Ingredients found in cosmetic products could use chemicals that are natural or they could be synthetic. And how hazardous they are, depends on what kind of the chemical compounds that go into making them. Harmful chemicals more commonly used in our beauty and personal care products could cause a range of health hazards from cancer to hormonal dysfunctions also called endocrine disruptions, irritation, rashes, developmental disorders, reproductive and fertility problems. Here is a running list of 13 chemicals that you will do good to cut out of your beauty products at the earliest. Some of them have been banned by various regulatory bodies and some have been warned against. It goes without saying that it is important we look up the label of the cosmetic brand we buy. It is all about being mindful of what goes into our system and what is externally applied, especially because skin is one of the largest organs of our body.
Parabens are preservatives that give shelf life to beauty care and other food products by preventing growth of bacteria in the products. They have been used in mass cosmetic brands because they are cheap. But the real cost is the health hazard they present. In a study done by Dr. Philippa Darbre from University of Reading, paraben particles were found in breast tumors. Parabens can potentially damage hormonal functions, especially reproduction hormones. Some parabens are banned by the European Union but still sell in other parts of the world.
2. Synthetic colors
These colors are manufactured synthetically and they are made from petroleum and coal tar. Tar potentially contains heavy metal salts which are irritants for the skin. Clinical studies have proved most of the coloring agents to be carcinogenic. You can identity synthetic colors mentioned as FD & C along with a color and a number like FD&C Red 40 or FD & C Yellow 5. These colors could cause further harm since they can penetrate and get absorbed into the skin.
According to scientists, anything that gives an odor to cosmetic products including deodarants, body mists or perfumes potentially contain allergens. Studies show that chemical compounds that make fragrances are known allergens, can cause dermatitis, respiratory problems and hormonal dysfunctions.
Phthalates are another group of chemicals that are used to make the plastic component more flexible and softer. Some of the commonly used Phthalates are dibutyl phthalate and diethyl present in nail paints, perfumes, lotions and hair sprays. Usage of phthalates can hinder endocrine functions, and can cause breast cancer.
5. Sodium lauryl sulfate and Sodium laureth sulfate
Sulfates are most commonly found chemicals in personal care products that are known to be skin irritants, also affecting the lungs and eyes. Sulfates become carcinogenic when they combine as nitrosamines. They can potentially damage kidneys and lungs.
Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives that are used in cosmetic products to keep bacteria at bay, have been declared as carcinogens by the International Agency For Research on Carcinogens. It reduces the body’s immunity and can cause skin disorders and irritation like coughing, eyes watering, rashes among other signs. In particular, it’s usage over time can lead to nasal and pharyngeal cancers.
Toluene is a solvent petrochemical that you see on products mentioned as benzene, toluol, methylbenzene among others. It damages your immune system, respiratory system and is a major skin irritant. The chemical is not favorable during pregnancy since its vapor can affect fetal development.
8. Propylene glycol.
Even a 2 percent concentration of propylene glycol, an organic alcohol in your skin cream, moisturizers, sun screens, conditioners, makeup and hair sprays can cause rashes and skin diseases like dermatitis and hives.
9. Sunscreen compounds
Chemicals like octinoxate, benzonphenone, oxybenzone, homosalate and padimate-O are chemiclas found in your sunscreens. Some of these are carcinogenic like padimate-O, others are skin penetrators that affect cells, cause allergies and hormonal dysfunctions.
10. Coal tar
Not all the products mention the usage of tar on their labels since it is not always the active ingredient. But it is used in hair colors, anti-itch treatments, skin creams and other cosmetic products. It is likely mixed with toxic metal waste, since it is a petrochemical. Use of coal tar is banned in Europe but is still in use in other countries. Tar is carcinogenic and the heavy metal component can affect brain function.
11. Mineral oil
Mineral oil is used in cosmetic and personal care products as white oil or liquid paraffin. Applying mineral oil is akin to wrapping your skin in plastic and not letting it breathe. It is responsible for pre-mature aging of your skin.
Commonly found in facial cleansers and beauty creams along with other personal care items, the chemical replaces paraben in many products. But scientists have found it to cause damage to reproductive and development functions. It is banned in Japan and Europe. It harms the central nervous system, causes nausea and diarrhea.
Nanoparticles are found in creams for acne and tan treatments, blushes and other makeup products. Scary bit is that it doesn’t get listed on the labels anywhere. Because of their obvious size, experts have raised concerns about its impact on cellular level, accumulation and potential brain and genetic damage.
If you find yourself disappointed after going through this rigorous list, may be you will have eyes to read this- According to Ayurveda, anything that is not edible, should not be applied on your skin or hair. Brands like Shankara go out of the way to make sure the Ayurveda compliant herbal products meet this basic requirement for the safety and nourishment of your hair, skin and over all health. To learn more about what kind of herbal applications can brighten up your winter skin and balance the Vata Dosha(related to the air element in the nature) go here.