Personal care products have become a necessity in our daily lives. On average, people can use up to 15-20 cosmetic products a day; shampoo, conditioner, lotion, mouthwash, makeup, etc.
U.S. researchers have reported that one eighth (10,250) of the 82,000 ingredients used in our personal care products are industrial chemicals, including carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins and hormone disruptors. These ingredients and chemicals can be easily consumed or absorbed into our bodies.
On average, a women who uses lipstick every day can ingest from 4 to 7 pounds of lipstick in her lifetime.
The Story of Cosmetics- The Story of Cosmetics, released on July 21st, 2010, examines the pervasive use of toxic chemicals in our everyday personal care products, from lipstick to baby shampoo.
Here we have gathered the Dirty Dozen toxic chemicals that you should know and avoid. (When talking about cosmetics, we are not just talking about makeup. Cosmetics refer to all personal products you put on your body.)
BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) are related to synthetic antioxidants used as preservatives in lipsticks, moisturizers, etc.
They can induce allergic reactions in the skin and have been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a possible human carcinogen.
Although BHT has been listed as safe for humans, the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic has listed BHA as a chemical of potential concern with its toxicity to aquatic organisms and potential to bioaccumulate.
Coal Tar dyes are recognized as a human carcinogen and can be found in dandruff shampoos, anti-itch creams, toothpaste, mouthwash, hair dyes and other products.
They are listed as “FD&C Blue No. 1” or “Blue 1”. (FD&C indicates the color has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in foods, drugs and cosmetics and “D&C” colors indicate they have not been approved for use in food.)
DEA (diethanolamine) can affect hormones; deplete the body of choline needed for fetal brain development. They can be found in soaps, cleansers and shampoos to make cosmetics more creamy or sudsy.
Exposure to high doses of DEA-related ingredients has been shown to cause liver cancer and precancerous changes in skin and thyroids. They can also cause mild to moderate skin and eye irritation.
DBP (Dibutyl phthalate) can be found in nail products as a solvent for dyes and as a plasticizer that prevents nail polishes from becoming brittle.
It is absorbed through the skin and can enhance the capacity of other chemicals to cause genetic mutations. DBP can cause developmental defects, change in the testes and prostate and reduced sperm counts.
The European Union classifies this chemical to be very toxic to aquatic organisms; it is listed as a Chemical for Priority Action.
Formaldehyde can be found in baby bath soap, nail polish, eyelash adhesive and hair dyes as a contaminant or breakdown product of diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine, quaternium compounds.
It has been classified, by the International Agency of Research on Cancer, as a known human carcinogen. Small amounts of formaldehyde may off-gas from cosmetics and cause skin and eye irritation and trigger allergic reactions.
Parabens (methylparaben, butylparaben and propylparaben) are common preservatives found in toiletries and cosmetics, an estimated 75%-90% of cosmetics contain parabens.
They can penetrate the skin and are suspected of interfering with hormone function. Methylparaben applied on our skin reacts with UVB leading to increased skin aging and DNA damage. It has been estimated that women are exposed to 50mg per day of parabens from cosmetics.
Parfum (fragrance) in cosmetics usually represents a complex mixture of chemicals, over 3000 of the chemicals used are manufactured synthetic fragrances.
Parfum can be found in nearly every personal care product out there in the market, from cosmetics to toilet paper. It can trigger allergies, migraines and asthma symptoms.
Even fragrance-free or unscented products contain parfum ingredients as a form of masking agents that prevent the brain from perceiving the odor.
PEGs (polyethylene glycols) are used as thickeners, solvents, softeners and moisture carriers in cosmetics.
PEGS may be contaminated with measurable amounts of 1,4-dioxane, which is classified as a possible human carcinogen. Although 1,4-dioxane can be removed from cosmetics during the manufacturing process by vacuum stripping there is no way for consumers to know if the product containing PEGS have actually undergone this process.
Petrolatum is mineral oil jelly or petroleum jelly and is used as moisturizer and in hair shine products.
Petroleum products can be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs can be associated with cancer, skin irritation and allergies.
Siloxanes (cyclotetrasiloxane, cyclopentasiloxane, cyclohexasiloxane and cyclomethicone) are silicone-based compounds used in cosmetics to soften, smooth and moisten. They make products like deodorant creams slide on easily and dry quickly.
Cyclotetrasiloxane and cylcopentasiloxane also known as D4 and D5 are toxic endocrine disruptors, interfere with human hormone function and possible reproductive toxicants that may impair human fertility, cause uterine tumors and harm the reproductive and immune systems.
Cyclohexasiloxane (D6) is persistent and has the potential to bioaccumulate.
Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) is used as a cleansing agent in cosmetics and a foaming agent or detergent found in shampoos, bubble bath products, household and utensil cleaning detergents.
SLES is a possible human carcinogen and can even cause harm to the nervous system, It can also irritate the skin and eyes.
Triclosan is mainly used in antiperspirants, cleansers and hand sanitizers as a preservative and an anti-bacterial agent.
It can pass through skin and is suspected of interfering with hormone function, it may also contribute to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Triclosan doesn’t easily degrade and can build up in our environment after being rinsed down the drain.
You can learn a lot by reading the labels on the products you buy. We should arm ourselves with knowledge not just for our well-being but for the well-being of our families and our environment.
Don’t depend on the tempting ads given to you, depend on yourself and look for alternative organic and natural methods for your personal care.
The Suzuki Foundation has a great guide on how to avoid the Dirty Dozen from your everyday cosmetics.