I began switching all of our personal care products to healthier versions when I became very sick. I (gasp!) stopped coloring my hair and painting my nails! My Integrative M.D. told me how these toxic ingredients were endocrine/hormone-disruptors (amongst other problems), leading to cancer, developmental and reproductive issues in our children, and autoimmune diseases like mine. I was astounded that EVERY product (my beautiful, expensive makeup that I thought was so ‘perfect)’ contained nasty ingredients! I was shocked because I thought the high-quality products were made from safe, high-quality ingredients. I’d been ripped off and fooled — by the pretty packaging and marketing.
Toxins and chemicals are not just in your food – they are also widely used in your favorite skin care products and beauty products. You know – the ones you apply right to your face and body. Our skin is our largest organ: the average adult has 8 pounds (3.6 kilograms) and 22 square feet (2 square meters) of it.
Don’t be bamboozled! If you think the FDA does a poor job in regulating what goes into our food supply, you’ll be equally disgusted by its lack of regulation of personal care and beauty products. The same way you look at food labels, you should investigate what you put on your skin.
The cosmetic and body care industry is shamefully un-regulated. These companies can use any ingredient or raw material without government review or approval. Cosmetic agencies have spent $3.5 million lobbying against control, saying that it would curtail innovation and compromise trade secrets.
This isn’t just an opinionated rant on what’s wrong out there! In a moment, I’ll give you some beautiful, healthy alternatives for skin care products I’ve found to set things right again, but first be informed and know what will harm you and your family!
So, what’s in those products you spray, slather, spritz, apply, and rub onto your body?
High Risk Chemicals in Our Skin Care Products
1. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) / Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). SLS’s can be found in more than 90 percent of personal care and cleaning products (think foaming agents). A major concern about SLS is its potential to interact and combine with other chemicals to form nitrosamines, a carcinogen. These combinations can lead to a host of other issues like kidney and respiratory damage. They can be found in shampoo, body wash/cleanser, mascara, hand soaps, and acne treatment.
2. Parabens are preservatives that inhibit the growth of yeasts, bacteria, and molds in beauty products. They’re not a good thing, because parabens carry estrogen-mimicking properties that are associated with increased risk of breast cancer and identified in biopsy samples from breast tumors. They are found in deodorants, lipstick, body washes, shampoos, and facial cleansers.
Personal care ingredients that include: “ethyl,” “butyl,” “methyl,” and “propyl” are from the paraben family even if the word “paraben” isn’t in the name.
3. Phthalates are a group of chemicals used to increase softness and flexibility in hundreds of plastic products and in skin care products. Hairspray is really soft plastic! One recent study found that women with the highest levels of certain cosmetics-related phthalates in their blood were at an elevated risk for diabetes. Another discovered a link between phthalate blood levels and obesity in children. They have also been linked to ADHD, altered thyroid function, breast cancer, decreased motor and mental development in children, and “less male-typical play behaviour in boys.”
Due to a major loophole in the law, phthalates are not disclosed on every product, rather it’s added into ‘fragrance’ (see the “secret formula” below). You aren’t likely to see any of them listed on a label, so don’t bother memorizing these names. Found in deodorants, nail polish, perfumes/colognes, hair sprays, and moisturizers.
4. Fragrance. This particular category is pretty scary, because in the U.S., manufacturers can legally hide hundreds of synthetic chemicals in the one word – ‘fragrance’ – without revealing what those ingredients are. This term was created to protect a company’s “secret formula.” It’s a loophole large enough to drive a tanker truck through. Found in perfume, cologne, soap, conditioner, shampoo, body wash, and moisturizers. Other names: Parfum (classy, eh?) or aroma.
5. Toluene is a petrochemical derived from petroleum or coal tar and is a potent solvent able to dissolve paint and paint thinner. The EPA considers nail polish a household hazardous waste. You may see toluene listed as benzene, toluol, phenylmethane, methylbenzene. Pregnant mothers should avoid exposure to toluene vapors as it may cause neurotoxicity and birth defects. It can be found in nail polish, nail treatments and hair color/bleaching products.
