Hormone Disrupters in Our Cosmetics & Personal Hygiene Products
Parabens are frequently used as preservatives to prevent microbial growth and increase the shelf life of an estimated 13,200 cosmetic and skin care products. (Scheve, 2014) Most of us apply parabens to our skins and perhaps even consume them daily. They’re ingredients in: (Scheve, 2014) (personal observation)
Cosmetics – such as moisturizers, lipsticks, lip balms, foundations, concealers, eye make ups, make up removers, self-tanners, hair dyes
Hygiene products – such as shampoos, conditioners, de-frizzers, volumizers, hair dyes, soaps, toothpastes, topical ointments, deodorants and anti-perspirants, shaving gels, sunscreens, anti-wrinkle creams, bandages and eye drops, personal lubricants, estrogen creams
Food products – such as salad dressing, mayonnaise, mustard, processed vegetables, frozen dairy products, soft drinks, baked goods and jellies
Pharmaceuticals – such as ointments and other products
Household and industrial products – such as textiles and glues
HOW CHEMICAL ENDOCRINE DISRUPTERS ARE HARMFUL The 8 glands in our endocrine systems produce and release hormones that regulate metabolism, growth, development, tissue function, sleep, reproduction, sexual function and mood. Almost every cell in the body is affected by the endocrine system. A report issued in March 2013 jointly by the United Nations and the World Health Organization states that “Endocrine Disrupters (EDC’s) are a global threat to fertility and the environment.” And a recent report from the Environmental Working Group says: There is no end to the tricks that endocrine disruptors can play on our bodies–increasing production of certain hormones, decreasing production of others, imitating hormones, turning one hormone into another, interfering with hormone signaling, telling cells to die prematurely, competing with essential nutrients, binding to essential hormones, and accumulating in organs that produce hormones. (Anderson, 2014)
CHEMICAL NAMES OF PARABENS These are various names of the parabens we’re absorbing or ingesting from products – if they’re ingredients in your products, you’ll usually find them listed toward the bottom of the list: (Lal, 2012)
Japanese Honeysuckle Extract
Several authors have noted that a growing number of beauty product companies are trying to make their products safer and have substituted Japanese honeysuckle extract for chemical parabens. This has led to some controversy since the preservative made from Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera Japonica) is actually a form of paraben and behaves in a very similar way to synthetic parabens. Honeysuckle extract is marketed as Plantservative. (Marta, 2012) There’s hope: Some cosmetics companies are replacing parabens with grapefruit seed extract and Vitamin E; and essential oils like cinnamon, eucalyptus, lavender, lemon and tea tree are being distilled and turned into natural preservatives. (Lal, 2012)
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that parabens have hormone-disrupting qualities that mimic estrogen, interfering with the body’s endocrine system. The EPA has linked methylparabens in particular to metabolic, developmental, hormonal and neurological disorders, as well as to various cancers – especially breast cancer. (Mercola, 2012) (Johnson, 2011) For more information on a parabens-breast cancer link, see the Environmental Working Group’s EWG’s Skin Deep Database, and the articles by Mercola and Johnson.
There is evidence that the estrogen-mimicry effect of parabens decreases testosterone levels, sperm counts and daily production of sperm in rats. Testosterone was found to decrease in a dose-dependent manner related to paraben concentration. It is thought that parabens are also responsible for the increasingly early onset of puberty in children, damage to the DNA in sperm, and damage to mitochondrial function, causing male infertility. (Osman, 2012)
THE UNREGULATED COSMETICS INDUSTRY From Safe Cosmetics (Breast Cancer Action, 2014): Because testing is voluntary and controlled by the cosmetic manufacturers, many ingredients in cosmetic products are not tested for safety. The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep states that 89 percent of ingredients used in personal care products have not been evaluated for safety by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) panel, the FDA, or any other publicly accountable institution (FDA 2000, CIR 2002). The absence of governmental oversight for this $35 billion industry means that companies routinely market products with ingredients that are poorly studied, not studied at all, or worse, known to pose potentially serious health risks. It’s time to protect consumers…. Many cosmetic companies argue that the level of a harmful chemical in any one product is not enough to harm you…. However, science is finding the timing of exposure is critical, and that even a very small dose of some chemicals can have serious consequences in children and young women who are still developing. Moreover, we are rarely exposed to a chemical just one time. We may use the same product every day, several days a week, for months or years. In addition, we use dozens of personal care products daily, not just one. So while exposure from one product on one day may be small, we in fact use numerous products a day for extended periods of time. As a result, scientists are finding accumulations of chemicals such as parabens and phthalates in our bodies. The unregulated cosmetics industry has publicly assessed only 11% of the 10,500 ingredients in personal care products. (The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, 2011) See the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics website for ways to take action.
