what’s in your body care products?
by michele geracoulis
Tips | Beauty
a user-friendly guide to decoding product labels
By now we all know the ills of eating processed and junk food. But did you know that what we put on our body is just as important as what we put in it?
The body’s burden may actually be more intense from skin absorption than from ingestion. Because skin is extremely permeable, chemicals applied topically will eventually find their way to the bloodstream.
While exposure to just one chemicalized product alone is unlikely to do damage, repeated exposure to one or many just might. It’s the aggregate exposure that can lead to health issues. Today many of the personal care and cosmetic products on the commercial market contain an inordinate amount of deleterious chemicals.
The FDA does not monitor the manufacturing of beauty products. Companies are not required to do any sort of safety testing before a product hits the marketplace. Nor are they required to verify their advertising claims. Subsequently, if the label says natural, pure, safe, hypoallergenic, fragrance-free, dermatologist tested, dermatologist approved, cruelty-free or organic, it oftentimes isn’t. Before you buy another product, learn to read the labels.
Hydrolyzed Animal Protein & Hydrolyzed CollagenDerived From: Waste animal carcasses (including slaughterhouse remains and euthanized animals) rendered in boiling water.
Commonly Found In: Soaps, shampoos, conditioners, hair styling products, hair color, lotions and cosmetics
Used For: Helps skin and hair retain moisture and to adds shine and body to hair
Harmful Properties: Antibiotics, hormones, vaccines, pesticides, pharmaceuticals or diseases that the animals were exposed to are all included in the final commodity. Animal rendering factories are notorious for releasing pollutants into the air and nearby water supply.
Sodium Lauryl / Laureth Sulfate
Derived From: Petroleum, or lauric acid, from coconuts that is compounded with sodium hydroxide, AKA lye (often labeled “natural” with the phrase “comes from coconuts”)
Commonly Found In: Bar soaps, liquid cleansers, shampoos, conditioners and toothpaste
Used For: Foaming qualities
Harmful Properties: Skin, scalp and eye irritants, and suspected as a gastrointestinal and liver toxicant. The bigger issue is that SLS may be contaminated with 1,4 Dioxin, which is carcinogenic.
1, 4 Dioxane
Derived From: Petroleum
Commonly Found In: Personal care products—including baby bath. A contaminant, not an intentionally added ingredient, 1,4-Dioxane never appears on an ingredient labelUsed For: LatherHarmful Properties: Dioxane is absorbed through the skin or via the respiratory system when inhaled. It is classified by the EPA as a carcinogen.
Derived From: Made by reacting fatty acids in coconut oils with diethanolamine, which then has the potential to react with sodium nitrate or nitrate oxides to create carcinogenic compoundsCommonly Found In: Shampoos, cleansers, bubble baths, scalp treatments, exfoliant scrubs, sunscreens, hair colors and cosmeticsUsed For: LatherHarmful Properties: A possible carcinogen
Formaldehyde (Formalin)Derived From: Chemical compoundCommonly Found In: Nail polish, nail treatments, cosmetics, deodorants and disinfectantsUsed For: PreservativeHarmful Properties: Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen, respiratory and eye irritant, and skin allergen. It is destructive to the environment.
Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP)Derived From: PetroleumCommonly Found In: Nail polish and perfumes (hidden in the word “fragrance”)Used For: Penetration enhancerHarmful Properties: DBPs are known to disrupt normal hormonal processes and have been found to cause a wide range of birth defects.
Parabens (Methyl, Propyl, Isobutyl, Benzyl, Ethyl, Butyl) Derived From: Chemical compoundCommonly Found In: Shampoos, conditioners, hair styling products, lotions, soaps, bubble baths and bath salts, deodorants, shaving creams, sunscreens and cosmeticsUsed For: PreservativeHarmful Properties: These chemical preservatives are “estrogenic” (mimics the function of naturally occurring estrogen) and disruptive to normal hormone function. Exposure to external estrogens has been shown to increase risk of certain cancers.
