The aura of beauty and glamor is all around which makes it nearly impossible to ignore. However, the usage of beauty products should be done with the utmost care by having a close look at its ingredients. They are packed with numerous chemicals some of which are toxic and are absorbed by the body. Many of the chemicals are skin irritants, skin penetrators, and endocrine disruptors. Following are ten of the most harmful chemicals to be avoided.
Parabens (Mimicking Agent)
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One of the most common cosmetic ingredients mainly used as preservatives in makeup products that stop bacteria, yeast, and mold from growing. This ingredient has another side to it; it can mimic estrogen (female sex hormone) very well. Due to this, it is believed to be the cause of breast cancer in many women. Parabens easily get absorbed in the body and are detected in many breast cancer tissues. This suggests an association between parabens in cosmetics and cancer. Women are more exposed to it because of daily usage of cosmetics. Parabens are found in makeup products, body washes, deodorants, shampoos, facial cleansers and even in the food consumed such as desserts, soft drinks, frozen dairy products, sauces and processed vegetables.
Artificial colors used in cosmetics are basically synthetic colors. These are imitators of natural color that are derived from petroleum or coal tar sources. They are used to make cosmetics look somewhat 'pretty' and should be avoided. Before using a product it is important to look at the label to check for any FD&C or D&C label (F - food and D&C - drug and cosmetics). These labels represent synthetic colors and should not be used. They are believed to be carcinogenic, a skin irritant and are proven to be linked to Attention-deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) mainly in children. A few examples include Green#3 (Fast Green) which can cause bladder and testes tumor and Yellow#5 (Tartrazine) which may trigger hyperactivity in children.
Cosmetic companies have been using fragrances in their products for a very long time. According to research conducted by Environmental Working Group (EWG) Skin Deep Database, fragrances are moderately high in terms of overall hazards and have a high chance of causing allergies and immunotoxicity. They are associated with respiratory distress and potential unwanted effects on the reproductive system. Fragrances, no doubt, enhances one's beauty even more but, it contains a plethora of chemicals that are hazardous to human health. Some of the common beauty products that come with fragrances are perfumes, deodorants, creams, and lotions, lip balms, and shampoos. Some of these products are available as fragrance-free so spend money on them as it is better to be on the safe side always.
A group of chemicals used in numerous beauty products that can apparently increase the softness and flexibility of plastic. It has a downside to it insomuch as it can cause endocrine disruption, developmental and reproductive toxicity and cancer. It is also linked to breast cancer and early breast development in girls. Most vulnerable of the population are pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers, therefore, it is best for them to completely avoid using such products. It is found in nail polish, fragranced lotions and body washes, hair care products. Unfortunately, Phthalates have been added to fragrances which make it hard to get disclosed separately as most of the consumers are unaware of this loophole. To avoid using products with phthalates, read the labels and look for 'phthalate-free' or 'fragrance-free' products.
It is widely used as deodorants/antiperspirants, toothpaste, cleansers and hand sanitizers as an anti-bacterial agent. It is used to remove bacteria and fungus. As it has the ability to easily absorb into the skin, it can interfere with hormonal functions (thyroid and reproductive hormones) leading to endocrine disruption. This chemical, if extensively used, can contribute to antibiotic resistant bacteria. This increases the chances of risk for human health. There are studies underway regarding the potential of triclosan on developing skin cancer. To minimize the exposure to triclosan, read the label on cosmetics. Cosmetics usually indicate if they contain this chemical.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) / Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)
SLS has caused controversy regarding hazards in personal care and cleaning products. It is a surfactant used in toothpaste and shampoos. It forms foaming and lathering properties in these products. It is believed to cause irritation in skin and eyes. SLS have small molecules which enable it to penetrate through the membranes of body cells. According to a research, it has corrosive properties that affect fats and proteins in skin and muscles. SLES is confused with SLS; SLES is a major problem as it is contaminated by a carcinogen known as nitrosamines. It can lead to kidney and respiratory problems. Consumers often think of SLS as a cause of cancer which is inaccurate.
It is a flammable gas used in the form of a water solution. It releases preservatives that protect cosmetics against bacteria during storage and continual usage. It is commonly found in nail polish, deodorants, makeup, soap and shampoos. It leads to skin irritation and is harmful to the immune system and a major concern is of cancer; nasal and nasopharyngeal. Cancer risk increases under high prolonged exposure to formaldehyde. Nail hardeners have the heaviest concentrations of this chemical due to which it is strongly suggested to use it in a well-ventilated room to reduce the exposure. It is not easy to identify products with no formaldehyde but, it is certainly possible to use products with fewer chemical ingredients.
A toxic chemical which can result in respiratory complications and reproductive damage if exposed to it for a prolonged period of time. It can dissolve paint and act as a paint thinner. It is found in nail treatment products, nail polish and hair dyes. It can also cause organ system toxicity (affects central nervous system) and skin irritation. Pregnant women should avoid being exposed to it as it can cause developmental damage in the fetus. It can also have some temporary effects such as dizziness, headaches, dry and cracked skin. To avoid exposure to this chemical, limit nail polish use and go for a pedicure instead of a manicure. Pregnant women should use nail polish in a well-ventilated place.
A hydrating ingredient in cosmetics used as a skin-conditioning agent. It absorbs water and the concern regarding this alcohol is that it can cause irritation in skin, eyes, and lungs. It also has some allergic properties and can cause dermatitis. Prolonged usage of this ingredient dries out the skin making it look dull and enlarges any fine lines or wrinkles. Along with this, it can also damage to cell membranes and dissolves any fat or oil on the skin's surface reducing the natural nourishment. It also enhances the penetration of any moisturizer and sometimes enables it to enter the bloodstream. Propylene glycol is found in moisturizers (to retain the skin's suppleness and prevent flaking), shampoos, conditioners, fragrances, and hairsprays.
Sunscreen is a skin care product used to protect against harmful UV rays. It might come as a surprise that sunscreen products are packed with chemicals that are harmful. Sunscreen chemicals get absorbed into the skin and can be found in blood, breast milk, and urine samples. The chemicals in the sunscreen are endocrine disruptors and can cause cellular damage and cancer. According to a study, a chemical named Oxybenzone can lead to allergic skin reactions and can cause hormonal disruptions. Mineral sunscreens are believed to be safer and better than chemical sunscreens only if minerals are specially coated to reduce photoactivity. To prevent from any skin damage, it is better to use a mineral sunscreen with a low level of photoactive properties.