Top 10 Toxic Ingredients to Avoid


The following list contains 10 ingredients commonly found in skincare products that should be avoided.

Courtesy of eek the cat, Flickr Creative Commons

Courtesy of eek the cat, Flickr Creative Commons

1. Nanoparticles

The use of nanoparticles in personal care products started with sunscreens. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide have always been considered safer than chemical alternatives used in sunscreens and just as effective, but the public didn’t like the white coating left on their skin after application. As a result of this marketing obstacle, the sunscreen industry began nano-sizing or reducing the size of these particles so they would be more transparent. Nanotechnology is the science used to shrink chemical particles to 100 nanometers wide, roughly 1/100,000 of the thickness of a piece of paper. A nanoparticle is a particle smaller than 100 nanometers or 100 billionth of a meter. Their small size allows them to enter cells and potentially produce toxic effects. Besides sunscreens, nanoparticles are now showing up in make-up and anti-aging skincare products.

Terms associated with nanoparticles include: micronized, microspheres, microsoles, and fullerenes. FDA regulations currently do not require skin care companies to list nanoparticles on their labels. Dr. Samuel Epstein has been quoted as saying that “If you have to single out the most hazardous development in the whole field of cosmetics and personal care products, I’d put nanoparticles on the top of the list.” Further he said in a 2010 interview with Dr. Mercola:

“Nanoparticles, because of their ultramicroscopic size, readily penetrate the skin, can invade underlying blood vessels, get into the general blood stream, and produce distant toxic effects.”

” . . . the evidence which we’ve accumulated so far, is largely restricted to the fact that they [nano particles] get into your bloodstream and reach organs throughout your body.

“And as far as the brain is concerned, we have actual evidence of entry into the brain and producing toxic effects — lesions, small lesions, toxic effects in the brain.”

Smaller than blood vessels, nanoparticles are able to penetrate the skin far more deeply and faster than regular chemicals. “Invisible” zinc, used in sunscreens to avoid the white appearance of the cream, is created by using this technology.

In Sept. 2011, research at Brown University found that carbon nanoparticles can mimic asbestos properties, possibly leading to similar DNA damage as asbestos exposure.

As of June 2010, the FDA has known that these particles may actually accelerate the growth of skin cancer cells. Zinc oxide nanoparticles can kill important brain stem cells in mice and are toxic to animal colon cells even in small doses. Titanium dixoide nanoparticles injected into pregnant mice produced gene changes.

The FDA says that “Nanoparticles may present different safety concerns than their normal-sized counterparts.” It should be obvious that if the physiological size of something is changed, its reactions and behaviors also will be changed.

Additionally, these particles are washed off of our bodies and into our water systems and are damaging aquatic ecosystems. They are negatively affecting and destroying micro-organisms in our environment.

2. Oxybenzone

Oxybenzone is a chemical broad-spectrum sunscreen ingredient. Broad spectrum means it protects skin from both UVA and UVB ultraviolet sunrays. Its primary function is as a photostabilizer, absorbing harmful ultraviolet light rays through chemical reactions to sunlight. Some research shows it can be absorbed through the skin, although this research is controversial. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) and other toxicology experts report that oxybenzone is an endocrine (hormone) disruptor and their studies show it can be linked to cell damage and skin cancer. Sweden has banned its use.

Also oxybenzone has poor skin tolerance, often producing allergenic reactions and actually has a low absorption rate of UVA ray absorption. (UVB stops sunburn; UVA stops the skin cancer- causing rays.)

3. Polyethylene Glycol (PEG)

PEG’s (polyethylene glycol) are petroleum-based compounds used as product thickeners, solvents, softeners, and moisture carriers. They maybe contaminated with measureable amounts of a chemical called ethelene oxide (a known skin carcinogen) and 1,4 dioxane a by-product of a petrochemical process called ethyoxylation. Ethelene oxide can harm the nervous system. The California Environmental Protection Agency has classified ethelene oxide as a developmental toxicant based on evidence that it may interfere with human development. The Environmental Protection Agency classifies 1,4 dioxane as a possible human carcinogen. The presence of 1,4 dioxane even in trace amounts is cause for concern because it accumulates in the body. Its presence is linked with liver and bladder cancer in animals.The National Toxicology Programs’ Eighth Annual Report identifies PEG’s as possible carcinogens because they contain small amounts of ethelene oxide and potentially 1,4 dioxane.

