Would you put a moisturizer on your face or body if you knew it was made with toxic ingredients? Of course not. Yet our cosmetics and personal care products are so under-regulated most of us do it unwittingly every day.
I decided to inform my readers about these toxins when I recently read that the Environmental Working Group “has found Teflon and other similar chemicals in nearly 200 personal care products, ranging from shampoo to shaving cream to sunscreen.” This is the first in a series that lists some of the most common and toxic chemicals found in your personal care products.
Per- and Polyfluoralkyl Substances (PFAs)
The Teflon family includes virtually indestructible chemicals including PFAs. Chemical PFAs are connected with increased risk of cancer, endocrine disruption, infertility and birth defects. They also bioaccumulate, meaning their concentration increases over time in the blood and organs. While some PFAs have been removed from the formulations, Teflon and its cousins are still used. In addition, new research suggests that the replacement chemicals might not be any safer. These chemicals are found in cosmetics like foundation, mascara, and sunscreen.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
This chemical is added to make the products lather or foam. That is why it commonly is found in mouthwash, toothpaste, and face and body wash. Unfortunately, this chemical has been shown to irritate the skin, lung and eyes. Additionally, it can contribute to canker sores and disrupt the natural balance of oils. SLS is associated with acne (cystic acne) around the mouth and chin.
Coal tar is on the list of the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a carcinogen. Coal tar often does not go by that name. Rather, the same substance is called aminophenol or diaminobenzene or phenylenediamine. These are commonly found in hair dye and shampoo.
Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)
BHA is probably a carcinogen according to the National Toxicology Program. Animal studies associate it with some stomach cancers and with interference with thyroid levels and also with normal reproductive system development. It is also considered unsafe in fragrance.
Triclosan and Triclocarban
The FDA finds there is no health benefit to people who use products with these substances, and they are linked to “hormonal disruption, bacterial resistance, impaired muscle function, impaired immune function and increased allergies.” Triclosan is found in liquid products like toothpaste and triclocarban is found in bar soaps to make them antibacterial. Both are also found in deodorant. For a less toxic support, try tea tree oil.
These chemicals are used to prevent the growth of organisms (i.e. bacteria, mold) in cosmetics, food, and pharmaceutical products. However, they are associated with the increased risk of breast cancer. Topical application is no help as they are absorbed through the skin.
Check your personal care products for these substances. I recommend not using those products and looking for cleaner ones.
Next month I will present more of these toxins. In the meantime, check out Environmental Working Group.