Skin care labels and ingredient lists are oftentimes long and confusing. Many of us try hard to make good food choices, we are becoming increasingly aware of ingredients to avoid in our foods, making conscious efforts to avoid chemicals and preservatives, and eating healthier foods. But how many of us read the labels of our personal care products?It is just as important to be informed about what is in your skin care products, so you can make the best choice for your body, your family and the environment. What we put ON our body is just as important as what we put IN our body. Our skin the largest organ in our body, everything you put on your body is absorbed by your skin.Have you ever stopped to think how many products you put on your body and face in one day, especially first thing in the morning? On average, women use 12 skincare products a day and men use six. Take a second to count how many products you use in the morning including toothpaste, mouth wash, shampoo, conditioner, soap, shaving gel, moisturizers, lotions, facial cleansers, perfume/cologne, deodorant and that's just the basics. Many of us also incorporate several make-up products, cosmetics and other specialized skin care products into our routines. It adds up quickly. Do you know what is in these products you put on your body every day?Have a look at your favorite skincare product or the one closest to you and read the ingredients. Can you pronounce most them? Is water a main ingredient? Are there any common ingredients? Is the list long and confusing? Ingredient lists (for food and for skin care) are always listed by quantity, in descending order, from highest to lowest. This means the first ingredient listed is always the highest content in the product, the next ingredient is the second highest and so on. There are FDA rules and regulations that require companies to label their products this way. If a product advertises a particular ingredient but it is listed near the end of the ingredient list, then there is not much of that ingredient present.So what ingredients should you avoid?There are literally hundreds, even thousands of chemicals that go into products every day. This can be overwhelming. Start simply by reading your labels and trying to avoid these 3 ingredients: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Parabens and Fragrances.1. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)Why it is used? SLS and SLES are used in cosmetics and personal care products as a detergent and to make products bubble and foam. Problems: SLS has been known to irritate skin, eyes and respiratory tract. Over-exposure to SLS has been linked to eye damage, depression, laboured breathing, diarrhoea and severe skin irritation. Dandruff, dermatitis, canker sores and other skin issues may be due to SLS use. SLS may be retained by your body for up to five days. It may also damage the liver and may emit toxic fumes when heated. It pollutes groundwater and is also toxic to fish and other aquatic animals. Commonly found in: Lotions, soaps, shampoos, bubble bath, toothpaste, dish soap, laundry detergent, and shave cream. Look out for Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate on your labels.2. ParabensWhy it is used? Parabens are widely used in products as a preservative. In personal care products, it is used to prevent bacteria growth. It is inexpensive and effective.Problems: Parabens may interfere with hormone function and have been associated with breast cancer. They are widely used in skin care products even though they are known to be toxic.In the 1990s parabens were deemed xenoestrogens, which have the ability to mimic estrogen in the body. "Estrogen disruption" has been linked to breast cancer and reproductive issues. Parabens have been found to be present in malignant breast tumors. The concern about parabens is that it is unknown whether they are stored in the body and that they could have a cumulative effect and pose a health risk. Experts recommend limiting paraben levels.Commonly found in: Moisturizers, shampoos, soap, mascara, foundation, make-up, and body lotions. Look out for ingredients with “paraben” in their name (methylparaben, butylparaben, propylparaben, isobutylparaben, ethylparaben). 3. Synthetic fragrances and ParfumWhy it is used? Fragrances are used to produce a pleasant scent. The term “fragrance” or “parfum” on a personal care ingredient list usually hides a complex mixture of dozens of chemicals. Some 3,000 chemicals are used as fragrances. It is incredibly cheap to scent a product artificially, and those scents tend to have a stronger odor with much less oil. Problems: The FDA does not require fragrance manufacturers to disclose the ingredients of synthetic fragrances because these formulas are regarded as "proprietary" and "trade secrets." Such "proprietary" ingredients commonly include numerous known carcinogens but are protected under the FDA’s "trade secret" law. One fragrance in one personal care product—for instance, your moisturizer—can consist of as many as 200 chemicals combined to come up with that particular scent.A 1986 report by the National Academy of Sciences reports that 95 percent of the chemicals used in synthetic fragrances are derived from petroleum and include benzene derivatives, phthalates (which has been banned in toys), aldehydes and many other known toxins capable of causing cancer, birth defects, central nervous system disorders and allergic reactions — some of which are cited on the EPA’s hazardous waste list.Manufacturers use more than 3,000 chemicals in personal care products that are being absorbed, inhaled, and ingested daily.Commonly found in: Fragrance is an obvious ingredient in perfumes, colognes, and deodorants, but it’s used in nearly every type of personal care and cleaning product. Artificial scents and fragrances are commonly found in lotions, shampoos, conditioners, body washes, soap bars, exfoliators, hand soap, bubble bath, moisturizers, shaving creams, make-up and cosmetics as well as air fresheners, cleaning products, dish soap, baby wipes, candles, dryer sheets and laundry detergents. Even products marketed as “fragrance-free” or “unscented” may in fact contain fragrance along with a masking agent that prevents the brain from perceiving odour.I try to avoid ALL products with the ingredient “fragrance” on the label. Organic essential oils are a great alternative!Where to StartStart to make a conscience effort to read the labels of everything you put ON your body. Next time you use your favorite skincare product, read the ingredient list. When you are in the shower, read the ingredient list as you scrub. While you brush your teeth, read the ingredient list on your toothpaste. Being aware of the ingredients you are putting ON your body is the best place to start.