We all check our skincare products to be ‘free of’ the obvious ‘toxic’ ingredients (or at least I hope we all check.) In most cases the manufacturers make it easy for us – i.e. “Paraben Free” etc. However, Cosmetics is a multi-billion dollar industry with tons of money being spent on ‘clever marketing’ such as: strategicaly choosing the right words to print on their labels, as well as purposely leaving out words or listing vague ingredients, in order to appeal to the consumer/customer. I think it’s our (the consumers) responsibility to “dig a little deeper” into the list of ingredients for any product we use, and especially for the products we put on our face! I’ve put together a list of the potential “Toxic Chemicals & Ingredients” you should avoid. Now it may be hard to completely avoid everything on this list, as some items are basically used in everything (i.e. Butyl is used to extend the shelf life of products – otherwise you would be throwing out your stuff every other week!) At the very least, take a look at the list and then check your products’ ingredients because if you are having a bad reaction to something, odds are you will find the culprit here:
METHYL, PROPYL, BUTYL AND ETHYL PARABEN: Used as inhibitors of microbial growth and to extend shelf life of products. Have caused many allergic reactions and skin rashes. Studies have shown that they are weakly estrogenic and can be absorbed by the body through the skin. Widely used even though they are known to be toxic.
DEA (diethanolamine), MEA (Monoethanolamine), & TEA (triethanolamine):hormone-disrupting chemicals that can form cancer-causing nitrates and nitrosamines. These chemicals are already restricted in Europe due to known carcinogenic effects. In the United States however, they are still used despite the fact that Americans may be exposed to them 10-20 times per day. Often used in cosmetics as emulsifiers and/or foaming agents. They can cause allergic reactions, eye irritation and dryness of hair and skin. DEA and TEA are “amines” (ammonia compounds) and can form cancer-causing nitrosamines when they come in contact with nitrates. Toxic if absorbed into the body over a long period of time.
DIAZOLIDINYL UREA (DMDM Hydantoin) and IMIDAZOLIDINYL UREA: These are widely used preservatives. They are just two of many preservatives that often release formaldehyde which may cause joint pain, skin reactions, allergies, depression, headaches, chest pains, ear infections, chronic fatigue, dizziness, and loss of sleep. The American Academy of Dermatology has found them to be a primary cause of contact dermatitis. Two trade names for these chemicals are Germall II and Germall 115.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES): A cheap, harsh detergent used in shampoos for its cleansing and foam-building properties. Often derived from petroleum, it is frequently disguised in pseudo-natural cosmetics with the phrase “comes from coconuts.” It causes eye irritation, scalp scurf similar to dandruff, skin rashes and other allergic reactions.
Alternative:Ammonium Cocoyl Isethionate.
PATROLATUM Mineral Oil:Also known as petroleum jelly, this mineral oil derivative is used for its emollient properties in cosmetics. It has no nutrient value for the skin and can interfere with the body’s own natural moisturizing mechanism, leading to dryness and chapping. It often creates the very conditions it claims to alleviate. Manufacturers use petrolatum because it is unbelievably cheap. Additionally, it is a petroleum by-product that coats the skin like plastic, clogging the pores. Interferes with skin’s ability to eliminate toxins, promoting acne and other disorders. Slows down skin function and cell development, resulting in premature aging. Used in many products (baby oil is 100% mineral oil!)
Alternatives: Moisture Magnets (Saccharide Isomerate) from beets; Ceramides, Jojoba and other vegetable oils, etc.
PROPYLENE GLYCOL: Ideally this is a vegetable glycerin mixed with grain alcohol, both of which are natural. Usually it is a synthetic petrochemical mix used as a humectant. It has been known to cause allergic reactions, hives and eczema. When you see PEG (polyethylene glycol) or PPG (polypropylene glycol) on labels, beware—these are related synthetics.
Alternatives:water extracted herbs, Essential Oils, etc.
POLYETHYLENE GLYCOL (PEG): potentially carcinogenic petroleum ingredient that can alter and reduce the skin’s natural moisture factor. This could increase the appearance of aging and leave you more vulnerable to bacteria. Used in cleansers to dissolve oil and grease. It adjusts the melting point and thickens products. Also used in caustic spray-on oven cleaners.
STEARALKONIUM CHLORIDE: A quaternary ammonium compound used in hair conditioners and creams. Developed by the fabric industry as a fabric softener, it is a lot cheaper and easier to use in hair conditioning formulas than proteins or herbals, which are beneficial to the hair. Causes allergic reactions. Toxic.
SYNTHETIC COLORS – FD & C COLOR PIGMENTS: Used to make cosmetics “pretty,” synthetic colors, along with synthetic hair dyes, should be avoided at all costs. Synthetic colors made from coal tar, containing heavy metal salts that deposit toxins onto the skin, causing skin sensitivity and irritation. They will be labeled as FD&C or D&C, followed by a color and a number. Example: FD&C Red No. 6 / D&C Green No. 6. Many synthetic colors can be carcinogenic. If a cosmetic contains them, don’t use it.
SYNTHETIC FRAGRANCES: The synthetic fragrances used in cosmetics can have as many as 200 ingredients. There is no way to know what the chemicals are, since on the label it will simply read “fragrance.” Some problems caused by these chemicals (reported to the FDA) include headaches, dizziness, rash, hyperpigmentation, violent coughing, vomiting, skin irritation—the list goes on.
Advice:Don’t buy a cosmetic that has the word “fragrance” on the ingredients label.
Alternatives:Aromatherapeutic, Organic Essential Oils.
ALCOHOL, ISOPROPYL (SD- 40): a very drying and irritating solvent and dehydrator that strips your skin’s moisture and natural immune barrier, making you more vulnerable to bacteria, molds and viruses. It is made from propylene, a petroleum derivative and is found in many skin and hair products, fragrance, antibacterial hand washes as well as shellac and antifreeze. It can act as a “carrier” accelerating the penetration of other harmful chemicals into your skin. It may promote brown spots and premature aging of skin. A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients says it may cause headaches, flushing, dizziness, mental depression, nausea, vomiting, narcosis, anesthesia, and coma. Fatal ingested dose is one ounce or less.
TRICLOSAN: a synthetic “antibacterial” ingredient – with a chemical structure similar to Agent Orange! The EPA registers it as a pesticide, giving it high scores as a risk to both human health and the environment. It is classified as a chlorophenol, a class of chemicals suspected of causing cancer in humans. Its manufacturing process may produce dioxin, a powerful hormone-disrupting chemical with toxic effects measured in the parts per trillion; that is only one drop in 300 Olympic-size swimming pools! Hormone disruptors pose enormous long-term chronic health risks by interfering with the way hormones perform, such as changing genetic material, decreasing fertility and sexual function, and fostering birth defects. It can temporarily deactivate sensory nerve endings, so contact with it often causes little or no pain. Internally, it can lead to cold sweats, circulatory collapse, and convulsions. Stored in body fat, it can accumulate to toxic levels, damaging the liver, kidneys and lungs, and can cause paralysis, suppression of immune function, brain hemorrhages, and heart problems. Tufts University School of Medicine says that triclosan is capable of forcing the emergence of “super bugs” that it cannot kill. Its wide-spread use in popular antibacterial cleansers, tooth pastes and household products may have nightmare implications for our future.