How These Chemicals Affect Your Skin
By Danny Siegenthaler
According to a recent interview with Stacy Malkan, the co-founder of The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, young women use around 12 or more products a day and in doing so, are exposing themselves to over hundreds of potentially toxic chemicals.
Depending on the products you use, you are exposing yourself to several carcinogens, endocrine disruptors and irritants. According to a study published by the Mayo Clinic, these chemicals are one of the most common causes of dermatitis and similar skin problems.
Here are some of the well known problem chemicals commonly use in skin and personal care products:
Methyl, Propyl, Butyl and/or Ethyl Paraben
Used as preservatives to extend the shelf life of skin and personal care products. Parabens have been reported to have caused many allergic reactions and skin rashes. Studies have shown that they are weakly estrogenic and can be absorbed by the body through the skin. Widely used even though they are potentially toxic.
Formaldehyde, used as a preservative, is a known carcinogen (causes cancer). Causes allergic, irritant and contact dermatitis, headaches and chronic fatigue. The vapour is extremely irritating to the eyes, nose and throat (mucous membranes).
Diethanolamine (DEA), Triethanolamine (TEA)
DEA and TEA are often used in cosmetics and shampoos as emulsifiers and/or foaming agents. They can cause allergic reactions, eye irritation and dryness of hair and skin. DEA and TEA are “amines” (ammonia compounds) and can form cancer-causing nitrosamines when they come in contact with nitrates. They are toxic if absorbed into the body over a long period of time.
Diazolidinyl Urea, Imidazolidinyl Urea
These are widely used preservatives. The American Academy of Dermatology has found them to be a primary cause of contact dermatitis. Two trade names for these chemicals are Germall II and Germall 115. Neither of the Germall chemicals contains a good antifungal agent, and they must be combined with other preservatives. Both these chemicals release formaldehyde, which can be toxic.
Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate
A cheap, harsh detergent used in shampoos, bubble baths, hand and body wash products for its cleansing and foam-building properties. Often derived from petroleum, it is frequently disguised in pseudo-natural cosmetics with the phrase “comes from coconuts.” It causes eye irritation, scalp scurf similar to dandruff, skin rashes and other allergic reactions. Avoid at all cost.
Methylisothiazolinone (MIT) is a biocide widely used in industrial and cosmetic products and has been shown to pose a potential risk to unborn babies. It is widely used in shampoos and there very well could be neuro-developmental consequences from Mit. It is of particularly concerned to women with occupational exposure to MIT during pregnancy as there is a possibility of risk to the foetus. Avoid at all cost.
Also known as petroleum jelly, this mineral oil derivative is used for its emollient properties in cosmetics. It has no nutrient value for the skin and can interfere with the body’s own natural moisturizing mechanism, leading to dryness and chapping. It often creates the very conditions it claims to alleviate. Manufacturers use petrolatum because it is unbelievably cheap. Most Petro-chemicals are carcinogens and are to be avoided.
Ideally this is a vegetable glycerin mixed with grain alcohol, both of which are natural. Usually it is a synthetic petrochemical mix used as a humectant. It has been known to cause allergic reactions, hives and eczema. When you see PEG (polyethylene glycol) or PPG (polypropylene glycol) on labels, beware-these are related synthetics. The natural versions are fine and perfectly safe, not so their synthetic counter parts.
A petroleum-derived chemical used in hairsprays, styling aids and other cosmetics. It can be considered toxic, since inhaled particles can damage the lungs of sensitive persons. Most Petro-chemicals are carcinogens.
A plant-derived ingredient, it reduces static electricity by neutralizing electrical charges on hair, and is a good conditioning agent. It is a quaternary ammonium compound also used in hair conditioners and creams. Developed by the fabric industry as a fabric softener, it is a lot cheaper and easier to use in hair conditioning formulas than proteins or herbals, which are beneficial to the hair. Causes allergic reactions. Potentially toxic.
Used to make cosmetics “pretty,” synthetic colors, along with synthetic hair dyes, should be avoided at all costs. They will be labeled as FD&C or D&C, followed by a color and a number. Example: FD&C Red No. 3 / D&C Green No. 6. Many synthetic colors can be carcinogenic. If a cosmetic contains them, don’t use it.
The synthetic fragrances used in cosmetics can have as many as 200 ingredients. There is no way to know what the chemicals are, since on the label it will simply read “fragrance.” Some problems caused by these chemicals include headaches, dizziness, rash, hyperpigmentation, violent coughing, vomiting, skin irritation-the list goes on. Synthetic fragrances should be avoided. Be careful when looking at these because often the lable may say “fragrance of Lavender”, or fragrance of “Rose” or similarly popular essential oils. Fragrance of = Synthetic, NOT the real essential oil.
You can check this for yourself by simply doing a search using the terms in bold in the list and adding the following MSDS. MSDS stands for Material Safety Data Sheet, which are tests done on chemicals to establish their ‘safety’.
How do you avoid these dangerous chemicals?
Simple, switch to 100% pure natural skin care products and you will eliminate the risk of being exposed to these chemicals through your skin and personal care products.
The benefits are not just that you eliminate these dangerous chemicals, but using truly natural products that contain herbs, essential oils and other natural ingredients will benefit your overall health as well.
There are also other benefits. Formaldehyde, for example, is very harmful to our natural environment. By eliminating products that contain this, and other toxic chemical, you are indeed not just benefiting your own health but that of the environment as well.
So make the switch. Change over to using natural skin and personal care products and you’ll not just benefit your health but help the environment as well.
Danny Siegenthaler is a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine and together with his wife Susan, a medical herbalist and Aromatherapist, they have created Natural Skin Care Products by Wildcrafted Herbal Products to share their 40 years of combined expertise with you.
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© Wildcrafted Herbal Products 2008
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How Chemicals Affect Your Skin