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Published on September 3rd, 2010 | by Emma Pezzack

21

25 Toxic Ingredients :: What To Avoid

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Do you need some help sussing out toxic ingredients that might be hiding in your medicine cabinet? These are 25 of the worst offenders.

Given that there is very little oversight or regulation within the beauty industry, we owe it to ourselves to get armed with how to make well-informed buying decisions. Learn this checklist and eliminate these 25 toxic ingredients from your beauty arsenal, and you’ll be off to a flying start with making safer, healthier choices.

1. ALUMINUM ZIRCONIUM and OTHER ALUMINUM COMPOUNDS

Function: Used to control sweat and odor in the underarms by slowing down the production of sweat.

Present in: Antiperspirants. Banned by EU.

Health concerns: Linked to the development of Alzheimer’s Disease; may be linked to breast cancer; probable neurotoxin; possible nervous system, respiratory, and developmental toxin.

2. BENZYL ACETATE

Function: Solvent; hidden within “fragrance.”

Present in: Many cosmetics and personal care products, read labels.

Health concerns: Linked to pancreatic cancer; easily absorbs into skin causing quick systemic effects; animal studies show hyperemia of the lungs; possible gastrointestinal, liver, and respiratory toxicant; possible neurotoxin.


3. BENZALKONIUM CHLORIDE and BENZETHONIUM CHLORIDE

Function: Antimicrobial agent, deodorant, preservative, biocide.

Present in: Moisturizer, sunscreen, facial cleanser, acne treatment, pain relief. Restricted in Japan and Canada.

Health concerns: Immune system toxicant; may trigger asthma; possible organ system toxicant; animal studies show endocrine disruption and brain, nervous system, respiratory and blood effects; possible carcinogen.

4. BRONOPOL

Function: Preservative.

Present in: Moisturizer, body wash, facial cleanser, makeup remover, anti-aging products. Restricted in Canada.

Health concerns: Immune system toxicant; lung and skin toxicant; animal studies show endocrine disruption and gastrointestinal, brain and nervous system effects; irritant.

5. BUTYLATED HYDROXYTOLUENE (BHT)/ BUTYLATED HYDROXYANISOLE (BHA)

Function: Anti-Oxidant; slows down the rate at which product ingredients change in color.

Present in: Many cosmetics and personal care products, read labels.

Banned by EU.

Health Concerns: Immune system toxicant; endocrine disruptor; probable human carcinogen; animal studies show brain, liver, neurotoxin, reproductive and respiratory toxicant.

6. ETHOXYLATED INGREDIENTS:CETEARETH/PEG COMPOUNDS

Function: Surfactant, emulsifying or cleansing agent, penetration enhancer.

Present in: Many cosmetics and personal care products, read labels.

Health concerns: Animal studies show brain, nervous system and sense organ effects; irritant; reproductive and skin toxin, alters skin structure, allowing other chemicals to penetrate deep into the skin and increasing the amounts of other chemicals that reach the bloodstream; may contain harmful impurities.

7. COAL TAR

Function: Controls itching and eczema, softens and promotes the dissolution of hard, scaly, rough skin, also used in hair dyes.

Present in: Shampoo and Hair Dye. Banned by Canada and EU.

Health concerns: Known human carcinogen; skin and respiratory toxicant.



8. COCAMIDE DEA/ LAURAMIDE DEA

Function: used as foaming agents in shampoos and bath products, and as emulsifying agents in cosmetics; foaming and cleansing agents for “mouth feel.”

Present in: Many cosmetics and personal care products, read labels.

Health concerns: Human immune system toxicant; forms carcinogenic nitrosamine compounds if mixed with nitrosating agents; animal studies show sense organ effects and skin irritation; may contain harmful impurities.

9. DIETHANOLAMINE (DEA)

Function: pH adjuster.

Present in: Sunscreen, moisturizer, foundation, hair color.

Health concerns: Skin and immune system toxicant; possible carcinogen; irritant; animal studies show endocrine disruption and neuro developmental, brain and nervous system effects; may trigger asthma.

10. FORMALDEHYDE

Function: Disinfectant, germicide, fungicide, preservative.

Present in: Deodorant, nail polish, soap, shampoo, shaving cream. Restricted in Canada. Banned by EU.

Health concerns: Immune system, repertory, hematological, and skin toxicant; probable carcinogen and cardiovascular toxicant; can damage DNA; may trigger asthma; animal studies show sense organ, brain, and nervous system effects; possible human development toxicant.

