What Chemicals Should I Avoid?

Posted on 2/10/13 4:35 PM

Want to know which chemicals you should avoid in skincare and cleansing products?  Below is a comprehensive list of common ingredients that are risky or dangerous that you and your baby should avoid.

If you don't have the time to read the whole list here are some key ones to start with: Formaldehyde & formaldehyde releasing preservatives, DEA, Fragrances, Parabens, Petrochemicals, Phthalates, BHA & BHT, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Lauryl/laureth Sulphate, Triclosan.

You may ask yourself as you read this list WHY are manufacturers allowed to sell products on the shelves that contain these chemicals?  It’s a fantastic question and something we hope will change as the research improves, and as WE the people demand better governance and stricter laws regarding their use in skincare and personal hygiene products.

This is based on comprehensive information from the Environmental Working Group in their Skin Deep Database.

Dangerous Chemicals

Risks

1,4-DIOXANE

Cleansing and moisturizing products, deodorants, shampoos, toothpastes and mouthwashes.

A carcinogen, a kidney toxicant, neurotoxicant, and respiratory toxicant; pollutes drinking water, air, and soil; a by-product of ethoxylation, a cheap shortcut process many companies use.

2-BROMO-2-NITROPROPANE-1,3-DIOL

Preservative in skincare.

A formaldehyde-releasing preservative (see FORMALDEHYDE), may break down into nitrosamines (see NITROSAMINES) in a product; gastrointestinal, immune system, skin, and liver toxicant.

ACRYLAMIDE

Binder or thickener in some cosmetics.

A carcinogenic impurity of polyacrylamide, polyquaternium-7, polyacrylic acid.

ALCOHOL DENAT

Cleaning products, toothpaste, mouthwash.

Ethyl alcohol (ethanol) with a denaturing agent making it poisonous to drink; carcinogenic, toxic, may cause birth defects.

ALUMINUM POWDER

Used as a colorant.

A known human nervous system toxicant and an allergen.

AMINOMETHYL PROPANOL

 

A skin, eye, lung irritant; may break down into carcinogenic nitrosamines (see NITROSAMINES).

AMMONIUM LAURETH SULFATE

Cleaning products – Shampoos, body wash etc.

May be contaminated with carcinogenic ethylene oxide (see ETHYLENE OXIDE) and 1,4-dioxane (see 1,4-DIOXANE).

BENZENE

Dye, detergent, paint.

A known human carcinogen, banned in European Union and Canada, an impurity of toluene (see TOLUENE)

BENZO[A]PYRENE

May be impurity of hydrogenated palm oil, hydrogenated palm kernel oil, and coal tar.

A carcinogen, hormone disruptor, persistent and bioaccumulative.

BENZYL ALCOHOL

Soap, perfume, preservative in skincare, head lice treatments.

Often synthetically created; may cause contact allergy; subject to concentration or use limitations.

BHT (BUTYLATED HYDROXYTOLUENE)

Fragrance or masking ingredient used in various cosmetics.

Skin, eye, lung irritant; immune system toxicant.

BUTYLENE GLYCOL

Used as a solvent and conditioning agent.

A skin, eye, and lung irritant.

CETEARETH-20

An emulsifier in soaps and cosmetics.

May be contaminated with carcinogenic ethylene oxide (see ETHYLENE OXIDE) and 1,4-dioxane (see 1,4-DIOXANE).

CETETH-20

A cleansing and solubilizing agent.

May be contaminated with carcinogenic ethylene oxide (see ETHYLENE OXIDE) and 1,4-dioxane (see 1,4-DIOXANE).

CHLOROFORM

Once used in toothpastes, cough syrups, ointments, may be present in products containing Triclosan.

Banned in cosmetics, carcinogenic, persistent and bioaccumulative; a possible impurity of triclosan (see TRICLOSAN).

CITRUS GRANDIS (GRAPEFRUIT) SEED EXTRACT:

Used as a preservative.

May be contaminated with triclosan (see TRICLOSAN) and methylparaben (see PARABENS).

COAL TAR

An antidandruff agent, a cosmetic biocide, a denaturant; obtained as a by-product in the destructive distillation of coal.

A known carcinogen; banned in European Union and Canada; may be contaminated with benzo[a]pyrene, another carcinogen.

 

COCAMIDE DEA

A chemically modified form of coconut oil, a foaming agent in shampoos, soaps, cosmetics.

A carcinogen; may break down into Nitrosamines (see NITROSAMINES).

COCAMIDOPROPYL BETAINE

A synthetic surfactant used in hand soaps and cosmetics.

A synthetic surfactant; a contact allergen; may break down into Nitrosamines (see NITROSAMINES)

COLORANTS

FD&C and D&C colours are coal tar derivatives.

Tested on animals due to their carcinogenic properties.  Banned for use in food.

DIAZOLIDINYL UREA

Preservative found in cosmetics, shampoos, conditioners, bubble baths, baby wipes, household detergents. Found in preservative called Germaben.

A formaldehyde-releasing preservative (see FORMALDEHYDE).