SKIN DEEP: A USEFUL COSMETIC SAFETY DATABASE
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics partners with the Environmental Working Group to produce a cosmetic safety database. You can visit EWG’s Skin Deep Database to check the ingredients in the products you use or to find safer products for you and your family. This searchable database checks the ingredients in more than 74,000 shampoos, makeups, deodorants, sunscreens and other personal care products with 50 toxicity and regulatory databases. There’s even an iPhone and Android mobile app for their database so you can check out products while you’re shopping. The app has some nice features:
It lets you scan products’ barcodes to see EWG’s score for them.
With its History feature, you can find the scores of products you’ve previously scanned.
You can save your Favorites so you can easily check their scores.
THINK BEFORE YOU PINK Breast Cancer Action coined the term pinkwasher in 2003 to refer to cosmetic and body care companies that promote pink ribbon products while also selling products that contribute to the disease. BCA first challenged Avon and then went on to focus on other companies that raise money in the name of breast cancer but manufacture body care products containing known carcinogens or reproductive toxins – such as parabens and phthlates. (Breast Cancer Action, 2014) (Think Before You Pink)
WHAT I FOUND READING LABELS AT A DUANE READE
Amazon.com – product information: Ingredients Water, Mineral Oil, Glycerin, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Cetyl Alcohol, Phenoxyethanol, Panthenol, Cetearyl Alcohol, Stearic Acid, Dimethicone, Carbomer, Ceteareth-20, Sodium Hydroxide, Sodium Citrate, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Citric Acid, Ethylparaben. Directions Smooth on hands and body every day.
Amazon.com – product information: Ingredients Water, Glycerin, Capric/Caprylic Stearic Triglyceride, Dimethicone, Octyldodecanol, Petrolatum, Cetearyl Alcohol, Stearic Acid, Glyceryl Laurate, Hydrogenated Lanolin, Silica, BHT, PEG/PPG 20/6 Dimethicone, Stearyl Alcohol, Acrylates/C12 22 Alkyl Methacrylate Copolymer, Alkyl Methacrylate Copolymer, Propylene Glycol, Triethanolamine, DMDM Hydantoin, Methylparaben Directions Apply to skin as needed.
Amazon.com – product information: Indications CoverGirl & Olay combine a foundation and serum to cover fine lines and wrinkles and help improve skintone over time. Ingredients Cyclopentasiloxane, Water/Eau, Glycerin, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Sodium Chloride, Acetyl Glucosamine, Diethylhexyl Carbonate, Niacinamide, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Talc, PEG/PPG-18/18 Dimethicone, Panthenol, Palmitoyl Pentapeptide-4, Tocopheryl Acetate, Allantoin, Methicone, Aluminum Hydroxide, Benzyl Alcohol, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, PEG-10 Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Propylparaben, Disodium EDTA, Fragrance/Parfum, PEG-100 Stearate, May Contain/Peut Contenir: Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxides Directions Dot foundation on forehead, cheeks and chin. Blend using fingertips or a makeup sponge. Use with any CoverGirl Pressed Powder to help your look last.
Amazon.com – product information: Safety Information Haircolor products can cause an allergic reaction which, in certain rare cases, can be severe. Therefore, before you use this product it is necessary to follow these precautions: Do not use if you have already had a reaction to a haircolor product; you have a sensitive, itchy or damaged scalp. If you have a tattoo, the risks of allergic reaction may be increased. Perform a skin allergy test 48 hours before each use of this product (see insert). Remember to buy your product 2 days ahead of time. Avoid contact with eyes and skin. If product gets into eyes, rinse immediately. Wear gloves provided in kit. Thoroughly rinse hair after application. Do not use over compound henna or progressive color. This product contains ingredients which may cause skin irritation on certain individuals and a preliminary test according to accompanying directions should first be made. This product must not be used for dyeing the eyelashes or eyebrows; to do so may cause blindness. Ingredients COLOR GEL: Aqua/Water, Trideceth-2 Carboxamide MEA, Propylene Glycol, Hexylene Glycol, PEG-2 Oleamine, Polyglyceryl-4 Oleyl Ether, Oleyl Alcohol, Alcohol Denat., Ammonium Hydroxide, Polyglyceryl-2 Oleyl Ether, Oleic Acid, Sodium Diethylaminopropyl Cocoaspartamide, Pentasodium Pentetate, Ammonium Acetate, Parfum/Fragrance, Sodium Metabisulfite, P-Aminophenol, 2-Methyl-5-Hydroxyethylaminophenol, Erythorbic Acid, Phenyl Methyl Pyrazolone, M-Aminophenol, Resorcinol, P-Phenylenediamine, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, 6-Hydroxyindole, Eugenol, Linalool, Citronellol. Color Optimizing Creme: Aqua/Water, Hydrogen Peroxide, Cetearyl Alcohol, Trideceth-2 Carboxamide MEA, Ceteareth-30, Glycerin, Pentasodium Pentetate, Sodium Stannate, Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate. Care Supreme Conditioner: Aqua/Water, Cetearyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Behentrimonium Chloride, Candelilla Cera/Candelilla Wax, Amodimethicone, Cetyl Esters, Isopropyl Alcohol, Parfum/Fragrance, Methylparaben, Trideceth-12, Hexyl Cinnamal, Linalool, Benzyl Alcohol, Chlorhexidine Dihydrochloride, Cetrimonium Chloride, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Limonene, Amyl Cinnamal, PPG-5-Ceteth-20, Geraniol, Benzyl Benzoate, Oleth-10, Citronellol, Disodium Cocoamphodipropionate, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Lecithin, Cinnamyl Alcohol, Phosphoric Acid, Tocopherol, Ethylhexyl Salicylate, Phenoxyethanol, Methyl-2-Octynoate, Ethylparaben.
