A cosmetic, by definition is anything you put on your body. Before
the average person leaves the house, they have already applied 100 to 200
synthetic chemicals to their body. Many of these chemicals have been linked to
serious health threats including cancer, infertility and birth defects. In case you doubt the legitimacy of these claims, concerns are
coming from some pretty credible organizations like the World Health
Organization and the CDC for starters.
Not surprisingly, the beauty industry disagrees. Keep in
mind they’ve built a massive empire that relies on synthetic chemicals that
come in every shape, color, consistency and fruit-a-licious scent. They are one
of the largest and most profitable of all industries spending more on
advertising alone than any other industry on earth. So, as one might
anticipate, when an industry rep from their leading trade association was
questioned about the safety of today’s cosmetics he said not only are they
generally safe, they are the safest of all the products that the FDA regulates.
Let’s stop there for a moment. He did say “regulates”, didn’t he? If you're
like most of us, you assumed that cosmetics are scrutinized under the ever
watchful eye of the FDA. Under the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act
cosmetics are not subject to any pre-market approval. That would be none. In
addition, companies are not required to substantiate performance claims or
conduct safety testing. Cosmetics simply must be "safe when used as
directed in the labeling or under usual customary conditions of use." Is
that regulation? When we look at the amount of revenue generated within this
industry, has it proved prudent to handle them with such a laissez-faire
approach? A review of some facts should answer that.
As far back as 2004 the European Union banned the
use of all chemicals that are known or strongly suspected of causing cancer,
mutations, or birth defects in cosmetic or personal care formulations
same ingredients identified by the World Health Organization, the CDC and
others as known or potential health threats. The list is frightfully long, but
some of the worst offenders are:
DEA a hormone disruptor and carcinogen that also depletes the body
of choline needed for fetal brain development. DEA can show up alone in
products or as a contaminant
like Cocamide DEA.
1,4-Dioxane a known carcinogen that can appear as a contaminant in
products containing sodium laureth sulfate and ingredients that include the
terms "PEG," "-xynol," "ceteareth,"
"oleth" and most other ethoxylated "eth" ingredients.
Formaldehyde has a long list of adverse health effects, including
immune-system toxicity, respiratory irritation and cancer in humans. It’s found
in cosmetic preservatives, baby bath soap, nail polish and hair dyes as a
The terms "fragrance" or "aroma" may be a clever way to mask phthalates and other
ingredients of concern
, which act as endocrine disruptors and may cause
obesity, reproductive and developmental harm.
Lead is one of the ingredients in many toothpastes. Lead acetate is
found in some brands of men's hair dye. It is a neurotoxin.
Mercury, found in the preservative thimerosol, is
used in some mascaras. It is a neurotoxin.
Nano-particles, which may penetrate the skin and damage brain
cells. Most problematic are micronized zinc oxide and titanium dioxide nano-particles,
used in sunscreens to make them transparent.
Parabens (methyl-, ethyl-, propyl-, butyl-, isobutyl-) which have
weak estrogenic effects are common preservatives that appear in a wide array of
toiletries. A study found that butyl paraben damaged sperm formation in the
testes of mice, and a relative, sodium methylparaben, is banned in cosmetics by
the E.U. Parabens break down in the body into p-hydroxybenzoic acid, which has
estrogenic activity in human breast-cancer cell cultures.
Petroleum Distillates are human carcinogens and
appear on the label as "petroleum" or "liquid paraffin."
Triclosan, widely used in soaps, toothpastes and
deodorants, has been detected in breast milk and found to interfere with
testosterone activity in cells.
This list is only the tip of the iceberg. Even more
worrisome is the fact that we don't know the cumulative effects of these
chemicals, nor has the synergistic effects been studied. While the cosmetic
industry does not deny the presence of chemicals with a harmful profile, they
claim the ingredients are present in such a small amount, the concerns are
unwarranted. It is unlikely they will acknowledge harmful effects any time
So what can you do? When choosing personal care products
stick to those containing natural ingredients. We evolved alongside these
substances and consequently they do not possess the risks. Beware of “green
washing” as you’ll find many of the products that are labeled “natural or
organic” actually contain only one or two natural ingredients, or they are a
natural base but the rest consists of the same old toxic brew. A good rule of
thumb, if you can’t pronounce an ingredient that appears on the label, don’t
Poison, even in tiny amounts, is poison you don't need.