In my family’s journey to cleaner living, we’ve discovered there are so many toxic ingredients to avoid in our home and body products. It’s much easier to say we’re going to avoid them than actually doing it, though! Reading labels these days is like reading a foreign language. Most ingredients you can’t even pronounce, which is an indicator that it is most likely a toxic ingredient to avoid in that product.
It’s been such a challenge to clean up our home and eliminate as many toxins as possible. It can not only be challenging to find products of quality and performance, but also able to fit into my monthly budget.
Searching for a clean product is difficult. How do you know exactly how “clean” something really is? When I heavily researched safer products for our family, I came across these 12 toxic ingredients to avoid in your body products:
FD&C Colors and Pigments/Dyes
These are JUST A FEW of the toxic ingredients found in popular cosmetics and body care products that cause endocrine disruptions (such as thyroid, hormonal imbalance), reproductive (such as miscarriage, infertility, PCOS, endometriosis, birth defects, and uterine fibroids), immune (such as lupus), and neurological disruptions.
Let’s take a closer look at these ingredients and WHY you should avoid them.
Triclosan is an ingredient that is added to some antibacterial soaps and body washes, toothpastes, and some cosmetics that are regulated by the FDA.It also can be found in clothing, kitchenware, furniture, and toys that are not regulated by the FDA. This chemical mimics two hormone – estrogen and thyroid hormones – and has been linked to disruption of hormone functions, muscle functions, and and failure of heart and skeletal functions. It is a registered pesticide. There have been ongoing studies regarding the safety of this ingredient and its presence in our many body products. The studies have strong evidence that the chemical is of concern to both human and environmental health.
Parabens are preservatives used in cosmetics products and many other body products. The parabens used most commonly in cosmetics are methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and ethylparaben. The FDA does not regulate parabens or any other cosmetic ingredient that is on the market. The amount of exposure to parabens in the large variety of products that it is found in has created strong concern over the health impacts of this ingredient. Parabens are known endocrine disruptors as they mimic the hormone estrogen by binding to estrogen receptors on cells. This is linked to increased risk of breast cancer and reproductive toxicity. A study conducted and published in the Journal of Applied Toxicity detected parabens in 99% of the breast cancer tissues that were sampled. Serious concern is over their presence in deodorants and antiperspirants. These are dangerous products due to the close proximity to breast tissue in women.
Talc is a natural occurring mineral that studies have shown may contain the cancer-causing asbestos. Contaminated talc has been found in baby powder, body and shower products, lotions, feminine hygiene products, eyeshadow, foundation, lipstick, deodorants and face masks. Some talc may be asbestos-free but it’s difficult to determine what type of talc products may contain. This toxic ingredient should be avoided particularly when applied to the pelvic area. It’s linked to endometrial and ovarian cancer, organ system toxicity, and is an irritant.
4. Coal Tar
Coal tar is a known carcinogen derived from burning coal. Exposure to coal tar is associated with higher risks of skin cancer, along with lung, bladder, kidney and digestive tract cancers. Coal tar is used in food, textiles, cosmetics and personal care products, such as shampoos and scalp treatments, soaps, hair dyes, and lotions. Other names for this toxic ingredient are coal tar solution, tar, coal, carbo-cort, coal tar solution USP, crude coal tar, estar, impervotar, KC 261, lavatar, picis carbonis, naphtha, high solvent naphtha, naphtha distillate, benzin B70, petroleum benzin [3,4].
Phthalates are a family of industrial chemicals used to soften PVC plastic. They are used as solvents in cosmetics and other products and can damage the lungs, liver, kidneys, and reproductive system – particularly the testes. They are also linked to birth defects in the male reproductive system. The Health Care Without Harm organization released a report in 2002 that found hazardous phthalates in 70% of personal care products tested.
High Density Polyethylene is commonly used in milk and juice bottles, detergent bottles, shampoo bottles, grocery bags, and cereal box liners. Like PET (Polyethlene terephthalate), it is also considered “safe,” but has been shown to leach estrogenic chemicals dangerous to fetuses and juveniles. Polyethlyene, along with other various types of plastics, are endorcrine disruptors, which means they mimic the hormone estorgen. They upset the hormonal balance and can stimulate the growth of tumors in the breast, uterus or prostate. They can also negatively affect fertility, pregnancy, and worse, can impact the fetus by interfering with testosterone, disrupting normal sexual development. This disruption is not often apparent until adulthood and includes the increased risk of cancer.
