There is a lot of confusion about safety when it comes to the beauty industry. You would assume that if a product is on the shelf it is safe for use. However, the reality is much scarier. There are many chemicals and additives that are simply not regulated despite the overwhelming evidence of their adverse effects. Here’s a crash course on the ingredients that you should be looking out for, and why.
The Big Nasties
These are the most abundant and arguably the nastiest of the chemicals and additives on the market today. When transitioning your products to non-toxic, these are the big guys to look out for on product labels.
1 . Parabens
The David Suzuki Foundation estimates that as many as 75-90% of cosmetic products contain parabens. Our skin readily absorbs parabens into our bodies. In the body, these chemicals mimic the activities of estrogen and disrupt normal hormone functioning. Their usage is so widespread that the CDC has stated that all Americans have parabens in their system at any given time. Even scarier than that, parabens are linked to breast cancer and have been found in biopsy samples of breast cancer tumours. This is one nasty additive you need to avoid.
A list of paraben-free cosmetic companies can be found on the Breast Cancer Action website. Pacifica is a favourite at embodywellness.ca, we swear by their stellar gaze length & strength mineral mascara and natural lipsticks!
2 . Fragrance
There are no standards or restrictions on the chemicals that can be used in the perfumes and fragrances in consumer products. The EWG’s advice is to avoid synthetic fragrances because they’re made up of any number of unregulated chemicals. These chemicals can include hormone disrupters such as phthalates, which are connected to reproductive issues and breast cancer. Furthermore, fragrance is among the top five allergies world-wide. Avoid products that list “fragrance” or “parfum” in the ingredients. Instead, opt for fragrance-free or products scented with essential oils.
One place you might not consider the presence of these toxic chemicals is in your pads and panty liners. NatraCare liners are free of fragrance, parabens, and are completely biodegradable. They’re soft on your skin, and gentle on the planet too 🙂
3 . Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) & Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)
SLS & SLES are the foaming agents that give your body wash and shampoo a great lather. Unfortunately, they are skin, lung and eye irritants. Furthermore, SLS and SLES form carcinogenic (cancer causing) compounds in reaction to other chemicals. These carcinogenic compounds lead to a host of other problems in the body, such as liver damage. Be sure to watch out for SLS in toothpaste and any other product that foams or lathers.
4 . BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene)
BHA and BHT are preservative compounds; you can find them in lipsticks, moisturizers and nail polish. These chemicals are skin irritants and can lead to allergic reaction. There is also evidence that BHA and BHT interfere with hormone function and have carcinogenic properties. It’s effects are well known: California law requires labelling on products to inform consumers that BHA may cause cancer.
Conventional nail polish is chock full of nasty chemicals, BHA being one of them. Natural nail polish companies have banned together to follow the “7-free” rule. This rule banishes the use of seven harmful chemicals normally found in nail polish. MOOV cosmetics takes it a step further and are completely vegan and cruelty free. Toronto based, we love their “Home Grown Canuck Collection”.
5 . Propylene Glycol
Propylene glycol is a skin conditioning agent used in many creams, cosmetics and conditioners. It is a skin irritant and causes dermatitis and hives in susceptible people, but that’s not all. The manufacturing process of this chemical often leaves it contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. These are human carcinogens and nervous system disrupters. Many products that contain propylene glycol also contain ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane.
Sunscreen is a big culprit for propylene glycol use. While there are many natural sunscreen products on the market, Goddess Garden is the real deal. Their formula is made of 94% organic ingredients and is biodegradable, reef-safe, vegan and cruelty free. Win, win, win!
While this is an incomplete list, it is a good starting point. The list of unregulated, harmful chemicals used in the manufacture of skincare products is seemingly endless. For more detailed information on common additives visit EWG’s Skin Deep Database. This article on their top tips for safer products is a great place to start!
Another alternative is to make your own beauty products. It’s easier than you think! We have recipes to get you started, such as this DIY deodorant recipe. Have a girls night and make these simple but luxurious bath bombs. When you control the ingredients you know exactly what you’re getting. No parabens, fragrances, SLS, BHA, BHT, propylene glycol – no nasties!
Last modified: September 23, 2017