The Hidden Health Dangers in Your Toiletries
If you are a typical woman, you use about 12 different personal care products (and over 100 individual ingredients) on your body every day. Those ingredients are easily absorbed through your skin and can find their way into your bloodstream. That wouldn’t be a problem if the ingredients were healthy and safe BUT…. Have you ever thought about what exactly is lurking in your toiletries?
If not, you might be surprised to know that some of them are linked to health problems. With the rise of the “clean beauty” bandwagon, more of us than ever are swapping chemical- laden toiletries for more natural alternatives that won’t harm our health.
The real secret behind the beauty and personal care industry is that they are virtually unregulated, and therefore are allowed to use untested chemicals in their products. Because of this, we’ve got hormone disrupting ingredients in skin care, cosmetics containing lead and other heavy metals, carcinogens in shampoos, and many more harmful chemicals in products we use on our bodies every day. From general skin irritation to even more serious health conditions, there is a lot of cause for concern with some chemicals.
A single exposure to a toxic chemical probably won’t hurt you, but over a lifetime, these exposures add up. Persistent chemicals accumulate in the body over time, and many remain in bodily tissues forever.
Here’s why your beauty products might be a lot more sinister than you think and which nasties you’ll want to avoid.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is a common ingredient in a lot of personal products, especially ones that have a foaming action. It’s also a major irritant, not just for the skin but also for the lungs. That’s not all though: it can react with other chemicals to form nitrosamines, which are potentially cancerous, and can also cause problems for the kidneys and lungs. Swapping to toiletries that are free from SLS.
A lot of toiletries now promote themselves as being “paraben-free” and there’s good reason why you might want to switch to these products.
Parabens are added to deodorants, toothpastes, shampoos, conditioners, body lotions and makeups, among other products, to stop the growth of fungus, bacteria and other potentially damaging microbes.
What worries public health advocates is that while individual products may contain limited amounts of parabens within safe limits set by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), cumulative exposure to the chemicals from several different products could be overloading our bodies and contributing to a wide range of health problems.
Parabens are known to be able to mimic estrogen in the body and there are strong fears that this can increase the risk of developing breast cancer. Parabens can be absorbed via your skin and have even shown up in the biopsy results of women with breast cancer. A new study has found that parabens can spur the growth of certain types of breast cancer cells. And they appear to be able to do this even in tiny amounts.
They may also affect fertility and affect unborn babies.
Health advocates are pressuring the FDA to ban parabens in products sold in the U.S.—like the European Union did in 2012—but concerned consumers must take matters into their own hands for now by reading product labels and avoiding products with parabens.
Another nasty that can often be found in liquid personal care products is MIT. You’ll find MIT and chemicals like it at low concentrations in “rinse-off” products like shampoos, conditioners, hair dyes, body washes, laundry detergents, liquid hand soaps, bubble bath, hand dishwashing soaps, and shampoo/conditioner combinations.
It’s intended to stop bacteria building up in beauty products, but it can cause allergic reactions and has been linked to health problems in unborn babies. This preservative has been linked to lung toxicity, allergic reactions and possible neurotoxicity.
The biggest concern with this ingredient came to light when researchers conducted two recent laboratory studies on rat brain cells and found that MIT caused damage to those cells. The researchers stated, “a brief exposure to methylisothiazolinone, a widely used industrial and household biocide, is highly toxic to cultured neurons….” The scientists went on to state that these toxic effects had been reported previously, and because of their widespread use, the consequences of chronic human exposure need to be evaluated. What was most concerning about this study was that the exposure was only 10 minutes long!
Lately, it seems like a new study on the health impacts of phthalates comes out every week. The chemicals are everywhere: they’re used in everything from household cleaners to food packaging to fragrance, cosmetics, and personal-care products. Phthalates can be found in hairsprays, nail polish and various other toiletries.
They’re endocrine disruptors, which means they can disrupt your hormones. It’s believed that they can increase the risk of breast cancer and for teenage girls, they may bring on early puberty. It’s not always easy to tell if a product contains phthalates as they’re sometimes bundled in with “fragrances”.
In the past few years, researchers have linked phthalates to asthma, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, breast cancer, obesity and type II diabetes, low IQ, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development and male fertility issues.
Triclosan is another endocrine disruptor. Thyroid and reproductive hormones can be affected by triclosan and it’s thought to be a factor in creating antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Deodorants, toothpaste and antibacterial soaps are just a few of the products you may find triclosan in. Triclosan can also cause weakening of the immune system. Children exposed to antibacterial products at an early age have an increased chance of developing allergies, asthma and eczema.
Synthetic and artificial colours
On the surface, synthetic colours may seem fairly harmless, but they’re linked to skin irritation, ADHD in children and even cancer. It’s been banned in the European Union because of the cancer risk. Scary stuff, right?
Often used as a moisturizing agent, propylene glycol is a known irritant and can also move through the skin. It can encourage hives and dermatitis to develop, especially in people who are sensitive to this. There doesn’t need to be a huge amount of propylene glycol for this to happen – even just 2 per cent can be enough to cause problems. Lots of products can contain this ingredient. Moisturizers are the obvious one, but it’s often found in make-up, shampoo, conditioner, hairspray and sunscreen too.
DEA, MEA and TEA
The trio of ammonia compounds known as diethanolamine (DEA), monoethanolamine (MEA), and triethanolamine (TEA) are used as foaming agents and emulsifiers, especially in makeup, shampoo, hair dye and sunscreen. Research has shown a connection between them and skin irritation, inflammation, toxicity and cancer.
Some of the heavy metals that may be used in products to add color, whiten, lighten and block sweat include lead, aluminium, zinc, chromium, iron and arsenic. They’re thought to cause hormone disruption, especially because they can build up in the body and aren’t flushed out that quickly. If levels get high enough, it can raise your risk of developing allergic reactions, immune issues, problems affecting the reproductive system and cancer. Some of the products that can contain them include whitening toothpaste, eyeliner, foundation, eye shadow, blush, concealer, nail polish, moisturizer, red lipstick, sunscreen and eye drops.
You’ll often find petroleum jelly in products for emollient and lubricant purposes. Research has linked this to impurities that can cause cancer. At the very least, there’s a reasonable chance that skin irritation and acne can occur.
Until about 10 years ago, we didn’t really pay much attention to the ingredients in our skin care and makeup. If it left our skin feeling softer and looking flawless, we were totally down to shellac that stuff on — but recently, we’ve become more aware that what we put on our skin actually ends up in our bodies, and the beauty industry has taken notice.
One of the most popular tools for identifying safer products is the Think Dirty app. It provides safety ratings on personal care products and ingredients with a hazard score of 1-10 based on the known and suspected hazards of ingredients.
Some healthy brands I love?
Live-Clean. They have a collection of beauty and personal care products that not only are eco-friendly, but are natural and plant-derived at an affordable price. And another great thing? They’re a Canadian company!
REN Skincare is free of synthetics and uses 100 percent plant derivatives — and they have amazing masks!
Rohm & Haas (2002). Acute Inhalation toxicity study in rate (methylisothiazolinone 53.52% active ingredient). Rohm & Haas Chemicals, LLC Report, 06R-1002.
Burnett, C. L., Bergfeld, W. F., Belsito, D. V., Klaassen, C. D., Marks, J. G., Shank, R. C., … & Andersen, F. A. (2010). Final report of the safety assessment of methylisothiazolinone. International journal of toxicology, 29(4 suppl), 187S-213S.
Dr. Tara Clapp, ND
Dr. Tara Clapp, ND
Naturopathic Doctor Focusing on Anti-aging and Hormone Optimization
Dr. Tara Clapp, ND is a Board-certified Naturopathic Doctor and leading authority on Anti-Aging & Bio-Identical Hormones. Dr. Clapp, ND has taken numerous courses to advance her knowledge and has received certifications in Intravenous Nutrient Therapy, Mesotherapy & Injection Therapy for Anti-Aging & Pain Management, as well as First Line Therapy Weight Management.
Dr. Tara Clapp, ND uses specialized, leading-edge laboratory testing for better diagnostics & health. Dr. Tara Clapp, ND has special interests in anti-aging, bio-identical hormone therapy, food and nutrition, metabolic and hormone imbalances and digestive disorders.
Being a naturopathic doctor has proven to be an especially rewarding experience to Dr. Tara Clapp, ND as it allows her to take part in people’s transformation and realization of their health potential. Consequently, Dr. Tara Clapp, ND continually updates her skills through new courses and conferences, and uses this information to better her clients.
Dr. Tara Clapp, ND is a dedicated and caring physician, taking personal interest in her clients’ health and life.
Dr. Tara Clapp, ND has a passion for self-development programs that push her beyond regular physical and mental performance. Dr. Tara Clapp, ND enjoys practicing yoga and meditation, has a love of photography, and relaxes by scrapbooking and enjoying long walks with her dog.