Ingredients to Avoid (Found in Beauty Products & Other)

The Environmental Protection Agency considers 1,4-dioxane a probable human carcinogen. (EPA, 2003). The FDA has expressed continuing concerns about 1,4-dioxane, noting its potential to contaminate a wide range of products, its ready penetration through the skin, and the evidence linking it to systemic cancer in a skin painting study (FDA 2000). FDA notes that 1,4-dioxane can be removed “by means of vacuum stripping at the end of the polymerization process without an unreasonable increase in raw material cost” (FDA 2000), but such treatment would be voluntary on the part of industry. 1,4-Dioxane can appear as a contaminant in products containing sodium laureth sulfate and ingredients that include the terms “PEG,” “-xynol,” “ceteareth,” “oleth” and most other ethoxylated “eth” ingredients.

Coal Tar
Coal tar is a known human carcinogen used as an active ingredient in dandruff shampoos and anti-itch creams. Coal-tar-based dyes such as FD&C Blue 1, used in toothpastes, and FD&C Green 3, used in mouthwash, have been found to be carcinogenic in animal studies when injected under skin.

A catch all phrase which may mean anything. Most scented products today are made from synthetic chemicals attempting to evoke the essence of nature. Chemical fragrances can contribute to health problems such as asthma, migraines, neurotoxic effects, and upper respiratory irritation. To make matters worse, the FDA does not require personal care products to list the ingredients in their fragrance. When EPA researchers tested thirty-one fragrance products, they found that more than half the products contained ingredients listed under the EPA’s Toxic Substance Control Act. Since perfume can enter the body through the skin or inhalation, many of these chemicals are readily absorbed and accumulate in the body’s fatty tissue.

Most products with “fragrance” also contain Phthalates. Avoid synthetic fragrances by selecting essential-oil fragrances instead.

Cosmetic companies use phthalates because they cling to the skin to give soaps, gels, and perfume more staying power. Scientists at government agencies in the U.S. agree that exposure to the chemicals could cause a wide range of health and reproductive problems in people including damage to the liver, kidneys, lungs and reproductive systems in animal studies. A study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that five percent of women between age 20 and 40 had up to 45 times more phthalates in their bodies than researchers initially hypothesized. CDC found phthalates in virtually every person tested, but the largest concentrations — 20 times higher than the rest of the population — were found in women of child-bearing age. A 2003 European Union directive bans phthalates in cosmetics (and plastic baby toys) sold in Europe.

DEA Diethanolamine, MEA Monoethanolamine and TEA Triethanolamine
Restricted in Europe due to carcinogenic effects, yet are still used in U.S. Americans may be exposed 10-20 times per day with shampoos, shaving creams and bubble baths. Animal studies have reported effects on the liver, kidney, blood, and central nervous system (CNS) from chronic oral exposure to diethanolamine.  The National Toxicology Program (NTP) reported an increased incidence of liver and kidney tumors in mice from dermal exposure to diethanolamine.  DEA can also show up as a contaminant in products containing related chemicals, such as cocamide DEA.

Antibacterial cleansers containing Triclosan
Studies have shown that products labels antibacterial do not reduce the level of bacteria any better then soap, may be contributing to the rise of antibiotic-resistant germs. The European Union has classified triclosan as an irritant to the eyes and skin, dangerous for the environment, and very toxic to aquatic organisms. Its use in cosmetic is restricted in Japan and Canada.

A recent report is questioning the safety of the most common group of cosmetics preservatives called parabens. Studies show that parabens – alkyl hydroxy parabens – alpha hydroxy benzoate (methyl, ethyl, propyl and butyl-paraben are weakly estrogenic. In others words, these preservatives have the ability to mimic estrogen in the body with butyl-paraben being the most potent.

Moderate Hazard

UREA Imidazolldinyl, Diazolidinyl Urea: A preservative that often releases formaldehyde. Formaldehyde has a long list of adverse health effects, including immune-system toxicity, respiratory irritation and cancer in humans.

Alchohol Isopropyl (SD-40)
Drying, irritating solvent that strips skin’s moisture and immune barrier, making you vulnerable to bacteria and viruses. Made from a petroleum derivative found in shellac and antifreeze as well as personal care products. Promotes brown spots and premature aging. A Consumers Dictionary of Cosmetics Ingredients says it may cause headaches, flushing, dizziness, mental depression, nausea, vomiting and coma. Fatal ingested dose is one ounce or less.

Sodium hydroxide
Found in drain, metal and oven cleaners, is extremely irritating to eyes, nose and throat and can burn those tissues on contact. The cosmetic industry is now putting it in skin care products and oral care products. The warning label on sodium hydroxide products reads “POISON. May be fatal or cause permanent damage if swallowed. May cause blindness. Avoid contact with skin, eyes, mouth and clothing.”

Skin Irritants

Propylene Glycol (PG) and Butylene Glycol
Petroleum by-products that act as surfactants (wetting agents and solvents), they easily penetrate skin and weaken protein and cellular structure. Commonly used to make extracts from herbs. The EPA requires workers to wear protective clothing and to dispose of any PG solutions in toxic waste dumps. Because PG penetrates the skin so quickly, the EPA warns against skin contact to prevent brain, liver and kidney abnormalities.

Sodium lauryl sulfate, used in about 90% of personal care products that foam, a common skin irritant. When rinsed off, the product will have cleaned the area but will have taken moisture from the top layers of skin. In people with sensitive skin the drying property of these type of detergents can cause flare-ups of skin conditions or may worsen existing conditions. Personal care product manufacturers often add back chemically derived oils such as mineral oil to coat the skin leaving the illusion of the skin being moisturized when in fact these products only interfere with the skin’s natural moisturizing abilities.

Mineral Oil
Petroleum by-product that coats the skin like plastic wrap, clogging the pores. Interferes with skin’s ability to eliminate toxins, promoting acne and other disorders. Slows down skin function and cell development, resulting in premature aging.

Specific concerns in some products

Lead and Mercury Neurotoxic lead may appear in products as a naturally occurring contaminant of hydrated silica, one of the ingredients in toothpaste, and lead acetate is found in some brands of men’s hair dye. Brain-damaging mercury, found in the preservative thimerosol, is used in some mascaras.

P-Phenylenediamine commonly found in hair dyes, this chemical can damage the nervous system, cause lung irritation and cause severe allergic reactions. It’s also listed as 1,4-Benzenediamine; p-Phenyldiamine and 4-Phenylenediamine.

Found in skin lighteners and facial moisturizers, hydroquinone is neurotoxic and allergenic, and there’s limited evidence that it may cause cancer in lab animals.

Petroleum Distillates
Possible human carcinogens, petroleum distillates are prohibited or restricted for use in cosmetics in the E.U. but are found in several U.S. brands of mascara, foot-odor powder and other products. Look out for the terms “petroleum” or “liquid paraffin.”


About palaciosamantha
I'm a Social Media Manager for a large home decor company who enjoys staying current in trends in both the fashion and home industries. I have a passion for writing, art journaling, expressive painting, and photography. My greatest loves are my two children.

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