Toxins Lurking in Your Cosmetics

A 2008 study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found chemicals associated with cancer and hormone disruption in the blood and urine of every teenage female subject in the study. Thirteen hormone-altering chemicals commonly found in cosmetics showed up on test results.  The study cannot confirm a direct link between the cosmetics the girls use and the test results, however the results do suggest that your choice of cosmetics may place an unhealthy burden upon your body. Recently, popular manufacturers of cosmetics have developed organic cosmetics.

This is good news for the women who love make-up. There are four families of chemicals found in most cosmetic products that are endocrine-disruptors – one of the greatest health dangers facing young people today. Hormone-disrupting chemicals have been linked to reproductive issues, certain cancers and speculation even exists that endogenous enzymes may mesh with these chemicals to produce carcinogens.

To avoid becoming a victim of this health hazards, you may want to learn the four chemical families that are disastrous to your health and likely to be lurking in your favorite cosmetics:

o   Phthalates have been linked with reproductive and developmental problems and an increased risk for asthma and allergies. They are often in products that list “fragrance” as an ingredient.

o   Triclosan is the bacteria-killing ingredient in antibacterial liquid soaps. Research suggests it can promote antibiotic resistance, which means some infections could start to outsmart medicine. When it gets into the waste stream, triclosan can have a toxic effect on aquatic life. It has also been linked to thyroid problems in people.

o   Parabens are possible endocrine disruptors and carcinogens and have been may linked to fertility impairment.

o   Synthetic musks are manmade chemicals used as fragrances and perfumes in many cosmetics, shampoos, soaps and deodorants. Some have been linked to cancer in lab animals. “Musk” also refers to an odor some animals give off, but synthetic musks are made in labs.

The EWG suggests avoiding the following ingredients when choosing your cosmetics:

  • Fragrance and dyes
  • DMDM hydantoin and Imidazolidinyl urea
  • Methylchloroisothiazolinone and Methylisothiazolinone
  • Parabens or “-paraben”
  • “PEG”
  • Chemicals ending in “-eth”
  • Sodium lauryl or laureth sulfate
  • Triclosan and triclocarban
  • Triethanolamine (TEA)

According to the EWG, the types of products are among the most likely to contain dangerous chemicals, like the ones listed above. If you must use these products, consider shopping for organic versions.

  • Anti-aging creams with lactic, glycolic, AHA and BHA acids
  • Hair dyes containing ammonia, peroxide, p-phenylenediamine, diaminobenzene and all dark permanent hair dyes.
  • Liquid hand soaps with triclosan
  • Nail polish and removers with formaldehyde

Fortunately, many product makers have become aware of the need for less chemicals and a more pure product. When choosing your cosmetics look for organic and all-natural products. Check ingredient labels – just because a product claims to be “all-natural” does not guarantee it is all-natural. If you are uncertain, a great resource is the EWG’s Skin Deep website, offering a database dedicated to cosmetics safety.
My newest favorite is the Organic Amazonian Clay line by Tarte.  I have not had the opportunity to try every product in the line, but the staying power and effectiveness of the products I have tried, so far, are incredible.

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