Earth Day: How Toxic Are Your Beauty Products?

by MakeupByKaylena on 3:07 PM

To be Organic, or Not to be Organic

It does seem crazy, doesn't it? But it is possible that your beauty products contain harmful chemicals. Scientific research continues to suggest that many common ingredients used in cosmetics and other personal- care products have toxic potential. And it may surprise you to know that the government does not regulate the safety of these products. With the exception of color additives (which are regulated by the FDA), cosmetic companies can use any ingredient they want without approval from the FDA. Just reading this post suggests that you are concerned about the possibility of toxins lurking in your beauty products. And though you may not be interested in natural or organic products, incorporating them into your beauty routine is one way to minimize your exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.

Instead of listing the blend of chemical ingredients that make up the scent in a beauty product, manufacturers get away with just calling it "fragrance" to protect their trade secrets. However, the problem with using such a general term is that the "fragrance" may also conceal potentially harmful ingredients, like phthalates, which may be toxic to humans and could cause problems with your immune, respiratory, or nervous systems.

Phthalates are also considered "hormone mimickers," which means that they can throw your hormones off balance and put you at greater risk for infertility, obesity, and hormone-related cancers. They're actually banned from use in cosmetic products in the European Union.

These chemicals are made from nonrenewable crude oil — yep, the same stuff gasoline is made from. Petroleum distillates seem to be the most toxic of the bunch, but all of these petroleum by-products are suspected carcinogens.

Many big-name cosmetic companies use nanoparticles in their products, but they're not always labeled as such, so spotting them can be tricky. The potential risks associated with exposure to nano-scale or micronized ingredients are still being studied, but these extremely small particles are often easily absorbed into deep layers of the skin, and many experts are concerned about the potential effects of nano-ingredients on humans.

The main concern with talc is that it may contain asbestiform fibers — in other words, asbestos, which we all know is a carcinogen, a substance known to cause cancer. Do you want to be brushing asbestos onto your face — even in trace amounts? Additionally, if you inhale talcum powder or continue to breathe it over long periods, it could also cause some symptoms of other conditions, especially in infants.

The chemical butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) is often found in lipsticks, lip glosses, eye shadows, eyeliners, foundations, moisturizers, antiaging skin care, and other beauty products. It is believed to be toxic and possibly carcinogenic. BHA has also been banned for use in European cosmetics.

If you're not paying attention to the ingredients in your cosmetics and personal-care products, you may not be aware that they contain a number of synthetic chemicals, including potentially harmful toxins. These chemicals may not seem very threatening in such small amounts, but consider how they add up as you apply them to your face, hair, and body over a lifetime. If you want to limit your exposure to toxins, start reading the ingredient labels and look for products that contain fewer synthetic chemicals.

You may not know it now, but you could be washing, conditioning, and styling your hair with toxins. Common chemicals found in hair products include parabens (and ingredients ending with the suffix -paraben), which are believed to be estrogen mimickers and are associated with breast cancer. Sodium lauryl/laureth sulfates (SLS), another type of chemical, can dry out and irritate your skin, or worse, cause cancer. And finally, chemicals like DEA, TEA, and MEA are also suspected carcinogens.

Here are some steps to help you on your journey to becoming an organic makeup lover!

  • Do your homework. Check the ingredient labels of your beauty products for nanoparticles, but remember that you might have to dig deeper to be sure your products are nano-free, since nano-ingredients are not always clearly labeled. The European Union has already adopted regulations for the use of nano-ingredients in cosmetics, but the FDA is still evaluating the safety of nanoparticles for use in personal- care products.

  • Consider your health. Talc may contain carcinogenic asbestiform fibers, which is a good reason to find out whether or not you're brushing asbestos onto your face — or your baby's butt!

  • Stay informed about BHA. Find out if BHA is one of the ingredients in your beauty products. Even if you're not worried about the potential effects of small amounts of this possibly carcinogenic toxin, at least you'll be able to make your own decision about whether or not you want to risk it. Don't let the beauty industry decide for you.

  • Knowledge is power when it comes to ingredients in your hair products. Once you find out that potentially harmful chemicals like parabens, SLS, DEA, TEA, or MEA are hiding out in your hair-care products, you can decide if you want to limit unnecessary exposure to these toxins or not. Make an informed decision.

  • It may be time to reevaluate. While we may never know the extent to which the chemicals in our beauty products are affecting us, scientific research suggests that many common ingredients may not be as safe as we think.

  • You are a discerning consumer! And that's great because the marketing claims on cosmetics packaging can often be misleading. Following up with research is your best bet if you want to make sure your beauty products are as natural and/or organic as they say they are.

  • You could do better. While your products contain some natural ingredients, the chemicals in your cosmetics and other personal-care products probably include a number of toxins. If you're concerned about the long-term effects of cosmetic toxins, you may want to start seeking out products with fewer synthetic ingredients.

  • Be proactive! Find out how many of your beauty products contain phtalates or a trade-secret blend of chemicals disguised as "fragrance." In the future, consider seeking out products that are either unscented or scented with natural botanical extracts to minimize your exposure to toxins.

  • Are your nails toxic? There's only one way to find out: Check the ingredient labels on your nail polish and other nail-care products to determine whether you're painting, cleaning, or caring for your nails with toxic chemical solvents and preservatives.

  • Review the ingredient labels! While petroleum jelly, petrolatum, and mineral oil are considered to be only low to moderately hazardous, petroleum distillates rank highly hazardous, so make sure your beauty products don't contain these nasty petroleum distillates.

Remember ladies, mineral and organic makeup can be sexy and beautiful too. It has many benefits for your skin and health as well. So if your not ready to dive in head first, take little steps to transition into becoming sustainably green and organic in your everyday life, it will benefit you and your skin in the long run! Happy Earth Day!

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