If you use cosmetics or body care products, chances are you are getting exposed to many toxic chemicals. The reality is that most of the products available and used by the majority of the population are full of endocrine-disrupting chemicals, carcinogens, and toxins.
In fact, up to 80% of cosmetics being used by Canadians contain these chemicals, which pose a risk to human health.
Not only do these ingredients harm us, but they can also bio-accumulate in the environment for long periods of time, which results in toxins releasing into rivers, lakes and oceans, accumulating in our drinking supply, harming wildlife via acute toxicity and long-term effects, and contributing to antibiotic resistance.
Why should you care?
It's not just about what you put in your body, it's also about what you are exposed to via the skin, hair, and through inhalation.
These chemicals directly access the bloodstream as they are absorbed through the skin and bypass processing by the liver.
Research-based studies are linking the chemicals used in our body care and cosmetic products to an increase in reproductive issues, developmental problems, and even cancers in our society.
The typical beauty product contains 15-50 ingredients and the average woman uses 10-15 products every single day. So even if you are being exposed to a small amount of toxicity per product, you are repeatedly exposing yourself, which increases your risk of toxicity and can cause many problems in the body over time.
And it’s not just a concern for adults; infants and kids are being exposed to these chemicals as well. This is a concern as it not only affects them acutely but also poses long-term consequences.
For example, a study evaluating the effects of exposure to phthalates, parabens and PFAS in the womb and after birth, found compromised lung function in the exposed children throughout their growing years.
Phthalates have also been shown to trigger “death-inducing signalling,” which means they cause body cells to die prematurely. Not to mention hormonal changes, reproductive issues, obesity, thyroid dysfunction, and diabetes.
So what are the top ingredients you should avoid when shopping for cosmetics and body care products? The following list indicates the most common chemicals found in conventional products:
- BHA and BHT : possible human carcinogen, interferes with hormone function, linked to skin reactions.
Coal tar dyes: possible human carcinogen, may contain traces of heavy metals.
- DEA-related ingredients : possible human carcinogen, may trigger skin and eye reactions.
Dibutyl phthalate : endocrine disruptor, linked to liver and kidney failure as well as reproductive and developmental problems.
Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives : known human carcinogen, may trigger allergic reactions, linked to skin and eye irritation.
Parabens : endocrine disruptor, linked to breast cancer and excess estrogen levels in the body.
Parfum ( fragrance) : irritant, may trigger allergies, asthma, and migraines, possible carcinogen, linked to neurotoxicity.
PEG compounds : possible human carcinogen, can trigger skin reactions, linked to systemic toxicity in the body.
Petrolatum : possible human carcinogen, can cause skin irritation and allergies.
Siloxanes : endocrine disruptor, linked to reproductive toxicity, may decrease immune function.
Sodium laureth sulfate : possible human carcinogen, irritant to the eyes and skin.
Triclosan : endocrine disruptor, irritant to the skin and eyes.
What can you do?
Though regulations differ from country to country and there is not enough research to know exactly how these chemicals affect human health at this time, especially in the long-term, it is up to the consumer (you) to decide whether you buy them or not.
Our opinion? Be proactive in your health and avoid conventional products. Better safe than sorry, right?
Below are some recommendations to clean up your beauty and body care regime in order to avoid toxic exposure.
Choose cleaner products
The best thing you can start to do is to begin replacing your conventional bathroom products with cleaner versions. We do realize, however, that it is a big world out there and it can be challenging to navigate through all the noise. You can use the Environmental Working Group
Database to rate your current products and evaluate where they stand on the “clean” scale. They also have an android app that you can use while shopping for alternative products, which makes shopping so much easier.
Find your favorite clean brands
Clean beauty brands are taking the lead these days as our society is becoming increasingly aware of toxin-filled products. This makes it so much easier to go shopping when you are able to trust a brand with your health. You will find your own favourites as you begin to navigate the options available, but until then, let us share some of our go-to's with you:
The best way to control what you are being exposed to? Make your products yourself!
By making your own soaps, serums and lotions, you can avoid unwanted preservatives and chemicals and keep your ingredients super simple and clean. Essential oils are a fantastic way to do this, as well as common household items like baking soda, raw honey, and charcoal.
Check out more ways to DIY your whole beauty routine.
Keep it simple
It may seem overwhelming navigating all of these chemicals and finding the right products - we get it. So keep things simple. Save this list of ingredients in your phone, look for simple ingredients that you can actually pronounce, and start by finding alternatives to the products you need to replace right now, then continue bit by bit until you go through your whole cupboard.
Be on the alert
Don't be fooled by brands claiming their products are natural, be sure to actually verify this by always reading the ingredient list. Don't forget to download EWG's Healthy Living app to your phone when going shopping, so you can quickly scan and look up products to help make the right decisions. Now that you know what to look out for and how to find better alternatives, you will be able to easily identify which products are healthy and which are not.
Laurence Annez is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner and Health Coach, specializing in PCOS and women's hormones. She also holds a degree in Creative Writing and has extensive experience writing on health and wellness topics. Laurence's mission is to inspire and motivate individuals to take control of their own health and reach their ultimate health goals.