5 Toxic Chemicals to Avoid in Everything Beauty Related
Did you know that the products you use every single day on your hair, skin, and nails are full of toxic chemicals? Sure, you’ve heard it before. “Ammonia this, phthalates that, parabens, sulfates, blah blah blah.” What you don’t know and what you refuse to acknowledge, may be harming you more than you realize. So where do you start? How do you possibly rid your life of these harmful ingredients?
Hear me out when I say this, YOU DON’T NEED TO BE, NOR WILL YOU EVER BE, PERFECT. Many times, we try so hard to buy the best beauty products around, eat ridiculously high-priced organic foods, shop cruelty-free, or whatever it may be that is most important to you; only to come crashing down on ourselves when we fail to meet the expectations we place on ourselves or that society places for us. It is nearly impossible to rid our lives of every single toxic chemical. What we can do, is strive to choose better products, one.at.a.time. Take the time to research the items you use on a daily basis, and you will be shocked at what we are dumping into our bodies.
In the meantime, and to get your gears a-turning, here are five ingredients to watch out for when purchasing beauty products:
1. BHA or BHT
What it is: These are two commonly used preservatives that are added to prevent oils in foods from oxidizing and becoming rancid. Many times, you will see it in processed foods that state, “added to preserve freshness.” Because they are considered to have antimicrobial properties, the beauty industry quickly picked up on this and began adding them to beauty products to extend their shelf lives. BHA is rated a 10 (highest hazard) on www.cosmeticdatabase.com, while BHT is slightly lower and rated at a 6 (moderate hazard). The main concern in having these ingredients in your products is that they are possible human carcinogens (cancer-causing). I can go on for days, but in the meantime, opt for products that you can use up more quickly and contain natural preservatives such as vitamin E (tocopherol), rosemary oil extract, or a list of safer non-carcinogenic preservatives (more on that later!)
Commonly found in: hundreds and thousands of beauty products including, but not limited to: lipsticks and glosses, foundations and blushes, face and body washes, moisturizers and perfumes, eyeshadows and liners
2. Coal tar dyes: p-phenlenediamine (commonly reffered to as PPDs)
What it is: PPDs (also known as p-phenlenediamine, paraphenylenediamine, or 1,4-benzenediamine) is a compound used in hair color to extend the staying power of the color on your hair, despite daily washings, blowdrys, and styling. As the hair industry is starting to come out with some incredible low PPD and PPD-free hair dyes, the main concern is that is is an allergen and can create some pretty brutal skin reactions. There is also evidence to suggest that it is carcinogenic (cancer-causing) and may contain heavy metals that are toxic to the brain.
Commonly found in: In addition to hair color, is can also found in textile dyes, temporary tattoos, photo developer, black rubber, greases, oils, and gasoline.
You’ve heard the term and everyone you know as heard the term: Parabens. Dun dun dun (insert gloomy sound effects here). But what are they exactly and why are they so bad?
What it is: Parabens are a group of synthetic compounds that are commonly used as a type of preservative. To put it simply, they are used to keep a product from going bad. They are inexpensive, effective and have been use for many years. So why do you need to stay away from them? In the early 90s, parabens were deemed xenoestrogens; agents that mimic estrogen in the body. Parabens and other estrogen disruptors have been linked to breast cancer, reproductive issues, and are known to disrupt hormone function. Essentially, they mimic estrogen in the body by binding estrogen receptors on cells. Just because they have been used for many years, does not automatically make them safe. They are popping up in products you would never guess to find them in, and that cumulative exposure begins to quickly overload our bodies.
Commonly found in: shampoos and conditioners, lotions and makeups, deodorants and toothpaste, and pretty much any bath or beauty product that needs an extended shelf life. Go look at all those pretty bottles sitting on your bathroom counter, I triple dog dare you.
Also known as: methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, isobytylparaben. If it ends in ‘paraben,’ guess what, you have them.
4. DEA (Diethanolamine)
What it is: This compound is used in bath and body products as an emulsifier to make a product sudsy or creamy. It is hormone-disrupting and carcinogenic, as well as a mild to moderate skin and eye irritant. Because of its viscous consistency, there are studies that have shown that two-thirds of DEA in beauty products linger on the skin after showering, thus causing irritation. “In laboratory experiments, exposure to high doses of these chemicals has been shown to cause liver cancers and precancerous changes in skin and thyroid.” To put it simply, they offer no benefit to the skin and they may be potentially harmful. Not only that, but it is also harmful to fish and other ocean and wildlife.
Commonly found in: Shampoos, facial and body washes
Watch out for: Cocamide DEA, TEA & MEA
DEA is made by reacting the mixture of fatty acids from coconut oils with diethanolamine.
What it is: Phthalates are a group of chemicals that make plastics more flexible and harder to break. They are suspected endocrine disruptors and toxic to the reproductive system. Like DEAs, they are also harmful to fish and other wildlife. Phthalates have also been linked to birth defects, obesity, as well as asthma and neuro-developmental problems in newborns.
Commonly found in: Nail care products (this is one of the ingredients being referred to in “3-Free” nailpolishes), cosmetics, shampoo and even things like school supplies.
The list of toxic ingredients goes on and on, but the point here, again, is not to be perfect. The point is to be aware of what you are using on and in your body and to strive to always be and do better. Now go get em!
About the Author: Megan Maloy is the founder of Primrose W+B. Her passion for a healthier, more natural approach to life has made her an exceptional educator and coach on the wellness and beauty achieved through organic living, food and chemical-free products. Her passion lies in bringing harmony to the mind, body, and spirit.