You’ve most likely noticed a shift toward a more natural, “greener,” and simpler way of living. People are waking up to the lies the beauty + household brands have been telling (selling) us. But what really are the effect of chemicals in our personal care products? Do they really make that big a difference? In this post I will pull back the curtain; and we will look at the science of how conventional makeup, as well as skin-care, hair-care, and household products, are not only harming our health but our environment. I hope this post will push you to toss out the crap and moving towards natural cosmetics.
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Let’s start with your skin
Our skin is our largest organ. It absorbs everything we put on it whether birth control, lotions, toxic perfumes, makeup, or nicotine patches. The absorption through the skin is more dangerous than ingestion by mouth. It all matters. Why does it matter so much what we put on our skin? Well, when we eat, nutrients and toxins have a slight benefit because they pass through our detoxification system. Substances need to pass through our kidneys, liver, and colon, where the enzymes help break them down. (This is why I take these digestive enzymes to help the process even more). However, when it comes to the skin, toxins pass, unfiltered, straight to the bloodstream!!
Listen up women:
Women are inordinately exposed to these dangers. Did you know that the average American women use twelve beauty products before 11 AM? That translates to women being exposed to more than 168 synthetic, unregulated chemicals in just cosmetics.
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But what about our babies? :
New studies are showing that these horrific toxins in beauty products are threatening the health of unborn babies. The Canadian NGO Environmental Defense tested the umbilical cord blood of newborn babies and found that babies are now being born “pre-polluted.” This is not okay. They found that each child had been born with 55 to 121 toxic compounds and some of those possibly causing cancer chemicals in their bodies!
Thankfully, resources do exist to help inform and educate consumers. Here is the list of 11 harmful toxic ingredients found in your daily cosmetics.
1. Parabens: When I was a little girl my mother told me to watch out for Parabens and SLS. I remember reading the ingredient deck at supermarkets when I was 10 years old!! How grateful am I now that Parabens are a household name. People know now how horrific some of these toxins can be. But where are they found? You will find Parabens in makeup and moisturizers. Sadly, they are directly linked to impairing regular hormonal function. Studies have shown that parabens can mimic the effects of estrogen, which in an imbalanced state could lead to breast cancer for women and interfere with male reproductive function! NOT OKAY!!
2. Parfum: Present everywhere, even in products marketed as “unscented” (it may also be listed as “scent,” or “fragrance”). So just be careful on the brands you choose. Parfum is actually not one single ingredient—it’s a compound of many chemicals and, sometimes, essential oils. Since there are no regulations requiring companies to disclose the ingredient lists of their signature scents, the blanket term parfum is used.
3. Petrolatum or petroleum jelly (Vaseline): This one I am sure you have in your cabinets right now. It can keep skin hydrated, which is why it’s often added to skin-care and hair-care products. But these products can easily become contaminated with carcinogens. A good alternative for this product is this Herbal Baby Salve.
4. Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS): These are in basically everything you clean with. They’re common foaming agents used in dish soaps and foamy beauty products such as cleansers, shampoos, and for bubble bath use. SLES can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which can cause cancer and liver damage. It can also possibly become contaminated with the known carcinogen ethylene oxide. This is one that not only hurts us but is harmful to fish and other wildlife. Here is $10 off the cleaning collection I get: Non-Toxic Cleaning Collection.
5. Palm oil: This edible oil is used in processed foods and cosmetics. Palm oil is one you want to avoid because of its links to deforestation, habitat degradation, climate change, animal cruelty, and indigenous rights abuses in the countries where it’s produced. In the production of palm oil, the forested land must be cleared. And this is no small clearing either. An area the equivalent size of three hundred football fields of the rain forest is cleared each hour to make palm oil. This large-scale deforestation is pushing many species to extinction, and findings show that if nothing changes, species such as the orangutan could become extinct in the wild within the next five to ten years, and Sumatran tigers, in fewer than three years. Wake up people. I often say we vote with our dollar. Palm oil doesn’t deserve your vote; avoid it at all costs.
6. Polyethylene glycols or PEG: Widely used in conditioners, moisturizers, and deodorants, PEG can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which may cause cancer. If perfectly pure, they’re considered generally safe, though they’re not recommended for use on broken skin. In rare cases, polyethylene glycol compounds can become contaminated with ethylene oxide—and that’s when it gets really concerning. Ethylene oxide, which is another harmful cosmetics ingredient, is a known carcinogen and can also cause developmental problems.
7. Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine, or quarternium-15): These are widely used in hair and nail products and in moisturizers. They’re used as preservatives in cosmetics and as active ingredients in some toilet bowl cleaners. Formaldehyde is proven to cause cancer.
8. The ethanolamines (ammonia compounds)—DEA (diethanolamine), MEA (monoethanolamine), and TEA (triethanolamine): These unfriendly acronyms are found in creamy and foaming products such as moisturizer, soap, sunscreen, and shampoo. They react to form cancer-causing nitrosamines, which are not only harmful to humans, but also to fish and other wildlife.
9. BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene): The International Agency for Research on Cancer has listed these chemicals as potential carcinogens. They’re not restricted in the United States, but California includes BHA on its list of chemicals that must be listed on product ingredient labels as potentially cancer-causing.
10. Cyclomethicone and siloxanes: If you like a clean windshield, dry underarms, or a smooth makeup base, you’ve probably used products containing siloxane. They interfere with hormone function and damage the liver. Environment Canada says that D4 (cyclotetrasiloxane) and D5 (cyclopentasiloxane) may build up in fish or other aquatic organisms. The European study reached a similar conclusion, rating the chemicals as “high concern.”
11. Dibutyl phthalate: It keeps nail polish from chipping, helps PVC remain flexible, and is used as a solvent for dyes and fragrances. But is it worth it? This chemical has been found to interfere with hormone function, especially during pregnancy.
Non-Toxic Beauty Brands I recommend:
Non-toxic beauty brands are hard to find. There have been several I have tried and fell in love with, then because they became popular, the began to put “crap” in their formula. Here are some brands/companies I believe to have integrity around their formulation:
Lust minerals: Free from all plastics, fillers, talcum, and other beauty destroying, cancer-causing chemicals which could be found in designer and supermarket brands.
Vapour Beauty: A high-performance cosmetic brand that includes only the purest, active ingredients from the earth—and nothing else.
The other route I suggest taking when looking for the right non-toxic brand for yourself is to search on Instagram and Etsy. There are tons of accounts that handmake their cosmetics straight out of their home. Most of the time, the smaller the company, the better, plus you support a small family run business that way.