Because everything seems so vague and inconclusive in the cosmetics industry, one of the best ways to stay protected from harmful chemicals in cosmetics and personal care products is to be educated on the toxic chemicals commonly found in these products. To help you stay informed, I’ve put together a sort of “cliff notes” list for you! Below you will find ten harmful chemicals found in many products in the cosmetics industry. These chemicals can serve as a “red flag” if you may when looking at a product’s ingredients:
1. Antibacterials: Some antibacterials absorbed by the body may be toxic or carcinogenic. They can also be killing both the “good” and harmful bacteria, increasing your susceptibility to infection.
2. Coal tar: This human carcinogen is used to soften skin and soothe itchy skin. Sometimes, it's even used as a colorant.
3. 1,4-dioxane: This chemical is known to cause cancer in animals and is suspected to do the same in humans.
4. Diethanolamine: This chemical can be absorbed into the body through the skin. It is a hormone disruptor that acts as a carcinogen and robs the body of choline, an essential nutrient in fetal brain development.
5. Formaldehyde: Already banned in the European Union, it is associated with multiple health concerns including breathing issues, irritation problems, and immune system and genetic damage. Unfortunately, formaldehyde is not always clearly mentioned on product labels, making it an even greater focal point for safe cosmetic activists.
6. Fragrance: This ingredient can encompass number of chemicals, most of which may be toxic. The term “fragrance” is sometimes used in place of the term phthalate. Phthalates are obesogens, can cause developmental defects and delays, and can disrupt normal endocrine function (including reproductive health).
7. Lead: Lead acetate, a neurotoxin, is an ingredient in some lipsticks and men’s hair dyes.
8. Mercury: Although the FDA permits the use of a certain amount of mercury compounds in eye makeup, mercury has a record of causing harm to the body as it readily passes through the skin.
9. Talc: A product used to provide an allusion of sparkle, talc acts as a human carcinogen and has been directly linked to ovarian cancer. It can also lead to lung tumors if inhaled.
10. Toluelene: Used to add gloss, toluelene is a toxic chemical that can decrease a person’s fertility and can cause liver and kidney damage.
You may be asking, what products can we trust if not all are properly labeled? Since regulation for cosmetics and personal care products is currently weak, the best way to find trusted, harm-free brands is to use the companies named “champions and innovators” by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.
Hope this helps you find safer cosmetics! If you have any suggestions, please leave a comment in this post.