The Most Harmful Chemicals Found In Cosmetics
In recent times, people have started to become more aware of the ingredients contained in most of the products that they buy. This applies in regards to food products, hair care products, cosmetic products and more. This is part of a growing movement of health-conscious, holistically-minded people who have become disillusioned by the claims of most mass-made products and brands.
However, many of us who don’t consider themselves to be part of any movements or mindsets are still waking up to the fact that most of the products we use aren’t made with our best intentions in mind. Rather, they are developed to be as cheap and effective as possible – even if that means utilizing harmful chemicals to do so.
This means that over the course of our lives and on a daily basis, we’re actively exposing our body to chemicals that we would otherwise never put in our home let alone on our skin. You may even consider yourself a healthy person, exercising regularly and watching what you eat.
But it means little if you’re still utilizing chemical-containing shampoos, food products, skin lotions or makeups as the harmful effects of exposing your body to dangerous chemicals can far outweigh the effects of exercise and a balanced diet over time.
So once you’ve made this realization – what can you do? Well, you’re in luck because there are always healthier, natural alternatives that can be used to replace the unhealthy products we’ll find stacked on the shelves of our supermarkets. However, the first step (and the best tool in your arsenal) towards leading a healthier lifestyle is drawing up a list of chemicals that you should avoid – especially when it comes to cosmetics products, as they’re the most common source of harmful ingredients.
So, to make your life a lot easier – we’ve decided to write up a list of the 10 most notable chemicals to avoid in cosmetics products (or in general for that matter) when you go shopping next time. Although I recommend reading this with caution as the list will definitely raise your eyebrows if you’re not already aware of the chemicals that may be in the makeup container in your bathroom cabinet or bedroom cupboard as you read this. Please note that this is just part 1 – stay tuned for the second half of our list!
The Top 10 Most Harmful Chemicals Found In Cosmetics – Part One
Most of us have heard of formaldehyde at some point in our lives and know that in its raw form or in the right dosage, can be highly toxic. Formaldehyde is a naturally occurring gas that forms in humans and animals in small amounts and is effective in helping to prevent the formation of mold and bacteria but also helps to build certain amino acids.
This is largely why cosmetics companies claim to use it (or formaldehyde-releasing preservatives) in their products – however, the downside to this is that over time, the chemical will seep into your bloodstream through the pores in your skin and may build up the toxin levels in your body. This generally leads to the formation of harmful carcinogens which ultimately leads to cancer.
The chemical is generally used in nail polish, eyelash glue and color cosmetics or makeup, but can also be found in shampoos, hair gel and conditioners. The most common effect of exposure to formaldehyde is an allergic reaction on the surface of your skin (characterized by dry, itchy redness) or in the worst case scenario – chemical burns. So for the sake of your own healthy and longevity, it’s best to avoid the chemical altogether, but especially in your hair and skin products.
Parabens are one of the more common chemicals that you’ll find in your skin and hair care products and they’re very popular among manufactures. They are generally used as preservatives and can help to lengthen the shelf-life of a product as well as bind the ingredients together to help strengthen efficiency of the formula, as well as stop the development of bacteria on the surface of your skin.
However, there is increasing evidence that has linked the extensive use of parabens to the formation of breast cancer in women. But the effects don’t stop there, as this chemical is particularly harmful to women. Extensive use can disrupt the endocrine cycle, leading to hormone imbalances and other developmental issues – especially harmful to unborn children during pregnancy.
Unfortunately, avoiding parabens whilst using conventional cosmetics products or hair care treatments is practically impossible as they’re considered a necessity in most formula’s. They come in many forms and are generally listed with the term ‘parabens’ at the end.
Chemical variations may include ethylparaben, butylparaben, methylparaben, propylparaben, isobutylparaben and isopropylparaben. So be sure to scan the ingredients label on the back of the next shampoo, foundation or concealer for any of these before putting it in your shopping cart.
Phthalates are one of the few chemicals that are completely banned for commercial use in products in the EU – yet remain in use in the US (one could write a thesis on why). They are contained in a wide variety of products from toys, vinyl flooring, detergents and food packaging to nail polishes, shampoos, hair sprays and perfumes.
So there’s little doubt that we’re exposed to these products regularly on a daily basis – in fact, they’re largely unavoidable. The best we can do is to avoid buying products that come directly into contact with our bodies as much as possible. Phthalates have been linked to the development of cancer and the disruption of the endocrine system (much like parabens) which can ultimately lead to hormone imbalances and birth-related issues.
Some of the people who are most vulnerable to the effects of this chemical are pregnant mothers and those who are breastfeeding. The scary thing about phthalates is that they are often included in products under the ubiquitous term ‘fragrance.’
‘Fragrance’ is considered a trade secret and because of this, companies don’t have to list the ingredients contained within. This means that you can easily allow phthalates into your body without even knowing it – which is why organic or natural products are really best way to ensure that you’re completely free of phthalates altogether.
4) Lead and Mercury
While it is true that heavy metals are necessary for certain bodily functions, having an extensive buildup of these in your body can have serious effects on your health in general. In particular, lead and mercury are two very toxic heavy metals that should not be used on your skin or hair regularly at all. Lead has been directly linked to learning and behavioral issues as well as hormone imbalances, menstrual issues and even miscarriages in women.
Lead is commonly added to lipstick, sunscreen, foundation and nail polish which means you could be using a lead-based product whilst reading this! The chemical is so harmful that it has been banned from gasoline and paint in America – and should definitely not be used on your skin or hair.
Mercury, on the other hand, is equally as dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. It can also be known as thimerosal and may lead to high blood-toxicity levels that may be fatal, as well as directly affect the thyroid gland and hormones in general. Thankfully, it’s not as widely used as lead – but should be looked-out-for and avoided completely nonetheless.
5) Coal Tar
Coal Tar is by far one of the most harmful chemicals that we’ll encounter in skin and cosmetic products and can basically be thought of as pure carcinogens.
Coal Tar, a thick blackish liquid, is produced from burning coal and contains a wide variety of chemicals that are harmful enough by themselves – but even more harmful when used in combination.
Some of these include benzene, toluene naphthalene, anthracene, xylene and other polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (or PAH’s) which are largely linked to the formation of cancer in your body affecting various organs such as lungs, kidneys, bladder, digestive system as well as breast cancer and even skin tumors.
This ingredient is commonly added to lotions, soaps and shampoos largely because of its keratoplastic qualities, which allows your skin to shed dead skin cells and inhibits skin cell growth – helpful for naturally oily and combination skin-types. The carcinogenic effects of coal tar may affect a person of any age or sex – so keep it out of your hair and off your skin at all times.