The cosmetics industry is undoubtedly one of the most unregulated industries. Although body care and cosmetic products use tags like “All-Natural” and “Organic,” they contain a high amount of toxic chemicals. Though companies are supposed to use words like “Organic” and “Natural” on their product labels only when their products contain 100% natural and organic ingredients, in practice, they often use 70% organic ingredients along with 30% toxic chemicals and still label their personal care products as organic.
Due to lack of accountability, the cosmetics industry has an “innocent until proven guilty” approach when it comes to using ingredients. Unless someone demonstrates by a preponderance of the evidence that a chemical used in a product is causing health issues, the product is classified as “GRAS” or “generally recognized as safe.” Believe it or not, this classification is upheld by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
Just as you check the labels of the food products you eat, I suggest you check labels of the cosmetics and body care products you use on your body as well. However, a cosmetics label, like some ancient text, is a tough code to crack. You need to know how to identify what are toxic chemicals and their side effects.
Shampoo, shaving cream, soap, lotion and almost every other cosmetic product that we apply on our skin, hair, and nails contain toxic chemicals. To help our readers, Merkaela has compiled and created a list of what ingredients to look for on the label of body care products and what toxic chemicals to avoid in your personal care products.
Toxic Chemicals to Avoid in Your Personal Care Products
First on the list of toxic chemicals to avoid in your personal care products are Parabens. Most cosmetics have preservatives called parabens that protect the products against any bacterial growth such as yeast and mold. This may sound like something good; however, parabens do not just protect cosmetic products from bacteria but are also found to possess estrogen-mimicking properties.
According to a recent study, parabens can lead to breast cancer. These chemicals can be found in deodorants, shampoo, lotions, makeup products, etc. Besides cosmetic products, you can find these preservatives in food commodities as well as pharmaceuticals.
2) DEA ingredients
You can find DEA-related chemicals mostly in foamy and cream-type products such as shampoos, shaving creams, and moisturizers. Though small usage of DEA and its compound chemicals can cause just a little irritation to skin and eyes, according to research, high exposure to these chemicals can cause cancer, precancerous changes to the thyroid and skin.
Research has also shown that DEA chemicals can react with nitrites usually found in cosmetic products and form nitrosamines which according to research is another possible human carcinogen. Other similar toxic chemicals to avoid in your personal care products that can react with nitrites and produce nitrosamines are MEA and TEA.
You may think the fragrance is an unusual choice to include on the list of toxic chemicals to avoid in your personal care products, but almost all of the cosmetic and body care products people use contain some fragrance or perfume mixtures to give a pleasant odor. However, that’s not just what fragrance provides you with.
According to skin deep database by Environment working group, some of the mixtures can cause asthma and trigger allergies. Furthermore, some of the fragrances are even linked to neurotoxicity and cancer. Fragrances can be found in shampoo, soaps, perfumes, cologne, conditioner, body wash, and moisturizers.
Triclosan is one of the widely-used antimicrobial chemicals in the cosmetic industry. Triclosan is known as the endocrine disruptor and can cause disruption in thyroid, reproductive hormones, and skin irritation. It can be found in personal health care products, oral and dental products such as toothpaste, and also in household items.
Furthermore, it can also be found in antibacterial soaps. However, studies show that there is no supporting evidence that by washing yourself or kitchen items with antibacterial soaps containing triclosan have any benefits over using ordinary soaps. Triclosan is one of the toxic chemicals to avoid in your personal care products.
Phthalates are a group of chemical compounds that are widely used in products such as nail polishes, perfumes, lotions, and hair spray. These compounds are used to increase the flexibility and softness of these commodities. These toxic chemicals to avoid in your personal care products are also known as endocrine disruptors and are said increase breast cancer risk, reproductive birth defects and early breast development in young girls.
Unfortunately, similar to what is done with fragrances, the cosmetic industry uses a legal loophole in which companies are allowed to not include “secret formula” ingredients on their products. They use this as a way to not have to write about phthalates on the labels. For your own identification purposes, note that some of the most frequently used Phthalates found in personal care products are dimethyl phthalates, diethyl phthalates, and dibutyl phthalates. Search for them on cosmetics and you might just get lucky.
