top of page

8 Toxic American Skin Care Ingredients Banned In Europe

Updated: May 4, 2020

(Chances are you are using them right now)

Beauty products on the market today often boast labels claiming their brand as organic, natural, vegan, and so forth. The reality is most skin care brands in the U.S. are anything but clean.

Governments across the globe have taken the time to revise their allowed skin care ingredients over the years. The European Union has banned upwards of 1,300 additives, while only 11 have been taken off the U.S. market.

With the European Union having ten times stricter regulations then the FDA, this leaves America with a "fend for yourself" mentality. A 2016 warning letter released from the FDA detailed the lack of control over cosmetics, and the desperate need to be entrusted with more oversight and authority. Warning letters to over 50 U.S. skincare companies were cited.

"To be clear, there are NO legal requirements for any cosmetic manufacturer marketing products to American consumers to test their products for safety," tells Scott Gottlieb, departing FDA commissioner. "This means that ultimately a cosmetic manufacturer can decide if they'd like to test their product for safety and register it with the FDA."

Cosmetics law has not changed in 82 years. Congress passed the food, drug, and cosmetics act on June 25, 1938, and there has been little revision since.

On the shelves of drugstores, beauty stores, private salons, and spas in the U.S., are rows of cheap, sketchy, and downright toxic ingredients. In contrast to Europe, we do not have a surplus of regulations to rely on to insure what we are using is safe. It is time to take back control, and keep these untested and unsafe chemicals out of American bodies.

Read on to find out the most commonly used, toxic chemicals that it may be time to rethink.

1. Hydroquinone (tocopheryl acetate-synthetic Vit E)

What is it: A tyrosinase inhibitor, which is the enzyme that converts tyrosine, an amino acid, into melanin. By blocking the production of melanin in the skin, it is able to lighten and brighten the current skin.

Found in: Lightening serums, brightening serums, cleansers (both face and body), moisturizers, finger nail coating, and hair conditioners

The problem:

Cancer- Hydroquinone works by blocking melanin production in the skin, as well as increases the degradation of melanin pigments in the skin. This causes skin sensitivity and exposure to UVA and UVB rays, highly increasing the chances of cancer.

Hypopigmentation- Hypopigmentation results from their not being enough pigment left in the skin. Since hydroquinone is a melanin blocker, in high doses, it can create a less than desired effect. In a Harvard study, Dr. Barbara Gilchrest said, "higher concentrations of hydroquinone can cause white spots to develop on the skin. This medication may even cause a darkening of the skin in some cases."

Respiratory Tract Irritation- Hydroquinone may be harmful when inhaled. It can cause irritation of the nose, throat, and upper respiratory tract. A study showed that hydroquinone acts on the same T-cells as smoking cigarettes, and shows the risks of the two, as it relates to respiratory tract infection are comparable.

Ochronosis- A rare skin disorder that causes the skin to thicken, and is identifiable by the bluish-black pigmentation. Ochronosis occurs as a complication of long term application of skin lightening creams containing hydroquinone.

In a case study done by the Indian Journal of Dermatology, a 50 year old woman who had prolonged use of hydroquinone 2% (highest OTC percentage allowed) developed ochronosis. This woman had no history of pigmentation issues prior to hydroquinone use. They found that ochronosis from hydroquinone is a frequently missed, misdiagnosed, and/or under reported entity. They also found that the percentage of hydroquinone that was considered "safe" needed to be reevaluated.

Alternatives: Vitamin C, licorice root, bearberry, green tea extract, retinol

2. Benzoyl Peroxide