PEG’s can have a manufacturing process called “stripping” to remove 1,4 dioxane but there is no easy way for consumers to know if this has been done. PEG names include: PEG-8, PEG-40 glycerol cocoate, PEG-6 and PEG-150.

4. Phthalates

Phthalates are known as “plasticizers” and are compounds used in the production of plastics to make them soft and pliable. They are also used in many cosmetics, particularly in fragrances and in some cases to make alcohol unfit for oral consumption. They may be labeled as “denatured alcohol.”

Their use in personal care products is to help products cling to the skin and increase longevity as in the case of helping fragrances to last longer. Phthalates on ingredient listings can be called “fragrance,” especially in perfume ingredient lists.

The compounds of phthalates bind specifically to estrogen receptors in our bodies and are considered “endocrine-disrupting chemicals.”

Recent studies have found these chemicals can alter genital development, create infertility, decrease sperm count, and increase the risk of testicular cancer in men and endometriosis in women. Phthalates from plastic bottles can leach into shampoos and other personal care products. They end up in our water systems and are washed down our drains and have been found to negatively impact marine life.

Other products often containing phthalates include hair gels, hairspray, shampoo/conditioner, soaps, perfumes, deodorants, nail polish, air fresheners and most things that come in soft plastic bottles.

5. Parabens

Parabens are synthetic preservatives used in cosmetics, foods, and pharmaceuticals. Their use is to allow skincare products to remain stable and stop the growth of harmful bacteria, fungus, and mold. Their use is to prolong the shelf life of a product. Scientific names include methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben.

Parabens are derived from para-hydroxybenzoic acid and have displayed the ability to slightly mimic the hormone estrogen and potentially disrupt the functioning of our endocrine system. The concern is that they are in such widespread use. In 2004 a study done at the University of Reading in the UK found parabens present in breast tumors (primarily methylparaben); however they were not able to determine if the parabens were the cause of the tumors. Cornell University (2011) reports that ongoing exposure to parabens can increase the risk of breast cancer as they have been shown to accumulate in fat cells, including breast tissue. Further studies have shown that methylparaben applied to the skin can react with UVB rays leading to increased skin aging and DNA damage. There are much safer preservatives on the market now, such as leucidal (made from fermented radishes) that are equally potent.

6. Propylene Glycol

Propylene Glycol is an alcohol derived from petroleum. It is used to dissolve natural extracts, attract water to increase moisturizing benefits of a product and help stabilize cosmetic formulations.

Although this ingredient has been described as having highly moisturizing properties, studies show the opposite. They show that propylene glycol partially dissolves the intercelluar cement of the stratum corneum , resulting in completely drying out the skin, making it more vulnerable to damage. Because propylene glycol is also used to enhance ingredient penetration, it can allow harmful ingredients to be absorbed more readily. This potentially increases the likelihood of allergic reactions and skin irritation.

This ingredient is often associated with brake and hydraulic fluids plus antifreeze. This is because there are different grades of this ingredient currently in use; one being commercial and the other, cosmetic. There is no way to communicate this grade difference on a label or for the consumer to be sure of which grade has been incorporated into their skin care product .

7. Phenoxyethanol

Phenoxyethanol is a common personal care preservative. It is an effective bactericide and has recently been widely used to replace parabens, especially in natural products. Phenoxyethanol has been found to be toxic to the body even in small doses.

In order to create it, the known skin carcinogen, ethylene oxide is combined with a phenol (a chemical compound which is also considered a carcinogen). The process of creating phenoxyethanol may (depending on each manufacturer’s production methods) produce the dangerous by- product called 1,4 dioxane. The EPA has established 1,4 dioxane is a probable human carcinogen. The FDA describes it as being able to depress the nervous system and may cause vomiting and diarrhea. The product’s Material Safety Data Sheet says that it is harmful if inhaled or swallowed or absorbed through the skin and that it can cause reproductive damage. The Chemical Toxicity Database lists that phenoxyethanol may cause central nervous system depression, kidney damage, skin irritation, headaches, dizziness, nausea and drowsiness. If inhaled it may cause respiratory and digestive tract irritation. Japan has banned the use of it in all cosmetics.

