Top 10 Untouchables in Skin Care Products
by Linda Chae
“Our skin is by far the largest organ, and the cosmetic and body product industry is doing it harm with a number of common ingredients that are cancer-causing agents or just plain dangerous, say an increasing number of researchers, groups activists and even the government itself.” (Nexxus, July/August 1998)
“Everyday, we use products that we think are safe—we assume the product has been tested and any dangerous ingredients labeled. The truth is, products are not always safe and manufacturers don’t have to tell us so…” (Do You Use These Products? by David Steinman, Natural Health magazine, Sept/Oct ’97). An FDA document posted on the agency’s World Wide Web home page says, “A cosmetic manufacturer may use any ingredient or raw material and market the final product without government approval.”
In 1938, the FDA granted self-regulation to the cosmetics industry, which means that the industry can determine what they put in their products, regardless of what the tests show. Most of the 25,000 chemicals used have not been tested for long-term toxic and systemic effects (affecting the entire body system). Many are outright toxins or contain toxic by-products. According to Oregon Senator Ron Wyden:
“Even if the [FDA] suspects that serious adverse health effects are caused by a cosmetic product, they can’t require the manufacturer to provide test data to prove the product safety.”
During their daily personal care regime, most Americans have exposed themselves to over 200 different chemicals. Lately, there has been a surge of media attention revealing new concern about detrimental chemically-derived ingredients that are affecting more than our physical health. An article in a recent USA Weekend says,
“The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is increasing research on dozens of synthetic chemicals [pesticides, plastics, and industrial pollutants] that may be juggling your hormone signals. After reviewing nearly 300 studies, the EPA concluded that ingredients in shampoos, dyes, and other everyday products … may be playing havoc with hormones that control reproduction and development.”
How natural is ‘Natural’? Since there are no regulations about what is “natural,” the term is often abused, with many products having the same dangerous ingredients as the products to which they are alternatives. Consumers must be aware and educated. This is only a partial list of the hundreds of chemicals commonly used in skin care and personal care products everyday. If you will become familiar with these worst offenders and begin to be attentive of ingredients listed on labels, you can avoid some of the most serious carcinogenic and hormone disrupting chemicals. Please take action now. The health and well being of your family depends on it.
Top 10 Unwanted List: Untouchables” to Avoid
Chlorine: According Doris J. Rapp, M.D., author of Is This Your Child’s World?, exposure to chlorine in tap water, showers, pools, laundry products, cleaning agents, food processing (fish, flour, meat, fruit, vegetables), sewage systems and many others, can effect health by contributing to asthma, hay fever, anemia, bronchitis, circulatory collapse, confusion, delirium, diabetes, dizziness, irritation of the eye, mouth, nose, throat, lung, skin and stomach, heart disease, high blood pressure, nausea. It is also a possible cause of cancer. Even though you will not see Chlorine on personal care product labels, it is important for you to be aware of the need to protect your skin when bathing and washing your hair. Organic Essentials Nourishing Body Cleanser removes chlorine from the skin and hair during cleansing.
DEA (diethanolamine), MEA (monoethanolamine), TEA (triethanolamine): DEA & MEA are usually listed on the ingredient label in conjunction with the compound being neutralized; thus look for names like Cocamide DEA or MEA, Lauramide DEA, etc. These are hormone-disrupting chemicals and are known to form cancer causing nitrates and nitrosamines. These are commonly found in most personal care products that foam, including bubble baths, body washes, shampoos soaps and facial cleansers. On the show CBS This Morning, Roberta Baskin revealed that a recent government report shows these are readily absorbed into the skin. Dr. Samuel Epstein, Professor of Environmental Health at the University of Illinois said, “repeated skin applications … of DEA-based detergents resulted in a major increase in the incidence of two cancers: liver cancer and kidney cancer.” John Bailey, who oversees the cosmetic division for the FDA, said that the new study is especially important since “the risk equation changes significantly for children.” Tests at the University of Bologna in Italy found TEA to be the most frequent sensitizer used in cosmetics, gels, shampoos, creams and lotions, etc.
FD & C Color Pigments: “… many cause skin sensitivity and irritation … absorption (of certain colors) can cause depletion of oxygen in the body and death, A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients, Debra Lynn Dadd says in, Home Safe Home, that, “colors that can be used in foods, drugs, and cosmetics … are made from coal tar. There is a great deal of controversy about their use, because animal studies have shown almost all of them to be carcinogenic.”
