Us women (and a growing number of well-groomed men) have a weakness for cosmetics, and for good reason. They make our skin look fresh and glowy, our hair shiny and frizz-free, and also make us smell like a bed of roses. Plus, they are just pretty! It’s hard not to be allured by the rainbow of vibrant hues, glitzy sparkles, and delicate pastels that are perfectly displayed across the cosmetic counters of department stores. What’s not to love?
Well, actually quite a bit. While these products are designed to entice us in every way, there is mounting evidence that they are doing far more harm than good. Our skin may be our body’s first line of defense, but also it is the body’s largest organ. When we cover our pores with cosmetics, some of the chemicals they contain are absorbed; those chemicals then become stored in our tissues, and bioaccumulate over time. This toxic load can eventually have a significant impact on our health.
Next time you are in your bathroom, take a look at the ingredients panel on your everyday cosmetics. You may be surprised by the long and complex lists that you find. Below is a list of the 7 most toxic cosmetic ingredients for which you should be on the lookout.
- Ethylene Oxide This chemical is commonly found in fragrances and shampoos. It is a proven carcinogen, which means that it has been shown to cause cancer. In fact, the National Toxicology Project identifies it as a mammary carcinogen in animals.
- Lead Lead is a prevalent contaminant and has been found in over 650 different cosmetic products. Some products to be wary of include sunscreen, foundation, nail polish, lipstick, and whitening toothpaste. Lead is proven to be a neurotoxin and may lead to problems with learning, language and behavior.
- Parabens Parabens are a group of compounds that have anti-fungal properties. They are commonly added to lotions, creams, deodorants, and other cosmetics. Parabens are easily absorbed by the skin and have found in biopsy samples of breast tumors. They have also been linked to disrupted male reproductive function.
- Phthalates Phthalates are a group of endocrine disrupting, industrial, high-volume chemicals. They are found in a wide range of beauty products, particularly nail polish and products containing synthetic fragrance. They have been associated with early puberty in girls and breast cancer later in life. If that is not enough to convince you to stay away, just this past month, a study was published in the journal Diabetes Care, linking Phthalate with diabetes risk.
- Sodium Laureth Sulfate/1,4 Dioxane It’s really nice to get a good lather when applying shampoo and soaps. However, these seemingly innocent suds are often due to the presence of sodium laureth sulfate, a compound often contaminated with 1,4 dioxane. 1,4 dioxane is known to cause cancer in animals and has a high probability of causing cancer in humans as well. It may also harm the nervous system.
- Toulene Toulene improves adhesion and adds gloss, which is why it is often used in nail polish and hair dyes. This compound is has been associated with damage to reproductive and developmental function. It may also harm the liver and kidneys.
- Triclosan Triclosan is found in a wide range of antibacterial soaps, detergents, deodorants, toothpastes, cosmetics, fabrics and plastics. Pretty much, it is everywhere! A major health concern is its role in hormone disruption. One study found that triclosan has an impact on thyroid hormone concentrations and another showed that it interacted with androgen and estrogen receptors in the body. In addition, there is mounting evidence that the prevalence of triclosan is leading to the emergence of antimicrobial-drug resistant bacteria.
Fortunately, there are now a lot of natural alternatives on the market and so you can still look beautiful and smell fresh without the toxins! Check out the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep website for more information on products that are safe and the one’s that are toxic.
Assistance provided by Allison van Camp.