“Beauty salons are some of the most hazardous places to spend time due to poor air quality, pregnant or not!” ~Jacqueline
6. Sunscreen chemicals are easily absorbed as we slather these creams or oils onto our bodies or our children’s. They function as a sunscreen by absorbing ultraviolet light. they also possess a hidden feature: endocrine hormone disruption. Certain forms of benzophenone, for example, inhibit the action of thyroid peroxidase, an enzyme necessary for the production of thyroid hormone. Another study showed that application of sunscreen containing benzophenone-2 for five days lowered T4 and T3 thyroid hormones. They may also cause birth defects, cellular damage, and cancer in the body. Common names are benzophenone, oxybenzone, PABA, avobenzone, homosalate and methoxycinnmate.
It’s impossible to avoid every single synthetic chemical, but you can do your part in limiting the amount of toxins your body’s exposed to. Read labels carefully and choose skin care products with a short list of recognized and pronounceable ingredients.
If you’re curious about the skin care products you use, or a new one that you’re considering, enter it on the Skin Deep database to learn about the safety (or toxicity) of its ingredients.
My Picks For NO/Low Risk Beauty
*skin care products we use personally (do check ingredients since they may change)
- 100% Pure – They produce makeup and skin care products using food-grade plant-based ingredients (it’s safe to eat, so it’s probably safe to put on your body). They’ve also come up with their own preservative system to replace parabens, using a complex blend of herbs, vitamins, and antioxidants in place of industrial antimicrobials.
- *Giovanni Styling Mist, L.A. Hold Hair Spritz – the only hair spray we can use!
- *Dr. Wood’s Body Wash, Liquid Soap, and Bar Soaps – it’s made with all organic ingredients, mostly oils, including coconut, olive, peppermint, jojoba, and essential oils.
- *Alaffia body lotion; other Alaffia products (shampoo, conditioner) with safe ingredients
- Barlean’s Coconut Oil (my makeup remover, anti-aging nightly facial and skin moisturizer)
- Burt’s Bees – *Lip Balms, Hand & Body Lotions, Facial Creams & Scrub, Belly Butter, Acne Care
- Badger Organic full line of lip care, balms & sunscreens – baby, sore muscle, foot, & night-night
- *Kirk’s Coconut Castile Bar Soap – Fragrance Free I buy mine by the case when on sale at Meijer for 2/$2.99.
- Aubrey Organics – deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, pure aloe vera, hair gel, etc.
- Sibu Beauty (all of their products are amazing and organic)
- *Badger Baby Sunscreen Cream
- *Bite Beauty (Sephora) – lipstick that you can safely eat (because we actually consume our lipstick)
- Josie Maran – Argan oil-based makeup. *Best Mascara (the brush looks cheap but don’t be fooled! It effortlessly separates eyelashes and prevents clumping)!! They also use food-grade ingredients like avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, and mango seed butter.
- Scotch Naturals – Many nail polish companies claiming to be free of phthalates actually aren’t, as a recent study revealed, suggesting that phthalates truly are hard to resist for nail polish makers. Scotch Naturals, however, is one of the only companies making truly non-toxic nail polish (that also happens to work really well).
- Pure Body Naturals Nail Polish Remover
- *Zoya Nail Polish – (3-Free) Free of toluene, camphor, formaldehyde, and dibutyl phthalate
- Lavanila – They specialize in ‘fragrance’-free fragrances.
- Pacifica Perfume – Another maker of safe fragrances.
- Weleda, full line Weleda grows the bulk of their ingredients in their own biodynamic gardens. They’ve got acres of gardens scattered across the world. This allows them to grow hundreds of species of medicinal plants from a variety of climates.
- Suki – “skincare systems” for every skin type.
- Indigo Wild – They’re best known for their Zum Soap, made from goat’s milk, but the rest of their rapidly expanding skin care line is safe and effective.
- Trillium Organics – a line of non-toxic skin care products, but also treatments for conditions like acne, rosacea, eczema, dermatitis, and diaper rash.
- *Thai Crystal deodorant – they’ve got a spray and a roll-on.
- *Nutribiotic deodorant – my favorite roll-on.
- Acure Organics – Acure offers face and body care, but they are best known for their organic shampoos and conditioners. The Moroccan argan oil and argan stem cell shampoo gets particularly high marks for being effective and non-toxic.
Please share your favorite safe skin care products with us here! I’m especially looking for a safe eye liner that is not a pencil. Any ideas? Thanks!
(Me, Jacqueline, in my edible honey almond yogurt facial scrub)
Thanks for reading!