Chemicals that may be linked to cancer, hormone disruption, allergies, respiratory problems, thyroid conditions, and more are found in many skin care and household products.
Here is a list of the top ingredients to avoid and why.
If you see this ingredient, move on. "Fragrance/Perfume/Parfum" are catch-all terms that can include upwards of 300 different chemicals. The specific formulation of a product's signature scent is protected as a trade secret and manufacturers are NOT required to disclose ingredients.
Commonly found inside this mixture are phthalates, a class of chemicals that fix and hold both color and scent. They are what help the fragrance in the product stick to your skin, and last a long time.
According to the CDC, "phthalate exposure is widespread in the US population"; 98% of people tested had metabolites in their urine. They also found that women have higher levels of urinary metabolites due to the use of phythlates use in personal care products.
Phthalates are endocrine disrupting chemicals that mimic estrogen in the body, and are linked to everything from allergies to autism, and obesity to thyroid disorders.
In other words: STAY AWAY.
This ingredient is easy to spot, so look for "fragrance" and if it's there, don't buy it! Products scented only with essential oils are safe.
Parabens are a class of chemicals (meaning, there's more than one kind) that are used as preservatives in personal care products.
They're used to prevent the growth of mold and bacteria, which is important, but like phthalates, they're endocrine disruptors.
And like phthalates, parabens are ubiquitous: the CDC has measured these chemicals in 99% of people tested! And again, adolescent and adult women had significantly higher levels than men. They point to women's use of personal care products as the reason why women are more exposed than men.
Parabens have similar health effects to phthalates, and should be avoided for all the same reasons.
Product preservation is important, and any product that contains water also has to have a preservative by law. But -- there are less toxic ways to do it!
Parabens will be clearly listed on ingredient labels... there are a number of different types, so if you spy anything ending in -paraben, move on!
Polyethylene glycol or PEG's
Some products contain chemicals that can increase skin penetration, thereby increasing the amount of chemicals that can enter your bloodstream. PEG's are penetration enhancers, and should be avoided.
PEG's are often contaminated with 1,4 dioxane, a possible carcinogen.
DEA, MEA, TEA
These are found in cosmetics and household cleaning products, including soaps, shampoos, hair conditioners and dyes, lotions, shaving creams, paraffin and waxes, household cleaning products, eye liners, mascara, eye shadows, blush, foundation, fragrance, sunscreens.
These are listed with many variations. Look for an avoid anything with the letters DEA, MEA, TEA: tri-ethanol-amine, di-ethanol-amine, DEA, TEA, coca-mide DEA, cocamide MEA, CEA-cetyl phosphate, DEA oleth-3 phosphate, lauramide DEA, linoleamide MEA, myristamid DEA, oleamide DEA, stearamide MEA, TEA-lauryl sulfate.
1,4 – dioxane
Look for and avoid: sodium laureth sulfate, PEG compounds, and chemicals that include the clause “xynol,” “ceteareth,” and “oleth.” These are potential carcinogens.
Triclosan has been a registered pesticide since 1969 and is inked to neurocognitive disorders like alzheimer’s, dementia, and cancer. It is found in hand sanitizers, lotions, soap, toothpaste, detergent. It’s been found to cause cancer in mice.
Other chemicals in personal care products that have been linked to cancer:
hydroquinone, butoxyethanol, hydroquinone, methyl cellosolve, and parabens.
What is a hormone or endocrine disruptor?
Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that can interfere with the body’s endocrine system. This is an important system that regulates our mood, growth, development, sexual function, reproductive health, and our metabolism. Even slight changes to the hormone system can have significant effects.
Some chemicals act as mimics and can fool the body into a response. Others act as blockers and can cause the overproduction or underproduction of hormones in our bodies. Any of these changes can have big effects on our reproductive, developmental, neurological, or immune systems.
These are small amounts of endocrine disrupting chemicals, but small amounts can be even more dangerous than large amounts. This is because the body makes, regulates, and responds to really small amounts of hormones in our daily lives naturally. So when we are exposed to hormone disrupters in small amounts throughout the day, it can fool the body into responding.
Where else are hormone disrupters found?
DDT and other pesticides, found in the food system and our back yards.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a potent hormone disrupter that is used as the building block of polycarbonate plastics (the hard clear plastic) and in the resins that line most food cans. (Eden brand does not use BPA).