Amazon.com – product information: Safety Warning Warning: keep out of reach of children. For external use only. Avoid contact with eyes. Discontinue use if irritation develops. This product does not contain a sunscreen and does not protect against sunburn. Repeated exposure of unprotected skin while tanning may increase the risk of skin aging, skin cancer and other harmful effects to the skin, even if you do not burn. Ingredients Water, glycerin, alcohol denat., mineral oil, C13-16 isoparaffin, isopropyl palmitate, cetearyl alcohol, dihydroxyacetone, glyceryl stearate SE, glyceryl glucoside, vitis vinifera (grape) seed oil, ginkgo biloba leaf extract, dimethicone, sodium acrylate/acryloyldimethyltaurate/ dimethylacrylamide crosspolymer, isohexadecane, sodium cetearyl sulfate, xanthan gum, sodium metabisulfite, polysorate 60, sorbitan isotearate, fragrance, citric acid, phenoxyethanol, methylparaben. Directions Apply liberally, evenly smoothing onto your skin. Avoid contact with clothes until after the lotion is fully absorbed. Wash your hands after application. To optimize results, exfoliate before first use. PARABEN-FREE PRODUCTS I LIKE AND USE Lotions, shampoos and other skin products made for babies are less likely to contain carcinogens like parabens. Also, Australia and New Zealand’s EPA-equivalents are very strict so products made in those countries are less likely to contain parabens or other chemicals harmful to your health.
The Entire Line of Jurlique Products
From Amazon.com – product information: Ingredients Aqua (Water); Carthamus tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil; Glycerin; Glyceryl Stearate Citrate; Jojoba Esters; Calendula officinalis Flower Extract; Hamamelis virginiana (Witch Hazel) Extract; Prunella vulgaris (Self Heal) Flower Extract; Spilanthes acmella Flower Extract; Lithospermum erythrorhizon (Groomwell) Root Extract; Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride; Zanthoxylum alatum (Sichuan Peppercorn) Extract; Aloe barbadensis Leaf Extract; Fragrance (Parfum)*; Tocopherol (Vitamin E); Xanthan Gum; Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate; Lactic Acid; Oleyl Alcohol; Alcohol; Geraniol*; Linalool*; Limonene*. * From Natural Essential Oil (Chamomile – Chamomilla recutita (Matricaria); Lavender – Lavandula angustifolia).
Baby Moisturizer by EcoSTORE USA
Base Ingredients Aqua · Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride · Simmondsia Chinensis Oil · Cetearyl Olivate · Sorbitan Olivate · Butyrospermum Parkii · Cetearyl Alcohol · Olea Europaea Oil · Caprylyl Glycol · Phenoxyethanol · Panthenol · Sodium Stearoyl Glutamate · Xanthan Gum · Parfum · Citric Acid Contains No Nasty Ingredients Synthetic dyes · Methylparaben Propylparaben Butylparaben · Mineral Oil · Synthetic Perfumes · Dimethicone Fragrance Ingredients Lavender & Geranium Lavandula Angustifolia · Eucalyptus Globulus · Pelargonium Graveolens MD Moms – Products Developed by Pediatrician Moms
MD-Moms.com – product information baby silk daily UV shield SPF 30 moisturizing lotion Every day is SUNday when it comes to UV rays! A daily dose of our lightweight, fragrance free, paraben free SPF 30 formula keeps skin nourished and soothed while providing broad spectrum protection from UV rays and environmental damage. Water resistant (80 min) and non-irritating to the eyes. Broad spectrum pure physical/mineral non-chemical sunscreen active ingredients.
