So you thinking of making the switch from regular products to natural products or you not sure why people are going natural. In this blog post I’ll explain why people are going natural.
On average a person uses approximately 10 different products on their skin and hair daily. The skin is the largest organ in the body and due to its permeable nature, the skin acts like a sponge and absorbs all the chemicals that we apply to it. Where do the chemicals go, you ask? Well, into your bloodstream of cause and once there, it is able to move around freely in your body and do what it likes.
There are approximately 130 different chemicals that we use daily that we let enter our body and although many of them are deemed safe, this comes with a clause, it is safe to use in small quantities, however we add them daily and it builds up within our body and gets stored and turned into by-products.
Then there are the chemicals that we know can cause harm to us, but they in our products and we still use them. Examples of these are Phthalates, which are found in artificial fragrances, have been shown be a hormone disruptor that can be linked to birth defects for instance. Artificial fragrances are used in majority of skincare products, check the ingredients of your products and you’ll see. It is even found in baby products! Yip, that’s right, if you using scented products on your baby this is what you are exposing them to, shocking isn’t it?
So what chemicals in your products are harmful?
I work on a principle of if I can’t pronounce it; it’s probably bad for me, although this doesn’t always reign true. If we look at the most commonly used chemicals in the skincare and cosmetic industry you’ll get a rough idea of what’s good and what’s not.
- Petrochemical based products
There are many chemicals used in cosmetics that are derived from petroleum. Petroleum products can generate 1,4-dioxane. This substance is known to cause cancer and is also a kidney toxicant, neurotoxicant, and a respiratory toxicant; it is also classified as a groundwater contaminant. The Environmental Working Group has found that 22% of all products contain unsafe levels of 1,4-dioxane.
The following list is common petrochemicals that are used in cosmetics:
- Paraffin Wax
- Mineral Oil
- PEG (PolyEthylene Glycol)
- If it ends in ‘eth’ then it came from the production of ethylene oxide (a petrochemical) e.g. myreth, oleth, laureth, ceteareth
- DEA (Diethanolamine) or MEA (ethanolamine)
- Butanol or ‘butyl’ – butyl alcohol, butylparaben, butylene glycol
- Ethanol or ‘ethyl’ – ethyl alcohol, ethylene glycol, ethylene dichloride, EDTA (ethylene-diamine-tetracetatic acid), ethylhexylglycerin
- Propyl – isopropyl alcohol, propylene glycol, propyl alcohol, cocamidopropyl betaine
- Methanol or ‘methyl’ – methyl alcohol, methylparaben, methylcellulose
- Parfum or fragrance – 95% of chemicals used in fragrance are derived from petroleum
- Parabens (Methyl, Propyl, Butyl and Ethyl)
98% of cosmetic products contain parabens. Parabens are a group of chemicals that are used as a preservative in a wide variety of skin care products. They are inexpensive to produce and are used as a preservative, to prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi in products. Parabens are man-made and do not occur in nature. They absorb easily into the skin and are cheap therefore they are used in many skin care products.
Parabens are endocrine disrupters, meaning they may disturb the hormone balance in your body and cause allergic reactions. British researchers found traces of it in twenty women who had breast cancer. Parabens are believed to act like the female hormone oestrogen, and high levels of oestrogen can cause some women to develop breast cancer.
- Propylene Glycol (PEG)
One of the most common ingredients in cosmetics and is highly controversial. Many say it is a harmful irritant known to cause damage to the kidneys, whilst a few believe it is safe. However, the Material Safety Data Sheet for propylene glycol warns workers handling this chemical to avoid skin contact, so how is it safe to put on your skin?
- Sodium Lauryl/ Laureth Sulfate
It is a known skin irritant which enhances allergic responses to other toxins and allergens. When it reacts with other ingredients used in skincare products it forms cancer-causing nitrosamines. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is used as a lathering agent. It is present in 90% of commercial shampoos, as well as skin creams as well as certain brands of toothpaste.
