There are thousands of chemicals in your products, many of which are being absorbed into your body. It's impossible to avoid every single synthetic chemical, but you can do your part in limiting the amount of toxins your body is exposed to.
We use cosmetics and beauty products on a daily basis. Every single one of us, male or female, has a cupboard full of products they can’t live without and we use them because they make a change in our lives (....* or we believe they will make a change in our lives*).
Anyway.... how often do you turn the product around and read what ingredients it contains. Maybe this is because we are blinded by the pretty packaging and awesome marketing of the product, and you're interested in the outcome the product will bring you, or simply how it smells.
Sometimes even the brand is all it matters.
BUT, this is not all that matters. It's important to understand what you're putting on your skin, so you can make an informed choice.
Very often, the cosmetic industry uses ingredients (that even though are FDA approved) their use and effect are very controversial and pose potential threats to our health. This industry is highly unregulated. There is no pre-product approval before a product hits the market and enters your home. A minuscule approval process exists, but only for colour additives and ingredients classified as over-the-counter drugs.
Many of these synthetic chemicals are skin irritants, skin penetrators or endocrine disrupters. In order to keep away from these lil' health destroyers, read on to find out more about their names and their effects.
Here are 9 ingredients to avoid;
The primary reason parabens are used in beauty cosmetic products is as preservatives that fight against the growth of bacteria, mould and yeast. However, parabens possess estrogen-mimicking properties that are associated with increased risk of breast cancer. These chemicals are absorbed through the skin and have been identified in biopsy samples from breast tumours. They can be found in makeup, body washes, deodorants, shampoos and facial cleansers. You can also find them in food and pharmaceutical products.
If you take a look at your product label and notice FD&C or D&C, they represent artificial colours. F -- representing food and D&C representing drug and cosmetics. These letters precede a colour and number (e.g., D&C Red 27 or FD&C blue 1). These synthetic colours are derived from petroleum or coal tar sources. Synthetic colours are suspected to be a human carcinogen, a skin irritant and are linked to ADHD in children. The European Classification and Labelling considers it a human carcinogen and the European Union has banned it.
This particular category is pretty scary, because what does "fragrance" mean anyway? This term was created to protect a company's "secret formula." But as the consumer you could be putting on a concoction that contains tons of chemicals that are hazardous to your health. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Skin Deep Database, fragrance mixes have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system. It can be found in many products such as perfume, cologne, conditioner, shampoo, body wash and moisturisers.
A group of chemicals used in hundreds of products to increase the flexibility and softness of plastics. The main phthalates in cosmetics and personal care products are dibutyl phthalate in nail polish, diethyl phthalate in perfumes and lotions, and dimethyl phthalate in hair spray. They are known to be endocrine disruptors and have been linked to increased risk of breast cancer, early breast development in girls, and reproductive birth defects in males and females. Unfortunately, it is not disclosed on every product as it's added to fragrances (remember the "secret formula" not listed), a major loophole in the law. They can be found in deodorants, perfumes/colognes, hair sprays and moisturisers.
A widely used antimicrobial chemical that's a known endocrine disruptor -- especially thyroid and reproductive hormones, and a skin irritant. Studies raise concerns that triclosan contributes to making bacteria antibiotic-resistant. There also wasn't enough supporting evidence that washing with antibacterial soaps containing triclosan provides any benefit over washing with regular soap and water. Tricolson can be found in toothpastes, antibacterial soaps and deodorants.
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) / Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)
This surfactant can be found in more than 90 percent of personal care and cleaning products (think foaming products). SLS's are known to be skin, lung, and eye irritants. A major concern about SLS is its potential to interact and combine with other chemicals to form nitrosamines, a carcinogen. These combinations can lead to a host of other issues like kidney and respiratory damage. They can be found in shampoo, body wash/cleanser, mascara and acne treatment, and delightfully in car engine degreasers, and car wash soap.
Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (FRP's) preservatives are used in many cosmetic products to help prevent bacteria growth. This chemical was deemed as a human carcinogen by The International Agency for Research on Carcinogens (IARC) and has been linked to occupational related cancers: nasal and nasopharyngeal. It is known to cause allergic skin reactions and it may also be harmful to the immune system. It can be found in nail polish, body washes, conditioners, shampoos, cleansers, eye shadows, nail polish treatments.
A petrochemical derived from petroleum or coal tar sources. You may see it on labels listed as benzene, toluol, phenylmethane, methylbenzene. Toluene is a potent solvent able to dissolve paint and paint thinner. It can affect your respiratory system, cause nausea and irritate your skin. Expecting mothers should avoid exposure to toluene vapors as it may cause developmental damage in the fetus. Toluene has also been linked to immune system toxicity. It can be found in nail polish, nail treatments and hair colour/bleaching products.
Propylene glycol is a small organic alcohol commonly used as a skin-conditioning agent. It's classified as a skin irritant and penetrator. It has been associated with causing dermatitis as well as hives in humans -- these sensitization effects can be manifested at propylene glycol concentrations as low as 2 percent. It can be found in moisturisers, sunscreen, makeup products, conditioners, shampoo and hair sprays.
The good news..
It's impossible to avoid every single synthetic chemical, but you can do your part in limiting the amount of toxins your body is exposed to. Fortunately, the number of options to choose healthy skin care from is increasing more and more ..
Be sure to check out the EWG's Skin Deep Database to research toxic chemicals that could be in your cosmetic and personal care products.
I would love to hear from you. Do you check your beauty product labels? Will you commit to limiting your exposure to these toxic chemicals?
Images by Leah Ladson Photography.