Last month we talked about eating organic. This time, keeping with our theme, we’re going to give you some tips on how to avoid potentially harmful chemicals in your cosmetics.
Women can’t always say ‘no’ to cosmetics. Getting our look just right by dabbing on some lipstick or brushing our lashes with a swipe of black is important to us. And even if you aren’t the makeup kind, we all use certain cosmetics like shampoo and toothpaste. We’ve been told that when we apply something on our skin, the only possible harm it can do is limited to the outside. In fact, cosmetics can enter our bodies and affect them from the inside as well. A lot of the chemicals in our day-to-day products can affect the hormones in the body. Even if you see products that claim to be hypoallergenic or all-natural and think they’re safe bets, think again! These are often ploys to get consumers interested. Be cautious of these chemicals, and be aware that companies sometimes use different terms to refer to these toxins.
Sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate is a chemical used in cleaning cosmetics like shampoos and toothpastes. This is the chemical that makes that stuff lather, and though we don’t feel satisfactorily clean till there’s plenty of foam, SLS and SLES can have side effects. In shampoos, this chemical has the ability to cause hair loss. It can even get into the heart and liver, causing damage.
Some cosmetics boast that they’re ‘paraben-free’ on the label. Paraben is a preservative found in hair products, concealers, deodorants and skin creams. These parabens go by the chemical names methylparaben, propylparaben, ethylparaben and butylparaben. Though these are not harmful in small doses, they can cause hormonal imbalances and skin problems.
Petrolatum is a chemical often found in lip products; an oily substance similar to petroleum jelly. It’s one of the oldest and cheapest cosmetics ingredients, but it too has been found to be harmful. It’s supposed to moisturise but, ironically, it can pull a lot of moisture out of your skin. It also prevents your skin from breathing by clogging your pores. The oils in it can cause skin-related breakouts.
Propylene or butylene glycol is a toxin used in body and hair products like body wash, hand wipes and conditioner. It is used widely as a cheap alternative to glycerine. This chemical can cause skin problems by limiting the growth of skin cells. It’s also associated with some nervous and respiratory disorders, and can weaken the cells.
Phthalate are chemicals that are added to plastics in order to make them more flexible. They are most often found in cosmetics like nail enamel, hair straightening products, moisturisers and deodorants. It is also common in items that contain fragrances. The worst use of it is in baby teethers. Avoid products with the terms DBP (di-n-butyl phthalate) and DEP (diethyl phthalate). The compounds can lead to problems of the reproductive and nervous systems. It can be especially harmful to pregnant women, as it can affect the fetus; it can also cause hormonal imbalance in men.
Another thing you should look out for are ingredients that end with ‘-amine’. There are 3 ‘-amines’ you should beware of: diethanolamine(DEA), triethanolamine(TEA) and amonoethanolamine (MEA). These can cause a variety of problems ranging from dermatitis to cancer, and are found in almost everything including soaps, hairsprays and makeup.
One more thing that cosmetics manufacturers use in abundance are colours. The synthetic colours that make their products so attractive have been attributed to cases of cancer. The labels usually read something like ‘FD&C’ or ‘D&C’. Along with the dye, they also add artificial fragrances. Each of these has more toxins than you can count on your family’s toes and fingers! Can you imagine what so many chemicals can do to your body?
The most common problems we face with these chemicals are allergic reactions, migraines and even lightheadedness. They also attack the respiratory system, causing chronic coughing and shortness of breath. Harmful metals like mercury and lead are present in an array of cosmetic products; the lead lipstick debate has been going on for years now. Mercury and lead are known to threaten one’s mental capacities, sousing them in products like mascara seems risky. The eye is a delicate area, so be careful not to choose mascaras and eye drops containing mercury.
So the next time you’re picking up makeup and other cosmetics, give the label a second look. Steer clear of these chemicals when you can, and your body will thank you for it!