In the U.S, the average person is exposed to more than a hundred chemicals from cosmetics, soaps and other personal care products before leaving the house in the morning, according to an article on Harvard.edu. While people may assume these products are safe, their chemical ingredients are mostly untested and largely unregulated, with even known carcinogenic and endocrine disrupting chemicals still found in some formulations. What’s more, ingredient labels can be misleading, leaving even the savviest consumers in the dark about the safety of the products they use every day.
“The lipstick we wear, the food we eat, and the soap we use to clean our children’s hands often contain harmful chemicals,” said Mia Davis, head of health and safety for the personal care product company BeautyCounter. “The load adds up quickly day after day. And as we swallow, breathe in, and lather up, toxins entering our bodies may have lasting impact.”
Chemical exposure has been linked to rising rates in breast cancer, asthma, autism, reproductive problems, and other health issues, Davis said. Many chemicals in personal care products have never been tested for safety, and may also accumulate and interact in potentially harmful ways.
Under a law that has not been updated since 1938, the FDA has little power to regulate the ingredients in personal care products. Companies are allowed to label their products organic, natural, or hospital-approved based on their own interpretation of the terms, Davis said. They can also hide problematic ingredients in proprietary formulations by listing them as “fragrance” on a label.
- PARABENS are commonly used preservatives in cosmetics such as moisturizers, shampoos and conditioners, and many types of makeup. Parabens are known to disrupt hormone function, which is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer and reproductive fertility. Parabens are linked to is early puberty in children and early menopause in women. Parabens mimic estrogen by binding to estrogen receptors on cells.
- PHTHALATES work as softeners in personal care products such as cosmetics and shampoo, as well as flexible plastics like children’s toys. Phthalates are known as endocrine disruptors because they mimic the body’s hormones and have, in laboratory animal tests, been shown to cause reproductive and neurological damage.
- DIETHANOLAMINE (DEA) is used in personal care, laundry detergent and cleaning products to give that foam lather. DEA by itself is not harmful, however DEA reacts in the cosmetic formula to form an extremely potent carcinogen called nitrosodiethanolamine (NDEA). NDEA is absorbed through the skin and has been linked with stomach, esophagus, liver and bladder cancers.
- PETROLATUM (Mineral Oils & Paraffin) used as the base for creams, baby rash ointment and many other personal care products. Petrolatum coat the skin like plastic, clogging pores and creating a build-up of toxins. They can slow cellular development, creating earlier signs of aging. They’re implicated as a suspected cause of cancer. Plus, they can disrupt hormonal activity.
- SODIUM LAURETH SULFATE (SLS) when it’s combined with other chemicals it forms nitrosamines. SLS is found in foaming products (toothpaste, shampoo, laundry, household cleaning, etc.). The biggest problem with SLS, is how is made. The manufacturing of SLS creates ethoxylation which is contaminated with dioxane, a carcinogen.
- PHENOL (CARBOLIC ACID) is found in skin lotion. It is corrosive to the eyes, the skin, and the respiratory tract causing lung edema. It’s harmful to the central nervous systems and heart and cause dysrhythmia, seizures, and coma. The kidneys may be affected as well.
- DIOXANE is a petrochemical solvent found in cosmetics and products that foam, such as bubble bath, baby shampoo, laundry detergent. If you look closely you’ll see ingredients such as PEG, polysorbates, laureth, ethoxylated alcohols which are all dioxanes. Dioxane is linked to cancer.
- FRAGRANCES can contain neurotoxins and are among the top five allergens in the world. Toluene which is in fragrances is known neurotoxin that causes loss of muscle control, brain damage, headaches, memory loss, and problems with speech, hearing, and vision. Better options would be to use “un-scented” or scented with essential oils.
- FORMALDEHYDE Is found in nail polish, body lotion, cleansers, shampoo & conditioners, body wash, styling gel, sunscreen and makeup. Formaldehyde a known human carcinogen, it’s toxic to the immune system and respiratory track.
- HEAVY METALS are the number one ingredient in most conventional deodorants is aluminum. One or more of these metals is probably in your makeup. Lead is an ingredient so toxic it isn’t allowed in paint or gasoline, but it’s in most lipstick. Watch out for arsenic in eyeliner and cadmium and mercury in mascara.
- ACRYLAMIDE is found in many face creams. You’ll find this in mammary tumors. Acrylamide is an industrial chemical known to increase infertility and neurological problems.
- PROPLENE GLYCOL IS ANTIFREEZE, and it’s linked to kidney and liver disease. Watch out, you’ll find this in cosmetics, shampoo & conditioners, deodorant, and of all places… ice cream!