Are You Using Toxic Products? Chemicals to Avoid

Consumers are growing more conscious by the day. Switching over to organic foods and supporting brands and companies that are more ethical than others to weed out the bad ones. Being aware of the products you invest in is not only beneficial to you but to the world, boycotting companies for their use of harmful products is necessary to make a change in the market for the better.

Although the food industry is semi-regulated, the regulation on cosmetic products is practically nonexistent. Chemicals in products become absorbed by your body and beauty companies are free to include whatever ingredients they want to in their products without government review. As The Huffington Post reveals, “ A minuscule approval process exists, but only for color additives and ingredients classified as over-the-counter drugs.” If that is not terrifying, I don’t know what is- the lesson to take from this is not to trust these companies blindly. Learn which ingredients to avoid in order to protect yourself.

What are some common toxic ingredients found in popular beauty and personal care products?

Parabens are preservatives used to stop the growth of bacteria such as mold and fungi but they come at a cost. This preservative mimics estrogen in the body and can potentially ‘turn on the growth of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers’ according to They are found in deodorants, shaving products, makeup, moisturizers, hair products and more. According to the FDA, “The parabens used most commonly in cosmetics are methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and ethylparaben.”

Phthalates are commonly used to hold color and act as solvents or dissolving agents for other materials. According to Huffington Post, The main phthalates in cosmetics and personal care products are dibutyl phthalate in nail polish, diethyl phthalate in perfumes and lotions, and dimethyl phthalate in hairspray.” Phthalates are hormone disruptors, disturbing the balance of hormones that interact with estrogen once again and testosterone as well. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics reveals that phthalates are, “linked to endocrine disruption, developmental and reproductive toxicity, and cancer, have been banned from cosmetics in the European Union, but still remain prevalent in U.S. products.”

Formaldehyde is a colorless, strong gas, found in many personal care products such as shampoos and liquid baby soaps to prevent bacteria growth. It has been linked to cancer and allergic skin reactions. Alternative formaldehyde names to look out for are: quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea and more. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics explains that there is a, “link between formaldehyde and leukemia” and that, “A 2014 study found that formaldehyde initiates and promotes tumor formation.” Other products this carcinogen is found in range from eye shadows, nail polish, body washes and more.

Fragrance” is a popular, vague term used by the majority of cosmetic and personal care product companies to describe the perfume or cologne used to give a product a distinct scent. The phrase was created as a way to protect a company’s “secret formula”. So, in other words- we the consumers have no idea what chemicals or ingredients are being used. The major concern with fragrance mixes is that it is associated to allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and possible effects on the reproductive system according to Environmental Working Group (EWG) Skin Deep Database.

Sulfates or more specifically Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) / Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) are found in more than 90% of personal care and cleaning products (they create the foaming effect). There are various sulfate-free shampoos that are trending right now because sulfate strips the hair of its natural essential oils, increasing the chance of irritating the scalp, leaving hair frizzy and dry as well as diminishing color faster for those with dyed hair. Sulfates are also found in toothpastes, body wash or cleansers, hygiene products and more. They have a high potential to act as skin, lung and even eye irritants.

Sunscreen chemicals absorb ultraviolet light. The problem is they are rapidly absorbed into the body and have been found to potentially cause cellular damage as well as cancer. There are several chemicals in sunscreen but the most common are benzophenone, PABA, avobenzone, homosalate and oxybenzone. EWG explains that sunscreens come in two forms, mineral and chemical filters and that some of these chemical UV filters mimic hormones. They found the most worrisome chemical in sunscreens is oxybenzone because several studies, “reported statistically significant associations between oxybenzone exposure during pregnancy and birth outcomes”. Overall, chemicals found in mainstream sunscreens are endocrine distributors and carry the potential to interfere with reproduction, increase developmental malformations, increase cancer risk and disturbances in the immune and nervous system function, according to the EPA.

Final Thoughts

The list goes on, and it may feel overwhelming, and there are instances where we cannot avoid all toxic ingredients in the products we use but being aware and avoiding them when possible is the healthy choice to make. The worst part is that manufacturers and companies are aware of the risks of these ingredients, however, profit outweighs health concerns. Many of the toxins I listed are banned in Europe but are still being used in the U.S. Limit the amount of toxins your body is exposed to. When possible eat clean, avoid processed foods, eat organic and research ingredients and read labels before purchasing. Your health is worth the extra time and care.

“The European Union has banned over 1,300 chemicals found in cosmetics. The FDA has only banned 8 and restricted 3. [In the U.S.] it’s a free market and you don’t have to do anything — no safety testing required — until there is a problem. And the issue is, a lot of these health impacts are long-term. It’s not like if I develop breast cancer in 20 years, I can link that to the aluminum zirconium in my deodorant. We don’t know how these ingredients are interacting when they come into play. The average woman puts 515 synthetic chemicals on her body every single day without even knowing. And 60 percent of what we put onto our skin is absorbed into our bodies.”

article published in the Scarlet Magazine