Know Your Toxins!
Introducing the most prevalent and harmful toxins commonly found in mainstream cosmetics and personal care products...
The infamous ‘Dirty Dozen’ should be avoided at all costs! Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. We’ve included an additional list of ingredients that are also questionable and should be avoided wherever possible.
For more information on related studies and research on the below ingredients, please visit The Environmental Working Group website at www.ewg.org and upload the thinkdirtyapp.com
THE DIRTY DOZEN...
1. PARABENS (ISOBUTYLPARABEN, BUTYLPARABEN, METHYLPARABEN, PROPYLPARABEN)
Found in: almost every type of personal care product
Parabens preservatives commonly used to prevent the growth of bacteria and mould. They can mimic the hormone oestrogen disrupting the endocrine system, which is known to play a role in the development of breast cancers. Parabens can cause skin irritation and contact dermatitis and Rosacea in individuals with paraben allergies. Studies indicate that methylparaben applied on the skin reacts with UVB leading to increased skin ageing and DNA damage. These chemicals are also endocrine disruptors and have been linked to fertility problems.
2. SYNTHETIC FRAGRANCE/PARFUM
Found in: almost any type of personal care product
The synthetic fragrances used in cosmetics can have as many as 200 ingredients. There is no way to know what the chemicals are because formulas are protected under federal law’s classification of trade secrets. On the label it will simply read “fragrance.” Some problems caused by these chemicals include including hormone disruption, headaches, dizziness, rash, hyper-pigmentation, violent coughing, vomiting, skin irritation—the list goes on. Don’t buy a cosmetic that has the word “fragrance” on the ingredients label. Look for labels that say, “phthalate–free”.
3. PHTHALATES (DBP, DEHP, DEP)
Found in: synthetic fragrance, nail polish, hairspray
A class of plasticising chemicals used to make products more pliable or to make fragrances stick to skin. Phthalates disrupt the endocrine system and may cause birth defects. They have been linked to damage of the kidneys, lungs, and liver, as well. (see also Synthetic Fragrances)
4. SODIUM LAURYL/LAURETH SULFATE (SLS AND SLES)
Found in: just about anything that foams; shampoo, body wash, face wash, hand soap, toothpaste, bubble bath
A foaming agent used to break down water in grease. It’s so powerful that it’s also used in concrete floor cleaners, engine degreasers, and car wash detergents. A well-known skin irritant, it is rapidly absorbed and retained in the eyes, brain, heart and liver, which may result in harmful long-term effects. It can slow healing, cause cataracts in adults, and prevent children’s eyes from developing properly, corrode hair follicles and impair ability to grow hair. These surfactants that can cause skin irritation or trigger allergies. SLES is often contaminated with formaldehyde releasing 1,4-dioxane, a byproduct of a petrochemical process called ethoxylation.
5. PETROLEUM/PARAFFIN/MINERAL OIL
Found in: baby oil, lip balm, lip stick, lip gloss, mascara, moisturisers, concealer, foundation, face powder, hair gel, body wash, eye shadow, paraffin treatments, petroleum jelly, and hair conditioner
A petrochemical pollutant derived from crude oil, found in an overwhelming number of products. It seals off the skin creating a barrier which feels slick, but doesn’t allow the skin to breath, which is essential for the proper functioning of this organ. Ultimately causes slowing down skin’s function and normal cell development, resulting in premature ageing and many other health and skin disorders such as contact dermatitis.
Found in: nail polish, shampoo, body wash, eyelash glue, and hair products, the Brazilian Blowout and other straightening treatments
You won’t find this listed as “formaldehyde” except perhaps in a few remaining brands of nail polish. It hides behind ingredient names such as: quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3 diol (Bronopol), glyoxal and oxaldehyde. Recognized by the EPA as a carcinogen, it’s linked to lung cancers, Hodgkin lymphoma and leukaemia, and myeloid leukaemia. It permeates through inhalation and can also cause eye, nose, and throat irritation; reproductive and developmental toxicity; asthma; neurologic and behavioural toxicity; and immunological toxicity. It’s banned for use in cosmetics in Sweden and Japan.