11. FORMALDEHYDE-RELEASING PRESERVATIVES ( QUATERNIUM-15, DMDM HYDANTOIN, DIAZOLIDINYL UREA AND  IMIDAZOLIDINYL UREA, DEA, MEA, TEA)

Function: Anti-microbial preservative.

Present in: Many cosmetics and personal care products, read labels.

Health concerns: Forms nitrosamines when in the presence of amines such as MEA, DEA and TEA; probable immune system, blood, cardiovascular and skin toxicant; possible carcinogen; animal studies show endocrine disruption, nervous system and organ system effects; may contain harmful impurities.

12. FRAGRANCE (PARFUM)

Function: Deodorant, masking, perfuming

Present in: Many cosmetics and personal care products, read labels.

Health concerns: Immune system toxicant; possible neurotoxin; can contain between 10 and 300 different chemicals, many of which have never been tested for safety; see phthalates. Check with the manufacturer or supplier to make sure ‘fragrance’ is completely natural or organic when buying.



13. HYDROQUINONE

Function: Antioxidant, fragrance ingredient, skin bleaching agent, hair colorant.

Present in: Skin fading/lightener, facial moisturizer, anti-aging, sunscreen, hair color, facial cleanser and moisturizer. Restricted in Canada.

Health concerns: Immune system and respiratory toxicant; probable neurotoxin; possible carcinogen; irritant; animal studies show endocrine disruption.

14. IODOPROPYNYL BUTYLCARBAMATE

Function: Preservative.

Present in: Many cosmetics and personal care products, read labels. Restricted in Japan.

Health concerns: Human toxicant; possible liver immune system toxin; allergenic.

15. LEAD and LEAD COMPOUNDS

Function: Colorant.

Present in: Hair dye, hair products. Traces found in some red lipstick. Restricted in Canada.

Health concerns: Probable carcinogen; developmental, respiratory, gastrointestinal and reproductive toxicant; reduced fertility; animal studies show metabolic, brain and nervous system effects; suspected nano-scale ingredients with potential to absorb into the skin.

16. OXYBENZONE (BENZPENONE-3)

Function: Sunscreen Agent; Ultraviolet Light Absorber, UV Absorber; UV Filter.

Present in: Sunscreens and makeup

Health concerns: Associated with photoallergic reactions and immunotoxicity.  Probable carcinogen and endocrine disrupter; Enhanced skin absorption and bioaccumulates to dangerous levels; biochemical cellular changes.  Developmental and reproductive toxicity.

17. PARABENS (METHYL, ETHYL, PROPYL AND BUTYL)

Function: Preservative and anti-bacterial agent.

Present in: Many cosmetics and personal care products, read labels.

Health concerns: May alter hormone levels, possibly increasing risk for certain types of cancer, impaired fertility, or alteration of the development of a fetus or young child; studies have found parabens in breast tumors; probable skin toxicant; animal studies show brain and nervous system effects.



18. PETROLATUM (PETROLEUM)

Function: Forms barrier on skin; makes lipsticks shine and creams smoother; inexpensive skin softener.

Present in: Many cosmetics and personal care products, read labels. Banned by EU.

Health concerns: May be contaminated with impurities, linked to cancer or other significant health problems.

19. PHTHALATES (DIBUTYL PHTHALATES)

Function: Fragrance ingredient, plasticizer, solvent.

Present in: Many cosmetics and personal care products, read labels. Banned in EU.

Health concerns: Immune system toxicant; developmental and reproductive toxin; respiratory toxicant; probable neurotoxin; possible carcinogen and endocrine disruptor; bio-accumulative in wildlife.

20.  P-PHENYLENEDIAMINE (PPD)

Function: Hair colorant.

Present in: Hair dye, shampoo, hair spray. Restricted in Canada.

Health concerns: Immune system and respiratory toxicant; probable neurotoxin; eczema; possible nervous system, skin, kidney and liver toxicant; irritant; may trigger asthma and gastritis; shown to cause cancer in animal studies.

21. PROPYLENE GLYCOL

Function: Solvent, penetration enhancer, conditions skin, controls viscosity and keeps products from melting in high or freezing when it is cold.

Present in: Many cosmetics and personal care products, read labels.

Health concerns: Alters skin structure, allowing other chemicals to penetrate deep into the skin and increasing the amounts of other chemicals that reach the bloodstream; animal studies show reproductive effects, positive mutation results, brain and nervous system effects and endocrine disruption.

22.  SODIUM LAURETH SULFATE

Function: Surfactant, penetration enhancer.

Present in: Many cosmetics and personal care products, read labels.

Health concerns: Alters skin structure, allowing other chemicals to penetrate deep into the skin, increasing the amounts of other chemicals that reach the bloodstream; Irritant; animal studies show sense organ effects.



