I have done other posts on cosmetics, mostly on how to make your own that will be both non toxic and safe for women with allergies. I have also done a previous post on the toxins in cosmetics. But there is a lot more to be said and I thought it might be a good idea to tell everybody what those toxins are so you can start looking at labels. But, did you know that cosmetics do not require approval from ANYONE before they appear on the shelves in your store? I mean, seriously, the FDA does not regulate cosmetics AT ALL. If you don’t believe me, go to this page on the FDA website. And for those of you who don’t want to just leave this page at the moment, here is the drift of what they state:
“Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic (FD&C) Act, cosmetics and their ingredients are not required to undergo approval before they are sold to the public. … This means that manufacturers may use any ingredient or raw material, except for color additives and a few prohibited substances, to market a product without a government review or approval.”
Now, to be fair, they do ban a few substances. I mean, they aren’t allowed to load up on Mercury or Chloroform, both known to be dangerous, but they are still allowed to load up on a lot of crap that is gonna make you sick when you read this. Especially when you realize that these same toxins are banned in many other industries and that most of them are banned on the European market. And here I was foolish enough to think that we had the most sophisticated system in the world. I guess I got fooled by the constant refrain I keep hearing about how rich and powerful we are. Not quite the same thing.
Cosmetics and beauty care products have been controversial since they were first created. They have been banned by many societies over the centuries and have a long history of causing illness and death. Indeed, the absence of regulation of the manufacture and use of cosmetics has often led to negative side effects, deformities, blindness, and even death through the ages. Examples of this occurred with the prevalent use of ceruse (white lead), to cover the face during the Renaissance, and blindness caused by the mascara Lash Lure during the early 1900s. The fact that we have very little regulation even today after so much dark history astounds me. But I was lucky enough to stumble across some great websites that have worked up lists of the most dangerous ingredients in personal care products. And that means you dudes, too. There are as many as 250 unacceptable ingredients that are bubbling along in everything from shaving lotion to body wash. And you should be aware of what they are even if the FDA is busy sitting on it’s behind and rubber stamping e coli and salmonella.
Petrochemicals are chemical products made from raw materials of petroleum or other hydrocarbon origin. Although some of the chemical compounds that originate from petroleum may also be derived from coal and natural gas, petroleum is the major source of these chemicals. Some of these ingredients include solvents – liquids used for dissolving materials; examples of petrochemicals include ethanol, isopropyl alcohol, acetone, benzene, toluene and xylenes. Wax (paraffin), is used in a wide range of products such as lip gloss and moisturizers. Acetone – dimethyl ketone; also often made by the cumene process and found in nail polish removers and other care products. Petroleum Jelly is used as an ingredient in skin lotions and cosmetics but it can be comedegenic and not helpful since it is not absorbed into the skin, resulting in a greasy feel. It is also dangerous to inhale or swallow; if particles of petrolatum are inhaled from the nose, they may deposit in the lungs and lead to a condition called lipid pneumonia. And Mineral Oil is actually liquid petroleum and is a by-product in the distillation of petroleum to produce gasoline. It is a common ingredient in baby lotions, cold creams, ointments and cosmetics. It is a lightweight inexpensive oil that is odorless and tasteless. One of the common concerns regarding the use of mineral oil is its presence on several lists of comedogenic substances. This means that it will clog pore and give you pimples. Lots of them. So if you wish to avoid petrochemical products in your cosmetics, either for their possible health hazards or because you just want to stop drilling the planet for more black gold, then you should not buy products with these ingredients. Lanolin based products are a natural alternative to toxic petro-chemical sprays and degreasers. This product is made from Sheep’s Wool and does not require killing the Sheep.
Diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, or DMDM hydantoin and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, are preservatives that have the potential to release formaldehyde in very small amounts and are a primary cause of contact dermatitis. From Wikipedia: is an antimicrobial preservative used in cosmetics. It is chemically related to imidazolidinyl urea which is used in the same way. Diazolidinyl urea acts as a formaldehyde releaser. Diazolidinyl urea is sometimes used in cosmetic products as a preservative, was recently re-classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer to its highest toxic class, IARC-1 (known human carcinogen). Formaldehyde is classified as a probable human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which provides sufficient evidence that formaldehyde causes nasopharyngeal cancer in humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Stop buying products that have this additive. Look for the word “urea” on the label.
1,4-Dioxane, a chemical carcinogen, is created when ingredients are processed with petroleum-derived ethylene oxide. Common ethoxylated compounds include sodium laureth sulfate and polyethylene glycol (often listed as PEG). From Wikipedia: 1,4-Dioxane, often just called dioxane, is a clear, colorless heterocyclic organic compound which is a liquid at room temperature and pressure. It has the molecular formula C4H8O2 and a boiling point of 101 °C. It is commonly used as an aprotic solvent. 1,4-Dioxane has a weak smell similar to that of diethyl ether. 1,4-Dioxane is a known eye and respiratory tract irritant. It is suspected of causing damage to the central nervous system, liver and kidneys. Accidental worker exposure to 1,4-dioxane has resulted in several deaths. Dioxane is classified by the IARC as a Group 2B carcinogen: possibly carcinogenic to humans because it is a known carcinogen in animals. CHECK THE LABELS AND DO NOT BUY THESE PRODUCTS. To avoid it, you must check the labels and do not buy any product with the following ingredients: myreth, oleth, laureth, ceteareth (or any other -eth), PEG, polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, polyoxyethylene, or oxynol.
Parabens are a group of chemicals widely used as preservatives in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. You will see “propylparaben” on just about everything you use. These compounds, and their salts, are used primarily for their bacteriocidal and fungicidal properties. They can be found in shampoos, commercial moisturizers, shaving gels, personal lubricants, topical/parenteral pharmaceuticals, spray tanning solution and toothpaste. They are also used as food additives. They have long been considered to be non toxic and safe. But one scientific study reports that parabens were found in samples of breast tumors. This study has fueled the belief that parabens in underarm deodorants or other cosmetics migrated into the breast tissue and contributed to the development of the tumors. This makes it impossible to say parabens are safe since their long-term health effects of exposure are essentially unknown. From this research it is not possible to say whether parabens actually caused these tumours, but they may certainly be associated with the overall rise in breast cancer cases. In other words, avoid this agent until more information is known.
MEA, DEA & TEA are “amines” (ammonia compounds) and can form harmful nitrosamines when they come in contact with nitrates. Ethanolamine is commonly called monoethanolamine or MEA and is a toxic, flammable, corrosive, colorless, viscous liquid with an odor similar to that of ammonia. It is used in the production of detergents, emulsifiers, polishes and pharmaceuticals. Ethanolamine is a part of the group for phospholipids, substances found in biological membranes. Diethanolamine, often abbreviated as DEA, is an organic chemical compound which is both a secondary amine and a dialcohol. DEA and its variants are suspected of increasing the risk of cancer. DEA can combine with amines present in cosmetic formulations to form nitrosamines (N-nitrosodiethanolamine), which are known to be highly carcinogenic. In other words, if the product contains both DEA and a nitrate, it is a carcinogenic product. Adding insult to injury, various studies also show that DEA directly inhibits fetal brain development in mice by blocking the absorption of choline, a nutrient required for brain development and maintenance. DEA is also associated with miscarriages in laboratory studies. So, if you are pregnant or trying to be, you’d better start reading labels before buying this stuff. Triethanolamine, often abbreviated as TEA, is an organic chemical compound which is both a tertiary amine and a tri-alcohol. This ingredient is used as a pH balancer in cosmetic preparations in a variety of different products – ranging from skin lotion, eye gels, moisturizers, shampoos, shaving foams etc. As with any amines, it may have the potential to create nitrosamines. Nitrosamines are chemical compounds of the chemical structure R1N(-R2)-N=O, some of which are carcinogenic. Overall, even in low concentrations, these chemicals are used as foaming agents, synthetic stabilizers, and to adjust the pH of cosmetics and they can cause allergic reactions, eye irritation, and dryness of the hair and skin. This is if they don’t cause cancer in your case.
