Personal Care Products are Loaded with Dangerous Chemicals

There are more than 5,000 ingredients allowed for use in personal care products. Many are identified as hazardous by government agencies, and many others haven’t even been tested for safety in human beings.

As the skin is the biggest organ in the body, it absorbs most of these care products. Many of those ingredients then enter the blood, organs, and, in pregnant women, the foetus. They are more readily absorbed in young girls and young women, because their bodies are still developing.

Beauty products, from shampoos to mascara, can contain propylene glycol, which is widely used as a moisture-carrying ingredient because it is cheaper and more readily absorbed. It is known to cause contact dermatitis, kidney damage and liver abnormalities.

Colours in cosmetics are chemically synthesized and derived from coal tar. These have been shown to cause cancer in animals. Impurities like arsenic and lead in some coal tar colours have been shown to cause cancer not only when ingested, but also when applied to the skin.

One study found that 61 per cent of lipsticks tested were found to have unacceptably high levels of lead. A person who wears lipstick everyday can ingest as much as four tubes a year. According to Stacy Malkan, author of Not just a Pretty Face: the Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry, “Repeated, daily exposures to low levels of lead add up – and they add up on top of lead from paint and drinking water, which is especially a problem in low income communities. There’s no excuse for lead in lipstick.”

Lead can cause lower IQ, reduce school performance and increase aggression. Young girls and pregnant women are especially vulnerable to lead exposure. It has also been linked to infertility and miscarriage.

Widely used lip balm contains phenol, a poisonous chemical also used as a pesticide. Reactions to phenol include rashes, vomiting, nausea, convulsions, paralysis, and even death.

Most of these products also contain preservatives called parabens, which are endocrine disrupters. They can bind to estrogen receptors in women, and can potentially affect estrogen sensitive functions in the body. Parabens are easily absorbed through the skin.

So what can you do? You can wear less makeup, or wear it less often, but this is not always a realistic option.

The easiest way to avoid a chemical exposure is to buy unscented products. Fragrance, which seems harmless enough, produces a whole range of symptoms, from dizziness to depression. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has found that 100 per cent of perfumes contain toluene, which is highly toxic to humans. Most companies will make at least one version of their product in unscented, or for sensitive skin. This is a good start.

Another thing to avoid altogether is antibacterial products. These can be found in cleansers, deodorants, and other cosmetic products. In many cases, antibacterial agents actually encourage the rise of drug-resistant bacteria.

You can also make some of the products that you use every day. Here are a few recipes and ideas:

Oatmeal cleanser

Process rolled oats in a blender until fine. Massage a small amount onto wet skin, then rinse. This will clean your skin and make it softer, for a very small price. You can keep some in the fridge for at least a week.

Citrus cleansing milk

1/2 cup of plain yogurt

I 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice

I tablespoon of jojoba oil (or other oil)

Blend yogurt and lemon juice. With blender running, slowly add oil. Pour into jar and add essential oil. Massage a small amount onto skin and rinse.

Skin moisturizer

Grape seed oil: it does not have a scent and is not expensive. It can be found in any grocery store.

Drinking a lot of water can also ensure that your skin is well moisturized, as well as taking omega 3 supplements, which are also good for wrinkles.

Some companies put less toxic ingredients in their products than others. Here are a few:

Clinique, Marcelle and Almay are all entirely fragrance-free.

Biotherm, Cetaphil, Curel, Roc, can be found in most pharmacies.

Revlon lipsticks do not contain lead.

Companies that make organic or partially organic products include: Burt’s Bees, The Body Shop, Ecco Bella, Lavera, Jason, Nature’s Gate, Aveeda, Avalon, Druide, Aubrey Organics and Weleda.

There are many ways to avoid chemicals in our everyday life, and there are many reasons why we think that getting sick won’t happen to us. Everything we put on our hair or our skin eventually ends up in the water, and it’s packaging in a landfill, where it leaches into the ground. It might take a little bit of effort and a little bit of research, but why not put more chances on our side and not only become healthier, but make our environment cleaner as well.