10 Synthetic Chemicals to Avoid

The United States still lags far behind the European Union in curbing harmful chemicals found in everyday products. “Many Americans are unaware that they are absorbing untested and unsafe chemicals in their products,” said Alex Bergstein, a state senator. In cosmetics alone, the EU has banned or restricted more than 1,300 chemicals while the US has outlawed or curbed just 11.


It is possible to find formaldehyde, a known carcinogen banned in EU-sold cosmetics in hair straightening treatments and nail polish. Parabens are also not yet outlawed in the United States and can be found in a number of skin and hair products. Parabens have been linked to reproductive issues. And the list goes on and on. The European Union has laws that require manufacturers to prove the safety of a product before it can go to market. In the United States there are similar rules for new chemicals entering the market, but no such precautionary principles for the thousands of potential toxins already in use. 


So, this means that it is up to the consumer to decide what is good for them or not and to do their research. We have compiled a list of 10 toxic beauty ingredients to avoid. Remember, there are many many more toxic chemicals in everything from our food such as dyes, pesticides, and additives, there are toxic chemicals in our beverages, such as aspartame, more dyes and glyphosate-laden sugar, there are toxic chemicals in the clothes we wear and synthetic harmful chemicals are absolutely all around us. But since the beauty industry is so huge and since our skin is our largest organ, we are devoting this list to those ingredients.


Parabens: Parabens are so ubiquitous. They are a widely used preservative that prevent the growth of bacteria, mold, and yeast. Parabens also contain estrogen-mimicking properties that are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. These chemicals are absorbed through the skin and have been identified in biopsy samples from breast tumors.


Synthetic colors: We should be reading our product labels, just as we do our food labels. You may notice synthetic colors added to your product, which are derived from petroleum or coal tar sources. Synthetic colors are suspected to be a human carcinogen, a skin irritant and are linked to ADHD in children. 


Fragrance: Fragrance can include any number of chemicals, masked from the public to protect a company’s secret formula. Fragrance can be associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential side effects on the reproductive system. 


Phthalates: These are a group of chemicals used to increase the flexibility and softness of plastics. These chemicals are known to be endocrine disrupters and have been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. 


Tricoslan: Tricoslan is a widely used antimicrobial chemical, and is a known endocrine disrupter and a skin irritant. The war on germs and bacteria has in fact created stronger strains of bacteria and is contributing to the antibiotic resistance we see.


Sodium lauryl sulfate and Sodium laureth sulfate: This is found in nearly all foaming products. These are known to be skin, lung and eye irritants and can combine with other chemicals to form nitrosamines, a carcinogen and can contribute to kidney and respiratory damage.


Formaldehyde: Formaldehyde is used in many cosmetic products to help prevent bacteria growth. It is a known carcinogen and has been linked to allergic reactions and harmful immune effects.


Toluene: A petrochemical derived from petroleum or coal tar sources. You may see it on labels listed as benzene, toluol, phenylmethane, methylbenzene. It can affect the respiratory system and irritate sin. It may also cause developmental damage in the fetus, so pregnant mums should definitely beware.


Propylene glycol: is a synthetic, colorless, odorless, tasteless liquid that belongs to the same chemical class as alcohol. It is commonly used as a skin-conditioning agent. It has been known to cause dermatitis and hives.


Sunscreen chemicals: These chemicals function as a sunscreen agent but are endocrine disruptors as they are easily absorbed into the body. They may also cause cellular damage and cancer. Common names are benzophenone, PABA, avobenzone, homosalate, and ethoxycinnmate.


There are numerous studies on each of these chemicals and we encourage you to look them up and decide for yourself what you are comfortable putting in or on your body. Remember that your skin is your largest organ and whatever you put on it, easily gets absorbed into the bloodstream. So if you wouldn’t eat it, you definitely don’t want to be putting it anywhere on your body.

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