Imidazolidinyl Urea and Diazolidinyl UreaDerived From: Chemical compoundCommonly Found In: Shampoos, conditioners, hair styling products, lotions, bubble baths, bath salts, deodorants and cosmeticsUsed For: PreservativeHarmful Properties: Skin irritants, capable of initiating an immune system response that includes itching, burning, scaling, hives and blistering. Probable carcinogen.
Hexachlorophene (HCP)Derived From: Chemical compoundCommonly Found In: Cosmetics and hospital germicidal scrubs
Used For: Antiseptic and preservativeHarmful Properties: Known carcinogen. Highly irritating to eyes, skin and the respiratory system.
Butylated hydroxianisole (BHA) & Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)
Derived From: Synthetic chemicals
Commonly Found In: Cosmetics and personal care productsUsed For: PreservativeHarmful Properties: Eye, skin and respiratory irritants. May also cause kidney and liver damage, and may weaken the immune system. Probable carcinogens.
PhenoxyethanolDerived From: Synthetic chemicalsCommonly Found In: Cosmetics, lotions, ointments, baby wipes, eardrops and vaccinesUsed For: PreservativeHarmful Properties: Known to cause allergic reactions to the skin on contact
Petrolatum (petroleum jelly)
Derived From: Petroleum
Commonly Found In: Cosmetics and personal care productsUsed For: Emollient qualitiesHarmful Properties: Suffocating to the skin, petrolatum prevents skin from performing its natural cycle of breathing and eliminating. Carries a risk of contamination with toxic impurities, some of which are linked to cancer.
Derived From: PetroleumCommonly Found In: Body moisturizers, cosmetics, hair treatments and colors, hair-styling gels and sunscreensUsed For: LubricantHarmful Properties: Irritating to skin and eyes. The topical use of mineral oil accelerates free, radical damage to the skin and is thought to be detrimental to the immune system.
Derived From: Petroleum
Commonly Found In: Liquid soaps, shampoo, conditioner, lotions,
Used For: Penetration, enhancer, lather and humectant.
Harmful Properties: Neurotoxin that is damaging to the liver and kidneys. Also acts as an allergen that triggers contact dermatitis.
Talc / Talcum Powder
Derived From: MineralsCommonly Found In: Cosmetics, body powders, baby powders and bar soapsUsed For: Softness and ability to absorb oil and moisture. Gives powdered cosmetics their consistency and slippery quality.Harmful Properties: The International Agency for Research on Cancer considers talc a carcinogen.
FD & C DyesDerived From: Coal tarCommonly Found In: Permanent hair colors and anti-dandruff shampoosUsed For: Adds pigment to hair. Coal tar in shampoo eases dandruff.Harmful Properties: Probable carcinogens. Can cause headaches, allergic reactions and asthma attacks
TolueneDerived From: Coal tarCommonly Found In: Nail polishUsed For: Helps polish go on smoothly and adhere evenly to the nails.Harmful Properties: Strong skin, eye and respiratory irritant. Known as a neurotoxin and possible carcinogen.
Heavy Metals: Lead (Lead Acetate) & Mercury (Thimerosal)
Derived From: Metallic elements found in the periodic tableCommonly Found In : Cosmetics and hair coloringUsed For: Coloring agent and preservativeHarmful Properties: Developmental and reproductive toxin. Easily absorbed by the skin and has a tendency to accumulate in the body. Can cause skin irritations on contact and allergic and neurotoxic reactions.
Derived From: Pharmaceutically derived, classified as a drug by the FDA
Commonly Found In: Liquid soaps, deodorants, hand sanitizers, cosmetics, and skin care treatments.Used For: Antibacterial agent.Harmful Properties: May promote antibiotic resistance, cause skin and eye irritation, and disrupt hormones in humans.
Stearic & Palmitic AcidDerived From: Synthetically derived or obtained from animal or vegetable fatsCommonly Found In: Soaps and cosmetics
Used For: Hardens soaps and candlesHarmful Properties: May cause acne, and are known as skin, eye and respiratory irritants.
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