7. PEG (Polyethylene Glycol)
PEGs are petroluem compounds used in skincare, cosmetics, and personal body products. These ingredients help moisturize, thicken products, and allow products to be absorbed into the skin faster. That is where the health issues lie. According to the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) committee, PEGs are often contaminated with pollutants including ethylene oxide, dioxane, polycyclic aromatic compounds and heavy metals including arsenic, cadmium, lead, nickel, cobalt and iron. These contaminants are known carcinogens and have been linked to breast cancer, leukemia, brain and nervous system cancer, bladder cancer, stomach cancer and pancreatic cancer, as well as Hodgkin’s disease. They have proved to interfere with development, especially the nervous system, and may cause kidney and liver organ toxicity.
Fragrance is an ambiguous word that the beauty industry uses in the majority of all products on the market. But what does it actually mean? What’s actually in it? Well, only the manufacturer knows and that’s a scary thought. The term was created to hide a company’s “secret formula” – now it hides a lot more than that! Hundreds of toxic ingredients are shielded behind the term “fragrance”. These ingredients are extremely hazardous to your health and have been connected to health issues such as allergies, skin disorders, respiratory problems, and possibly reproductive issues. If a product has the word “fragrance” on the ingredient list, put it down and walk away!
9. Sodium Laureth Sulfate
SLES and SLS are found in hand soaps, shampoos, toothpaste, and many other products that “foam” up. They are very effective foaming agents known as surfactants in the chemical world. Instead of having the desired “shining effect” on hair, teeth, etc, SLS’s can lead to direct damage to the hair follicle, skin damage, permanent eye damage in children and even liver toxicity. It’s counterpart, SLESs, aren’t quite as severe. These chemicals can’t be metabolized by the liver. This causes them to remain in the body tissue for a much longer period of time.
10. Sunscreen Chemicals
Avobenzone, benzphenone, ethoxycinnamate, and PABA are a few commonly known toxic chemicals found in sunscreens. They are known to damage the DNA and lead to cancer. Sunscreens in big box stores are extremely toxic and hazardous to our health.
Phenoxyethanol is a controversial ingredient that is found in most skincare products, including those products that are marketed as “all natural” and “organic”. It is a common preservative used as a bactericide. Many brands will use it in place of parabens; however, it has been found to be toxic even in small quantities. The Chemical Toxicity Database lists that phenoxyethanol may cause central nervous system depression, kidney damage, skin irritation, headaches, dizziness, nausea and drowsiness. If inhaled it may cause respiratory and digestive tract irritation.The product’s Material Safety Data Sheet says that it is harmful if inhaled or swallowed or absorbed through the skin and that it can cause reproductive damage. Also, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics says that infant oral exposure to phenoxyethanol can acutely affect the nervous system function. Japan has banned the use of it in all cosmetics. This is definitely an ingredient that, as a mom, I don’t want on my face or body! My little ones are always drooling and kissing on me, so their risk of exposure is extremely high. Mamas will want to take care to avoid this toxic ingredient.
12. FD&C Color and Pigments/Dyes
Synthetic colors from coal tar contain heavy metal salts that deposit toxins in the skin. This causes skin sensitivity and skin irritation. The absorption of these ingredients can cause depletion of oxygen and even death. Animal studies have shown that they are almost all carcinogenic. These ingredients are usually followed by a number: FD&C Red Number 6.
That’s a lot of information to take in, I know! But if you’re just beginning to look at the labels on the back of the food, cosmetics, cleaning agents, and body products you’re buying, it can be extremely helpful to start recognizing some of the most common toxic ingredients to avoid in the products you buy. It’s amazing how many products we use daily, even down to us ladies cleaning our makeup brushes!
As you get more accustomed to reading labels, your knowledge of what’s harmful and what’s safe will improve. The FDA does not regulate the beauty industry at all; therefore, brands are able to put pretty much anything they want into their products. Knowledge is empowerment and you as the consumer need to make sure you have that power!
You are in control of what goes on and in your body! This is a good start to recognize some of the toxic ingredients to avoid as you buy household necessities. There are safer options out there that are better for your health and home.