8. Fragrance

Synthetic fragrances are in thousands of personal care products, candles, and air fresheners. These scents can have as many as 200 chemical ingredients per aroma. There is no way to know what chemicals have been used because the FDA only requires manufacturers to list them as “Fragrance.” Often these fragrances are considered trade secrets by a manufacturer and their ingredient information is considered private information protected by law. Over 95 percent of synthetic fragrances are derived from petroleum. Some of the toxic ingredients used in synthetic fragrances include benzone derivatives such as phthalates (read above for more about this ingredient), formaldehyde, napthalene, xylene, toluenes, and aldehydes. These toxins are related to cancer, birth defects, central nervous system disorders, neurotoxicity, and allergic reactions. A study done in 2001 by the EPA found synthetic fragrances to contain hormone disruptors linked to abnormal cell reproduction.

Often products marketed as “unscented” or “fragrance free” contain a synthetic fragrance along with a “masking agent” that prevents the brain from perceiving fragrance.

Synthetic musk is of particular concern for the environment. Musk compounds are persistent in the environment and accumulate in the fat cells of aquatic organisms. Once musk compounds that have not been absorbed by our bodies have been washed off of our bodies, they enter into our water systems. Measureable amounts of synthetic musk have been found in the fish of the Great Lakes Region as well as in the sediment of the area.

9. Dimethicone AKA Polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS)

Dimethicone is a synthetic oil made from two different types of silicon polymers, D4 and D5. It is used primarily as a skin and hair conditioner. Manufacturers like it because it adds a gliding feel to lotions and creams. It also forms a lasting barrier on the skin that can fill in fine lines and wrinkles. The downsides to this ingredient are many. Silicone and its derived ingredients are occlusive, meaning they don’t let oxygen through. Dimethicone reduces normal and necessary skin functioning. The artificial coating of dimethicone on the outside of skin interferes with the skin’s natural ability to eliminate toxins coming out of the body. Recent studies show that prolonged exposure of the skin to its own sweat, because of occlusive substances like dimethicone, can cause skin irritation and impair cell development.

The European Union has found D4 to be an endocrine disruptor based on evidence it interferes with human hormone function and as a possible reproductive toxicant that may impair human fertility. Lab animal experiments using high levels of D5 have caused uterine tumors and harm to the reproductive and immune systems. D5 also showed an ability to influence neurotransmitters in the nervous system.

Dimethicone is not biodegradable. In Canada this ingredient has been shown to be persistent in the environment and to accumulate in aquatic organisms. Environment Canada and Health Canada have proposed adding D4 and D5 to the “List of Toxic Substances” and to limit the quantity of D4 and D5 in personal care products.

10. Genetic-Engineered Biosynthetic Ingredients

With the advent of GMO ingredients showing up in food, a new technology is entering the cosmetic industry, genetic engineered ingredients. According to NYR Natural News in February 2014, “Cosmetic companies are investing in extreme GMO technology to create novel ingredients.”

“According to a recent story in Genetic Engineering News, L’Oreal has signed a deal with a company called Evolva to develop novel biosynthetic ingredient that will have broad applications in the cosmetics industry.

The two companies are going to use fermentation technology developed by Evolva to produce and optimize yeast strains for production of the ingredient. The “ingredient” is as yet unidentified but Luc Aguilar, global head of L’Oréal’s biotechnologies department, said in a statement that the firm believes this platform “could end in new cosmetic ingredients bringing a real breakthrough for our customers.”

Most health concerns around GMOs have to do with putting them in our bodies. Putting them on our bodies is largely an unknown quantity. Because the details have not been revealed, it is impossible to say what the health impact may be.

L’Oreal is not the only cosmetic company investing in synthetic biology. Johnson & Johnson is also involved in developing hair and beauty products using this technology.

Evolva, in collaboration with a company called International Flavors and Fragrances, is also involved in the development of a vanilla essence made with synthetic biology. In response, the environmental group Friends of the Earth is actively campaigning against the product and asking food companies not to use it.

What is synthetic biology?

Synthetic biology, or synbio, is a new form of genetic engineering. Instead of using existing DNA from plants or animals synthetic biology involves scientists creating entirely new DNA sequences in the lab and using them to create new synthetic life forms or splicing this DNA into naturally occurring DNA.

It is a new science, the products of which have had no safety testing. Being manmade, sybio products are fully patentable and have the full protection of the law and, in theory at least, are able to freely enter the marketplace. Cosmetics and food are considered two of the most attractive markets for synthetic biologists.

Do You Know What’s In Your Sunscreen?


As the weather heats up, sunscreen becomes a crucial item for summertime activities. Whether you are laying on a beach, hiking or simply enjoying a barbeque in the backyard, a burn is something you definitely want to avoid. Unfortunately, some ingredients used in popular sunscreens are cancerous and many times, not protecting your skin at the level advertised.

