You’ve cleaned up your diet, banned harsh cleaning products from your arsenal, and even traded your synthetic products for organic skin care. You’re on the path to natural bliss, but there’s just one area left to tackle…
Swapping your regular makeup products for natural versions can seem like the scariest step in the transition. You found mascara that takes your eyelashes to new heights, a lipstick that makes your pout pop, and a foundation that makes your skin look like it traveled back in time. Why would you give those things up?
Under current law, the FDA doesn’t require cosmetics companies to conduct safety assessments on their products. Harmful ingredients can be easily masked under confusing or deceptive titles like “fragrance.” They may even be listed, plain and simple, on the label, but with no messages to inform consumers of their potentially harmful effects.
If makeup is a part of your daily routine, it’s vital to think about what you’re putting on your skin. Your pores absorb what you put on them—they don’t know any better! That lipstick on your teeth? You ate that.
So let’s talk about some toxic chemicals in the makeup and how to get healthy with our beauty care!
Phthalates are a group of chemicals that may be disruptive to the endocrine system, which is responsible for hormone production. Such interference can lead to developmental, reproductive, and neurological damage.
The effects of phthalates may be related to their ability to mimic human hormones. A study by the University of Maryland reported that exposure to phthalates could cause reproductive abnormalities and decreased production of testosterone in males, as well as decreased male fertility. Other studies show a link between phthalates and premature delivery and endometriosis in women.
Where would you find phthalates? They’re used to plasticize products, making them more flexible or better able to hold in color and scent. From deodorant to nail polish to scented lip balm, the catch here is that these chemicals can be grouped under and listed as “fragrance.” Companies claim their fragrance formulas as “trade secret,” and thus don’t have to specify on the label which ingredients are included.
Your best bet is to avoid products that list “fragrance” and choose ones that use plant oils and essences to give them the “yum” factor.
We know that lead is bad for us. We stopped putting it in our paint, right? So why is it showing up in our foundation, lipsticks, and even whitening toothpaste?
Lead is a proven neurotoxin linked to miscarriage, reduced fertility, and delays in the onset of puberty for females. About seven years ago, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found lead in over half of the 33 brands of lipstick they tested. A more recent study by the FDA tested popular brands and found 400 that contained up to 7.19ppm of lead.
It is inevitable that some lipstick ends up making it past the target area and into your belly. For those who wear it regularly, this could harm your health in the long run.
How does lead make it into cosmetics? It isn’t added as an ingredient, but rather makes its way in through contamination. Color additives are some of the most common sources.
The best way to avoid lead is to buy makeup from companies that make products in small batches and avoid contamination, or to buy products colored with fruit and other natural pigments.
3. Quaternium-15 and Other Formaldehyde-Releasing Preservatives
You may already know that treated wood, such as particleboard, can release formaldehyde, but did you know to watch out for it in your makeup?
When some chemicals break down, they release harmful formaldehyde gas, classified as a known human carcinogen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Researchers and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
The main risk is through inhalation. The European Union (E.U.) mandates that formaldehyde-releasing preservatives in cosmetics be labeled as such if they exceed .05%. For those outside the E.U., we have to get savvy with our ingredient vetting.
- DMDM hydantoin
- BHUT (butylated hydroxytoluene)
- diazolidinyl urea
- sodium hydrozymethylglycinate
- imidazolidinyl urea
- quarternium-15, Quaternium-18, Quaternium-26
Quaternium-15 is one of the more common ones, used in mascara, pressed powders, and eyeliners. In addition to potentially causing cancer, this ingredient can cause skin sensitivities and irritation. It belongs to a class of compounds called quaternary ammonium compounds, or “quats.”
Quats have many uses—as preservatives, surfactants, germicides and conditioning agents. Choose products that use natural alternatives that perform similar functions such as rosemary, honey, tea tree oil, grapefruit seed extract, and vitamin E.
4. PEG Compounds
Polyethylene glycols, or PEGs, are petroleum-based compounds that are used to thicken, soften, and gelatinize cosmetics, making them a common ingredient in cream-based products. The main issue with PEGs is that they are often contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane.
Ethylene oxide is a known human carcinogen, potentially harmful to the nervous system and human development. 1,4-dioxane is a possible human carcinogen that can remain in the environment for long periods of time without degrading.
PEG compounds also enhance the penetration of other ingredients into your skin, which is great if these other ingredients are healthy, but not so much if they are harmful. The number next to PEG indicates how many units of ethylene glycol they comprise, such as PEG-4 or PEG-150. The lower the number, the more easily the product absorbs into your skin.
5. Butylated Compounds (BHT, BHA)
This is another unhealthy ingredient that’s thrown into our products so we can keep them on our shelves for a longer period of time. BHA and BHT are used as preservatives in dozens of products.
