Cosmetics have been used for many years and decades by men and women to enhance their beauty, to hide imperfections and the signs of aging, to attract lovers and as fashion statements.
While history teaches us of the natural products our ancestors used, we have still failed to learn from the horror stories from when women painted whitened their faces with toxic mercury and lead.
Even today with our knowledge and experience our personal care products and cosmetics still contain toxic ingredients and known carcinogens. Cosmetics make you attractive, but some of the ingredients in your cosmetics and personal care products may be killing you or seriously damaging your health. Unlike our food, personal care products and cosmetics are not to be as accurate with listing ingredients, which is quite alarming. Once recent food scare involving the Sudan red food dye resulted in large numbers of food products being removed from supermarket shelves as there was reportedly a small risk that this colouring could cause cancer. Our body has a natural way to filter these products and harmful ingredients, unlike carcinogens in creams and lotions which are absorbed through the skin and can enter straight into the blood stream.
What you may not realize is that many of the skin care products and cosmetics you are buying contain ingredients that are not only harmful to your skin, but also to your long term health. Many chemicals found in cosmetics don't cause immediate visible signs of toxicity, but affect our health negatively over time through repeated use. Every day we are surrounded by thousands of chemicals which we rub onto our skin, spray into the air, and soak ourselves in. There is growing research to prove the potential harm of the ‘chemical cocktail effect;’ the unknown interactions which occur between chemicals used together in every-day products.
In the US, the FFDCA (Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act) does not require premarket safety tests, reviews or approvals for cosmetics. Enforcement action is only pursued after the product enters into the consumer market and there are complaints.
There are also additional difficulties in removing products that are unsafe, as the rules and regulations are not straight forward. An example of this would be a nail polish remover that contains an ingredient that when ingested, turns to cyanide, which is a serious poison. But because this product is not meant to be consumed internally the FDA would be unable to remove this product from the market place.
According to information in The Safe Shoppers Bible, in 1990 there were 38,000 cosmetic related injuries that needed medical treatment but this figure doesn’t include all of the people who suffer from allergic reactions, irritations and photosensitization from using cosmetics, who just accept the symptoms as the normal cost of grooming.
One of the most contact reactions to personal care products and cosmetics is contact dermatitis. The symptoms usually experienced are reddening of the area, itching, swelling and inflammation. This is caused by the skin being irritated or an allergic reaction. Irritation can occur on first contact with something or after repeated contact and usually subsides when contact is stopped. An allergic reaction is when the immune system is affected – typically the symptoms can appear 24 to 48 hours after exposure and can increase in severity over the following days.
The ingredients that usually cause reactions are fragrances and preservatives. What most people are not aware of is that even products advertised as being natural and/or organic can still cause reactions. Some of these natural fragrance products included are cinnamon, vanilla and citrus scents. Even though some of the ingredients of fragrances are know irritants, manufacturers are not required to list them on the packaging.
To a certain degree we, as the consumer must take a limited part of the responsibility is how these products are being produced. For many years products we fragranced with natural herbs, flower and animals products. Musk being the prime example from the Asian musk deer, we also used to use fragrances from the sperm whale. But due to consumer demand, the scarcity of these resources and the pressure not to use animal based products – our development of technology has led to a new era in synthetic fragrances.
The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health reported that from a list of 2983 chemicals used regularly in the fragrance industry – 884 were identified as toxic and could cause breathing difficulties, allergic reactions and a variety of other serious conditions including neurotoxicity.
For suffers of asthma, this can be quite worrying. One substance in particular, toluene was detailed in a 1991 report by the EPA. It not only triggers asthma attacks but can cause asthma in healthy people. This chemical is also neurotoxic. As well as personal care products this chemical is also found in furniture polish, hair gel, hair spray, cat litter and plastic bin liners.
Natural fragrances also have side effects and being natural is no guarantee of safety. The following natural oils are often used for their fragrances but are also known to cause photosensitization; bergamot, marigold, orange and lemon.
Preservatives are the next area to cause concern. Without some sort of preservative in them, cosmetics can become contaminated with bacteria and then potentially cause infections of the skin or eyes etc. So in not using any preservative, we would claim that they are being negligent.
The preservative that most of us have heard mentioned at some point is formaldehyde which is a known irritant, carcinogen and neurotoxin. Some companies do avoid using this product but there are still many of companies that do use it, mainly because of cost. When looking at the ingredients you need to be aware that just because you can’t see the word formaldehyde, doesn’t mean it’s not present. The following products either contain it or may breakdown into formaldehyde and release it. The products to look for in this instance are; 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol, diazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea and Quaternium 15.