6) Sodium Sulfate
Sodium sulfate is one of the most widely used chemical ingredients that can be found in about 90% of cosmetic products. Two sodium sulfate compounds are found in personal care products. The first compound is sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), which is known to react with other chemicals to produce nitrosamines and cause skin, lung and eye irritation.
The second chemical compound is named sodium Laureth sulfate, which is a known carcinogen. It is known to cause cancer and skin irritation. This compound can also cause kidney and respiratory diseases and is found mostly in shampoo, body wash, and acne treatment.
Another widely used preservative in personal care products to prevent bacterial growth is Formaldehyde or ingredients that release formaldehyde. According to the International Agency for Research on Carcinogens (IARC), formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and is known to cause occupational cancers such as nasal and nasopharyngeal.
Moreover, Formaldehyde is also said to be harmful to the immune system and cause skin allergies. This chemical can be found in conditioners, shampoos, and makeup products such as eye shadows and nail polishes.
8) Propylene Glycol
Propylene glycol is another one of the chemical ingredients found in personal care products. It is a small organic alcohol commonly found in skin moisturizing products and works as a skin conditioning agent. It has been found to have side effects such as skin irritation and dermatitis. Although it is less harmful, it is good to avoid this chemical as well because of its enhanced skin penetration. Propylene can be found in sunscreen products, lotions, creams, skin moisturizers, conditioners and hair sprays.
9) Chemicals Found in Sunscreen Products
Next on the list of toxic chemicals to avoid in your personal care products are Chemicals such as benzophenone, PABA, avobenzone, homosalate, and methoxycinnamate. They are widely used in sunscreen products by the personal care product manufacturing industry. These chemicals work as an agent to provide protection to your skin against sunlight and absorb ultra-violet rays. Sound great, right? Yes, but the problem with using sunscreen products is that these chemicals can easily be absorbed into your body. Since they are endocrine disruptors, they can cause disruption in reproductive hormones. They can also cause cancer and cellular damage in the body.
Listed on labels of most of the personal care products as benzene, toluol, phenylmethane or methylbenzene, toluene is a petrochemical ingredient derived from petroleum or coal sources. It is a very efficient solvent and can dissolve paint and paint thinners; however, our concern with the chemical is purely medical. Toluene causes respiratory problems, skin irritation, and nausea in humans.
Furthermore, it is advised for expecting mothers to avoid this chemical because according to research, high exposure to toluene can cause early development damage in the fetus. Moreover, Toluene is also considered harmful to the immune system as it has been linked to immune system toxicity. It can be found in cosmetics such as nail polish, hair colors, and bleach.
Next on the list of toxic chemicals to avoid in your personal care products are silicon-based compound chemicals. These compounds are usually listed on the personal care products with postfix “siloxane.” The chemicals are used to soften and moisten skin. According to research, Siloxane is classified as an endocrine disruptor because of the fact that it interferes with reproductive hormone function.
According to research, laboratory experiments showed that high exposure to these chemicals cause tumors and are dangerous for the reproductive and immune systems. They can also interfere with neurotransmitters in the nervous system.
Lead is one of those components that are used by most of the cosmetic manufacturers, but it is never listed on labels because it is not an ingredient, but rather, is a contaminant. It is a known carcinogen usually found in lipsticks and hair dye products.
We realize it is impossible to avoid all the toxic chemicals found in cosmetic, personal care, food, and pharmaceuticals. However, you can always try and limit the exposure of your body to toxic chemicals. Make sure to use as many organic products are possible because our bodies were not created to process inorganic and toxic chemicals.
We always research before buying a new laptop, a new phone or new home appliances but unfortunately, when it comes to what ingredients we are ingesting or applying to our bodies, we don’t do as much research as we should. Instead of relying on what is written on labels, do some research before buying personal care products. Always search for toxic chemicals on websites such as Skin Deep database and make a list of toxic chemicals to avoid in your personal care products.
If you are in the market for personal care products we suggest that you check out our products, which are made using toxic-free, nutrient-rich essential oils, butter, natural herbs and other ingredients meant to nourish the body and mind. To learn more about Merkaela and our subscription box check out our FAQ. Lastly, if you have any questions please do not hesitate to email us at [email protected]. We look forward to hearing from you.