Getting Under Your Skin: Cosmetics and Toxins

Getting Under Your Skin: Cosmetics and Toxins

Jul 11th 2017

Our skin is the most absorbent organ of our bodies and also the most exposed to our outside environment. The products that we use on our skin, hair, nails and teeth are all absorbed into our bloodstream, and our vital organs are forced to process and filter them.

From lipstick to shampoo, lotion to toothpaste, there are thousands of different chemicals in our body products. Only 20 percent of the chemicals used in cosmetics and personal care items have been tested for long-term effects by our government. Take a moment to look over the ingredient list of your shampoo or lotion and see how many ingredients you are able to recognize or pronounce.

There are currently 82,000 different chemicals registered with our government that are used in our personal care products. One in seven of these chemicals have carcinogenic properties, are active plasticizers, degreasers, pesticides, and are harmful reproductive toxins. The top 11 to beware of are:

BHA and BHT

These endocrine disruptors used as preservatives in many different cosmetic products have been shown to create skin irritation and rashes and have been connected to organ, reproductive, and developmental toxicity. Europe has refused to allow the use of BHA and BHT in the products sold in their nations.

Phthalates

Another endocrine disruptor found in our body products, this chemical has been found to have negative effects on reproductive and neurological health. Phthalates are commonly listed as simply “fragrance” on the ingredient list of many different skin care items.

DEA, cocamide DEA and lauramide DEA

Typically found in soaps and shampoos, this chemical takes a toll over over time. Prolonged use in combination with nitrates create a carcinogenic effect on the body.

Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives

Used to prevent mold from growing in water-based home and body products, the odorless gas has carcinogenic and skin irritation effects. The amount of gas released is stronger in expired and old bottles of hair gel, shampoos, body wash and nail polish. Use of formaldehyde-releasing preservatives has been banned in Japan and Sweden, and the EU has put heavy restrictions on use.

Parabens

Parabens are present in a high amount of tumors removed as a result of breast cancer. It is contributed to the elevated amount of aluminum in widely available deodorants that are applied to lymphatic areas (aka your armpit).

Dioxin

Mostly found in animal products, dioxin is also found in an number of lotions and deodorants. Pregnant women are highly susceptible to the effects of dioxins on the child in her womb and can result in hormone dysfunction in their children.

Polyethylene Glycol (PEGs)

PEGs are most commonly found in body lotion and spray-on degreaser for your oven. It is used to help blend water and oil-based ingredients and has desirable emollient properties. This chemical is particularly harmful when applied to areas with broken skin and can cause an aging effect to the skin.

Petrolatum

This white jelly substance is what makes up Vaseline and is used to lock in moisture to the skin. It can also be found in things like VaporRub and diaper rash cream. Petrolatum can become contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and become cancer-causing to humans, with a higher risk in those that leave it on the skin for long periods of time.

Siloxanes

Made of silicones, this substance is used in conditioners for your hair, as well as body lotions. It is not water-soluble and will accumulate overtime. There is little reported harm to the body, but it is very harmful to the environment, since it takes about 500 years to biodegrade.

Sodium Laureth Sulfate

Typically found in body soaps, creams and lotions. It is what makes soap products foam to help with lathering yourself from head to toe. It can cause irritation of the skin, eyes and lungs. Not to be confused with sodium lauryl sulfate that has been deemed safe for use.

Triclosan

This chemical is found in toothpaste, antibacterial soap, deodorant, and shaving products. It is an endocrine disruptor, has high levels of environmental toxicity by way of bioaccumulation, and creates triclosan-resistant bacteria. Pregnant women, and the children they are carrying, are the most susceptible to the harmful effects of triclosan.

For more information about the products in your bathroom visit www.ewg.org, a nonprofit dedicated to educating consumers. They have developed an app called “Skin Deep”, and is a great tool to learn more about personal care products. You can simply scan the barcode or look them up by name to see where they are rated on the scale of toxicity. It itemizes each ingredient and their level of toxicity.

If health concerns don't convince you to take a closer look at the products in your bathroom, there are also some ethical problems with many cosmetics. Most items are unfairly tested on rabbits, mice and chimps before deeming them safe for human use. Mascara is put in droplets into the eyes of rabbits to see what kind of negative effects occur. If the rabbit does not become blind or develop a serious infection, it is put on the shelves at your local cosmetic store.


To counteract our exposure to the toxic chemicals that have been made so readily available in our day to day lives we must combat their effects by detoxifying our bodies. Use body care items that are rich in antioxidants like coffee sugar scrubs or pomegranate face wash to help your skin build its own natural defense system. Implement substances like fulvic acid compounds into your pill supplementation regime to keep nutrients going in and the toxins going out. What we put on our skin is served directly to our brain with little filtration. Take control over what you are putting on your skin, and keeping in your cabinets to protect yourself and your long-term health.