Food and medical products have strict regulations to follow regarding their ingredients, but there are hardly any such guidelines for cosmetics. This is worrisome, since the chemicals in skin and hair care products are also absorbed by the body, either through the surface or through inhalation. Here is a list of 10 of the most commonly found harmful ingredients in skin and hair care products.
Found in: Makeup, Body washes, Shampoos, Deodorants, Face washes
Parabens (methy, butyl and propyl) are used to extend the life of cosmetics by preventing mould and bacteria. Unfortunately, they do the opposite for human life. While parabens have been used in cosmetics for a long time, they’ve recently found to be present in malignant breast tumors due to their ability to mimic estrogen. Parabens are present in nearly 85% of all cosmetics, and continuous accumulation within the human body could be dangerous.
2. Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS/SLES)
Found in: Body washes, Shampoo, Soap, Toothpaste
SLS and SLES are surfactants, found in most cleansing toiletries. It is basically a detergent, and like all detergents, has a tendency to irritate eyes and skin. SLS combines with other chemicals to form nitrosamines, which are found to cause cancer in many species of animals along with humans.
3. Diethanolamine (DEA)
Found in: Shampoos, Lotions, Creams
DEA is a wetting agent used in many cosmetics. It gives lotions and creams a creamy consistency and is also responsible for the rich lather in shampoos. The problem with DEA is when it reacts with other chemicals in cosmetics – the combination ends up creating a carcinogen called nitrosodiethanolamine (NDEA). Even small amounts are found to be related to cancers of the liver, stomach, bladder and esophagus.
4. PEG (Polyethylene Glycol)
Found in: Creams, Moisturizers, Lotions
PEGs are petroleum based products which are widely found in products, usually mentioned in the ingredients along with a number. PEG also belongs to the group of cancer causing ingredients and are considered dangerous to be used on broken skin. Worse, they increase the permeability of the skin, allowing more of the product to be absorbed.
Found in: Deodorants, Hair Sprays, Moisturizers
Pthalates are compounds of pthalic acid and are used in a large number of products, beyond personal care, including toy, glue and paints. Due to this, it has been found in concentrations much more than normal among children along with women. They are found to mess with the hormones, causing breast cancer, early breast development in young girls and other reproductive defects.
Found in: Toothpastes, Soaps, Deodorants, Body Washes
Triclosan is an antimicrobial ingredient that is present in most antibacterial products. Anti bacterial products themselves are being criticized for giving rise to super bugs. Triclosan affects the endocrine system, causing havoc with the thyroid and reproductive hormones.
Found in: Nail polish, nail polish remover
Toluene is created as a byproduct during the production of gasoline. It is usually identified by its paint-ish smell, and is responsible for the characteristic aroma of nail polish or varnish. While small amounts can cause dizziness and nausea, large amounts can even cause birth defects. Nail salon workers are more prone to the harmful effects of toluene, and they are advised to stay away when pregnant.
Found in: Hair gel, Body wash, Soaps, Nail Polish
Formaldehyde is added to personal care products to increase their shelf life. Many organizations recognize this as a known carcinogen, yet they are still found in cosmetics. Formaldehyde enters the human body either by absorption through the skin and by inhaling its fumes. It is found to be responsible for allergies and rashes in many people, especially in those with sensitive skin.
9. Mineral Oil (Paraffinum Liquidum)
Found in: Baby oil, Cold cream, Ointments
Mineral oil is basically liquid petroleum and is the chief component of baby oil. It is considered to provide relief from dry skin, but it is found to be a major cause for ageing since it blocks the pores and doesn’t allow the skin to ‘breathe’.
Found in: Perfume, Shampoo, Conditioner, Body wash, Moisturizer
Despite its harmless sounding name, this is considered one of the most dangerous ingredients in personal care products, since it could be a compound of just about anything. Even products labeled ‘unscented’ can contain small amounts of fragrance. Fragrance can cause allergies, dermatitis and respiratory problems along with breast cancer.
If you picked up any commercial skin or hair care product and look at its ingredient list, you are very likely to find at least 3 of the ingredients mentioned above, and probably more. That is why more and more people are on the look out for natural products without chemicals. But beware – not everything that says ‘natural’ is actually 100% natural. Do your research and choose a brand that really delivers what it promises. After all, you do have the freedom to choose good health!
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