Found in: skin lightening creams
A skin lightening chemical that inhibits the production of melanin and is a linked to cancer, organ toxicity and skin irritation.
8. MERCURY (THIMEROSAL AND MERTHIOLATE)
Found in: ear and eye drops; may be used in mascara
Metallic element used as a preservative and antiseptic known to damage brain function.
9. PROPYLENE GLYCOL
Found in: cosmetics, baby wipes, lotion, toothpaste, shampoo, and deodorant
Propylene Glycol will cause serious health conditions, including liver and heart damage and damage to the central nervous system if sufficient is absorbed by the body. Used in anti-freeze solutions, in brake and hydraulic fluids, as a de-icer, and as a solvent. There is no difference between the propylene glycol used in industry and that used in personal care products. It has been known to cause allergic reactions, hives and eczema.
Found in: antibacterial products such as soap, hand sanitiser, deodorants, toothpaste, and cosmetics
Studies have shown that triclosan is an endocrine disruptor and enables bacteria to become antibiotic-resistant. The CDC states that it is found in 75% of the population’s urine. The American Medical Association advises against the use of antibacterial soap at home to prevent the creation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Antibacterial soap has been found no more effective than regular soap. Antimicrobial pesticides toxic to the aquatic environment; may also impact human reproductive systems.
11. COAL TAR DYES (AMINOPHENOL, DIAMINOBENZENE, PHENYLENEDIAMINE)
Found in: hair dye, shampoo, colorant in cosmetics
It is used to produce synthetic colours and acts as an anti-dandruff agent. Coal tar ingredients are known carcinogens and may be contaminated with heavy metals toxic to the brain. Commonly cause skin sensitivity and/or irritation.
12. BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole) and BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene)
Found in: Commonly found in lipsticks, moisturisers, nappy creams and other cosmetics
Synthetic antioxidants used as a preservative to extend shelf life. They are likely carcinogens. May also disrupt hormones, as well as cause liver, thyroid and kidney problems.
MORE NASTIES TO WATCH OUT FOR…
Found in: sunscreens, moisturisers
A disinfectant used as a preservative and surfactant associated with severe skin, eye and respiratory irritation and allergies.
Found in: personal care products, soap, nail polishes
A possible human carcinogen and hormone disruptor used as a fragrance ingredient and to absorb ultraviolet light.
BISPHENOL A (BPA)
Found in: plastic bottles, lining of aluminium food cans, possibly in eyeshadow and styling gel
A hormone disruptor that may also alter DNA, used in plastics and resins.
Found in: fragrance, hair colour
A solvent used to control viscosity, or a “fragrance” additive. It irritates skin and may cause cancer and reproductive toxicity. (See also Synthetic Fragrance)
Found in: mineral powder makeup
While this may not be a truly toxic ingredient, it is an irritant to about 80% of people causing irritation and sensitisation such as redness, itching, rashes and inflammation. Because of its molecular crystalline shape, many people experience itching from this ingredient, particularly when they sweat.
Found in: cosmetics with reddish dyes and colourings
It’s an insect based ingredient. Crushed beetles to be specific. Companies use it for colour instead of other FD & C, Coal Tar derived ingredients which are considered toxic. Vegans and those with allergies or sensitivities to insects and/or their bites should steer clear of items containing carmine.
CYCLOMETHICONE AND DIMETHICONE
Found in: skin care, foundation, tinted moisturiser
Ingredients Cyclomethicone or those ending in -siloxane are known endocrine disrupters which can harm reproductive and immune systems. They have the potential to bioaccumulate in aquatic organisms. Dimethicone contains residual amounts of -siloxane toxic ingredients.
