What’s in my make up and soaps?
I’m a self-admitted girly girl, at least on days I have time to put on what makes me look younger, smell good, feel smooth. I’ve not worried much about if I’m exposing myself to toxins. I’ve already changed my diet since cancer; does it really help to worry not only about everything I put IN my body, but ON it?
But surfing the Internet on other health topics, and trolling my on-line cancer communities I keep reading flashes—like “The Center for Disease Control lists the skin as the ‘most common path of toxic substance exposure.’” … “Parabens (known toxins) are in many personal care products, including deodorants, and easily absorbed by the skin after shaving.” …
Is the safety issue hype or should we be concerned?
That’s your decision to make of course, and it may not be an easy one. We just don’t know which toxins in what concentrations, in what combinations with whatever else we’re exposed to, do what.
I decided to dig deeper. So I would have the information to decide for myself, and help you decide if you want to cut back or swap out any of the products you use. We need to do our own homework, because while Europe, Canada and Japan have consumer protections to take out the guesswork and possible risk, there are no such protections in the United States.
I learned in my research that manufacturers are free to use a slew of chemicals that even cosmetic industry-funded review panels have red-flagged as questionable if not unsafe, period. Further, manufacturers are not obligated to perform safety tests, or to list these ingredients on the label.
So here’s some of what you probably want to know:
What’s in our makeup and personal care products?
A few of many that have raised concern are paraben, formaldehyde, and a number of fragrance ingredients like polyethylene glycol and PEG.
Those that fall under the category of “fragrances” have drawn the most attention among consumer groups like Environmental Working Group (EWG) and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. EWG reports an average of 14 hidden compounds per formulation, including potential hormone disruptors and diethyl phthalate, known to damage sperm.
Parabens are preservatives in almost 25,000 cosmetics and personal care products that research shows can disrupt the hormone system; they were found in breast cancer tumors of 19 of 20 women (Journal of Applied Technology Jan 2012).
Formaldehyde is a carcinogen found in some cosmetics; as are many preservatives that release formaldehyde. The industry-funded Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel recommends formaldehyde levels of 0.2% or less and advises formaldehyde is not safe at all in aerosol products.
Some products to avoid (based on EWG research into product safety testing):
- Anti-aging creams with lactic, glycolic, AHA, and BHA acids
- Hair dyes with ammonia, peroxide, p-phe- nylenediamine, diaminobenzene; all dark permanent hair dyes
- Bar soaps with triclocarban; liquid soaps with triclosan
- Skin and lip products with retinyl palmitate or retinol
- Toothpastes with triclosan
- Nail polish and removers with formaldehyde
- Skin lighteners with hydroquinone
- Sunscreens with SPF of 50 or higher
- Sprays and the ingredient oxybenzone
Okay, so what IS considered safe?
- Hand sanitizers with ethanol/ethyl alcohol
- Sunscreen with up to 30 SPF in intense sun
- Hair products that are gluten-free, soy-free, and chemical-free
- Hair and skin products whose sole ingredients include things like avocado oil, shea butter, aloe vera and brassica (similar to coconut oil)
- In general, products that are fragrance-free
Know the words “organic” “natural,” or “hypoallergenic” do not mean safe. Industry is allowed to use these words loosely, and plenty of these products contain substances known to have potential to do harm
Use mild soaps
Use fewer products. The ones that are best to cut back on are dark hair dyes, powders, and those that are not labeled “fragrance-free”
When in doubt, there’s a database where you can search by product type, ingredient, or brand for a safety rating. The ratings are based on research into what ingredients are in these products, and scientific research on these chemicals’ actions.
More tips on safe products:
Ingredients to avoid: