My favorite store line of cosmetics was having a huge sale and I naturally planned for a big shopping spree, like the true shopaholic that I am! The products of this store were great and they came in all these awesome fragrances from country apple to rice flower to cherry blossoms, amber and so on. All these years my way of choosing cosmetics (which for me mostly are moisturizers) has been the fragrance.
Like most of us, I make sure the word ‘natural ‘or ‘organic ‘is attached to the label , but their smell always makes me take very partial and biased decisions while buying these products. And I hardly had any time or the patience to read the ingredients. What was mentioned on the label of the product was all I cared. Also, these products made my skin soft, supple and never even once did I think that they could harm my skin or me in any way possible.
After my recent study on environmental toxins and Xenoestrogens, (chemicals and toxins that exert estrogen like effect on our body and disrupt our hormonal balance) out of curiosity I now take time to scan the ingredient list of every product that I buy for harmful chemicals. Now, when I checked the ingredient list of my favorite body lotion, I was utterly shocked to see some of the most notorious toxins lurking in it. I was sick from the thought that I had been slathering these seemingly innocent, sweet-smelling chemicals disguised as natural products on my skin.
Skin is the largest organ of our body and the concentration of chemicals absorbed via skin can be many times more than that via oral route. Hence we have to be extremely careful as to what we put on our skin. Even though we cannot see any visible rash or signs of irritation when we use cosmetics, we should keep in mind that they get absorbed in our body and all our internal organs are exposed to their effects. Long term usage of chemical cosmetics can impact our immune system, and can also render our skin vulnerable to serious tissue damage.
All of us have a right to be aware about of all the toxic chemicals hiding in our cosmetics and the effects they can have on us. Efforts are being made by several environmental friendly organizations to increase the public awareness about chemicals and their health hazards. But, when I see the crowds or innocent shoppers that turn up at the sale events like the one at my “once upon” favorite shop, I sadly feel they are just not enough!
In this article (and some more to come under this topic) I will provide information about toxic chemicals used in cosmetics and what toxic effects they can have on our body.
To begin with, I found these toxins in my body lotion.
- Dimethicone– It is a silicone derived emollient. They are known to coat the skin, clog the skin pores and hence do not allow the skin to breathe. They are non biodegradable, and ten to accumulate in liver and lymph nodes. A prolonged exposure to dimethicone and other silicone derived emollients are suspected tumor promoters. Dimethicone copoplyol and cyclomethicone are other two silicon derived emollients that you should look out for in any skin product.
- Propylene glycol– In the skin and hair products, propylene glycol works as a humescent, which causes retention of moisture content of skin or cosmetic products by preventing the escape of moisture or water. It is rendered safe to be used in LOW doses. But this chemical is known to cause liver and kidney damage and is toxic to the nervous system.
- Methylparaben and Propylparaben- These two chemicals are used as preservatives in nearly all the pharmaceutical and cosmetic products that we use, right from cough syrups to cosmetic products and are also used as food additives. Parabens are known to have estrogen like effect on our body and can interfere with our hormonal activities. They are also linked indirectly with breast cancer. High levels of parabens have been detected in breast tumors. Even though the connection between breast cancer and parabens is not clear as yet, it is advisable to avoid this duo, as the old saying goes ‘it is always better to be safe than sorry’. Some studies also suggest that methylparaben applied on the skin reacts with the UVB rays and causes skin aging and skin damage too!
- Tetrasodium EDTA- This chemical is used as a penetration enhancer. It changes the structure of the skin and allows other chemicals to easily penetrate deep in to the skin. European Union of classification and labeling has classified this chemical as harmful and should not be used in products applied around the eyes, as it can cause serious damage to the eyes. It is also a persistent organic environmental pollutant. Animal studies of this chemical have shown it to be cytotoxic (can cause cancers) and genotoxic (can cause damage to DNA). Oral exposure can cause reproductive and developmental defects.
- Disodium EDTA-This chemical is also used as penetration enhancer and is known to be cytotoxic and genotoxic. It is also an environmental pollutant.
- Colors-Red 33, Red 40, Yellow 5- These are simply added to make the lotion look pretty to our eyes and have no functional benefit to the lotion. But they are highly toxic when used in food. These colors are the once used all food products that are artificially colored. Red 33 and Red 40 are known to cause acne when used on skin. They are highly cytotoxic and genotoxic when used as a food additives. Yellow 5 also known as Tartrazine is banned in Norway to be used as a food additive but not in US. It has been linked to tumors in adrenal glands and kidneys and can cause allergies, hyperactivity and chromosomal damage.
- Diazolidinyl Urea– This is preservative used in cosmetics and is classified as a primary cause of contact dermatitis by American Academy of Dermatology. It contains formaldehyde, which is a carcinogenic chemical. Long term exposure to this chemical can cause profound damage to skin tissue.
Most of the cosmetics which are popular and widely used by people are concocted by using these and many other toxic chemicals. Their so- called natural ingredients are present only in fractions and some natural ingredients are synthetically made by using chemicals. Why are these cosmetics not banned if they are so harmful to health? One reason is that, no sufficient numbers of studies have been conducted to back the fact that they are indeed harmful when used in humans.
Secondly the cosmetics manufacturers get away by stating that these chemicals are used in minute amounts and are not harmful to humans when used in such low concentrations. But no one seems to talk about long term exposure in minute amounts!
Moreover, our cosmetics laws do not require the manufacturers to disclose all the ingredients on their labels. This means that, there can be many more mystery, toxic chemicals in our skin care products which we are not even aware of.
The only solution to this problem is AVOID using chemical cosmetics and shift to those which are made using exclusively natural plant ingredients. Read the cosmetic labels carefully and keep yourselves up to date about the effects of toxic chemicals, no matter whether they are in your cosmetics, or any other household or food product that you buy.