23. TOLUENE

Function: Antioxidant, solvent to improve adhesion and gloss.

Present in: Nail polish and hair dye.

Health concerns: Liver toxin; probable developmental, nervous system and respiratory toxin; possible cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, renal and sense organ toxin; possible carcinogen and reproductive toxin; irritant; highly flammable;

24.  TRICLOSAN

Function: Anti-bacterial agent, deodorant, preservative, biocide. Reduces and controls bacterial contamination on the hands and on treated products.

Present in: Antibacterial soaps, deodorants, toothpastes, mouthwashes, face wash and cleaning supplies. Restricted in Japan and Canada.

Health concerns: Probable endocrine disrupter and carcinogen; easily bio-accumulates to dangerous levels; irritant; animal studies show reproductive and other broad systematic effects; potentially contaminated with impurities linked to cancer and other significant health problems; studies have shown it can actually induce cell death when used in mouth washes.

25. 1.4 DIOXANE

Function: Penetration enhancer

Present in: Body lotion, moisturizers, sunless tanning products, baby soap, anti-aging products..

Health concerns: EPA classifies it as a probable carcinogen found in 46 of 100 personal care products marketed as organic or natural, and the National Toxicology Program considers it a known animal carcinogen.  Acute (short-term) inhalation exposure to high levels of 1,4 dioxane has caused vertigo, drowsiness, headache, anorexia and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat and lungs of humans.  It may also irritate the skin.

Posted by :: Emma Pezzack – www.futurenatural.com: the best organic beauty products in the world via Teens Turning Green

 


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About the Author

Self-confessed organic glamazon, responsible hedonist, makeup mogul and all round lover of life. Current roles include: CEO/Founder of Futurenatural :: Proclaimed a new 'Sephora' for the savvy organic & natural beauty set and loved by Nylon Magazine + Teen Vogue, this award-winning store is the modern-cool-stylish boutique for all the best, cutting edge, organic & natural beauty products in the world. http://www.futurenatural.com Editor-In-Chief - Organic Beauty Review :: Bringing you the latest in trends, savvy surveillance and stylish brands from the modern side of organic and natural beauty. http://www.organicbeautyview.com Beauty Director - Coco Eco Magazine :: Bi-monthly online glossy bringing you everything that's stylish, good, green and glam. http://www.cocoecomag.com Beauty Writer - Feelgood Style :: www.feelgoodstyle.com



  • http://www.mybeautymyskin.com Gaelle Kennedy

    Thanks for putting this list together. Like you, I think it is best to avoid these ingredients. At the same time, I’ve been following the discussion about the Safe Cosmetics Act 2010, and the data put forth by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. I wrote a blog post about lead in lipstick, for instance. It seems the picture is not quite so black and white as I initially thought. Who doesn’t want safe cosmetics? But are we starting to emerge from the Environmental Working Group’s “Reign of Error?”

    • http://www.futurenatural.com Emma Pezzack

      It’s a deeply complex topic Gaelle – you’re so right. I believe that we’re headed in the right direction and there desperately needs to be industry oversight and regulation – though the delays in getting anything worthwhile passed are frustrating. If the bills that are being introduced are constantly being slammed down, let’s all just agree that there are KNOWN toxins, based on science and fact, not sensationalism & heresay, that should be banned now, and with a sense of urgency.

  • http://www.mybeautymyskin.com Gaelle Kennedy

    Thanks for putting this list together. Like you, I think it is best to avoid these ingredients. At the same time, I’ve been following the discussion about the Safe Cosmetics Act 2010, and the data put forth by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. I wrote a blog post about lead in lipstick, for instance. It seems the picture is not quite so black and white as I initially thought. Who doesn’t want safe cosmetics? But are we starting to emerge from the Environmental Working Group’s “Reign of Error?”

    • http://www.futurenatural.com Emma Pezzack

      It’s a deeply complex topic Gaelle – you’re so right. I believe that we’re headed in the right direction and there desperately needs to be industry oversight and regulation – though the delays in getting anything worthwhile passed are frustrating. If the bills that are being introduced are constantly being slammed down, let’s all just agree that there are KNOWN toxins, based on science and fact, not sensationalism & heresay, that should be banned now, and with a sense of urgency.