- Diethanolamine (DEA), Triethanolamine (TEA), Monoethanolamine (MEA)
In 1999, a National Toxicology Program, found a link between cancer and tumors in laboratory animals and the application of diethanolamine (DEA) and certain DEA-related ingredients to their skin. The principal toxic effect of TEA has been linked to over-alkalinity in animals. It is an irritant. Both DEA and TEA are also known to combine with nitrates to form cancer-causing nitrosamines. If a product contains nitrites (used as a preservative or present as a contaminant not listed on labels), a chemical reaction can occur either during manufacturing or after a product is made. There is no way to know which products contain nitrosamines because Government does not require manufacturers to disclose this information on the label.
- Diazolidinyl Urea, Imidazolidinyl Urea
Preservatives that are known to release formaldehyde. 20% of people exposed to Diazolidinyl Urea or Imidazolidinyl Urea experiences an allergic reaction. Exposure to formaldehyde may cause joint pain, depression, headaches, chest pains, ear infections, chronic fatigue, dizziness and loss of sleep. In lab tests, formaldehyde has caused cancer and damaged DNA. Its use has been banned in cosmetics in Japan and Sweden.
- Synthetic Colours
Used to make cosmetics look pretty, synthetic colours along with synthetic hair dyes should be avoided at all costs, as many synthetic colours can be carcinogenic (cancer causing agents). They are listed as FD&C or D&C, followed by a colour and a number. Example: FD&C Red No. 6, or D&C Green No. 6.
- Synthetic Fragrances
Fragrance on a label can indicate the presence of up to 4,000 separate ingredients. There is no regulation that states that fragrances needs to list their ingredients, since on the label it will simply read “fragrance.” Some problems caused by these chemicals include headaches, dizziness, rashes, hyper-pigmentation, violent coughing, vomiting and can also trigger asthma.
Pthalates are used to keep fragrance chemicals in solution. They are found in almost all fragrances and manufacturers are allowed to list them under the name fragrance or parfum. Phthalates are used to enhance fragrances, as solvents, and to denature alcohol. These chemicals have been shown to enter the bloodstream and concentrate in fat cells. They are extremely potent oestrogen mimics and some are 10 000 times more potent than oestrogen itself. Excessively high levels of oestrogen have been known to cause cancer.
DEP is the phthalate found in the highest levels in humans, and a study published in Environmental Health Perspectives (December 2002) found that DEP is damaging to the DNA of sperm in adult men at current levels of exposure. DNA damage to sperm can lead to infertility and may also be linked to miscarriages, birth defects, infertility and cancer in offspring. Recent product tests found the chemical in every fragrance tested in the United States. Manufacturers are not required to list phthalates on product labels, so they are difficult to avoid, but phthalates have been banned by all the major organic certifiers in the world.
Talc is a naturally occurring mineral. Some reports show it to be carcinogenic when inhaled. In addition, women who regularly use talc in the genital area are at increased risk for ovarian cancer. Many paediatricians now tell parents to avoid using talc on babies as it can cause respiratory distress, sometimes resulting in death. Talc in liquid formulations poses less risk.
Also known as mineral oil jelly, liquid Vaseline, Paraffinum Lquidum and baby oil. It is extremely cheap hence it’s widespread use. It can cause photosensitivity and strips natural oils from the skin, causing chapping, dryness and premature ageing. It also prevents the elimination of toxins from the body and can therefore cause acne.
This is an oestrogen-mimicking chemical and is used for its detergent properties. It can be found in some plastics, as well as shaving creams, shampoos and hair colours. It is created when chemicals commonly found in personal care products break down. Nonylphenols can be a component in polyvinylchloride (PVC), a compound often found in acrylic nails. Nonylphenols are persistent in the environment and many European countries are phasing them out. Some manufacturers have voluntarily discontinued their use.
Used in permanent hair dyes, phenylenediamine can cause eczema, bronchial asthma, gastritis, skin irritation and even death. It is also a carcinogen. It can react with other chemicals to cause photosensitivity. The US Food and Drug Administration proposed legislation which would have required warning labels on products, advising that this ingredient can penetrate skin and has been determined to cause cancer in lab animals. If passed, beauty salons would have to post warnings for their customers. Cosmetic industry lobbyists defeated the proposal.
As you can see, there are many chemicals that are commonly found in our cosmetic and skincare products that can cause harm over extended periods of use. This is the main reason why many people are making the change to natural products! We hope you enjoyed this article and make informed shopping decisions.