Toxic Chemicals in Your Beauty Products

What you put on your body is just as important as what you put in your body.

It wasn’t long after adopting a clean, unprocessed diet that I turned my curiosity towards beauty products, anxious to know what dangerous ingredients could be lurking in my makeup bag.  I quickly learned that many beauty products contain known or suspected carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, and chemicals strong enough to clean a garage floor (just to name a few).
Below, you will find a list of the most frequently used toxic chemicals that you are likely to find in your beauty products.  Take a look at your products at home to see if these ingredients are present, and make sure you check for these toxic additives when purchasing hair products, lotions, cosmetics, etc in the future.

beautychemicalsParabens: Parabens,  such as methylparaben, butylparaben, and propylparaben, are widely used, inexpensive preservatives in beauty products, such as shampoos, lotions, makeup, and deodorant to prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi. They mimic estrogen, have been found to be present in multiple breast cancer tumors, may cause early puberty among young girls, can interfere with the male reproductive system, and are a known endocrine disruptor.

Sulfates: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) are inexpensive chemicals that are used to generate lather in products such as shampoos, body washes, shaving gels, and even toothpaste. SLS, for example, is so strong, that it is used in garage floor cleaner. According to the American College of Toxicology, SLS stays in your body for up to five days, while other studies have shown that it is easily absorbed into the skin and can penetrate and damage organs such as the liver and heart.  Sodium Laureth Sulfate may also be contaminated with excessive amounts of ethylene oxide, a known human carcinogen.

Silicones: Silicones usually ending in ‘cone’, ‘methicone’, or ‘dimethicone’, are used to smooth and moisten lotions, hair products, and deodorants, often under the mask of the term “oil free.”  Silicones create a barrier around the skin, locking in dirt/bacteria that may already be present on the skin and eventually leading to irritation or breakouts.  The European Union classifies these chemicals as endocrine disruptors.

Phthalates: Phthalates are found in most nail polishes, many  household plastic products, such as vinyl curtains, and in many fragrant cosmetics and lotions to hold colors and scents.  Unfortunately, they are not particularly easy to identify, but be on the lookout for DEP, DBP, and anything marked “fragrance.”  Phthalates are listed by the EU as an endocrine disruptor and are banned in their cosmetics.

Petroleum: Petroleum is a widely used preservative, hiding under many names, such as mineral oil, parrafin wax, and petrolatum.  Petroleum based products, though they claim to smooth and nourish skin, disrupt the body’s natural detoxification, ages and dehydrates skin, and damages collagen and tissue.  Some products containing petroleum have been linked to an increased risk of developing cancer and National Geographic’s Green Guide lists “petroleum distillates” as possible carcinogens.

Coal Tar Dyes: Coal tars, a known human carcinogen derived from petroleum, are widely used to color cosmetics and are usually identified by a five digit number or “FD&C” or “D&C” followed by a color name and number.  Coal tar dyes are likely contaminated with an excess of metals and aluminum.  Some products containing coal tar dyes come with warnings regarding allergies, skin irritations, and blindness (in hair dyes, if used near the eyes).

Fragrance/Parfum: Not just found in perfumes/colones, these are used in almost every beauty products, including those labeled as “unscented” to cover up the smell of chemicals.  They trigger respiratory reactions, allergies, migraines, and asthma.

What Now?

Environmental Working Group has a wonderful list of safe product tips, as well as a beauty product database that ranks your beauty and hair products, giving you lists of concerns and chemicals that may be lurking in them.IMG_3159Start Reading Labels. The best way to phase out your toxic beauty products is to read ingredient labels, just as we do with food.  Give yourself a fresh start: throw out the toxic stuff and arm yourself with information when you head to the store to replace them.  A good starting point is to look for products that are labeled “paraben free,” for example.  Those few extra minutes it takes to read labels is time well spent.

Stop going to the grocery or drug store for your beauty products.  Many health food and natural marketplaces (as well as online) carry organic/natural beauty products.  Their staff is likely more informed, as well, and they will have a greater variety.

Consider ‘going natural’.  Chances are, you don’t need half of the products you’re using, anyway.  Invest in a few good ones that bring out your natural beauty and chuck the extra serums, cover-ups, and sprays that are literally weighing you down.  Wash off your makeup every night to give your skin a chance to breath, and try going a few days without products every once in a while to give yourself a much  needed break.

For more information and tips on organic living, be sure subscribe to my blog (on the right-hand side).  Thanks for reading!

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