Harmful Effects of Chemicals in Cosmetics
We all want to look and feel beautiful, often enhancing our best features with assistance from cosmetics. Yet many of us may not be aware of the toxic ingredients contained in products we’re using.
“When the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act was passed 80 years ago, it contained 112 pages of standards for food and drugs, and only one page for cosmetics,” says Connie Engel, Ph.D., science and education manager at the Breast Cancer Fund and its Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, in San Francisco.
While most cosmetic ingredients must be listed on product labels, sometimes their names are hard to recognize, many are toxic and some of the most dangerous ones may not even be listed.
Labeled toxins commonly found in cosmetics include endocrine disruptors that can affect our developmental, reproductive, neurological and immune systems. Here are just a few:
PTFE also known as Teflon, is found in foundation, pressed powder, loose powder, bronzer, blush, eye shadow and mascara. It can even enhance the toxicity of other chemicals, according to Danish research published in the International Journal of Andrology, and due to its fluorine base, can disrupt iodine absorption, contributing to breast disease including cancer.
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)
BHA and its cousin, hydroxytoluene (BHT), are common preservatives found in lip products, liquid makeup and moisturizers that the European Commission on Endocrine Disruption cites as interfering with hormone function. They’ve also been shown to cause kidney damage, according to research from Spain’s Universidad Autónoma de Madrid.
Formaldehyde in many forms, including quaternium-15, coal tar, benzene and mineral oils that are prohibited in the European Union and Japan, are classified as carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
These examples represent the tip of the iceberg of toxic chemicals of concern commonly used in cosmetics.
They further range from allergens and substances that cause non-cancerous and cancerous tumors and organ toxicity to developmental and reproductive impairment, miscarriage and bioaccumulation leading to toxic overload when not excreted.
Fragrances don’t have to be included in label ingredient lists, constituting another major concern, explains Engel. “Most cosmetics, even eye shadow, contain fragrance, and those fragrances can contain several dozen unlabeled ingredients, including hormone-disrupting phthalates.” The European Union is the authoritative source on all of these issues. Based on its CosIng (cosmetic ingredients) database accessed via ec.europa.eu/consumers/cosmetics/cosing, it has banned scores of toxic chemicals from makeup sold in EU countries.
Harmful Chemicals in Nail polishes
of all cosmetics, nail polishes tend to contain the most toxins. “Nail polish is one of the tougher products to find for someone who’s looking to go natural,”. But some brands are eliminating toluene, a petroleum based solvent that the Environmental Protection Agency has linked to mild to severe problems with respiratory and nervous systems as well as kidney and liver functions. These less toxic polishes require more benign removers than conventional noxious-smelling acetones.
Always apply Nail polishes outside or near an open window.
Even better, achieve a smooth, clear shine without any polish using a nail buffer. It’s a quick, inexpensive way for men and women to sustain a natural, finished look.
Labels on my hair care products show a long list of unpronounceable ingredients. Is it possible to get great hair without dumping all these chemicals on it?
It’s smart to be concerned about the ingredients in hair care and skincare products, because they are subject to little official regulation and may include ingredients that are not only ineffective, but harmful to health and damaging to hair and skin. That’s why green living expert Renée Loux, author of Easy Green Living, makes environmentally friendly choices. “If it’s toxic for the Earth, it’s probably toxic for our bodies, too,” she believes.
Complex ingredient lists often make it hard to know what we’re applying. When choosing products, Environmentalists rule of thumb is, “plants over petroleum.” In other words, if the primary ingredients listed in descending order by percentage in a shampoo, conditioner, gel, serum or mousse—are botanical or plant-derived ingredients, you and the planet are probably safe.
Petroleum and petrochemicals—which are commonly used in many hair care products and are derived from a nonrenewable resource—don’t break down well into natural components in the environment and may be harmful to human health.
Environmentalists also pays special attention to the, last few ingredients listed on the label because this is where innocuous-sounding toxins often hide, perhaps as a fragrance or colorant. In the shampoo category, Environmentalists likes low-sudsing versions, because suds are typically created by synthetic-foaming agents called sulfates (sodium lauryl sulfate is common) that may irritate skin and poison the environment. With hair color, look for a stylist that uses lowammonia dyes, or buy them yourself in health food stores and natural pharmacies; temporary colorants are safer than permanent dyes. “The deeper the color, the more important it is to look at the ingredients,”.
List of harmful Chemicals Used in Cosmetics – Toxic Ingredients to Avoid
- Butylated compounds, including BHA, BHT
- Carbon black
- Ethanolamine compounds including DEA, MEA, TEA
- Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (quaternium-15, imidazolidinyl urea)
- Heavy metals, including lead (may not be labeled)
- PTFE (Teflon)
- Titanium dioxide