Triclosan (IUPAC name: 5-chloro-2-(2,4-dichlorophenoxy)phenol) is a potent wide spectrum antibacterial and antifungal agent. It is an antibacterial agent and is found in many soaps and detergents. It is often found found as a product of coal oxidation. This means it is not good for the environment. From Wikipedia: Triclosan is found in soaps (0.10-1.00%), deodorants, toothpastes, shaving creams, mouth washes, and cleaning supplies and is infused in an increasing number of consumer products, such as kitchen utensils, toys, bedding, socks, and trash bags. Triclosan has been shown to be effective in reducing and controlling bacterial contamination on the hands and on treated products. But this chemical is practically everywhere, regardless of the fact that overuse could cause resistant strains of bacteria to develop. Also, the EPA has classified it as a probable human carcinogen because it reacts with chloroform (chlorine) in tap water. Although small amounts of dioxins are produced, there is a great deal of concern over this effect because some dioxins are extremely toxic and are very potent endocrine disruptors. They are also chemically very stable, so that they are eliminated from the body very slowly and they persist in the environment for a very long time. The hypothesis proposed is that triclosan blocks the metabolism of thyroid hormone, because it chemically mimics thyroid hormone, and binds to the hormone receptor sites, blocking them, so that normal hormones cannot be utilized. Don’t we have a thyroid epidemic in this country, with some huge number of people being diagnosed with this condition? I mean, I read that Synthroid, which is used to treat slow thyroid, is the number one prescribed drug in this country (and maybe even worldwide). Do you really need this stuff that bad? Think about it.
Sunscreens include chemicals such as oxybenzone and octylmethoxycinnamate. Oxybenzone has been shown to penetrate into the skin where it acts as a photosensitizer. This results in an increased production of free radicals under illumination, which makes this substance a likely photocarcinogen. Oxybenzone is a derivative of benzophenone, which is well known to attack DNA when illuminated. It generates strand breaks and various photoproducts. The photomutagenic properties of these compounds might be a contributing factor to the increased melanoma incidence that has been found in sunscreen users. So you are using a sunscreen to AVOID skin cancer and what do you get? Cancer. Not funny. And then, consider octyl methoxycinnamate. It goes by the trade names Eusolex 2292 and Tinosorb OMC and it is an organic compound that is an ingredient in some sunscreens and lip balms. Estrogenic effects were noted in laboratory animals at concentrations close to those experienced by sunscreen users. This means that it has been shown to disrupt endocrine activity. If you want avoid possible hormonal interferance, then you should avoid this product, too. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are safer alternatives.
Synthetic dyes and colors are made from coal tar. They contain heavy metal salts that may deposit toxins onto the skin, causing skin sensitivity and irritation. Animal studies have shown almost all of them to be carcinogenic. They will be labeled as FD&C or D&C, followed by a color and a number. So many people are allergic to these colors in foods that it’s a common treatment in the doctors office. Red dye, in particular, is hard on the body. And then there are synthetic fragrances, which I have already ranted about on this blog. They often contain phthalates, which are known to be endocrine disrupters that mimic hormones and may alter genital development. Avoid products that list fragrance as an ingredient unless the label states that it’s derived from essentials oils, or look for a phthalate-free label on the packaging.
And the most hated of all for me: animal tested products. I wish everybody would avoid those products to give these animals a break. The harsh cruelty to animals that is used in testing many cosmetic ingredients makes me feel horrible. I mean, how vain can we be? Some monkey lives in blindness or hooked up to a drip because we need to wear mascara or rub our thighs with lotion? Luckily, scientists are developing new technologies to test cosmetics because a European Union ban on animal testing begins in March 2009. Start looking for those products that use this new technology and let the other companies go broke. They deserve it.