Contains NO fragrance, parabens, phthalates, lanolin, mineral oil, petroleum or waxes
Pure physical non-chemical sunscreen actives Titanium Dioxide & Zinc Oxide, optimal for sensitive and young skin, even under 6 months of age
Broad spectrum protection: protects against UVA and UVB rays
Fragrance-free for ultra sensitive skin
Protects from environmental damage while nourishing, with antioxidant vitamins E & B5, grapeseed oil and avocado oil
Clinically tested, certified hypoallergenic and dermatologist approved
Gentle, water-resistant (80 minutes) and non-irritating to the eyes
TSA-approved for carry-on luggage
Made in the USA. No animal testing.
doTERRA ONGuard Natural Whitening Toothpaste (I like all the doTerra’s products I’ve tried)
doTERRA.com – product information: Ingredients Glycerin, Water, Hydrated Silica, Hydroxyapatite, Xylitol, Calcium Carbonate, Cellulose Gum, Mentha piperita (Peppermint) Essential Oil, Citrus sinensis (Wild Orange) Essential Oil, Eugenia caryophyllata (Clovebud) Essential Oil, Cinnamomum zeylanicum (Cinnamon Bark) Essential Oil, Eucalyptus radiata (Eucalyptus) Essential Oil, Rosemarinus officinalis (Rosemary) Essential Oil), Stevia rebaudiana (Stevia ) Extract, Gaultheria procumbens (Wintergreen) Essential Oil, Commiphora myrrha (Myrrh) Essential Oil, Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Carrageenan, Titanium Dioxide Tom’s of Maine
TomsofMaine.com – product information: What’s Not in Our Products
FAQ: WHAT SHOULD I BUY? Reprinted from the Safe Cosmetics Action Network (Safe Cosmetics Action Network, 2011) Q. What are some of the most harmful ingredients in products? A. Mercury (often listed as thimerosal on ingredient labels), found in some eye drops, ointment and deodorants; lead acetate, found in some hair dyes and cleanser; formaldehyde and toluene, found in nail products; petrochemicals, found in some hair relaxers, shampoos, mascara, perfume, foundation, lipstick and lip balm; coal tar, found in dandruff shampoos, anti-itch creams and hair dyes; placenta, found in some hair relaxers, moisturizers and toners; and phthalates, found in some nail polish, fragrances and hair spray. All of these ingredients can be found in our brochure, Unmasked: 10 Ugly Truths Behind the Myth of Cosmetic Safety. Q. So I should buy products labeled “all-natural”? A. Looking for the words “natural” or “safe” won’t guarantee that the product you buy really is safe. That’s why we’re asking all manufacturers to sign the Compact for Safe Cosmetics and pledge not to use chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects and other health harms and replace them with safer alternatives. Q: I don’t see Arbonne, Avon, Mary Kay, Melaleuca or other similar companies listed on your website, even though they claim to be “safe,” “natural” or donate money to breast cancer research. What’s the deal? A: Arbonne, Avon, Mary Kay and Melaleuca are aware of the Compact for Safe Cosmetics but have refused to sign it. If they are truly supporting women’s health and making “safe” products, it shouldn’t be too hard for them to sign the Compact. Hundreds of companies have signed the Compact, a commitment to manufacture personal care products free of known and suspected toxic chemicals. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics does not endorse or hand-pick “safe” companies to refer customers to. The growing list of safer companies on our Web site is comprised solely of companies that have signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics. If you don’t see a company on the list, we encourage you to send a letter letting them know about the Compact and urging them to sign it. For a sample letter to get you started, please check out the Materialssection of the website. Q: How do I know if a particular product is safe? A: To find safety information on specific products, check out EWG’s Skin Deep, the online database of nearly 25,000 personal care products. You can search the database for specific brands or ingredients, or for product types, like nail polish, to see how brands within that product class compare. Skin Deep will also tell you if a company has signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics. We recommend supporting Compact signers over non-signers when possible because Compact-signing companies have made a meaningful commitment to create safer products. Q. What are phthalates? Where are they found? A. Phthalates (pronounced THA-lates) are plasticizing chemicals that are probable human reproductive or developmental toxins and endocrine disruptors. Phthalates cause reproductive birth defects in laboratory animals, particularly males. Two phthalates often used in cosmetics (dibutyl and diethylhexyl) have been banned in the European Union. Unfortunately, phthalates are still found in some nail polishes and hair sprays, and are commonly hidden on ingredient labels under the term “fragrance.” We recommend that