Could Your Personal Care Products Be Harming Your Health?
When I began the process of regaining my health, I was in extremely poor condition. It’s important to understand that whenever you are in an active state of disease, you must make dramatic changes in order to arrive at not only a positive outcome but also a lasting one.
Though most people do understand the dangers of artificial dyes and other harmful chemicals added to food and drinks, they often overlook the fact that these same (and worse) chemicals are also commonly found in personal care products that are used on a regular basis.
Many detergents, makeup products, lotions, soaps, and other personal care items often contain artificial food dyes and other skin-irritating chemicals. Word of caution, just because it is labeled natural, doesn’t mean that it is safe for use.
Here is a list of some harmful chemicals commonly found in personal care products.
Coal Tar: A known carcinogen that is banned in the EU and some cities in the United States. It is found in dry skin treatments (such as for psoriasis), and anti-lice and anti-dandruff shampoos. Food dyes such as FD&C Red No. 6 are derived from coal tar.
Artificial Food Dyes (FD&C): Known carcinogens made from petroleum waste that is banned in many countries including the EU.
Cocamide DEA: A chemically modified form of coconut oil that has been found to be carcinogenic. From the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), “There is sufficient evidence in experimental animals for the carcinogenicity of coconut oil diethanolamine condensate.” This compound is found in over 100 personal care products including many shampoos.
Ethoxylated surfactants and 1,4-dioxane: WARNING: These are never listed because it’s a by-product of the manufacturing practice of adding ethylene oxide to other chemicals to make them less harsh. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has found 1,4-dioxane in 57% of baby washes in the U.S. Avoid any ingredients containing the letters “eth” as this translates to the product likely went through the process of ethoxylation and that substance is likely carcinogenic to humans.
Formaldehyde: A gaseous compound that is absorbed through the skin. It is poisonous if swallowed and an irritant if inhaled. Formaldehyde is found in nail products, most hair dyes, fake eyelash adhesives, and many shampoos. It is banned in the EU.
Fragrance/Parfum: A mixture of chemicals and ingredients that likely contain phthalates (a group of chemicals used to make plastics more flexible). Synthetic fragrance is associated with headaches, dizziness, asthma, and allergies.
Hydroquinone: A compound used for skin bleaching. It is banned in the UK and rated most toxic on the EWG’s Skin Deep Database. Hydroquinone may cause genetic damage in humans.
Lead: CBS NEWS reported in 2012 that lead was found in 400 types of lipstick. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has determined that inorganic lead is probably carcinogenic to humans. Though beware, although it has been detected in lipsticks and many hair dyes, it is never listed because it’s a contaminant, not an actual ingredient.
Mercury: Scientific American reports, “140 countries signed the United Nations’ Minamata Convention, which includes a ban on mercury in cosmetics and soaps. But mascara and other eye makeup are exempt because ‘no effective safe substitute alternatives are available’ and ‘the intention is not to cover cosmetics, soaps or creams with trace contaminants,’ the treaty says.” Mercury is a known potent neurotoxicant.
Oxybenzone: Absorbs UVB and short UVA rays to help prevent sunburn, thus preventing skin cancer. However oxybenzone has been shown to penetrate the skin causing photosensitivity, and photosensitivity increases the likelihood of developing skin cancer, thus making it a contributing factor in the increased risk of cancer among sunscreen users. Later in this program, you will learn about healthy and effective alternative sunscreens.
Parabens: Preservatives added to many cosmetics, personal care products, and some water bottles. Parabens are absorbed through the skin and suspected of causing breast cancer and liver disease.
Paraphenylenediamine (PPD): A chemical substance that is used in many hair products and hair dyes that have been found to be toxic to the skin and immune system.
Phthalates: Plasticizers that are banned in the EU. California, Vermont, Washington, North Carolina, and New York are the only states that have partial bans. These chemicals are present in many fragrances, perfumes, deodorants, and lotions. They have been linked to endocrine disruption. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) as a probable cause of cancer.
The following links are useful resources:
Material Safety Data Sheets (look under “Safety Card”)
It is surprising how many of these compounds are found in items that you probably use on a regular basis. Given the known dangers, especially cumulatively, I have personally eliminated all products containing any of these chemicals. After all, my health depended upon it, and so does yours!
So What Can You Do?
Sadly in today’s environment, investigating any product that you regularly use is an ongoing venture – vigilance is key! But don’t let that overwhelm you. Simply take one step at a time (or one product at a time) and before you know it, what you put on your body will be as non-toxic as possible.
Try to choose organic products instead! This will guarantee that you will not be putting toxic artificial chemicals on your skin.