      • http://Web Karen Wood

        It’s good though, don’t you think that the labelling laws that are coming in ensure that all the ingredients will be disclosed. This makes it easier to make informed choices. You are right Emma, it’s crazy that known carcinogenics and other toxins are still used in todays formulations! Because of this I formulated my own range http://www.keshiorganics.com.au now I know EXACTLY what i am putting on my skin. For me that means NO NASTIES! xKaren

        • http://Web Emma Pezzack

          I couldn’t agree more about the labelling laws. As it stands companies do have to disclose ingredients on labels, apart from the generic ‘fragrance’ (which is an issue), but the problem is also with chemicals that are used for extractions and processing that don’t have to be disclosed on labels. It’s one of the things that the Campaign For Safe Cosmetics is trying to change – that all companies must disclose all ingredients (trace or not) that have been used in the manufacture of a product, and the products must be registered with a nationwide database that everyone will have access to. The Personal Care Council has agreed fundamentally but no legislation or guidelines have as yet gone into action. It’s nowhere near enough but at least it’s a start…

          • http://www.mybeautymyskin.com/ Gaelle Kennedy

            I’m totally on-board with the need for better labeling regulations and the drive to get poisons out of our personal care products. The problem with the Safe Cosmetics Act, though (as I understand it), is that everyday organic products, like olive oil, would fall foul of its provisions. It’s one of those things where the more detailed the analysis of the proposals, the more unworkable they appear to be. I’m no expert in this field and take guidance from people who clearly know more than me, and who are oriented the same way as I am with respect to living an organic lifestyle. Gay Timmons would be an example. Are there people or organizations you could recommend?

          • http://www.futurenatural.com Emma Pezzack

            Gaelle, thanks again for your comments! There’s much misinformation about what the SCA would legislate, coversely there are some relevant concerns. I just wish we didn’t have to keep going back to the drawing board and could accomplish some kind of common ground on the most toxic ingredients. In terms of organizations or people – I’m not sure what you’re looking for? Like-minded people? Or specific places to get information you need?

          • http://www.mybeautymyskin.com Gaelle Kennedy

            Hi Emma
            Thanks for your response. I am not looking for people who agree with me; rather, people who can point me to data to support their position. There is a post on the Essenttial U blog, for instance, called “The Lead Debate Made Simple.” It seems to shoot down the whole lead issue. I have not seen similar data from the other side of the debate. I’m assuming there must be some.

  • http://www.mybeautymyskin.com/ Gaelle Kennedy

    I’m totally on-board with the need for better labeling regulations and the drive to get poisons out of our personal care products. The problem with the Safe Cosmetics Act, though (as I understand it), is that everyday organic products, like olive oil, would fall foul of its provisions. It’s one of those things where the more detailed the analysis of the proposals, the more unworkable they appear to be. I’m no expert in this field and take guidance from people who clearly know more than me, and who are oriented the same way as I am with respect to living an organic lifestyle. Gay Timmons would be an example. Are there people or organizations you could recommend?

  • http://www.futurenatural.com Emma Pezzack

    Gaelle, thanks again for your comments! There’s much misinformation about what the SCA would legislate, coversely there are some relevant concerns. I just wish we didn’t have to keep going back to the drawing board and could accomplish some kind of common ground on the most toxic ingredients. In terms of organizations or people – I’m not sure what you’re looking for? Like-minded people? Or specific places to get information you need?

  • http://www.mybeautymyskin.com Gaelle Kennedy

    Hi Emma
    Thanks for your response. I am not looking for people who agree with me; rather, people who can point me to data to support their position. There is a post on the Essenttial U blog, for instance, called “The Lead Debate Made Simple.” It seems to shoot down the whole lead issue. I have not seen similar data from the other side of the debate. I’m assuming there must be some.

  • http://Web drew

    You should really check out this site for the real scoop on these ingredients..some listed here are correct, some however like hydroquinone and oxybenzone are NOT toxins along with Parabens, and this site points to the peer reviewd scientific research to prove that point beyond all doubts! hope this helps, http://www.cosmeticscop.com/learn-skin-care-facts.aspx#

    • http://Web Drew

      If you look a little further into her website she has a full ingredient list dictionary with endless descriptions and saftey info on cosmetic ingredients! which i have found most helpful as well! also try joining her on facebook!

  • http://www.amarya.co.uk Amarya

    Thank you for the information and list of ingredients to avoid. I feel that the cosmetic industry is not regulated effectively and that companies can still get away with using dangerous/toxic ingredients in their products. The long term health implications of using these type of products can only be negative.

    • http://colinsbeautypages.co.uk Colin

      I formulate cosmetic products for a living. I could probably write a book on the science behind them. But instead could I just ask a question. When people like Amarya say we are allowed to ‘get away with using dangerous/toxic ingredients’, why do you think we would want to do that? Are we evil? Are we ignorant? Or is there some advantage to making dangerous things?

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