Do You Know What Harmful Toxins Are in Your Cosmetics?
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Nicole Avena
Are your cosmetics and beauty products filled with toxic chemicals?
The Trouble with Toxins
Every day, you’re exposed to a host of chemicals in personal products that can poison your brain and body. Toxins can be absorbed through the skin when you apply makeup, spray on perfume/cologne, use deodorant, or rub in a lotion or cream. When absorbed into your body, these harmful toxins can negatively affect the brain and every part of the body.
The body’s biological systems eliminate toxins (through enzyme processing mainly by the liver, kidneys, and skin), but when those natural detoxification processes are overwhelmed, major problems can develop. Toxic effects on the brain include poor memory and concentration, erratic behavior, word confusion, mood issues, headaches, vertigo, and cravings.
Toxins in Beauty Products
The average American woman uses about 12 personal care products daily. The average man uses about half that number.
Certain toxic chemicals routinely included in these products are easily absorbed into your skin and transported to every organ in your body. That means while you’re trying to look good on the outside, you may be poisoning yourself on the inside.
Some toxins, like aluminum, have become well-known in recent years because of their inclusion in deodorants and other household products. Other toxins, like titanium oxides that make creams white, aren’t as well-known and have been found to produce harmful effects in the brain and body.
It’s estimated that most beauty products are loaded with industrial chemicals, such as pesticides, carcinogens, plasticizers, degreasers, and surfactants. Some believe you can be exposed to as many as 100 chemicals from personal care products before leaving the house each day. Imagine the impact all those harmful toxins have on your body…or on the environment.
The Terrible Twelve
It’s a travesty that cosmetics and personal care products typically have less governmental oversight than most other consumer products. Some chemicals and contaminants found in beauty and personal care products have been linked to serious health conditions, including birth defects and cancer.
Though there are numerous potentially harmful chemicals in beauty products, some fall into a special classification called the “dirty dozen.” Keep an eye out for these toxic ingredients when purchasing personal care items…
Avoid These Twelve Toxic Ingredients in Cosmetics & Beauty Products
- BHA and BHT
BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) are primarily used in lipsticks and moisturizers. These closely related synthetic antioxidants also are widely used as food preservatives. BHA and BHT can cause allergic reactions in the skin, may disrupt hormone function, and can cause liver and kidney problems.
Formaldehyde is a colorless chemical that has a strong odor and is often used in manufacturing processes. It’s used in adhesives, solvents, bonding agents, and even cosmetics and hygiene products. Formaldehyde-based products are combustible, so take caution when burning them.
- Sodium Laureth Sulfate
Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) is used in cosmetics to make products bubble and foam. SLES can be found in shampoos, body washes, and facial cleansers. SLES can be contaminated with ethylene oxide, a known human carcinogen.
Parabens are chemicals that have been used as preservatives in many processed foods and household products since the 1920s. These chemicals can be found in makeup, sunscreen, deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo, and even vitamins, supplements, and medications. These low-cost preservatives can be endocrine disruptors and have been linked to reproductive and weight issues.
As the term’s prefix suggests, siloxanes are silicone-based compounds. They’re used in cosmetics to soften or moisten the skin (moisturizers), and to allow creams to slide more easily over the surface of skin. Cyclotetrasiloxane and cylcopentasiloxane (also known as D4 and D5) are toxic substances that have the potential to interfere with hormone function, nervous system function, and human fertility.
Triclosan is an antimicrobial agent found in many soaps, detergents, toothpastes, deodorants, creams, and color cosmetics. It’s estimated that 75% of the U.S. population has been exposed to this compound in consumer and personal care products. Triclosan may have a negative impact on thyroid function, may create potential antibiotic resistance, and may cause pregnancy complications.
- Coal Tar Dyes
Derived from natural and inorganic pigments, these dyes are used to color a wide array of cosmetics and beauty products. Coal tar is a mixture of petroleum-derived chemicals that are widely recognized as carcinogenic. P-phenylenediamine, which has been linked to tumors in an animal study, is a coal tar dye used in many hair dye products.
- Parfum (aka Fragrance)
Many products list “fragrance” on the label, but most don’t identify what ingredients are in the fragrance. Fragrances can be found in deodorant, soap, shampoo, body wash, lotion, makeup, skin scrubs, and, of course, perfumes and colognes. Though fragrances typically contain solvents (concentrates of non-edible plants) and other chemicals that help the scent last longer, they’re often linked to serious health problems and may be the culprits in the chemical allergies so many people experience.
Petrolatum is a type of petroleum jelly that helps lock moisture into the skin. It’s also included in many hair care products since it can give the hair added luster. Unfortunately, petrolatum (which the EU has classified as a carcinogen) can be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which can cause allergic reactions and skin irritation.
- DEA Compounds
Not to be confused with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, DEA (diethanolamine) compounds are used in cosmetics to produce creamy or sudsy substances. DEA can be found in moisturizers and sunscreens. Aside from causing skin irritation, DEA may be harmful to the thyroid and liver.
Phthalates are chemical “plasticizers,” substances added to plastics to make them more flexible and less brittle. Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) is used in nail polish, as a solvent for dyes, and as a fragrance in cosmetics. These chemicals are endocrine disruptors that may damage the immune system, kidneys, liver, lungs, and reproductive system.
- Polyethylene Glycols
Polyethylene glycol (PEG) compounds are derived from petroleum and are used as softening/thickening agents. They can be found in skin creams, personal lubricants, toothpastes, baby wipes, and other personal care products. Common side effects to PEG exposure include vomiting/nausea, rectal pain, dizziness, chills, hunger and thirst, and sleep issues.
Purge Harmful Toxins
The more exposure you have to the everyday toxins mentioned above, the more your chances of developing long-term mental or physical health issues.
To minimize your exposure to these chemicals, it’s a good idea to ditch cosmetics and personal care products that contain harmful toxins. Use apps like Safe Cosmetics and Think Dirty to identify highly toxic products and purge them from your home.
It’s important to remember that what goes on your body goes in your body, so do everything you can to remove toxins from your life.
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