Do you apply mold inhibitors, coal tar and liquid paraffin to your face as part of your morning routine? You may not think you do, but you probably are if you are applying conventional moisturizers, sunscreens, lipsticks, mascaras and other skin care products. While these items masquerade as “beauty” products, there’s often a lot of ugliness in those little cosmetic bottles and jars. They include plasticizers (chemicals that keep concrete soft), degreasers (used to get grime off auto parts), and mold inhibitors (such as used in house paint). Researchers say that 1 in 8 of the 82,000 ingredients used in personal care products are industrial chemicals, including carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins, and hormone disruptors.
It might be time to audit what’s in your makeup bag. Start by reading the ingredient labels, even if you need a magnifying glass. Here is a list of seven chemicals you don’t want to put on your skin.
- Parabens. Found in makeup, moisturizers, shaving gels, shampoos, personal lubricants and spray tan products.
Parabens are the most commonly used preservative in the skin care industry because they so effectively prevent mold, fungus and parasites from sprouting up in your products. Parabens have been linked to breast cancer in women and testicular cancer in men. That might explain the recent proliferation of “paraben-free” labels on many cosmetic and personal care items. Parabens appear in several different forms such as benzylparaben, propylparaben, isopropylparaben, isobutylparben and phenylparaben, which you should be on the lookout for when reading ingredient labels.
- Oxybenzone. Found as the active ingredient in many sunscreens, as well as fragrances, nail polish and cosmetics You hear it all the time: wear sunscreen. However, one sunscreen ingredient in particular does more damage than the UV rays it protects you from. That ingredient is oxybenzone (aka benzonephenone-3). The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has rated oxybenzone an 8 on its toxicity rating scale, meaning it is one of the most toxic ingredients in sunscreen and other skin products. It is also the most prevalent: the EWG says it is in 80% of chemical sunscreens. Research has shown that oxybenzone is absorbed by the skin and stays in the body for an unknown amount of time. In fact, a study conducted by the CDC found oxybenzone present in the urine of 97% of Americans. That’s a scary statistic and makes you wonder how it is affecting our bodies in ways we don’t yet know. Toxicology experts are concerned because it has been linked to hormone disruption and has the potential to damage cells that may lead to skin cancer.Endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as oxybenzone may mimic hormones, cause endometriosis and can pose a risk to reproductive systems. Oxybenzone has been increasingly linked to early puberty in girls, low sperm count and male infertility, and an increase in hormone-related cancers in men and women. Opt for sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide or avobenzene instead.
- Petroleum. Found in many cosmetic products such as mascara
Petroleum, the ingredient in your car’s motor oil, often shows up in cosmetics as petrolatum, xylene, toluene, and liquid paraffin, all petroleum by-products. These by-products contain 1,4-Dioxane, a probable carcinogen according to the EPA and World Health Organization.
- Triclosan. Found in just about any product claiming antibacterial properties such as antiperspirants, soaps, hand wash and toothpastes.
Technically, triclosan is a pesticide, according to the EPA. It works quite well at killing bacteria, but therein lies the problem. Not all bacteria are bad for you; in fact many are beneficial. There are concerns that triclosan may contribute to antibiotic resistance. Triclosan (in liquid products) and triclocarban (in bar soaps) have been linked to hormonal disruptions, impaired muscle function, impaired immune function and increased allergies. Instead, use naturally antibacterial and antiseptic agents like tea tree oil.
- Coal tar. Found in shampoo and dandruff treatment products, soaps, and hair dyes
Coal tar, a byproduct of coal processing, is a known human carcinogen used in treating psoriasis and dandruff. Some hair coloring dyes, soaps and shampoos are also derived from coal tar. Although the FDA sanctions coal tar for specialty uses in psoriasis and dandruff control, the long-term safety of these products has not been established. Several European and Asian countries have already banned coal tar in these products and Australia requires coal tar products to carry warning labels about long-term use.Coal tar may appear on labels as aminophenol, diaminobenzine or phenylenediamine.
- Phthalates. Found in fragrances, skin lotions, hair products, nail polish and nail hardeners
Phthalates are used as plasticizers and solvents. They have been found to have endocrine- disrupting effects and have been linked to endometriosis, early puberty in girls, reproductive abnormalities and reduced fertility in males. They can also affect the thyroid and have been linked to obesity. Often, phthalates are not listed on ingredient labels because they are hidden within the “fragrance” listed on the label. Federal law doesn’t require companies to include on their ingredient label any of the chemicals in their fragrance mixture. The EWG found an average of 14 chemicals in 17 name-brand fragrance products, none of which were on the label. Fragrances are among the top 5 allergens in the world. Smelling nice might not be so nice after all. Look for fragrance-free products to avoid extra, sometimes harmful, chemicals. Or choose products scented with essential oils.
- Sodium Laureth Sulfate. Found in foaming cosmetics such as cleansers, shampoos, mouthwash, toothpaste and bubble bath.Sodium laureth sulfate causes or contributes to canker sores, disruptions of the skin’s natural oil balance, skin irritation and eye damage. It is widely believed to be a major contributor to acne around the mouth and chin.