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

It’s not all about the SPF
Most sunscreens put too much emphasis on their sun protection factor (SPF) when they should be providing you with details about their broad spectrum coverage. Broad spectrum means that a sunscreen protects you against both the UVB rays that cause sunburns as well as the UVA rays, which cause skin cancer and damage among other health problems. The SPF number only tells you about the length of time a product protects against UVB rays but tells you nothing about its strength or ability to protect against UVA rays. While many sunscreens on the market claim that they are broad spectrum, the FDA’s standards for making this claim are set far too low.

Hazardous Ingredients
Below is a list of several common ingredients to avoid when selecting sunscreen. For quality sunscreen suggestions, more information on hazardous ingredients and products to avoid, visit the Environmental Working Group’s sunscreen guide:

Mineral Sunscreens with Nano-Particles: The most commonly used nano-particles in sunscreen are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Nano-particles are substances, in this case heavy metals, shrunk down to microscopic sizes to avoid leaving white residue on your skin. The problem is that when you change the size of a metal, it no longer behaves in the same way. Before, these minerals sat on your skin and reflected the harmful ultraviolet light away. Now, because of their microscopic sizes, these metals can penetrate your body and blood stream. Dr Samuel Epstein, a medical doctor at the Univ. of Illinois in Chicago, feels that nano-particles are the most hazardous development in the field of cosmetics. Many health organizations strongly believe more study is necessary before deeming them safe. The FDA does not require nano-sized particles to be named in a manufacturer’s list of ingredients.

Oxybenzone:  Studies show that many people have an allergic reaction to this ingredient. Additionally, it is linked to endometriosis in older women and a lower birth weight of daughters from women with high levels of Oxybenzone. It has been shown to have a low absorption rate of UVA and has been banned in Sweden.

Vitamin A or Retinyl Palmitate and Retinol: This ingredient is often advertised as an anti-aging solution. However, studies have found that when placed on sun-exposed skin, vitamin A can actually increase the risk of skin tumors and lesions.

OHA’s Natural Sun Protection– Coming Soon!!
With all of these factors in mind OHA creator and expert formulator, Martha Buldain is working on a highly moisturizing, safe and clean natural sun protection lotion. This product uses all plant-based ingredients including red raspberry seed oil. Based on a recent study conducted by B. Dave Oomah, red raspberry is a natural UVA and UVB protector with an SPF between 28-50.

Stay tuned for more details on this exciting development!

Why a Facial Cocktail?


Why a Facial Cocktail?

Christmas Cocktail

Because it’s fun, fast and fabulous for all skins!
Every good cocktail is a mixture of a “Spirit”  (OHA’s Intensive Nutrient Complex), a “Sweet Element”  (OHA’s Hydrating Mist) and a “Cream” (any one of our moisturizers – all of them are included in our new kit!). The OHA Cocktail is easy to mix in the palm of your hand and maximizes your skin care results.
In less than 5 minutes you can customize your personal facial needs by creating your personal facial cocktail. This fun and fast method gives your skin maximized results.
See below for several different cocktails that you can make and find the best match for your skin.

photo 2


1-2 pumps of Daily Moisturizer

3-5 sprays of Hydrating Mist

1 pump of Intensive Nutrient Complex



2 pumps of Sensitive Skin Therapy (AKA Lip Line Treatment)

5-7 sprays of Hydrating Mist

1 pump of Intensive Nutrient Complex

         Our favorite pick for acne,

    roseacea, eczema, and psoriasis



1 nickel-sized amount of CoQ10 & Argan Face Cream

3-5 sprays of Hydrating Mist

1 pump of Intensive Nutrient Complex

Historically, cocktails were reported to be “excellent for the head and heart”. In our case we have revised it to be “excellent for the face and heart”.
To Make the OHA Cocktail
1. Cleanse face with Cleansing Milk or Facial Sugar Scrub
2. Combine 5 sprays of Hydrating Mist, 1 pump of Intensive Nutrient Complex, and a dime-sized amount of any OHA moisturizer in the palm of your hand.
3. Apply mixture to face and neck in upward strokes, avoiding the eyes.
Voila! Beautiful skin!

