You have a daily beauty routine, and a hoard of beauty products. You’ve finally got that cat eye liner down, and you know what products are best to make you look fresh faced, healthy, and beautiful - soft skin, rosy cheeks, and gorgeous shining hair. Not to mention all of those fun scents and colors. But are they really the miracle products they claim to be? Are the perks of one dream worth the side effects of another? You could actually be doing yourself more harm than good. There are actually many harmful ingredients in every day products, which can be absorbed into the skin. This can be a real problem when the average woman uses more than 10 products a day! The names of these harmful ingredients are quite a handful, but they’re important to watch out for. Are any of them in your products? Next time you are headed to the store read the label before buying, and try searching on the EWG cosmetics database. It might be time to start looking for some healthier and safer alternatives, which can make a difference to the levels of dangerous chemicals in your body in as little as 3 days.
Formaldehyde? You might recognize this as a preservative for scientific specimens. But it’s also found in your cosmetics. It is naturally occurring in small amounts in the environment, but is also used widely as a disinfectant and in the production of industrial resins. While it does prevent bacteria from forming, it is also a known carcinogen, can cause allergic reactions, and may be harmful to the immune system. It can be found in products like nail polish, body wash, deodorant, and eye shadow, although it’s banned in cosmetics in Japan and Sweden, and restricted in the EU and Canada.
Triclosan is also antimicrobial, initially developed as a surgical scrub. It's also an endocrine disruptor, which alters hormone regulation, particularly for the thyroid and reproductive hormones. It may be contributing to making bacteria antibiotic resistant, and dangerous to the environment by bioaccumulation (when organisms take in harmful substances at a faster rate than they can get rid of them). In one study the Center for Disease Control found traces of this chemical in 75% of participants. You can find triclosan in products like deodorant, toothpaste, antimicrobial soap, and moisturizer.
When you see ‘fragrance’ listed, what does that even mean? It’s a word companies are allowed to use to protect their secret formulas, so the truth is, you don’t know. Fragrance mixes can be associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory problems, and even potential effects on the reproductive system. These formulas can also be listed as parfum, aromas, or even essential oil blends. They can really be found in any type of product - shampoos, sunscreen, lotion, makeup, and of course, perfumes.
12 Synthetic Colors
Synthetic colors are derived from petroleum or coal tars, and are suspected to be a carcinogen, a skin irritant, linked to ADHD in children, and may cause migraines. They may also contain traces of toxic heavy metals. The EU has banned synthetic colors, although seven are still approved in the US (many have been banned). These can be identified by a 5 digit code, or listed by color, like 'Blue 1'. These colors can be found in so many products, including hair dyes, and are often used in food.
Sulfates can help cosmetics stick to your skin, and are detergents that act as foaming agents in products like shampoo and bubble bath. Sodium Laureth Sulfate can be found in more than 90% of personal care and cleaning products. While we all like the feeling of cleansing bubbles, sulfates can be a skin, eye, and lung irritant, and have the potential to interact and combine with other chemicals to form nitrosamines, a carcinogen, which can lead to kidney damage. They can also be toxic to aquatic organisms.
10 BHA And BHT
Many cosmetic products such as lipsticks and moisturizers contain the preservatives BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene). They are also widely used as food preservatives. BHA can increase sensitivity to the sun’s rays and is thought to be a carcinogen. BHT may cause thyroid, liver, and kidney problems, may be a tumor promoter, and may mimic estrogen. Both can cause allergic reactions, and have the potential for bioaccumulation in aquatic species.
9 Heavy Metals
Heavy metals like lead, mercury, arsenic, and aluminium can be found in cosmetics. Lead can be found in two thirds of the top selling red lipsticks, including top name brands, and in a test by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, was found in every brand of face paint for kids. This is despite the fact that lead is a proven neurotoxin linked to learning, language, and behavioral issues, as well as reproductive, immune, and nervous system toxicity, and cancer. These metals also accumulate in the body through time, and in the environment. Not only can they be found in lipstick, but in sunscreen, foundation, nail polish, and toothpaste. In Japan, Canada, and the EU, heavy metals have been banned in cosmetics.
Parabens are preservatives that prevent the growth of bacteria, mold, and yeast, extend shelf life, and can be found in a wide range of beauty products, as well as in food and pharmaceuticals. It is estimated that up to 90% of cosmetics contain parabens. They are suspected of interfering with hormone function, mimicking estrogen, and are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. Methylparaben applied on skin reacts with UVB leading to increased sun aging and DNA damage.
Phthalates keep colors and scents dissolved in products, and act as a plasticizer, which helps keep nail polish from going brittle. They are also used in products like deodorants and lotions. They are used to increase flexibility in plastics, and used as solvents. They are endocrine disruptors linked to an increase in breast cancer, early breast development, and reproductive birth defects. Exposure may cause health problems like liver or kidney failure in young children.
Ureas, such as Diazolidinyl Urea or DMDM Hydantoin, are formaldehyde releasers, ensuring that the disinfectant is working. They are found in products like acne treatments, shampoos, cleaner, eye liner, and bath products. Unfortunately, they are a primary cause of contact dermatitis (maybe defeating the purpose of some of those products all together).
Toluene is a petrochemical derived from petroleum or coal tar sources. This is a potent solvent able to dissolve paint. It is used in the liquid part of nail polish and hair dye, helping to make it stick, and make it look glossy. It can affect the respiratory system, cause nausea, irritate skin, is linked to immune system toxicity, and may cause developmental damage to a fetus, so should especially be avoided by pregnant women.
4 Ethylene Oxide
This is a common hidden ingredient, and can often be found in fragrances and shampoo. It is a known carcinogen with particular links to stomach and pancreatic cancer, as well as leukemia, and can affect the central nervous system, irritate eyes and skin. The list of ingredients that could be contaminated with ethylene oxide is over 1800 items long!
Hydroquinone is a skin bleaching chemical often found in lightening creams heavily marketed towards women of color, and in treatments to get rid of acne scars and age spots. There are numerous issues with this product as not only is it marketed to provide a universal standard of beauty, but it can cause a skin disease called ochronosis which shows up as blue-black lesions that can become permanent. It is also linked to cancer and organ toxicity. It is banned in the EU.
2 Sunscreen Chemicals
Sunscreen is meant to protect your skin from the sun’s damaging rays, but many sunscreens contain chemicals that damage your skin and body in other ways. These ingredients can be linked to cancer, and may be hormone disruptors, particularly oxybenzone, which has also been linked to allergies and irritations, although this is not the only unsafe chemical.
1 Talc And Petroleum Jelly That Hasn't Been Fully Processed
Talc and Petroleum jelly are both completely safe when they are properly refined, with no contaminants. Petrolatum rarely causes allergic reactions, is effective in wound healing and moisturizing, and cannot readily become solid and clog pores. It makes lipstick shine, and softens skin. However, if not fully refined it can be contaminated with toxic PAH’s which cause cancer. While the EU demands a full refining history, the US sets no requirement. Similarly talc, which absorbs moisture and prevents powder from clumping, when fully processed it is safe, but talc can contain carcinogenic asbestos.