As you may or may not know, there are very little regulations on the ingredients that are allowed into our beauty products. The FDA has a list of Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) ingredients that doesn’t seem to consider long term affects, and continual exposure to them. Some of these ingredients are added to cut ends, some are added to meet a desired effect without noting the undesired side effects, and some are thrown in for preservation purposes or just to add a sudsy, foaming property to soap. Whatever they are, they aren’t very healthy (even toxic), and many studies have demonstrated this statement. Now turning over any bottle you have lying in the cabinet under your bathroom sink, you probably are baffled by the ingredient label and the array of 15 letter words that fill it.
A great rule of thumb I use when deciphering whether or not I should really be using a product on my skin is, if you couldn’t eat it, don’t put it on to your skin. Every pore on our body is like a tiny little mouth eating up, and absorbing whatever it comes into contact with. But how do you know which of your products are safe to permeate your epidermis? Let’s go through some of the red flag ingredients on your beauty product label to make deciphering toxic from nontoxic a bit less confusing.
- Formaldehyde– Commonly found in nail polishes, and other nail products. Even though a vast majority of the population knows how toxic this is, the vast majority doesn’t read the ingredient label. Formaldehyde is classified as a human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
- Parabens– Found in everything from your lotion to your conditioner, parabens are used as a preservative to keep bacteria from growing inside your products. Recent studies have show parabens (Propyl-. Isopropyl-. Butyl-, and Isobutyl-) to have a similar chemical structure to estrogen, and in turn acting as the hormone and attaching to receptors, throwing the endocrine system out of balance.
- Sulfates– Used as an emulsifier and to create bubbles in soaps, but shown to increase trans-epidermal water loss of the skin, which means dehydrated skin for you. More so, sulfates have the ability to create irritation, and inflammation in the skin.
- Toluene- Used as a solvent, and antioxidant in many products, Toluene has been proven to cause developmental, and reproductive toxicity. Check your nail products, and hair dyes for this product.
- Triclosan- Banned from Canadian and Japanese products, Triclosan is used as an antibacterial, and preservative in many men’s shaving cream products. Many studies prove at even very small doses, Triclosan can disrupt the endocrine system.
- Phthalates- Known as a plasticizer that creates an elastic substance to many nail polishes, and hairsprays as well to prevent stiffness in the hair. Overexposure has been linked to male infertility, and reduced production of testosterone in younger males.
- Oxybenzone- Oxybenzone is an ingredient added into many sunscreens to help filter UV rays. The problem is the particles are so small that they get absorbed into the skin, and into our bloodstreams through small capillaries causing toxic contamination. Sited to cause harm to the endocrine system, visceral organs, and oxidation and mutation of cells.
- BHA- While the European Union sees BHA as worthy of regulation, the United States has yet to cut this highly toxic ingredient from our products. This is used as a synthetic antioxidant to maintain freshness of the product. Even though it may be helping to steer away free radicals from rotting your products, studies have shown high exposure to BHA to have carcinogenic affects.
- Bronopol- Not only is Bronopol considered an immune toxicant, it is also highly dangerous to our oceans and it’s wildlife, as well as the rest of the environment. This can be found in baby wipes and many other products such as shampoos and conditioners used as a preservative.
- DMDM Hydantoin- DMDM Hydantoin is in approximately 20% of cosmetics on the shelves, also sneaking up in baby wipes! It is a Formaldehyde releaser, and used as a preservative in the products it’s found in. This has been found to be of high toxicity when making contact with skin and eyes.
An amazing tool to use when testing toxicity levels of a beauty product is the EWG’s cosmetic database product search. Click Here to test what’s underneath that bathroom sink.