I keep coming across catalog after catalog of toxic chemicals in cosmetics. From formaldehyde to phthalates, the ingredients to avoid are seemingly endless in today's mass-produced, synthetic-driven skincare market.  One such list pares down the populous chemical crowd to eight: propylene glycol, mineral oil, sodium lauryl sulfate, parabens, imidazolidinyl urea, triethanolamine, fragrance, and synthetic colors.

After being sent a bottle of Soft & Beautiful Hand Cream to review, I gasped in horror at the ingredients label. With the exception of sodium lauryl sulfate (which you'd only find in a cleansing product), nearly every single ingredient on the short "shun" list (and then some) crops up in Soft & Beautiful's formula. I have bolded and explained them below for your easy perusal. It's no small wonder that these ingredients aren't published on Soft & Beautiful's website.

Mineral oil is a popular cosmetic component for its colorless, odorless, softening, water-holding, and grease-cutting properties. Also known as parrafin oil, it is an inexpensive petrochemical byproduct made from petroleum. Even though its impact on the interal system is generally benign, mineral oil delivers unpleasant consequences on the skin. Its knack for locking in moisture unfortunately forms an impenetrable film over skin that restricts the passage of nutrients into and waste matter out of the cells. Not only does this barrier lend a heavy sensation, but it also commonly clogs pores, leading to breakouts and irritation. These adverse effects are unnecessary considering the wealth of organic alternatives to mineral oil out there.

Also obtained from petrochemicals, propylene glycol is added to cosmetics added as an emulsifying agent. With its ability to make skin look smooth, propylene glycol is often used in place of glycerin because it is cheaper and also more readily absorbed through the skin. The bad news is that it commonly causes irritation and contact dermatitis, and even worse, has shown to bring about kidney damage and liver abnormalities. The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety in the U.S. recognizes propylene glycol as a neurotoxin.

Triethanolamine (TEA) is typically used to adjust the pH of cosmetics. This ingredient causes various allergic reactions including everything from eye problems to dry hair and skin. Irritation increases in proportion to concentration, which makes TEA's location on Soft & Beautiful's list frighteningly high. Even more disturbing is that if the formula is contaminated with nitrosating agents, TEA combines with the nitrates to form cancer-causing nitrosamines. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel's assessment of triethanolamine maintains that it is safe for use only in those cosmetics designed for discontinuous, brief use followed by thorough rinsing from the skin's surface. Doesn't sound much like the description of a hand cream, does it?

Likewise, parabens, preservatives with antibacterial properties, are typically found at the tail end of an ingredients list. But Soft & Beautiful lists methylparaben right smack in the center. Parabens are by far the most controversial ingredient in skin care. The ominous "P" on an ingredients label is the cosmetic equivalent of the "F" word. Not only are parabens potentially very toxic to the human body and the ecosystem, but they also make the skin susceptible to allergic reactions and are one of the leading causes of contact dermatitis. Moreover, parabens have demonstrated weak estrogenic effects in animal studies.

Artificially manufactured fragrance can cause a number of health concerns, from headaches and dizziness to asthma and skin irritation. Fragrance on a label can indicate the presence of up to 4,000 separate ingredients, most of which are synthetic. Clinical studies have shown that exposure to fragrances can severely impact the central nervous system, resulting in depression, hyperactivity, irritability, and other behavioral aberrations. Many of the compounds in artificial fragrance are suspected or proven carcinogens. Some contain hormone-disrupting phthalates, and The Environmental Protection Agency found that all perfumes contain toluene, which has shown to cause liver, kidney, and brain damage to a developing fetus.

My apologies for singling out Soft & Beautiful, but someone's got to do it! Though the texture and (artificial) fragrance are pleasant enough, no product should ever pass muster when packed with so many precarious substances. There is even an extra dose of evil with the addition of the chemical preservative phenoxyethanol. I am always astounded when reprehensible products tout a "Dermatologist tested" seal on the label. Does this anonymous dermatologist actually use and recommend this product to patients?

Ingredients:

Water, Glycerin, Petrolatum, Mineral Oil, Cetearyl Alcohol, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Stearic Acid, Cetyl Esters, Phenoxyethanol, Cyclohexasiloxane, Cetearyl Glucoside, Urea, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Dicetyl Phosphate, Ceteth-10 Phosphate, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Triethanolamine, Mangifera Indica (Mango) Seed Butter, Methylparaben, Fragrance, Disodium EDTA, Butylphenyl Menthylpropional Linalool, Hexyl Cinnamal, Limonene, Citronellol, Benzyl Salicylate, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Amyl Cinnamal (Sweet Almond) Oil, Polysorbate 20, Propylene Glycol, Hydrogenated Sweet Almond Oil, Sorbitol, Sambucus Nigra Flower Extract, Primula Veris Extract, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Niacinamide, Biotin.