by Dr. Kathleen Regan, ND

Innate Wellness Heath Shop - Products

Making the big move to all-natural skin care? Wondering about the chemicals in regular retail skin care and cosmetic brands? Curious about clean skin care that actually works?

At Innate Wellness Health Shop we care a lot about the ingredients in our products. That is the ‘Innate Difference’. We believe in health and beauty from the inside-out AND from the outside-in.  Everything that we put on our skin in absorbed into the body. If you are investing in cleaning up your internal health you may want to take a close look at what you are adding to it via your daily skin care and cosmetic routine.

The skin care and cosmetic industry is huge and overwhelming with hundreds of ingredients and chemicals. We read the labels for our customers so that we can provide clean skin care and educate customers on how to choose their products. As experts in natural medicine we are concerned about labels and ingredients. With each product in the store store we have asked the following questions:

  1. Who made it and what is their philosophy?
  2. What is included (or not included) on the ingredient list? We look for BHA, Boric Acid, Fragrance, Formaldehyde, Hydroquinones,Methylisothiazolinone, Oxybenzone, Parabens, Petroleum, PEGS, Phthalates, Silicons, Sodium Lauryl Sulphate, Toluene, Triclosan, Vitamin A Compunds. 
  3. The label says organic, natural or local – is it really?
  4. Does it work?

We offer our clients conscious, clean skin care products that work! As a guide, we follow the Environmental Working Group’s recommendations and ‘Skin Deep’ Guide to product toxicity ( This helps us stay on top of constantly changing product labels.

How about you? Do you read labels? Do you know what to look for? As always, our consumers are often the best skin care detectives. If you find a great product let us know via instagram @innatewellnesshealthshop or on twitter @InnateW. Here is a list of chemicals that we look for. This is a blend of recommendations from the Environmental Working Group, Pub Med and Clinical Experience. Keep your eyes peeled!

The Innate Skin Care Black List: 

BHA: Personal Care Products.

Used as a preservative in food, skin care and cosmetics. Suspected of causing liver damage and stomach cancers. Interferes with normal reproductive system development and thyroid hormone levels.

Boric acid and Sodium borate: Cosmetics and Creams.

Known to disrupt hormones, particularly in the male reproductive system. Can affect libido. These chemicals disrupt hormones and harm the male reproductive system. Both the European Union and Canada restrict these ingredients in body care products made for children under three years of age. Despite this guidance, boric acid is found in some diaper creams.

Fragrance: Perfumes, Skin Care, Hair Care.

Synthetic fragrances can contain hormone disruptors and are among the top allergens. Many people suffer from headaches, congestion and rashes when exposed to certain fragrance. Consider buying pure essential oil and natural fragrance. Or buy fragrance free wherever possible.

Formaldehyde: Hair Straightener.

A well know carcinogen. A less known neurotoxin, asthmagen, and developmental toxin. Clinically, I have seen minor seizures and major skin conditions cured by cutting out aspartame, a sugar substitute that breaks down to form formaldehyde.

Hydroquinone: Cosmetics.

This is a skin bleaching chemical that can lead to dermatitis and other skin disorders. It has been speculated to play a role in tumor development. It is typically banned from over-the-counter use but can be found in topical prescriptions at <2%.

Methylisothiazolinone, methylchloroisothiazolinone and benzisothiazolinone: Skin Care, Cosmetics, Wet Wipes and many other personal care products.

These are preservatives that prevent bacterial growth. However, they have been found to cause dermatitis and contact allergy. As well, there is some suspicion of neurological toxicity.

Oxybenzone: Sunscreens.

Linked to skin irritation, sensitization and allergies. Associated with altered birth weight when found in higher maternal concentration. It is a suspected hormone disruptor.

Parabens (specifically Propyl-, Isopropyl-, Butyl-, and Isobutyl- parabens): Cosmetics, Anti-Perspirants, Skin Care, Sunscreens.

Parabens have generated a lot of controversy. They are estrogen-mimicking and have been found to bio-accumulate. What that means is although the dosage might be low in a specific product, they will build up over time to be a significant hormonal disruptor. This has implications in endocrine disease, developmental disorders, breast cancer and other hormonally driven diseases. Parabens can also cause contact dermatitis and rosacea in sensitive individuals. Check that facial cream you are using to reduce rosacea… it may be causing the problem! Finally (and this is a real irony), parabens may interact with UVB radiation to promote further skin damage – the opposite of what you are looking for in a sunscreen!

PEGs/Ceteareth/Polyethylene compounds/Sodium Lauryl Sulfate: Cosmetics, Deodorants, Shampoos, Toothpastes and Mouthwashes.

A family of conditioning and cleaning agents that undergo a process called ‘ethyloxidation’. What does this do? It allows you shampoo and toothpaste to lather. Ethyloxidation produces a product called1,4-dioxane. 1,4-Dioxane is considered a human carcinogen that readily penetrates the skin. This could easily be removed from personal care products but the industry and consumer are far too attached to the idea that lather = clean. This is not the case. We do not require a lather to clean our hair, skin or teeth.

Petroleum Distillates and Mineral Oils: Creams and Cosmetics.

Petroleum based products can irritate the skin and have been implicated in cancer and birth defects. Taken internally, it can impede the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Yes, this is the same petroleum produced in the oil and auto industry! Not only is petroleum toxic for the skin but it also prevents the skin from doing its job – which is to breath. It is true that petroleum locks moisture into the skin but it also prevents toxins from getting out. This eventually aggravates the skin and may cause acne. Not to mention, it forces the body to reabsorb toxins or find alternate routes of elimination.

Phthalates: Nail Polish and Fragrance.

Phthalates are thought to damage the male reproductive system. Pregnant women should avoid using nail polish to prevent developmental abnormalities.

Toluene: Nail Polish and Nail Polish Remover.

This is essentially a solvent that is well known for extreme toxicity. The list of serious health issues is long and includes lymphoma, neurotoxicity, developmental disorders, respiratory disorders and digestive disturbance. Just think about the poor woman doing your mani-pedi!

Triclosan & Triclocarban: Soap.

Toxic to you – and toxic to our rivers, lakes, oceans and aquatic life. This can disrupt your thyroid and reproductive hormones. Overuse may promote the development of bacterial resistance.

Vitamin A compounds (retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate, retinol): Skin Care – Specifically for Acne and Aging Skin. Sunscreens, Lip Balms and Makeup.

Vitamin A is an essential nutrient but not necessarily safe for use on skin. When applied to sun-exposed skin Vitamin A can increase skin sensitivity. Sunlight also breaks Vitamin A down to produce free radicals and can damage DNA – leading to skin lesions and tumors.