Beauty and skincare products and our intricate, often elaborate routines are meant to help our skin healthy and beautiful, right? So what if hidden within some of our perfectly packaged products were nefarious ingredients that may be doing our bodies more harm than good?

As it turns out, that’s entirely possible. Despite the best efforts of the Food and Drug Administration and cosmetic and skincare companies, some of our beauty products can be laced with ingredients that may in fact do our skin and our bodies harm. Sometimes other countries pick up on these prospective dangers and ban potentially precarious ingredients before the United States does.

Formaldehyde, hydroquinone and butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) are just a few ingredients still found in products in the U.S. that have been banned in other countries. Fulom Skincare takes measures to avoid ingredients that have been found to be unsafe and relies on the benefits of organic fulvic acid to boost skin and keep it looking young and healthy. Here’s what to look for when you’re choosing beauty products and what exactly those insidious ingredients can do.

Formaldehyde

You may remember the sharp smell of formaldehyde from your tenth grade biology class on dissection day. The ingredient often called methylene glycol on beauty product labels is used as a powerful preservative and can be found in beauty products like nail polish, eyelash glue and hair straightening treatments. The trouble with formaldehyde in beauty products is that it’s a known carcinogen, meaning ingesting, inhaling or exposing skin to it could potentially cause cancer.

In one study published by Cancer Research, mice were exposed to formaldehyde and observed to record their physical reactions. Blasts of exposure followed by six months without exposure were given to the mice and “significant formaldehyde-induced lesions” were noticed in the nasal cavity and trachea. Mice exposed to the most formaldehyde were most likely to develop cancerous squamous cell carcinomas.

The danger of formaldehyde hardly seems worth nice-looking nails, especially with so many formaldehyde-free options emerging on the market.

Hydroquinone

Hydroquinone is an ingredient meant to lighten skin and is often found in facial skincare products, especially those with a focus on knocking out hyperpigmentation. It’s been outlawed as a skincare ingredient in Europe, Japan and elsewhere, but it’s inclusion is still permitted in the U.S.

Hydroquinone works by affecting melanosomes, little cellular structures responsible for the synthesis, storage and transportation of melanin, which determines the coloration of our skin. According to a study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, hydroquinone “affects not only the formation, melanization and degradation of melanosomes,” but it also “affects the membranous structures of melanocytes,” which are cells that form melanin in skin. Hydroquinone eventually causes necrosis of entire melanocytes.

Hydroquinone has been a controversial ingredient in skincare. In 2006, the FDA proposed a ban on the substance over concerns that it may cause cancer, though some of those concerns have been debunked and, at least according to one response published by the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, “systematic exposure [to carcinogens] to hydroquinone from routine topical application is no greater than that from quantities present in common foods.”

There is a noted risk, however, of skin staining when combining hydroquinone with other common skincare ingredients. When used with peroxide products, like the ubiquitous acne-fighting benzoyl peroxide, it has the potential to temporarily stain skin. Aside from that, most of its side effects are typical for skincare products and those with sensitive skin or allergies.

Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)

You may have heard of butylated hydroxyanisole or BHA as a food additive used to preserve freshness, but it can also crop up in skincare and beauty products like moisturizers, shaving creams and lipsticks. BHA is another controversial ingredient that has been banned by the European Union and is required to be disclosed by a warning label in California, but the U.S. federal government has yet to outlaw its inclusion in food and cosmetics. But there’s reason to believe that using products containing BHA might be dangerous.

According to one report on carcinogens, “butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity from studies in experimental animals.” The report goes on to cite animal studies that found BHA to have caused benign and malignant tumors in rats, mice and hamsters. It’s also caused liver cancer in fish. Not enough human studies, however, have been conducted to solidify the evidence of BHA as a human carcinogen.

If the fear of cancer wasn’t enough, BHA is also an environmental concern. An ecotoxicology study on butylated hydroxyanisole published in Aquatic Toxicology study levels of the additive in the environment using traces of the chemical found in several different organisms. The study’s results concluded that the levels of BHA reported in industrial wastewater could have negative effects on the environment – and not just for the short term. Since BHA has the potential to build up in an ecosystem over time, or bioaccumulate, it becomes even more of a concern as a pollutant that could impact the environment for the long term.

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