DIAZOLIDINYL UREA AND IMIDAZOLIDINYL UREA
Found in: skin, body and hair products, antiperspirants and nail polish
These formaldehyde-forming preservatives can cause joint pain, allergies, depression, headaches, chest pain, chronic fatigue, dizziness, insomnia and asthma. They can also weaken the immune system and can even cause cancer.
DEA, MEA AND TEA (DIETHANOLAMINE, COCAMIDE AND TRIETHANOLAMINE)
Found in: in most personal care products that foam, including bubble baths, body washes, shampoos, soaps and facial cleansers. Also in hair dyes, mascara, foundation, fragrances, sunscreens, dry cleaning solvents, paint.
Ingredients which are linked with kidney, liver, and other organ damage according to several government-funded research studies. They can cause hormone disruption, irritation of the eyes, skin, respiratory tract, sore throat, asthma and allergic contact dermatitis. surfactants and pH adjuster linked to allergies, skin toxicity, hormone disruption, and inhibited foetal brain development.
EDTA (ETHYLENEDIAMINETETRAACETIC ACID)
Found in: hair colour, moisturisers
A binding agent added to cosmetics to improve stability. May be toxic to organs.
METHYL CELLOSOLVE (OR METHOXYETHANOL)
Found in: anti-ageing creams
Fragrance ingredient and solvent that is an irritant and a possible neurotoxin, developmental toxin, and cause of DNA mutations that could lead to cancer.
METHYLISOTHIAZOLINONE AND METHYLCHLOROISOTHIAZOLINONE
Found in: shampoo, conditioner, body wash
A chemical preservatives that are among the most common irritants, sensitisers and causes of contact skin allergies.
Found in: sunscreen, moisturisers, foundation and lipsticks with SPF
Sunscreen agent and ultraviolet light absorber linked to irritation, sensitisation and allergies, and possible hormone disruption.
Found in: cosmetics, skin care and hair care
This ingredient is widely used as a preservative and an alternative to parabens. It’s still a controversial ingredient because isn’t of major concern for most people, though some do have skin, eye or throat reactions to it. The EU considers this toxic when used in products for the mouth area.
POLYETHYLENE GLYCOL (PEG COMPOUNDS)
Found in: shampoo, body wash, bubble bath, foaming cleansers, creams, sunscreen
Used in cosmetics as thickeners, solvents, softeners, and moisture-carriers. Depending on manufacturing processes, PEGs may be contaminated with measurable amounts of ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane, which are both carcinogens. It’s purpose is to dissolve oil and grease. PEG’s can strip the natural oils of the skin leaving the immune system vulnerable. They are also potentially carcinogenic. A by-product of manufacturing that is a probable human carcinogen (a known animal carcinogen) as well as toxic to organs and the respiratory system, and a skin irritant. Likely to be present where ethoxylated ingredients like sodium laureth sulfate, PEGs, and ceteareth are listed on ingredient labels.
Found in: hairspray and cosmetics
Petroleum derived and considered toxic.
Found in: hair colour
A colorant and fragrance ingredient that is a skin irritant, toxic to the immune system and organs, and suspected to cause hormone disruption.
RETINYL PALMITATE AND RETINOL (VITAMIN A)
Found in: anti-ageing and blemish control skin care
A nutrient that may damage DNA and speed the growth of skin tumours when used topically. Reports are very mixed on this topic though.
Found in: cosmetics
Used to make cosmetics “pretty,” synthetic colours, along with synthetic hair dyes, should be avoided as many can be carcinogenic. They will be labeled as FD&C or D&C, followed by a colour and a number. Example: FD&C Red No. 6 / D&C Green No. 6.
Found in: cosmetic powders, eyeshadow, blush, baby powder
Its particles are similar to asbestos and data suggests that it can cause tumours in the lungs as probable respiratory toxin in large amounts.
Found in: nail polish
A volatile petrochemical solvent that is toxic to the immune system and can cause birth defects.