- baked goods
- meats, sausage, poultry
- chewing gum
- vegetable oils
In your makeup and skin care products:
- eyeliners, eye shadows
- lipsticks, lip glosses,
- blushes, foundations
- skin cleansers
- diaper creams
These chemicals are endocrine disruptors, may induce skin allergies, and are linked to organ, developmental, and reproductive toxicity.
The E.U. prohibits the use of BHA as a fragrance and the European Commission on Endocrine Disruption lists it as a Category 1 priority substance due to evidence that it interferes with hormonal function. No thank you!
There’s evidence that suggests that BHT mimics estrogen, which can throw off hormonal function in both men and women. In some situations, this additive can promote the growth of tumors.
Both BHT and BHA bioaccumulate. Given the wide variety of food and cosmetic products they are used in, accumulation over time could lead to serious health consequences. Avoid these ingredients, and turn to products with natural preservatives instead, like aspen bark extract and vitamin E.
They’re practically famous. If you’ve heard of one class of ingredients you should avoid in your makeup, it’s parabens. They’re the most widely used preservatives in cosmetics, and they have no troubles penetrating your skin.
The European Commission on Endocrine Disruption lists parabens as Category 1 priority substances because of evidence they interfere with hormone function. I only let one thing toy with my hormones, and that’s the moon!
Parabens can mimic estrogen, and have been detected in human breast cancer tissue. They also interfere with reproduction, the nervous system, and the immune system—all things we would like to keep in well-working order.
Because parabens have gained such a bad rep, some companies now use phenoxyethanol, but phenoxyethanol is not the good witch of the north! It has many of the same harmful effects. Japan recently banned phenoxyethanol in cosmetics, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration put out a consumer alert warning that it can “depress the central nervous system and may cause vomiting and diarrhea” in infants. Avoid both parabens and phenoxyethanol in your skin care!
We’ve already talked your ear off, so we’ll keep these last ones short. Put these ingredients on your radar:
7. Octinoxate: Found in foundations, this is an unstable chemical linked with endocrine disruption and thyroid disorders.
8. p-Phenylenediamine: A type of coal tar dye sometimes listed as CL followed by a five-digit number. It’s a respiratory toxicant and can be contaminated with heavy metals.
9. Carbon black: An ingredient found in eyeliners, it’s linked to cancer and organ toxicity. Look for its other names: channel black, pigment black 6, pigment black 7, acetylene black, froflow, arogen, arotone, arovel, arrow, atlantic, and black pearls.
10. Siloxanes: Used in cosmetics to soften, smooth, and moisten, they disrupt the endocrine system and are toxic to the reproductive system. Look for ingredients that end in -siloxane or -methicone and avoid these products!
We’re not here to scare you! We don’t want you to have nightmares that your future offspring will be jeopardized all because you wanted to sport a red lip, or that your loved one will get sick because you bought her an eye shadow palette for her birthday. But we have options when it comes to what we put on our faces and bodies. If the makeup industry isn’t going to make transparency a priority, we have to take it upon ourselves to do our research so we can make healthy choices.
Update 3/5/2015: We made a short video that highlights that truth about the makeup industry. We want to change how this industry operates, but we need your help! Make sure you watch this video and share it with someone you love!
Click Here to Watch Beauty Detoxified
Have you switched to any natural makeup products? Tell us your favorites!
by Hope Freije
If you thought the FDA does a subpar job in regulating what goes into our food supply, you'll be equally appalled, if not more, on its regulation of cosmetic and personal-care products. The same way you look at food labels, you should do the same for your beauty products.
There are thousands of chemicals in your products, many of which are being absorbed into your body. These companies have cart blanche to use any ingredient or raw material without government review or approval.
This industry is highly unregulated. There is no pre-product approval before a product hits the market and enters your home. A minuscule approval process exists, but only for color additives and ingredients classified as over-the-counter drugs.
Many of these synthetic chemicals are skin irritants, skin penetrators, endocrine disrupters and are carcinogenic. I can't go through all of these harmful chemicals, but here are 10 you should highly avoid.
Parabens. Parabens are widely used preservatives that prevent the growth of bacteria, mold and yeast in cosmetic products. Sounds good, right? Not so fast, they do more than that. Parabens possess estrogen-mimicking properties that are associated with increased risk of breast cancer. These chemicals are absorbed through the skin and have been identified in biopsy samples from breast tumors. They can be found in makeup, body washes, deodorants, shampoos and facial cleansers. You can also find them in food and pharmaceutical products.
Synthetic colors. If you take a look at your product label and notice FD&C or D&C, they represent artificial colors. F -- representing food and D&C representing drug and cosmetics. These letters precede a color and number (e.g., D&C Red 27 or FD&C blue 1). These synthetic colors are derived from petroleum or coal tar sources. Synthetic colors are suspected to be a human carcinogen, a skin irritant and are linked to ADHD in children. The European Classification and Labeling considers it a human carcinogen and the European Union has banned it.
