ridden skin cleansers and it only cleared up once I switched to washing my face with water only.

  • Martha

    Can you recommend products that we should use?

  • Noemi

    A-MA-ZING ARTICLE!!! Thank you so much. It’s helped me clarify information I was trying to find out about already (SLS, parabens, fragrance, AHAs) and helped me learn a lot of other stuff as well. Essential reading! Thanks again.

  • Luca

    Excellent article. We need posts like this one because there is really no system in place to prevent cosmetic companies from doing pretty much what they want. But be careful: even “organic” or “natural” when put on a label, don’t necessarily mean what you think.
    In the United States, the two most important laws that regulate the cosmetic industry are the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act .The FDA is the government agency that makes sure these laws are enforced. However, if you go to the FDA site, you will read that “cosmetic products and ingredients are not subject to FDA pre-market approval authority”. And you will also read that “cosmetic firms are responsible for substantiating the safety of their products and ingredients before marketing”.
    Moreover, since FDA standards for labeling are not that strict, some companies put organic on their label, maybe as part of their name. This however doesn’t mean the product is actually organic.
    I wrote a two-part article on this topic. If anyone is interested, please feel free to visit my blog.

  • Elizabeth Krenke

    Hi Kimberly!
    What products, if any, do you use and recommend for the delicate and often dry under eye skin? There are too many serum & cream options out there to know what really works.



  • Laura

    What shampoo do you use?

  • Michele

    Kimberly, thank you for highlighting such an important issue. Many women are eating organic and avoiding toxins in their food but don’t realize they’re slathering on all kinds of chemicals in their personal care routine.

  • Jill Yvette Dybdahl, President, LollyZip, LLC

    Amazing information Kim! Thank you so much for your in-depth knowledge of so many products! Have you discovered You and founder Lisa must be sisters of good health!
    I humbly recommend travel kits for packing your all natural skin-care products when flying or heading to the gym!
    Yours truly,