Toxic Ingredients in Cosmetics & Skin Care Products – Major Health Risks
Over the years working as a beauty and skin care consultant then bringing into the equation Naturopathic medicine. It came to my attention of the fact that a long list of cosmetics, skin and hair care products that were advertised to promote beauty, ageless, healthy skin and hair were quite damaging for your skin and hair as well as causing long-term health problems. As I studied further it came to my attention that some of the more expensive products were just as damaging and harmful.
As I commenced treating my clients for various health problems, especially skin problems, I began to combine my knowledge of cosmetology with that of natural medicine to formulate the skin and hair care range that is now known as “Just for You” by Julie. In my studies and practical experience, I soon learnt that to have healthy, ageless skin and hair didn’t have to be difficult or expensive. However, it was important that it support your health from the inside and not to cause harm.
Just a few of the Toxic Ingredients found in Skin, Hair & Beauty Products
What many people don’t realize is that many of the skin, hair and body care products, also cosmetics that you are buying, believing that they are good for you, are not. They contain ingredients that are not only harmful to your skin and as previously mentioned will cause long-term problems to your health. Many of these ingredients are known carcinogens (cancer-causing substances) and are used extensively in the cosmetic industry.
Here is a list of some of the synthetic chemicals identified by scientific studies to be harmful used in these products that are harmful to your health.
- SLS and ALS can cause severe skin irritation, and are easily absorbed into the body, building up in the brain, heart, lungs and liver, leading to potential long-term health problems. SLS and ALS may also cause cataracts and prevent children’s eyes from developing properly.
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate (ALS)Often described as being “derived from coconut” to disguise their toxic nature, these chemicals are commonly used in shampoos, toothpaste, foaming facial and body cleansers and bubble bath.
- Paraben Preservatives: Parabens are widely used in cosmetics, deodorants, skin care and baby products to prolong their shelf life. They are known to be highly toxic and have caused rashes and allergic reactions. Recent scientific studies in the UK found a strong link between the use of parabens and the increasing rate of breast cancer in women. Researchers found a high concentration of parabens in 90% of breast tumors tested.
- Propylene Glycol: Found in many beauty creams, cosmetics and cleansers, Propylene Glycol can cause skin rashes and contact dermatitis, and has been shown to cause damage to the kidneys and liver.
- Isopropyl Alcohol: Alcohol is used as a solvent in many skin care products. It causes skin irritation and strips the skin of its natural acid mantle, promoting the growth of bacteria, moulds and viruses. It may also cause premature ageing of skin.
- DEA (Diethanolamine), TEA (Triethanolamine) and MEA (Monoethanolamide) These substances are harsh solvents and detergents that are used in cosmetics and face and body creams as an emollient. They can cause allergic reactions, and long-term use of DEA-based products (such as Cocamide DEA) have been linked to an increase in the incidence of liver and kidney cancer.
- Aluminum: A common ingredient in antiperspirants, aluminum has been linked to Alzheimer’s Disease.
- Petroleum/Mineral Oil: Derived from petroleum (crude oil), mineral oil is commonly found as a main ingredient of face and body creams and cosmetics. Baby oil is 100% mineral oil! It coats the skin like a plastic film, clogging pores and stopping the skin from eliminating toxins, which can lead to acne and other skin disorders. Other petroleum-based ingredients include paraffin wax, paraffin oil and petrolatum.
- Polyethylene Glycol (PEG): Used as a thickener in skin care products and cosmetics, PEGs interfere with the skin’s natural moisture balance, causing an increase in ageing and leaving the skin vulnerable to bacteria.
- Talc: Talc is a soft mineral used in talcum powders and cosmetic powders. Scientific studies have shown that routine application of talcum powder to the genital area is linked with a three-to-fourfold increase in the development of ovarian cancer. Inhaling cosmetic powders containing talc may also be harmful to long term health.
