10.14.16
The Dirty Dozen: 12 Toxic Cosmetic Ingredients You Should Toss

TCM is on a mission to spread the word about clean beauty brands with safe products we can rely on. Have you ever wanted to detox your beauty routine, but didn’t know where to start? We get that – learning to read skincare and makeup labels is like learning a whole new language.

We love this Dirty Dozen list selected by MPWR Skincare that takes the popular organic foods idea and puts it to good use in our makeup bags and vanities. No need to make flashcards here. Just read, bookmark and take small steps toward a cleaner routine one shampoo, perfume and lipstick at a time…

Phthalates (Dibutyl Phthalate)

What is it? Phthalate (prounced thal-ate) is used mainly in nail products as a solvent for dyes and as a plasticizer that prevents nail polishes from becoming brittle. Phthalates are also unlisted fragrance ingredients in many other cosmetics. LEARN MORE HERE

Why is it harmful? It has been shown to cause developmental defects and is toxic to reproduction and can also harm the unborn and impair fertility. Phthalate exposure has been linked to early puberty in girls, and a risk factor for later-life breast cancer. Dibutyl phthalate is banned in cosmetics in the European Union.

Sulphates (Sodium Laurate, Lauryl Sulphate or SLS)

What is it? Primarily used as a foaming agent or detergent to be found in shampoos, facial cleansers, bubble bath products, household and utensil cleaning detergents.

Why is it harmful? Depending on the manufacturing process, Sodium laureth sulfate may be contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. Both contaminants may cause cancer. Also, ethylene oxide may harm the nervous system and interfere with human development, and 1,4-dioxane is persistent. In other words, it doesn’t easily degrade and can remain in the environment long after it is rinsed down the shower drain.

Parabens (methyl-, ethyl-, propyl-, butyl-, isobutyl-)

What is it? Parabens are a group of compounds widely used as an antifungal agent, preservative and antimicrobial in creams, lotions, ointments and other cosmetics, including underarm deodorants. An estimated 75-90% of cosmetics contain this toxin. LEARN MORE HERE

Why is it harmful? Parabens are easily absorbed by our skin. Parabens can mimic estrogen and has been detected in human breast cancer tissues. It is estimated that women are exposed to 50mg of parabens per day. They are absorbed through the skin and have been identified in biopsy samples from breast tumors.

Formaldehyde

What is it? These are primarily preservatives commonly found in cosmetics. It is also found in baby bath soap, nail polish, eyelash adhesive and hair dyes.Look for: DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine, quaternium-15, and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate. These ingredients slowly and continuously release small amounts of formaldehyde. LEARN MORE HERE

Why is it harmful? Formaldehyde has a long list of adverse health effects, including immune-system toxicity, respiratory irritation and cancer in humans. Formaldehyde is a recognized human carcinogen.

BHA and BHT (butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene)

What is it? BHA and BHT are synthetic antioxidants used as preservatives in lipsticks and moisturizers and are also used as food preservatives. LEARN MORE HERE

Why is it harmful? They can cause allergic reactions, liver, thyroid and kidney problems along with lung function impairment and problems in blood coagulation. Moreover, they mimic estrogen and can have an adverse impact on reproduction. BHA is toxic to the immune system and the International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies it as a possible human carcinogen. Studies suggest that BHT may be toxic to the skin, lungs, liver, and immune system. Both chemicals can cause allergic reactions, are suspected of interfering with hormone function (endocrine disruption), and may promote tumor growth.

Coal-Tar Dyes

What is it? 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 therefore may contain PAHs.

Why is it harmful? Phenylenediamine, used in hair dyes, has been found to be carcinogenic in laboratory tests conducted by the U.S. National Cancer Institute and National Toxicology Program. Coal tar is recognized as a human carcinogen and the main concern are their potential as carcinogens. As well, colors may be contaminated with low levels of heavy metals and some contain aluminum (a neurotoxin). This is of particular concern when used in cosmetics that may be ingested, like lipstick.

DEA Compounds (diethanolamine)

What is it? DEA and DEA compounds are used to make cosmetics creamy or sudsy.