consumers steer clear of products with fragrance, especially pregnant women, babies and pubescent young adults. For more information, please read our reports, “A Little Prettier” (2008) and “Not Too Pretty” (2002). Q. I’ve been reading a lot about parabens and companies going “paraben-free.” What does that mean? A. Parabens are a group of compounds widely used as anti-microbial preservatives in food, pharmaceutical and cosmetics products, including underarm deodorants. Parabens are absorbed through intact skin and through the gastrointestinal tract and blood. U.K. researchers found measurable concentrations of six different parabens in 20 human breast tumors. The study highlights the need for more research on the potential link between products containing parabens and increased breast cancer risk. Many companies, including Compact signers, have begun phasing out parabens from their lines by marking their products as “paraben-free.” Parabens are commonly listed on product ingredient labels as methylparaben, propylparaben, ethylparaben and butylparaben. Q. What about nail polish? A. So many people have asked us about nail polish that we created a separate pagefor information about it. According to EWG’s Skin Deep database of cosmetic product safety, nail polish is among the highest-concern product categories in terms of serious health effects. This has to do in large part to the chemicals formaldehyde, toluene and dibutyl phthalate(DBP), all three of which make it into the top ingredients of concern in personal care products, and all three of which could be found in many brands of nail polish until very recently. Many smaller nail polish manufacturers removed these chemicals from their products long ago. And while European laws forced many international companies to stop using DBP in 2005, some holdouts were still using the chemical in their U.S. lines. In 2006, Del Laboratories, Inc., which makes the Sally Hansen brand, told the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics that it would remove all DBP, toluene and formaldehyde from their U.S. products. At that time, leading salon brand (and target of Campaign actions and ads) OPI agreed to remove DBP, but refused to eliminate formaldehyde and toluene from all of their nail polishes and treatments. In March 2007, OPI reported that it was reformulating all of its products to be toluene-free. The U.S. National Toxicology Program says formaldehyde is “reasonably anticipated” to be a human carcinogen. Meanwhile, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) restricts toluene in drinking water because it can cause nervous system disorders and damage the liver and kidneys. DBP is prohibited for use in cosmetics in the European Union because it is a possible human reproductive or developmental toxin. The data from several peer-reviewed scientific studies indicated that DBP is a probable endocrine disruptor, which means that it disrupts the natural balance of hormones in the body. Q. Who’s making safe nail polish? A. Several companies who have signed the Compact make nail polishes, treatments and removers without harmful chemicals, including Anise Nail Care, Honeybee Gardens and NAIL-AID Treatments. So you don’t have to give up your mani-pedi visits, just BYOP (Bring Your Own Polish) the next time you go! And it won’t hurt to let your salon know about the health effects associated with polishes and treatments and how they can swap toxic products with safer alternatives to protect their own health, too. For more information about health risks to salon workers, read Glossed Over: Health Hazards Associated with Toxic Exposure in Nail Salons from Women’s Voices for the Earth. Q: Where can I find information on sunscreens? A: Environmental Working Group’s 2011 investigationof more than 600 sunscreen products found that 4 out of 5 contain chemicals that may pose health hazards or don’t adequately protect skin from the sun’s damaging rays. Some sunscreen makers are using nanotechnology in their products, and not always telling consumers about these risky nano-sized ingredients. Friends of the Earth published a report in 2007 focusing on nanotechnology and sunscreen, which is available on their website. Q: Can I really get exposed to as much formaldehyde eating Brussels sprouts or apples as I can from a Brazilian Blowout treatment? A: In a word, no. This is a myth perpetuated by defenders of Brazilian Blowout and other keratin hair-straightening products. Apples and some other fruits and vegetables do contain naturally occurring formaldehyde, typically around 10 mg/kg (or parts per million), or 0.001 percent. But the levels of formaldehyde found in Brazilian Blowout by Oregon OSHA in 2010 were close to 10 percent, 10,000 times higher than the levels of formaldehyde found in apples.
SOME LABELS INDICATING A PRODUCT IS PARABEN FREE
Check the products you use to see if they have earned any of these labels.