- Coal Tar & Coal Tar-Derived Colors: Coal tar is a made from burning bituminous coal and contains hundreds of polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). It’s used in anti-dandruff shampoos, as well as in creams treating skin conditions like psoriasis. Studies found coal tar led to skin, lung and liver cancers as well as DNA mutations. Coal tar is comedogenic, which means it blocks the skin pores and increases the skin’s sensitivity to light. Many colors used in cosmetics were once made from coal tar; although today they are made from petroleum, the name coal tar dye remains. Many hair dyes contain coal tar dyes, usually called D&C or FD&C followed by the colour and a number, e.g., D&C Red 33). Avoid them.
- Formaldehyde & Formaldehyde-Releasing Preservatives: Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. Formaldehyde and its cousin formalin are found in nail polish, nail polish remover, eyelash glue, hair gel, soap and other products. You can be exposed to inhalation of formaldehyde during Brazilian blowout hair smoothing treatments, even if they claim to be formaldehyde-free. There are also many formaldehyde-releasing preservatives – including DMDM hydantoin, Diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine, quaternium-15, and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate – in products, including baby shampoos. Most studies have studied the effects of inhalation of formaldehyde versus skin application, but the clear link to cancer from inhaled formaldehyde is enough to avoid products that contain these compounds altogether.
- Mercury: Exposure to even a small amount of mercury is toxic to the brain and nervous system, as well as the digestive and immune systems, lungs and kidneys. It has been banned in cosmetics in the U.S. since 1974. But mercury-containing cosmetics made overseas can be imported into the U.S. and sold in shops catering to Latin, African, and Middle Eastern communities. Buyer beware! These products may release mercury vapor, which not only causes mercury poisoning to you, but to people around you. To avoid hidden mercury, steer clear of products with these ingredients: calomel, mercurio, mercurio chloride, or mercury. Products are required to include English ingredients, so avoid products that do not, as they may have been imported illegally and do not abide by FDA regulations
- Retinol & Retinyl Palmitate/Acetate: Retinol, retinyl palmitate, and retinyl acetate are forms of vitamin A, but they may not be safe to put on your skin. A few studies have found that when retinyl palmitate or retinol applied to skin that was exposed to UV light, it broke down into harmful by-products, including reactive oxygen species, which caused damage to cellular DNA, and even caused cell death. Although it’s unlikely to occur from skin application, high doses of vitamin A (>30,000 IU) are linked to developmental effects.
- Nanoparticles: Nanoparticles – particles less than 1/1000th the width of a human hair – are relatively new but already widely used in cosmetic products especially sunscreens. Several recent studies have questioned their safety. Studies indicate that various types of nanoparticles caused concerns in human cells, including DNA damage, oxidative stress, and cellular toxicity. Products do not necessarily say that they contain nanoparticles, but if you see “ultrafine” or “microfine” listed in the packaging, these are a giveaway. Unless you know that a nanoparticle is safe – such as colloidal silver – you can avoid them or do your research. You can search the Consumer Products Inventory database for nanotechnology-based products to find out which ones to avoid.
This is just a tip of the iceberg when it comes to harmful ingredients that are used in the manufacturing of skin, hair and cosmetic products. This includes products such as toothpaste, deodorants and perfumed sprays.
Avoid using these products by becoming a label examiner and not trusting, most importantly the more prominent cosmetic companies because often these are the worst culprits. Don’t be fooled by words such as natural or organic check the ingredients as there may be very little if any of these ingredients, not to mention there may also be harmful, synthetic ingredients that have been mentioned.
Whenever possible, choose products from a local and trusted source that you know use 100% natural ingredients such as essential oils and herbs for skin and hair care treatment. Your skin will love you for it! This was what I aimed for when developing the Just for You range.
References you can Research
“Hair Dyes.” U.S. Food & Drug Administration. FDA.gov 3 Nov 2017.
Kessler R. “More than Cosmetic Changes: Taking Stock of Personal Care Product Safety.” Environ Health Perspect. 2015;123,A120–A127.