Fragrance: Most deodorants, shampoos, sunscreens, skin care, body care and baby products contain fragrance. Many of the compounds in fragrance are carcinogenic or otherwise toxic. “Fragrance on a label can indicate the presence of up to four thousand separate ingredients. Most or all of them are synthetic. Symptoms reported to the FDA have included headaches, dizziness, rashes, skin discoloration, violent coughing and vomiting, and allergic skin irritation. Clinical observation by medical doctors has shown that exposure to fragrances can affect the central nervous system, causing depression, hyperactivity, irritability, inability to cope, and other behavioral changes.” (Home Safe Home)
Imidazolidinyl Urea & DMDM Hydantoin: These are just two of the many preservatives that release formaldehyde (formaldehyde-donors). According to the Mayo Clinic, formaldehyde can irritate the respiratory system, cause skin reactions and trigger heart palpitations. Exposure to formaldehyde may cause joint pain, allergies, depression, headaches, chest pains, ear infections, chronic fatigue, dizziness and loss of sleep. It can also aggravate coughs and colds and trigger asthma. Serious side effects include weakening the immune system and cancer. Formaldehyde releasing ingredients are very common in nearly all store brands of skin, body and hair care, antiperspirants and nail polish. A more complete list of products that contain formaldehyde can be found in the book, Is This Your Child’s World? by Doris J. Rapp, M.D.
Isopropyl Alcohol: As a solvent and denaturant (a poisonous substance that changes another substance’s natural qualities), this ingredient is found in hair color rinses, body rubs, hand lotions, after- shave lotions, fragrances and many other cosmetics. It is a petroleum-derived substance that is also used in antifreeze and as a solvent in shellac and diluted essential oils. According to A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients, ingestion or inhalation of the vapor may cause headaches, flushing, dizziness, mental depression, nausea, vomiting, narcosis, anesthesia and coma. The fatal ingested dose is about one ounce.
Mineral Oil: Baby oil is 100% mineral oil. As a commonly used petroleum ingredient, mineral oil coats the skin just like plastic wrap. The skin’s natural immune barrier is disrupted as this plastic coating inhibits its ability to breathe and absorb the Natural Moisture Factor (moisture and nutrition). As the largest organ of elimination, the skin’s ability to release toxins is impeded by this “plastic wrap,” which can promote acne and other disorders. This process slows down skin function and normal cell development causing the skin to prematurely age.
PEG: This is an abbreviation for polyethylene glycol that is used in making cleansers to dissolve oil and grease as well as thicken products. A number next to “PEG” refers to its molecular weight, which influences its characteristics. Because of their effectiveness, PEG’s are often used in caustic spray-on oven cleaners and yet are found in many personal care products. PEG’s contribute to stripping the Natural Moisture Factor, leaving the immune system vulnerable. They are also potentially carcinogenic.
Propylene Glycol (PG): As a “surfactant” or wetting agent and solvent, this ingredient is actually the active component in antifreeze. There is no difference between what is used in industry and what is used in personal care products. It is used in industry to break down protein and cellular structure (what the skin is made of), yet is found in most forms of make-up, hair products, lotions, after-shave, deodorants, mouthwashes, toothpaste, and is even used in food processing. Because of its ability to quickly penetrate the skin, the EPA requires workers to wear protective gloves, clothing and goggles when working with this toxic substance. The Material Safety Data Sheets warn against skin contact, as PG has systemic consequences such as brain, liver and kidney abnormalities. Consumers are not protected nor is there a warning label on products such as stick deodorants, where the concentration greater than that in most industrial applications.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) & Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES): Used as detergents and surfactants, these closely related compounds are found in car wash soaps, garage floor cleaners and engine degreasers, yet are even more widely used as major ingredients in cosmetics, toothpaste, hair conditioner and about 90% of all shampoos and products that foam. Mark Fearer in an article, Dangerous Beauty, shares that “in tests, animals that were exposed to SLS experienced eye damage, along with depression, labored breathing, diarrhea, severe skin irritation and corrosion and death … according to the American College of Toxicology.” The report is also bad news for children’s eyes. “Studies indicate SLS kept young eyes from developing properly by possibly denaturing (dissolving) the proteins and not allowing for proper structural formation. This damage was permanent.” Still other research has indicated SLS may be damaging to the immune system, especially within the skin. Skin layers may separate and inflame due to its protein denaturing properties.” Perhaps the most dangerous of all ingredients in personal care products, research has shown that, “SLS when combined with other chemicals can be transformed into nitrosamines, a potent class of carcinogens, which causes the body to absorb nitrates at higher levels than eating nitrate-contaminated food.” According to the American College of Toxicity report, “SLS stays in the body for up to five days … Others studies have indicated that SLS easily penetrates through the skin and enters and maintains residual levels in the heart, the liver, the lungs and the brain. This poses questions of it being a serious potential health threat through its use in shampoos, cleansers and toothpastes.”
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