To make this even more confusing is the area of carcinogens. There are known carcinogens and there are also products that are known not to be carcinogens. The problem seems to lie more with the products that are not carcinogens, in that some of the chemicals can cause a chemical reaction during their manufacture or while sitting on the supermarket shelf, which can lead to the formation of another chemical called nitrosamines. Most nitrosamines are carcinogenic. The two chemicals mainly identified in this area are DEA and TEA.
The German Federal Health Office made official recommendations in 1987 that discouraged manufacturers from using DEA and TEA, leading the way forward to safer cosmetics. Some manufacturers in an attempt to counteract this chemical reaction are adding antioxidant ingredients hoping that it may slow or prohibit the formation of nitrosamines.
Some of the other harmful ingredients that you can look out include;
Lanolin – Wool fat, Wool wax. A product of the oil glands of sheep. Any chemicals used on sheep will contaminate the lanolin obtained from the wool. The majority of lanolin used in cosmetics is highly contaminated with organo-phosphate pesticides and insecticides. Found in lipsticks, Liquid powders, mascaras, protective creams & moisturisers, eye creams, foundations.
Propylene Glycol - Propylene glycol (PG) is a petroleum derivative. It’s used because it has better permeation through the skin than glycerin and it is cheaper. Once it penetrates the skin it can weaken protein and cellular structure. The EPA considers PG so toxic that it requires workers to wear protective gloves, clothing and goggles and to dispose of any PG solutions by burying them in the ground.
Because PG penetrates the skin so quickly, the EPA warns against skin contact to prevent consequences such as brain, liver, and kidney abnormalities. But there isn't even a warning label on products such as stick deodorants, where the concentration is greater than in most industrial applications. Found in liquid makeup, spray & stick deodorants, after shave lotions, mouth washes, lipsticks, stick perfumes and suntan lotions.
Sodium Lauryl Sulphate - When combined with other chemicals, SLES and ALES can create nitrosamines, a potent class of carcinogens. It is frequently disguised in semi-natural cosmetics with the explanation “comes from coconut".
From Material Safety Data Sheet - WARNING! CAUSES SKIN AND EYE IRRITATION! AVOID CONTACT WITH EYES, SKIN AND CLOTHING. THE MATERIAL WAS CLASSIFIED AS A MODERATE TO SEVERE EYE IRRITANT. Usually found in bubble baths, emollient creams, hand lotions, shampoos and toothpastes.
Sodium Laureth Sulphate - Used in car washes, garage floor cleaners and engine degreasers - and in 90% of products that foam. Animals exposed to SLS and ALS experience eye damage, central nervous system depression, labored breathing, diarrhea, severe skin irritation, and even death.
Young eyes may not develop properly if exposed to SLS and ALS because proteins are dissolved. SLS and ALS may also damage the skin's immune system by causing layers to separate and inflame. Found in most foaming products from shampoo to bubble and also in toothpaste.
Aluminium - Aluminum has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Aluminum is a neuro toxin. That means it attacks the neurons in the brain. It doesn't have to kill them, just disrupt them in some way and you get mental problems. It is also a leading cause on contact dermatitis. Mainly found in antiperspirants and deodorants – where they are then applied to the armpits, when the skin is thin and sensitive, then absorbed straight into the blood stream.
Mineral Oil - Petroleum by-product that coats the skin like plastic, clogging the pores. Interferes with skin's ability to eliminate toxins, promoting acne and other disorders. Slows down skin function and cell development, resulting in premature aging. Used in many products. Any mineral oil derivative can be contaminated with cancer causing PAH's (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons). Manufacturers use petrolatum because it is unbelievably cheap. Often found in baby care products – baby oil is 100% mineral oil.
These are only a few of the things that we should be aware of when shopping and purchasing cosmetics and personal care products. Most people wouldn’t dream of eating products that contained chemicals or cancer causing agents, so why let these toxins enter your system through your beauty product either.
Once you find the ingredients, you have to be able to know what they are and if they are safe, harmful, questionable or untested – for this I would suggest purchasing a consumer guide. There are also some very good companies which do produce personal care products and cosmetics which do not contain any of these harmful chemicals.
We are in the middle of a world where information is easily accessible and knowledge is power. With this we have already influenced large companies and organizations into bowing to consumer demands, they know that the customer is king. As more people understand what is happening, more manufacturers will realize that we will not negotiate with our health and our future wellbeing.
Mich Crawley is a Neways Independent Distributor, Neways is a long established company which manufactures powerful nutritional neways products , all of the products Neways produce and sell are free from toxic chemicals and harmful carcinogens, and are endorsed by the Cancer Prevention Coalition. Find more about Neways Carcinogen Free Product Range from Unreasonable Risk.