The beauty industry is horribly unregulated. I can’t believe what some companies try to get away with putting in their products, and then expect us to slather it on our bodies, or even worse, our children’s bodies! When shopping for personal care products like lotions, shampoos, and creams, there are ten ingredients I avoid at all costs. I’m going to break them down for you here.
- Petroleum: You’ll find this on the label of many beauty products, and yes, it comes from the same place as your motor oil. Petroleum is kind of sneaky, though, because it may be listed on the side of your moisturizer as something else: Petrolatum, Xylene, Toluene, Mineral oil, Liquid Paraffin. Those last two really get me. I mean, they just sound healthy for you! Memorize those names because these, my friends, are listed by the World Health Organization and Environmental Protection Agency as probable carcinogens. (In other words, they can cause cancer.)
- Parabens: These are probably the most-used preservatives in the cosmetics industry. They mean well. Parabens want to protect your products from growing mold and fungus, but the problem is, parabens have shown up in breast cancer tumors. You may have noticed all the “paraben-free” products popping up on store shelves. Make sure you reach for one of those next time instead. Before you look at the label and tell me your products are paraben-free, check the ingredients for one of these other names: ethylparaben, butylparaben, methylparaben, or propylparaben.
- Fragrance: This is a nice generic term that essentially means, “this product smells nice, but we aren’t going to tell you what’s in it.” A fragrance is considered a trade secret, so the FDA doesn’t force companies to list the exact ingredients in their fragrances. However, the Environmental Working Group did a study and found that about 75 percent of products that list fragrance as an ingredient contain the hormone-disrupting chemical phthalates, which brings me to number four.
- Phthalates: If phthalates can mess with your hormones, why do companies even add them to their products? Because they make fragrances last longer. And that hormone-disrupting thing I was talking about is just the tip of the toxic iceberg. Phthalates have been linked to reduced sperm count, reproductive malformation, certain cancers, and even diabetes. Phthalates are banned in Canada and many countries, but not in the US. As with some of the other things on this list, phthalates aren’t always spelled out on the ingredients list. You should also beware of phthalates listed in these forms: dibutyl (DBP), diethyl (DEP), and dimethyl (DMP).
- Triclosan: This ingredient is added to things like antibacterial soaps, toothpaste, and cosmetics to reduce or prevent bacterial contamination. (It’s even an ingredient in some furniture and mattresses!) Ironically, Triclosan was developed for use in hospitals as a surgical scrub. However, it’s been linked to breast cancer and resistant bacteria, among other things.
- Toluene: You may also see this listed as benzene, phenylmethane, or methylbenzene. This toxic chemical is found in nail products, hair dyes, glues, correction fluid, paint thinners … shall I go on? Some of the health concerns associated with this awful ingredient include developmental and reproductive toxicity and organ toxicity.
- Formaldehyde: A study by the Food and Drug Administration found nearly 20 percent of cosmetics contain a substance that creates the known human carcinogen formaldehyde. It’s added to some products to extend their shelf lives (remember that frog dissection unit in high school biology?), but you’re not going to see “formaldehyde” printed on the label. Instead, you’ll see something like DMDM hydantoin, Imidazolidinyl urea, or Hydroxymethylglycinate. There are others, but I’m afraid I’ll run out of room and not be able to finish giving you my top ten. Do a little detective work if you’re not sure what an ingredient is. Luckily, we all walk around with a tiny computer in our purses or pockets, making it easy to Google any unfamiliar ingredient.
- Artificial/Synthetic Colors: This is pretty self-explanatory. These are the chemical additives that give your shampoo, lotion, or shower gel that beautiful pink, purple, or green hue. But many of these artificial colours are made from coal tar, and some contain heavy metal salts, including lead.
- Sodium Lauryl Sulphate: You might see this listed on your package as SLS or Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES). This one is a little more pronounceable, but being easy to pronounce doesn’t make it good for you. SLS is added to your personal care products to make them foam. Think body wash, bubble bath, shampoo. The Environmental Working Group lists this as a “moderate hazard,” which has been linked to cancer, neurotoxicity, and other harmful conditions.
- Propylene Glycol: This is added to some cosmetics as a skin conditioning agent. It’s also an ingredient in fragrance and in some deodorants and antiperspirants. Its primary function is to stabilize the texture of your personal care products, to keep creams from turning into cottage cheese in lower temperatures. PG is classified as an irritant by the National Library of Medicine. It is derived from petroleum (see ingredient number one on this list), and due to its property as a penetration enhancer, it helps harmful chemicals enter into your skin faster.
There are so many hidden chemicals in the products we use every day and a variety of health issues related to each of them. But until the government begins to regulate these chemicals, we’re on our own to figure them out for ourselves. I challenge you to go through your makeup drawer, your shower, and medicine cabinet and look over the labels on the products you’re currently using. Healthy products are available everywhere today, and I’m confident you can find something better, or even make your own!
Check out my blog for this DIY Sugar Scrub recipe that will not only save you money but allow you to choose exactly what ingredients go in it! This DIY Foaming Hand Soap recipe contains just five ingredients, and one of them is water.