Holiday Skin Care Tips



To ease tired eyes: apply a cool, damp washcloth to closed eyes and take a deep breath as you lightly hold the cool cloth to your eyelids. Then, apply one pump of Under Eye Therapy to the pads of your ring fingers and very gently massage around the eye bone. If you can do this application lying down with your feet raised for just a couple of minutes, you’ll feel even more invigorated.
To get the blood flowing: lots of drinking and partying can lead to foggy brain and stiffness. First, go into a Wonder Woman power stance, making sure your back is straight. Then fold over, bending your knees slightly and relax in this fold for 3 full, deep breaths. Repeat up to 5 times. Models do this routinely before photo shoots to get circulation to their face.
To rejuvenate tired looking skin: now is a great time to use a mask. Our SuperCritical Gel Mask can easily be incorporated into your weekly routine. Before getting into your morning shower, apply a thin layer of mask to your face. Rinse off at the end of your shower using Sugar Scrub and emerge with glowing, happy skin.
Please check back next week for more Holiday Skin Tips!shutterstock_2520563

Winter Skin Care Tips


Winter Skin Tips

Winter is now officially here! With the post holiday blahs, the raging flu epidemic and the temperature fluctuations between indoors and outdoors, we want to share some quick and easy tips which help to boost your immunity, skin, and spirits.

In addition to your daily skin care routine, add extra usage of the following products:

1. OHA Hydrating Mist: use frequently throughout the day. Why? Keeping your skin hydrated boosts your immune system by moisturizing your outer layers of skin and maintaining a normal PH balance.

2. OHA SuperCritical Gel Mask: there is no better time to deeply nourish your skin. When your skin has to adjust between frigid outdoor temperatures and dry indoor climes, your skin is working overtime and winds up fatigued and sluggish. Find some time in the evening and treat yourself to an at-home spa treatment. It will re-invigorate your skin while giving you a chance to relax.

3. OHA Chocolate & Rose Lip Balm: don’t go anywhere without it… We don’t! It helps chapped lips stay supple and moisturized!

4. OHA Daily Moisturizer: why is it working? Its essential fatty acids and antioxidants reduce inflammation and irritation while maintaining your lipid barrier’s water content.

Always make sure that you’re drinking plenty of water, getting enough sleep and breathing mindfully. We recommend trying Holy Basil tea to keep digestive and nervous system stress at bay. Also try tracking down Rhodiola, an adaptogen, known to help you conquer stress and increase energy.

The Year Ahead


There’s no better way to look at the year ahead than this beautiful quote from T.S. Eliot…


A Special Message from our Founder…


Happy Holidays

The holidays are finally upon us and, as the year draws to a close,
I want to take this opportunity to personally thank you for your continued
love and support of OHA. My team and I work very hard to bring you the
very best products using the best ingredients of the highest quality.
Thank you for being our customer and for believing in OHA.
We wish you, your family and loved ones, a fantastic 2013!

Best wishes,
Martha Buldain
Founder and Formulator

We Love Our Customers!


OHA on Facebook  If you’re on Facebook, hopefully you’re already following OHA and getting social with us. We love Facebook because it helps us keep in touch with you, our OHA friends. We also use our Facebook page to share news, information and secret sales. But our favorite part about is our ability to connect with our fans and hear how OHA is helping you and your skin.

Here’s a recent story from one of our friends, Nicki:

“Thank you so much for amazing products! I have been going through an auto-immune deal for about a year; due to damaged adrenals, every so often, my face swells up, then burns and peels. Miserable! During this, I got very aware of what I was putting on my skin; if I can’t pronounce everything on the label, I don’t use it! So grateful to have found you guys! Even on rough days, your product heals my skin faster than anything I’ve tried, and on good days it looks better than ever! I love the free trials; I have ended up ordering 3 more products after getting to try them! Thank you so much for such great products!”

Thank you Nicki for all the kind words. We are beyond grateful for the opportunity to bring health back to your skin!

What we’re thankful for…


As the official kick-off to the holiday season, the Thanksgiving holiday is a wonderful time for families and friends to join each other and share a special meal. It’s also a time to reflect on our lives and show our gratitude to those we love.

We want to take this time and show our gratitude to you for the amazing support you have shown OHA this year. We can’t do what we love without you and we thank you for allowing us to provide you with the very best in skin care.

Use Your Voice and Vote!


Today is the day that your voice matters. It’s a day when you can take part in a beautiful thing called democracy! No matter who you vote for, know that your right to vote is a privilege and a responsibility. As an American, you live in a place where you are free to cast your vote without fear of violence or retribution.

So go out and vote!

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