Anyone who knows me well, knows I always love having a new project!
Clean closet? Check.
Clear out refrigerator with expired condiments? Check.
Organize medicine cabinet? Check, check.
In my quest for non-toxic home cleaning products, personal care products and makeup, I’ve been pulling each item out and examining the labels for ingredients. Besides Paraben, there are other potentially harmful ingredients we are exposed to that we use every day. The Environmental Working Group has a great article on shopping tips for safe cosmetics that I’ll summarize here.
In general, they recommend to avoid:
- Soap that contains: triclosan and triclocarban
- Hand sanitizers: ethanol or ethyl alcohol in at least 60% alcohol
- Sunscreen: oxybenzone, added insect repellent, SPF greater than 50.
- Nails: Formaldehyde or formalin in polish, hardeners or other ail products
- Skin: Skin lighteners with hydroquinone, mercury, calomel, mercurio or mercurio chloride.
- Moisturizers/Shaving Cream: “Fragrance”, PEG/ceteareth/polyethylene, DMDM hydantoin, Parabens
Scary right? Confused about these big words? Don’t freak out yet. Here’s an overview:
- Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde releasers – Bronopol, DMDM hydantoin, Diazolidinyl urea, Imidzaolidinyl urea and Quaternium-15: Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen. The preservatives and the formaldehyde the releasers can generate can trigger allergic skin reactions. Formaldehyde, also an asthmagen, neurotoxicant and developmental toxicant, used to be commonly mixed into to many personal care products as antiseptic. This use has declined. But some hair straighteners are based on formaldehyde’s hair-stiffening action and release substantial amounts of the chemical.
- Fragrance: Fragrances are in everything from shampoo to deodorant to lotion. Since the FDA doesn’t regulate cosmetics, any ingredients listed as “fragrance” is a place where companies don’t have to list on product labels any of the chemicals in their fragrance mixture. Fragrances can contain hormone disruptors and are among the top 5 allergens in the world.
- Hydroquinone: A popular skin bleaching chemical in many high end skincare lines, Hydroquinone has shown lot cause tumor development in animal studies.
- PEGs/Ceteareth/Polyethylene compounds: These synthetic chemicals are frequently contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which the U.S. government considers a human carcinogen and which readily penetrates the skin.
- Triclosan & Triclocarban: Antimicrobial pesticides in liquid soap (triclosan) or soap bars (triclocarban) can disrupt thyroid function and reproductive hormones. American Medical Association and the American Academy of Microbiology say that soap and water serves just as well to prevent spread of infections and reduce bacteria on the skin.
Like everything else, it’s important that you decide what ingredients are important to you and your family to avoid. You don’t have to go whole hog and avoid everything – I’m certainly not going to. One site I found recommended in response to the challenge of finding quality toxic-free products to avoid makeup altogether, because after all, “Is the price of beauty that important?”
Ummm. I’m not ready to disavow beauty products yet. Or ever. I think beauty has a value in our lives and makes us feel good. So I’m opting instead for a “do what you can” approach. Little changes can make a big difference. And making these little changes now, for our children, can make an even bigger difference.