What Chemicals are in Your Cosmetics?

July 2010

Did you ever try to read the ingredients on the back of a bottle of shaving cream or face wash?  You probably read things like, "propylene glycol, quaternary ammonium compound, or nonylphenols."  What the label didn't tell you is that these ingredients are all known to be hazardous chemicals, in some cases causing bronchial asthma, gastritis, skin irritation, and even death.

We have all heard about the toxicity and potential health complications that can come from using traditional skin care products and makeup.  Although these products are marketed as a way for us to take better care of our skin and hair, they contain ingredients that have been identified by the government as hazardous, while many others remain completely untested.

In fact, shampoos, makeup, lotions, perfumes, and other cosmetics for sale today can contain ingredients linked to breast cancer, infertility, birth defects, and other serious health problems.

The cosmetics industry uses more than 10,000 chemicals in its products, in everything from lipstick and lotion to shampoo and shaving cream.  Studies show that one out of every five products contains ingredients certified by government authorities as known or probable human carcinogens

Many of these substances are also used in industrial manufacturing processes to clean industrial equipment, stabilize pesticides, and grease gears.

In the United States, major loopholes in federal law allow the cosmetics industry to put synthetic chemicals into personal care products, even if those chemicals are linked to cancer, infertility, or birth defects.  As untested chemicals are being introduced in our environment, breast cancer has risen dramatically.

Phthalates are a group of endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in nail polish, perfumes, and fragrances.  Phthalate exposure has been linked to early puberty in girls, a risk factor for later-life breast cancer.

1,4-dioxane is not listed on ingredient labels.  It is a petroleum-derived contaminant formed in the manufacture of shampoos, body wash, children's bath products and other sudsing cosmetics.  The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has ranked it as a possible carcinogen, and the National Toxicology Program (NTP) has identified it as a reasonably anticipated carcinogen.

Parabens are a group of compounds used as antifungal agents, preservatives, and antimicrobials in creams, lotions, ointments, and underarm deodorants.  They are absorbed through the skin and have been identified in biopsy samples from breast tumors.

Ethylene Oxide is found in fragrances and is commonly used to manufacture popular brands of shampoo.  It is classified as a known human carcinogen.

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) are a group of chemicals that occur naturally in coal, crude oil, and gasoline.  One of the more common PAHs is naphthalene.  Some cosmetics and shampoos are made with coal tar and may contain PAHs.  They have been shown to increase the risk for breast cancer.

Placental Extract is derived from human or animal placentas and is used in hair conditioners, shampoos, and other grooming aids, particularly those marketed to women of color.  The National Toxicology Program (NTP) has identified progesterone, the major hormonal comtaminant in placental extracts, as a reasonably anticipated carcinogen.

Lead may be a contaminant in over 650 cosmetic products, including sunscreens, foundation, nail colors, lipsticks, and whitening toothpaste.  Lead is a proven neurotoxin, linked to learning, language, and behavioral problems.  It has also been linked to miscarriage, reduced fertility in men and women, and delays in puberty onset in girls.

Aluminum is found in some underarm antiperspirants.  Like cadmium, aluminum is a metal that mimics estrogen and can also cause direct damage to DNA.  Breast tissue has been shown to concentrate aluminum in the same area where the highest proportion of breast cancers are originally diagnosed.

When it comes to beauty products, the effects of the ingredients they contain are more than just skin deep.  If you are interested in being healthy as much as you are into looking and smelling great, it is important to choose your skin and hair products carefully.

To learn more about toxic chemicals, and healthy green living, please follow our blog at blog.maidbrigade.com.  For more information on eco-friendly, green cleaning, please log on to maidbrigade.com.


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