OTHER BAD STUFF IN OUR COSMETICS For the sake of simplicity, I decided to focus on parabens in this post but there are many other problematic chemicals included in the products we use on and put into our bodies. The ingredients below are often found in skin moisturizers and other personal care products: Reprinted from Do Your Skincare Products Contain These Chemicals? (Belanger, 2008) Mineral Oil, Paraffin, and Petrolatum — Petroleum products that coat the skin like plastic, clogging pores and creating a build-up of toxins, which in turn accumulate and can lead to dermatologic issues. Slows cellular development, which can cause you to show earlier signs of aging. Suspected cause of cancer. Disruptive of hormonal activity. By the way, when there’s an oil spill in the ocean, don’t they rush to clean it up — fast? Why put that stuff on your skin? Parabens — Widely used as preservatives in the cosmetic industry (including moisturizers). An estimated 13,200 cosmetic and skin care products contain parabens. Studies implicate their connection with cancer. They have hormone-disrupting qualities — mimicking estrogen — and interfere with the body’s endocrine system. Phenol carbolic acid– Found in many lotions and skin creams. Can cause circulatory collapse, paralysis, convulsions, coma and even death from respiratory failure. Propylene glycol — Used as a moisturizer in cosmetics and as a carrier in fragrance oils. Shown to cause dermatitis, kidney or liver abnormalities, and may inhibit skin cell growth or cause skin irritation. Acrylamide– Found in many hand and face creams. Linked to mammary tumors in lab research. Sodium laurel or lauryl sulfate (SLS), also known as sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)– Found in car washes, engine degreasers, garage floor cleaners… and in over 90% of personal care products! SLS breaks down the skin’s moisture barrier, easily penetrates the skin, and allows other chemicals to easily penetrate. Combined with other chemicals, SLS becomes a “nitrosamine”, a potent class of carcinogen. It can also cause hair loss. SLES is sometimes disguised with the labeling “comes from coconut” or “coconut-derived”. Toluene — Poison! Danger! Harmful or fatal if swallowed! Harmful if inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Made from petroleum or coal tar, and found in most synthetic fragrances. Chronic exposure linked to anemia, lowered blood cell count, liver or kidney damage, and may affect a developing fetus. Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) contains toluene. Other names may include benzoic and benzyl. Dioxane– Found in compounds known as PEG, Polysorbates, Laureth, ethoxylated alcohols. Common in a wide range of personal care products. The compounds are usually contaminated with high concentrations of highly volatile 1,4-dioxane, easily absorbed through the skin. Dioxane’s carcinogenicity was first reported in 1965 and later confirmed in studies including one from the National Cancer Institute in 1978. Nasal passages and liver are the most vulnerable. Dioxane is easily removed during the manufacturing process by “vacuum stripping”. Warning: It is a synthetic derivative of coconut. Watch for hidden language on labels, such as “comes from coconut”. Phthalates Like parabens, phthalates are also known to be hormone-mimicking chemicals which disrupt normal hormonal processes. And, also like parabens, they are frequently included in our cosmetic and body care products. Phthalates have been found to cause a broad range of birth defects and lifelong reproductive problems in laboratory animals exposed to them during pregnancy and after birth. The US Environmental Protection Agency lists phthalates as “Chemicals of Concern”. (Think Before You Pink) Phthalates are esters of phthalic acid used principally as plasticizers to increase flexibility, transparency, durability and longevity in a large variety of products – including personal-care products, nail polish, fragrances, enteric coatings on pharmaceutical tablets and nutritional supplements, detergents and surfactants, packaging materials, PVC shower curtains, pharmaceuticals, food products, children’s toys, paints, printing inks, lubricants, emulsifying agents, adhesives and glues, vinyl flooring, electronics, building materials, medical devices, food additives, textiles, and inert ingredients in pesticides. (Wikipedia, 2014) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found most of the people they tested in the US had metabolites of multiple phthalates in their urine. Recent human bio-monitoring data found the “tolerable intake” of phthalates for children to be far exceeded, in some instances up to 20-fold. (Wikipedia, 2014) Phthlates have been found to interfere with the production of male reproductive hormones in laboratory animals. These effects include lower testosterone level, decreased sperm count and lower sperm quality. Exposure to phthalates during gestation can also cause malformations of the male reproductive tract and testicular cancer. (Natural Resources Defense Council, undated) Because phthalates are not chemically bound to products, they easily off-gas – especially with heat. Exposure to phthalates is by ingestion, inhalation, and applying products which contain them to the skin. (Natural Resources Defense Council, undated) Wikipedia has a table listing 25 of the most common phthalates along with the abbreviations you might see on product ingredients lists. Phthalates are banned in cosmetics sold in the EU but not in the US. In this country, they are allowed in color cosmetics, scented lotions, body washes, hair care products, nail polishes and treatments. They may appear on the labels of these products as phthalate, DEP, DBP or simply as ‘fragrance’. (Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, 2011) Or they may not appear on the ingredients list at all. (Berl, 2012)
