Founder of Hope & Beauty
A Short Guide To Potentially Harmful Chemicals Found In Many Cosmetic Products
The Laws And Regulations Regarding Harmful Chemicals
The laws overseeing cosmetics and intimate care products are so limited that known cancer-causing chemicals, or carcinogens, are legally permitted in personal care products. Some carcinogens, such as formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, are accepted in personal care products, while others are less common, but still irregularly present.
Ingredients used to make consumer products (including cosmetics) have come under increased scrutiny for their possible impacts on human health and on the environment. This is in part fueled by the progress in information on the Internet about the chemicals in consumer products, including cosmetics.
Learn To Read The Labels
When strolling down the skincare aisle, we often look for products that promise good and fast results. Regardless of what a product’s tagline says it will do, its quality is ultimately a function of its ingredients.
Unlike certain foods and drugs, personal care products aren’t required to announce the harmful byproducts and carcinogens they may contain. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may prohibit certain ingredients. This can be considered to be a trusted source and lessen the misguided labeling, but what goes in your creams and sprays is left to each company’s discretion.
On the whole, cosmetics and personal care products don’t carry the levels of toxins needed to cause cancer. Bigger concerns are skin irritations and lack of proper cosmetic hygiene.
Still, the American Cancer Society says that health hazards linked to long-term exposure of toxins cannot be entirely ruled out.
If A certain Chemical Is Not Necessary, Then It’s Also Avoidable
When a company lists “fragrance” as one of the ingredients, they aren’t required to disclose the actual chemicals that make up that fragrance. This means that any number of irritating chemicals can make their way in and you’d never know it. Some of these chemicals are linked to asthma, allergies and hormone disruption.
3 Chemicals and Chemical Groups To Avoid
Keep it simple and avoid fragrance altogether. Why does your foundation need to smell good anyway? That’s what perfume is for (provided you choose one without all those nasty irritants!).
Dr. Singhal advises cancer patients, but also people in general, to try and avoid these three chemicals and chemical groups:
If we had to pick one ingredient to stay away from, parabens would be it! These are super harmful and yet found in 70-90% of cosmetics.
Parabens are preservative chemicals that imitate estrogen, so they wreak havoc on your hormones. Their use is linked to breast and skin cancer as well as decreased sperm count. They’re also easily absorbed so all of those harmful properties are drowning right in.
Parabens are difficult to avoid, but it’s possible if you know what you’re looking for. Scan the label and put it back if you see any paraben listed, including methylparaben. If it’s paraben-free, it should be labeled as such. Or make it easy on yourself and go with a cosmetics company that doesn’t use parabens at all.
Commonly found in antibacterial soaps, triclosan is an antimicrobial chemical that is also found in some cosmetics. It’s linked to thyroid issues and has also contributed to the rise in antibiotic-resistant superbugs.
Triclosan is pretty easy to spot – just look for it by name listed as an active ingredient. It’s likely to be found in products touting their cleanliness or labeled as “antimicrobial.”
You may not see formaldehyde listed as an ingredient, but it could still be in there. This one is tricky because companies don’t just dump a bunch of formaldehyde into their products. Instead, they add other chemicals that work together as they decompose to release formaldehyde. Tricky, right? And so not nice. Formaldehyde is a known skin sensitizer, allergen, and carcinogen.
The Best Way To Stay Safe Is To Stay Clear Of All Suspicious Chemicals
According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the law defines cosmetics as “articles intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on, introduced into, or otherwise applied to the human body… for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance.” This includes skin moisturizers, perfumes, lipsticks, fingernail polishes, eye, and facial makeup, shampoos, permanent waves, hair colors, toothpaste, and deodorants, as well as any component of a cosmetic product. It does not include products used solely as soaps.
Cosmetics are different from drugs, which are defined as “articles intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease” and “articles (other than food) intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of man or other animals.”
Read labels and avoid cosmetics and personal care products containing formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (quaternium-15, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, and 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3 diol), phenacetin, coal tar, benzene, untreated or mildly treated mineral oils, ethylene oxide, chromium, cadmium, and its compounds, arsenic and crystalline silica (or quartz).