The hidden chemicals in cosmetics (and how they can harm us)

natural beauty
We all use a wide range of cosmetics on a daily basis to help us stay squeaky clean, smell nice, and look our damned best. We need them and we cannot imagine our lives without them, but the cosmetic products most of us are using are also rather, well, toxic. The beauty industry is the driving allowance of countless companies’ production of cosmetics with abnormally high levels of chemicals. Some are used to prolong a product’s shelf life, some provide them certain desirable aesthetic characteristics, and some simply cost the companies a lot less than the natural alternative. Which would all be fun and games, I suppose, if they didn’t run the risk of causing major health problems…

• Why do people buy cosmetics if they are toxic?
It is enough to take a look at the label of one of the products you use and you will see at least several ingredients that you won’t be able to understand. These ingredients are chemicals created in laboratories that most certainly have a set of undesired side-effects for your health and wellbeing. But what if the label of a product mentions that it is “natural”, would that make the product safer? The truth is that the word “natural” does not indicate that a cosmetic product is chemical-free. Any cosmetics manufacturer can use the word “natural” on the label of his products even if the products contain as little as 0.1% natural ingredients in their composition. In fact, not even the mention “organic” can guarantee the fact that the products you use are entirely safe. Organic products must have at least 70% ingredients that were certified as organic. This means that there is still 30% left of a product’s content that can easily contain a wide array of chemicals. So, people buy cosmetics because they either don’t know what they contain, they don’t care because they are not aware of the consequences, or they don’t bother to look at the label because they can’t understand the ingredients.

Toxic chemicals are more present then we’d like to admit
As long as there are laboratories functioning out in the world, there will be chemicals created in an alert rhythm. Without us, the consumers, knowing too much about it, it is believed that somewhere around 1000 new chemicals hit the marketplaces of the world every single year. And each of these has their own ways of doing damage to our body. In fact, researchers in the US identified no less than 82,000 different ingredients, which can be found in personal care products, with extremely toxic consequences. Some of them are responsible for triggering cancer, other are causing reproductive issues, while some are affecting the levels of our natural hormones, just to name a few of the severe issues caused by these toxic chemicals [1]. Like the alarming appearance rate of these toxins is not good enough to get us in trouble, the rather elusive language used in the cosmetic industry puzzle us even more, making us trust products that can actually produce permanent damage to our body.

Chemical exposure due to beauty products may be to blame for the increasing infertility cases

It is not a secret anymore that the birth rate in many areas around the globe, in particular in developed countries where the population has easy access to a wide range of cosmetics, is
going down for the past decades. And even if women do get pregnant, there are many situations in which the unborn baby or the young child, experience a set of health problems. These conditions may be triggered by the chemicals stored by the mother’s body while she used cosmetic products. Several reports were created that looked at how the chemicals contained by shampoos, nail polishes, skin lotions, makeup products, and other personal care products lead to infertility, birth defects, and other pregnancy-related issues. It is true that the studies were conducted on animals and that it is not known with certainty if the same results can appear in the case of humans as well, but since they are toxins, we can’t expect anything good to happen if we use them [2].

Some of the most commonly met chemicals
Parabens
These are the preservatives used in the cosmetic industry to provide cosmetic products a long life on store shelves. They can be found in almost any type of cosmetic products and can act as endocrine disruptors. Plus they can act like estrogen, a female hormone, and lead to the formation of breast tumors. You can see them under the form of Methyl paraben, Ethyl paraben, Propyl paraben, and Isobutyl paraben, the last two being the most toxic.

Phthalates
They can be found in nail polishes, lipstick, hair sprays, shampoo, perfumes, and nail polish removers, and may be listed as Diethylhexyl phthalate, Dibutyl phthalate, which are the most toxic, Dimethyl phthalate, and Diethyl phthalate. They are usually linked to birth defects in the case of boys, can affect male fertility, and lead to liver cancer.

Triclosan
It is a substance found in soaps and anti-bacterial products in general, although you can find it in deodorants, toothpaste, and body washes. It is believed to affect hormonal balances, lead to improper function of the muscles, heart disease, and heart failure. The worst part is that it may appear under a wide variety of names, such as microban, Cloxifenolum, Lexol 300, Tinosan SDC, just to name a few.

SLS
SLS is a group of compounds that include Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, which can appear under the names of sulfuric acid, sodium salt, aquarex ME and aquarex methyl, dodecyl sulfate, monododecyl ester, and others. These chemicals can irritate the eyes, the skin, are toxic to our organs, act as neurotoxins, affect fertility, can produce gene mutation and even cancer. They can be found in make-up foundations, scalp treatments, hair dyes and hair bleaches, shampoos, liquid soaps, bath oils and salts, and body washes.

Is there a way to stay away from these chemicals?
Yes, you need to replace your daycare routine with products that are entirely safe. There aren’t very many in comparison with the rest, but you can find them. In order to be sure that you are using safe products, always read their labels. If you can’t pronounce something on the label, then that’s probably a chemical. There are many natural oils and herbal extracts that can be used for the making of safe cosmetic products, for a natural beauty and great health. In the case of reverse hair washing for example, which is great for thin or dull hair, you can use coconut oil to moisturize the hair, using a safe sulfate-free shampoo afterward. There are alternatives out there; you just need to look for them.

References:
[1] http://www.positivehealth.com/article/environmental/hidden-dangers-lurking-in-your- cosmetics-and-personal-care-products
[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1253722/
[3] http://www.mercola.com/infographics/personal-care-products.htm

(Thank you to Maja Tisma for providing the 411 on all the questions above! She is the editor-in-chief at ShampooTruth.com – growing beauty website with the latest tips on hair care, styling and hair treatments. Her writing focuses on hair, beauty, health, natural remedies, and sustainable living. You can find her work in Huffingtonpost, Sheknows, Lifehack, WorkingMother. She also contributes her beauty expertise to other publications and websites.)