About 4 years ago, I became aware of the effect chemicals in beauty products can have on your health. I was astonished to learn that according to the Environmental Working Group, women use an average of 12 beauty products a day, containing 168 different chemicals. Men use fewer products, but still, put 85 chemicals on their bodies. Teens on average use 17 personal care products a day, according to the group, which tested 20 teens’ blood and urine in 2008 to find out which chemicals from these products were ending up in their bodies. They said they found 16 hormone-altering chemicals, including parabens and phthalates.1 To me this was crazy!! This doesn’t even include the chemicals in cleaning/home products or the chemicals in the food we eat.
This is the reason I wanted to educate and inspire myself and others to think about what they are putting in and on their bodies each and every day. Here are the chemicals in Beauty products to be aware of…
Parabens. Parabens are widely used preservatives that prevent the growth of bacteria, mold, and yeast in cosmetic products. Parabens possess estrogen-mimicking properties that are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. These chemicals are absorbed through the skin and have been identified in biopsy samples from breast tumors. They can be found in makeup, body washes, deodorants, shampoos, and facial cleansers. You can also find them in food and pharmaceutical products.
Synthetic colors. If you take a look at your product label and notice FD&C or D&C, they represent artificial colors. F — representing food and D&C representing drugs and cosmetics. These letters precede a color and number (e.g., D&C Red 27 or FD&C blue 1). These synthetic colors are derived from petroleum or coal tar sources. Synthetic colors are suspected to be a human carcinogen, a skin irritant and are linked to ADHD in children. The European Classification and Labeling consider it a human carcinogen and the European Union has banned it.
Fragrance. 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 moisturizers.
Phthalates. 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 moisturizers.
Triclosan. Triclosan has widely used an 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. Triclosan can be found in toothpaste, 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.
Formaldehyde. 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.
Toluene. 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 color/bleaching products.
Propylene glycol. Propylene glycol is 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 moisturizers, sunscreen, makeup products, conditioners, shampoo and hair sprays.
Sunscreen chemicals. These chemicals function as a sunscreen agent, to absorb ultraviolet light. These chemicals are endocrine disruptors and are believed to be easily absorbed into the body. They may also cause cellular damage and cancer in the body. Common names are benzophenone, PABA, avobenzone, homosalate, and ethoxycinnmate. They can be found in sunscreen products.
Phew! Now that I have totally scared you of using any beauty product without checking the label! Luckily there are are some amazing companies that have done the research and have come up with products that are safe and still effective. It’s impossible to avoid every single synthetic chemical, but with a little research, you can start to limit the number of toxins your body is exposed to. I am also here to help you and share with you some great products that are free from these harmful chemicals.