Fragrance. This particular category is pretty scary, because what does "fragrance" mean anyway? This term was created to protect a company's "secret formula." But as the consumer you could be putting on a concoction that contains tons of chemicals that are hazardous to your health. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Skin Deep Database, fragrance mixes have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system. It can be found in many products such as perfume, cologne, conditioner, shampoo, body wash and moisturizers.
Phthalates. A group of chemicals used in hundreds of products to increase the flexibility and softness of plastics. The main phthalates in cosmetics and personal care products are dibutyl phthalate in nail polish, diethyl phthalate in perfumes and lotions, and dimethyl phthalate in hair spray. They are known to be endocrine disruptors and have been linked to increased risk of breast cancer, early breast development in girls, and reproductive birth defects in males and females. Unfortunately, it is not disclosed on every product as it's added to fragrances (remember the "secret formula" not listed), a major loophole in the law. They can be found in deodorants, perfumes/colognes, hair sprays and moisturizers.
Triclosan. Tricolson is widely used antimicrobial chemical that's a known endocrine disruptor -- especially thyroid and reproductive hormones, and a skin irritant. Studies raise concerns that triclosan contributes to making bacteria antibiotic-resistant. There also wasn't enough supporting evidence that washing with antibacterial soaps containing triclosan provides any benefit over washing with regular soap and water. Tricolson can be found in toothpastes, antibacterial soaps and deodorants.
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) / Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). This surfactant can be found in more than 90 percent of personal care and cleaning products (think foaming products). SLS's are known to be skin, lung, and eye irritants. A major concern about SLS is its potential to interact and combine with other chemicals to form nitrosamines, a carcinogen. These combinations can lead to a host of other issues like kidney and respiratory damage. They can be found in shampoo, body wash/cleanser, mascara and acne treatment.
Formaldehyde.Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (FRP's) preservatives are used in many cosmetic products to help prevent bacteria growth. This chemical was deemed as a human carcinogen by The International Agency for Research on Carcinogens (IARC) and has been linked to occupational related cancers: nasal and nasopharyngeal. It is known to cause allergic skin reactions and it may also be harmful to the immune system. It can be found in nail polish, body washes, conditioners, shampoos, cleansers, eye shadows, nail polish treatments.
Toluene. A petrochemical derived from petroleum or coal tar sources. You may see it on labels listed as benzene, toluol, phenylmethane, methylbenzene. Toluene is a potent solvent able to dissolve paint and paint thinner. It can affect your respiratory system, cause nausea and irritate your skin. Expecting mothers should avoid exposure to toluene vapors as it may cause developmental damage in the fetus. Toluene has also been linked to immune system toxicity. It can be found in nail polish, nail treatments and hair color/bleaching products.
Propylene glycol. Propylene glycol is a small organic alcohol commonly used as a skin-conditioning agent. It's classified as a skin irritant and penetrator. It has been associated with causing dermatitis as well as hives in humans -- these sensitization effects can be manifested at propylene glycol concentrations as low as 2 percent. It can be found in moisturizers, sunscreen, makeup products, conditioners, shampoo and hair sprays.
Sunscreen chemicals. These chemicals function as a sunscreen agent, to absorb ultraviolet light. These chemicals are endocrine disruptors and are believed to be easily absorbed into the body. They may also cause cellular damage and cancer in the body. Common names are benzophenone, PABA, avobenzone, homosalate and ethoxycinnmate. They can be found in sunscreen products.
It's impossible to avoid every single synthetic chemical, but you can do your part in limiting the amount of toxins your body is exposed to. Be sure to: eat clean, avoid chemical-laden processed foods, drink plenty of filtered water and look for products that are certified organic if you want to avoid these toxic chemicals.
Educate yourself and do your research before you buy. Think of something you absolutely love, and the time and energy you apply to it. Use the same, when it comes to your health. You have one life to live and one body. If you don't take care of yourself, you may pay for it later in sickness.
Be sure to check out the EWG's Skin Deep Database to research toxic chemicals that could be in your cosmetic and personal care products.
I would love to hear from you. Do you check your beauty product labels? Will you commit to limiting your exposure to these toxic chemicals?
Vanessa Cunningham is a New York-based nutrition & lifestyle coach and dynamic speaker. She helps busy working professionals reduce stress, banish unhealthy cravings, lose weight and increase their energy levels. Trained in over 100 dietary theories, Vanessa creates customized plans for all her clients that are fun, sustainable and empower them to meet their goals. To get her free gift 6 Ways To Accelerate Your Weight Loss, please visit www.unhealthynomore.com. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram.
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