Why is it harmful? These cause mild skin and eye irritation. Exposure to high doses of these chemicals has caused liver cancers and pre-cancerous changes in skin and thyroid. DEA is also possible hormone disruptor, has shown limited evidence of carcinogenicity and depletes the body of choline needed for fetal brain development..

Fragrance/Parfum

What is it? Apart from being used in perfumes and deodorants, they are used in nearly every type of personal-care product. Of the thousands of chemicals used in fragrances, most have not been tested for toxicity, alone or in combination. Over 3000 chemicals are used to manufacture synthetic fragrances.

Why is it harmful? These are often unlisted ingredients that are irritants and can trigger allergies, migraines, and asthma symptoms. The catchall term “fragrance” may mask phthalates, which act as endocrine disruptors and may cause obesity and reproductive and developmental harm. In laboratory experiments, individual fragrance ingredients have been associated with cancer and neurotoxicity. For example, one chemical of concern is dimethyl phthalate, or DEP. Widely used in cosmetics to make fragrances linger, DEP is suspected of interfering with hormone function (endocrine disruption), causing reproductive and developmental problems. Health Canada recently announced regulations banning six phthalates in children’s toys, but DEP is still widely used in cosmetics.

pEG compounds (polyethylene glycols)

What is it? PEGs are widely used in cosmetics as thickeners, solvents, softeners, and moisture-carriers and hence used for products requiring a cream base and also in laxatives. LEARN MORE HERE

Why is it harmful? PEG (and its chemical cousin, propylene glycol) opens the skin’s pores, allowing harmful ingredients to penetrate more deeply. PEG and other “ethoxylated” ingredients (which usually have chemical names including the letters “eth”) may be contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. Both contaminants may cause cancer. Also, ethylene oxide may harm the nervous system and interfere with human development, and 1,4-dioxane is persistent. In other words, it doesn’t easily degrade and can remain in the environment long after it is rinsed down the shower drain.

Petrolatum

What is it? Petrolatum (mineral oil jelly) is used as a barrier to lock moisture in the skin in a variety of moisturizers. It is also used in hair care products to make your hair shine. Look out for the terms “petroleum” or “liquid paraffin.” LEARN MORE HERE

Why is it harmful? A petrochemical, it can be contaminated with cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The European Union considers petrolatum a carcinogen and restricts its use in cosmetics. 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.

Siloxanes

What is it? Cyclomethicone and ingredients ending in “siloxane” make hair products dry quickly and deodorant creams slide on easily. They are also used extensively in moisturizers and facial treatments to soften and smoothen and in medical implants. LEARN MORE HERE

Why is it harmful? Cyclotetrasiloxane and Cylcopentasiloxane —D4 and D5 — are endocrine disruptors, interfere with human hormone function and possible reproductive toxicants that may impair human fertility, cause uterine tumors and harm the reproductive and immune systems.

Triclosan

What is it? Triclosan is used mainly in antiperspirants/deodorants, cleansers, and hand sanitizers as a preservative and an anti-bacterial agent. Also used in laundry detergent, facial tissues, and antiseptics for wounds. Triclosan is classified as a pesticide. LEARN MORE HERE

Why is it harmful? It can pass through skin and can affect the body’s hormone systems—especially thyroid hormones, which regulate metabolism—and may disrupt normal breast development. Widespread use of triclosan may also contribute to bacterial resistance to antimicrobial agents. The Canadian Medical Association has called for a ban on antibacterial consumer products, such as those containing triclosan.

The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. 
All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health related program. 


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  1. I look forward to getting emails from The Chalkboard. I especially enjoyed this article about toxic cosmetics as someone who has recently started throwing out “toxic” makeup, lotions, perfume / body sprays and body washes and slowly replacing them with non toxic stuff. It feels good to know that I’m cleaning up my routine and for a good reason.

    Chantelle D | 10.19.2016 | Reply
    • That’s great Chantelle! We love to hear that. There are a ton of beautiful natural brands to choose from these days.

      The Chalkboard | 10.24.2016 | Reply
  2. To think, wasn’t that long ago we were told – by doctors, even – that petroleum jelly was the best lip balm. Thanks for sharing this (very valuable!) information.

  3. Nice page.I really like this article about the cosmetics because our skin is very important part of our life.We also run a site which deals with Healthy cosmetics.for more information please visit Healthy cosmetics



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