CHEMICALS ALLOWED IN THE US – BANNED ELSEWHERE The Environmental Working Group says our personal care products expose women to an average of 168 ingredients per day while men encounter about 85 a day. This list compares US policy versus other countries for some of the more problematic ingredients (Brown, 2014) and (Plasticisers.orgn, 2013): PARABENS * Legal in the US. * Denmark first banned them in 2010 in products made for young children. * The rest of the EU announced in 2012 that it was following suit. PHTHALATES * The US banned several types of phthlates in children’s toys in 2008 but continues allowing them in cosmetics. * High phthalates will continue to be used in Europe. After February 2015, some others will be allowed in the EU only if they’ve been granted for a specific use while low phthalates will be phased out. FORMALDEHYDE – used as a preservative in cosmetics * Legal in the US. * Canada bans its use in personal care products. PETROLEUM DISTALLATES – used as inexpensive emolients; can cause contact dermatitis or be contaminated with carcinogenic imporities * In the US they’re ingredients in eye shadow, lotions, creams, hairspray, foundation makeup and wart remover. * Banned in the EU. HYDROQUINONE – an effective skin lightener; linked to lung irritation and tumors in mice * Legal in the US. * Banned by Canada and some Asian and African countries. OCTINOXATE – a popular ingredient that works as a chemical sunscreen; an endocrine disruptor that can upset thyroid hormones and interfere with brain signals * Legal in the US. * Perhaps banned in Japan – I couldn’t track this down. METHYL CELLOSOLVE – a solvent used in anti-aging creams, moisturizers and serums; a neurotoxin and irritant that may cause DNA mutations. Often lumped into ‘fragrance’ when included on labels * Reviled by the CDC but nevertheless legal in the US. * Banned in Canada. * Restricted in the EU. BUTYLATED HYDROXYANISOLE (BHA) – extends shelf life in lipsticks, moisturizers, shaving creams, fragrances and other personal care products; interferes with hormone function, is a possible human carcinogen, and adversely affects the environment by bio-accumulating in aquatic species * California requires a warning label on products containing it; legal elsewhere in the US. * The EU prohibits it in fragrances. QUATERNIUM-15 – a formaldehyde donor preservative used in body washes, cosmetic powders, shampoos, conditioners and eye shadows; an eye irritant, allergen and probable carcinogen * Legal in the US, Canada, China, Australia and Indonesia. NANOPARTICLES – particles so small they can get into the cells themselves and disrupt them; can lodge in airways when inhaled from cosmetic powders and aerosols or absorbed through the skin when in topical preparations. * The US doesn’t require products containing nanoparticles to be labeled. * Canada, the UK, and the US Organic Standards Board have or are going to ban nanoparticles in certified organics.
REFERENCES Anderson, A. (2014). ‘Hormone Disruptors’ — Not Just for Menopausal Mommas. Bye Bye Parabens. See: http://byebyeparabens.com/blogs/news/12286069-hormone-disruptors-not-just-for-menopausal-mommas Belanger, B. (2008). Do Your Skincare Products Contain These Chemicals? Your Certified Organic Products. See: http://yourcertifiedorganicproducts.com/blog/?tag=parabens Berl, R.P. (2012). How Safe Are Your Cosmetics? US News and World Report. See: http://health.usnews.com/health-news/articles/2012/07/31/how-safe-are-your-cosmetics Breast Cancer Action. (2014). Safe Cosmetics. See: http://www.bcaction.org/our-take-on-breast-cancer/environment/safe-cosmetics/ Brown, M. (2014). 12 Cosmetic Ingredients Legal in US; Banned Everywhere Else. Beaute de Maman. See: http://www.beautedemaman.com/cosmetic-ingredients-legal-in-us-banned-everywhere-else/ Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. (2011). What’s In Your Products? See: http://www.safecosmetics.org/article.php?list=type&type=33 Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. (2011). Phthalates. See: http://safecosmetics.org/article.php?id=290 Environmental Working Group. (2014). EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. See: http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ Gorman, A. & O’Connor, P. (2007). Glossed Over: Health Hazards Associated with Toxic Exposure in Nail Salons. Women’s Voices for the Earth. See: http://www.womensvoices.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Glossed_Over.pdf Hardin, J.R. (2014). How to Make Yourself Less Attractive to Mosquitoes. AllergiesAndYourGut.com. See: https://www.allergiesandyourgut.com/post/how-to-make-yourself-less-attractive-to-mosquitoes Johnson, C. (2011). Are Parabens Really Harmful? Are There Alternatives? HappyMothering.com. See: http://www.happy-mothering.com/06/beauty/skincare-cosmetics/are-parabens-really-harmful-are-there-alternatives/ Lal, S. (2012). A Paraben Free & Cruelty Free Cosmetics Guide. See: http://www.sparklewithsurabhi.com/2012/01/paraben-free-cosmetics-list-stop.html
