Why should we care about harmful chemicals in cosmetics?
What you put ON your body ends up IN your body.
Breast cancer rates are rising. Meanwhile, there are more than 85,000 synthetic chemicals on the market today, fewer than 10 percent of which have been tested for their effects on our health.
Between these two facts, there’s a huge chasm of information that science may never be able to fill. But we can act now to protect our health: we shouldn’t have to wait for science to catch up with overwhelming commonsense evidence that something is wrong.
Anti-tobacco activists undertook the cause long before we had proof of the biochemical process by which tobacco smoke leads to lung cancer. The same precaution needs to be taken in every area of public health, because waiting for absolute scientific proof is killing us. There is no question that environmental factors are increasingly important contributors to human disease, and precaution should become a guiding principle in buying and using personal care products.
Consider the following scenario. You wake up in the morning and grab your favorite shampoo (full of synthetic fragrance, colorants, preservatives and foaming agents). Perhaps you also use a hair conditioner (again full of synthetic fragrance, preservatives, slip agents, colorants and foaming boosters). Do you use a shower gel to wash? More synthetics. Even your well known brand of soap is likely to have at the very least synthetic fragrance and colorants.
After showering your skin may feel a little dry so you open that jar of body and hand moisturizer - more synthetic fragrance and preservatives... that stay on your skin! Face moisturizer, more synthetics. Perfume, yes even these often contain a blend of synthetic fragrances. After subjecting your body to so many synthetic skin irritants on a daily basis it's perhaps not so surprising why most of the world's population suffers from some degree of skin allergy.
Harmful ingredients commonly found in most commercial products
Parabens are widely used synthetic preservatives found in the most of the nearly 25,000 cosmetics and personal care products in Skin Deep. Parabens can disrupt the hormone (endocrine) system, and were found in the breast cancer tumors of 19 of 20 women studied. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) tested urine from 100 adults and found Parabens in nearly all.
Health effects related to Parabens: Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Reproduction and fertility, Birth or developmental effects
Active ingredients in: Personal care products
butylparaben, parabens, isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben, sodium methylparaben, sodium propylparaben, ethylparaben, methylparaben, propylparaben, benzylparaben
Your first reaction to having oily skin is likely to be scrubbing it repeatedly with face wash to get rid of the greasy feeling, but what many people don’t realise is that this will often make it worse. Many face washes and cleansers are alcohol-based and while they may leave you skin feeling fresh and clean, they completely strip the skin of its oil. This triggers the skin to create even more oil which will lead to an even oilier face! Check the ingredients list for things containing SD alcohol, as this can cause particularly dry skin.
3. Alpha-Hydroxy Acids
Active ingredient in: Moisturizers, toners, cleansers, masks, age-spot removers
Potential Harm: AHAs are known for accelerating the exfoliation of dead skin cells. But they can also increase the skin's sensitivity to the sun by as much as 50 percent, leaving you exposed to accelerated skin aging and the possibility of skin cancer.
Potential Solution: AHAs are best used at a concentration that is less than 10 percent.
Active ingredient in: Nail polish, shampoos, soaps, skin creams.
Potential Harm: This potentially irritating preservative can be absorbed into the skin and cause allergic reactions, headaches, even asthma. The ingredient, if listed at all, is often referred to as formalin. Its use in cosmetics is banned in Japan and Sweden.
Solution: Read labels carefully: products containing levels that might trigger an adverse reaction are required to carry a caution.
5. Propylene Glycol
Ingredient in: Suntan lotions, lipsticks and other cosmetics and toiletries.
Potential Harm: Its humectant properties are used to stop products from drying out. But it has also been linked to liver abnormalities and kidney damage. It is also known as a skin and eye irritant.
Solution: Avoid it altogether and instead choose alternative products containing glycerin or sorbitol.
6. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate / Sodium Laureth Sulfate
Active ingredient in: Bubble baths, toothpastes, liquid soaps, shampoos and lotions
Potential Harm: This detergent, which has been found to enter the brain, heart and liver and impair the immune system, has been linked to eye irritations, skin rashes and allergic reactions. The biggest problems occur when it is mixed with other chemicals, like those typically used in toiletries, because it can form carcinogenic compounds.
Solution: Avoid using products that contain SLS.
Ingredient in: Makeup and body powders
Potential Harm: Mineral talc has been linked to ovarian cancer and has been found to induce cancer in rodents.
Solution: Avoid using talc-based powders, especially on genital areas.
8. Mineral Oil
Ingredient in: Makeup removers, lipsticks, lotions
Potential harm: A petroleum derivative, it has been linked to everything from clogged pores to cancer. Its density does not allow skin to breathe.
Solution: Avoid it entirely