Marta. (2012). Honeysuckle preservatives and parabens. TruthInAging.com. See: http://www.truthinaging.com/review/honeysuckle-preservatives-and-parabens
Mercola, R. (2012). 40 Women With Breast Cancer Had This “Cosmetic Ingredient” in Their Tissues. The Mercola Newsletter, Mercola.com. See: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/04/02/toxic-parabens-on-breast-cancer-patients.aspx
Natural Resources Defense Council. (undated). Phthalates. See: http://www.nrdc.org/living/chemicalindex/phthalates.asp?gclid=CLXLy5T5i78CFdBi7Aodlw0AcA Osman, R. (A/K/A Rokderm) (2012). Parabens in cosmetics. Is there reason for concern? See: http://rokderm.com/2012/07/21/parabens-in-cosmetics-is-there-reason-for-concern/ Plasticisers.org. (2013). FICTION: All phthalates are already being banned. Common Misconceptions. See: http://www.plasticisers.org/misconceptions/factsandfigures/2/18/All-phthalates-are-already-being-banned/ Safe Cosmetics Action Network. (2011). Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. See: http://safecosmetics.org/ Scheve, T. (2014). What are parabens? HowStuffWorks.com. See: http://health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/beauty/skin-and-lifestyle/parabens.htm Thinkbeforeyoupink. Think Before You Pink – A Project of Breast Cancer Action. See: http://thinkbeforeyoupink.org/ Wikipedia. (June 1 2014). Phthalate. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phthalate © Copyright 2014 Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.
DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Comments submitted prior to 8/25/2021
This is a very important resource everyone should read. I’d also like to echo your cautions about sodium laurel sulfate (SLS). 20 years ago my doctor told me to avoid it in toothpaste because I was prone to getting canker sores. He told me a dentist friend had told him about the fact that SLS erodes the mucus membrane leading to canker sores. Since I switched to SLS-free toothpastes, I hardly ever get them now. He recommended Peelu toothpaste, and one from Weleda with myrrh. I use both Rembrandt Stain Free and Sensodyne ProNamel now.
Here’s a link to a list of safe ones: http://slsfree.net/sls-free-toothpaste/
In reply to Shielagh
I thank you for your comments, Shielagh. I was hoping people would add
additional information and their personal experiences with ingredients
and products – just as you’ve done.
You forgot that the term “fragrance” legally hides thousands of chemicals. Most of which are endocrine disruptors and are carcinogenic (phthalates come to mind) ANY time you see the term fragrance, do not buy it. Ever…this includes terms like “natural fragrance” “botanically derived” or “Organic” fragrance…
In reply to k
Yes indeed! I somehow left out ‘fragrances’ from this post but remembered to include them in another called ENVIRONMENTAL WORKING GROUP’S TOP 10 TIPS FOR SAFER COSMETICS, in a quote from one of the recommendations from the Environmental Working Group: “Fragrance: It may help sell products from face cream to laundry detergent, but do you know what’s in it? Fragrances are in everything from shampoo to deodorant to lotion. Federal law doesn’t require companies to list on product labels any of the chemicals in their
fragrance mixture. Recent research from EWG and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found an average of 14 chemicals in 17 name brand fragrance products, none of them listed on the label. Fragrances can contain hormone disruptors and are among the top 5 allergens in the world. Our advice? Buy fragrance free wherever possible.” See: http://allergiesandyourgut.com/2014/08/15/environmental-working-groups-top-10-tips-safer-cosmetics/
For beauty products try to check USANA sense’.
[…] Creepy. This artificial ingredient is actually on several watch lists. I’m not sure if it has to do with effects on the reproductive system and/or hormones. You can check out these articles to see if it makes you any wiser https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/704703/PEG%3B%3B_PPG-18%3B%3B_18_DIMETHICONE/ https://tryingtobegreener.wordpress.com/2008/08/19/how-safe-is-your-deodorant/ http://allergiesandyourgut.com/2014/06/22/carcinogens-cosmetics-personal-hygiene-products-estrogen-d… […]
Skin Care. Red Flag Alert. – The Daily Walk
In reply to Skin Care. Red Flag Alert. – The Daily Walk.
You’re referring to 38-18 dimethicone? According to the link you provided to EWG’s Skin Deep site, it earns a 3, is classified as low risk & not having much effect on hormones or reproductive health. My personal policy is to avoid chemical ingredients like this in favor of
deodorants, etc made of organic ingredients when possible. The ones I use are often made in Australia, which has an FDA with much more stringent protections than the US’s FDA.