DIBUTYL PHTHALATES (DBP)

Found in cosmetics, and used in nail polish or a part of “fragrance”, could also be hiding in plastic toys.

A reproductive and developmental toxicant; banned in European Union; in animal studies, exposure to DBP during gestation causes infertility; prenatal exposure to DBP associated with reproductive organs mutation in baby boys

DIOXINS

Possible contaminant in products containing Triclosan.  A biproduct of industrial processes such as bleaching, which is found in soil, water & food.

A carcinogenic impurity of Triclosan (see TRICLOSAN); a hormone disruptor; persistent and bioaccumulative; a priority pollutant on the EPA Clean Water Act list

 

DISODIUM LAURETH SULFOSUCCINATE

A foam booster used in soaps and bubble bath.

May be contaminated with ethylene oxide (see ETHYLENE OXIDE) and 1,4-dioxane (see 1,4-DIOXANE)

DMDM HYDANTOIN

Trade name Glydant, found in shampoos, hair conditioners, hair gels and skin care products.

An antimicrobial formaldehyde-releasing preservative (see FORMALDEHYDE)

 

ETHYLENE OXIDE

Used as a sterilizing agent, not an ingredient directly found in skincare but a contaminant in many skincare ingredients. 

A known human carcinogen; banned in Canada and European Union; EWG rates it 10/10 for the harmful health impact.  Associated with cancer, reproductive effects, mutagenic changes, neurotoxicity, and sensitization; not an ingredient but a contaminant of ingredients such as Polysorbate-20, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, PEG-100 Stearate, Ceteareth-20, Ceteth-20, Polysorbate-60, Laureth-7, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Steareth-21 and others.

FERRIC AMMONIUM FERROCYANIDE

A synthetic colorant.

Restricted by FDA, an environmental toxin.

FORMALDEHYDE

In NZ many cosmetics and personal care products contain a formaldehyde-releaser.

A carcinogenic impurity released by cosmetic preservatives, such as diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, quaternium-15, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol, and others; causes dermatitis; banned in Japan and Sweden.

FRAGRANCE

Many skincare products, also labelled as Parfum.

An undisclosed mixture of various scent chemicals and ingredients containing hormone-disrupting phthalates, allergens, and diethyl phthalate linked to sperm damage

HYDROGENATED PALM OIL

Used as a skin conditioning agent.

May be contaminated with benzo[a]pyrene (see BENZO[A]PYRENE).

HYDROQUINONE

A skin bleaching agent, a hair colorant; banned in European Union and Canada. 

May cause a bluish black discoloration of certain tissues; a skin and respiratory organ toxicity; an allergen; may also be an impurity found in “tocophe” group of chemicals (e.g. Tocopheryl Acetate).

IMIDAZOLIDINYL UREA

An antimicrobial preservative used in cosmetics.

A formaldehyde-releasing preservative (see FORMALDEHYDE).

ISOPROPYL ALCOHOL (SD-40)

Used to thin cosmetics and cleansing products, also to help other chemicals penetrate the skin.

 May have a drying and irritating effect on skin. It can also damage the lipid barrier in the skin, thus allowing other dangerous chemicals to pass through the skin more readily.

LAURAMIDE DEA

Foaming agent in products like shampoos and hand soaps, and in cosmetics as an emulsifying agent.

May break down into Nitrosamines (see NITROSAMINES).

 

LEAD.

Used in hair colorants

Carcinogenic; persistent and bioaccumulative; banned by FDA to be used around eyes; an impurity found in hydrogenated cottonseed oil, sodium hexametaphosphate, hydrogenated cottonseed glyceride.

LECITHIN

A skin conditioning substance, an emulsifying agent.

May break down into Nitrosamines (see NITROSAMINES).

 

MERCURY

As a cosmetics ingredient it is banned, but may be an impurity in some products.

A non-reproductive organ toxicant; persistent and bioaccumulative.  May be an impurity in hydrogenated cottonseed oil and hydrogenated cottonseed glyceride.

METHYLISOTHIAZOLINONE

A preservative found in baby wipes, conditioners, cleansing agents.

Causes allergic reactions; skin, lung, and eye irritant; may be neurotoxic; restricted in Canada and Japan; subject to concentration and use limitations.

 

NITROMETHANE

An anticorrosive agent found in aerosol hair sprays.

A carcinogen; persistent and bioaccumulative.

 

NITROSAMINES

Nearly every kind of personal care product and cosmetics can contain nitrosamines as various compounds break down over time and recombine into nitrosamines.

A carcinogenic contaminant; no repercussions for manufacturers contaminating their products with nitrosamines.

 

OLEAMIDE DEA

A foam booster in hand soaps and cleansing products.

May be contaminated with Nitrosamines (see NITROSAMINES).

PAHs

A group of chemicals occurring naturally in coal, crude oil, and gasoline.  Any products containing petrolatum or petroleum jelly.

Carcinogenic; banned in the European Union and Canada.

 

PARABENS (METHYLPARABEN, PROPYLPARABEN, ETHYLPARABEN, BUTYLPARABEN, ISOPROPYLPARABEN)

Synthetic Fragrance ingredient and preservative found in many skincare products, from shampoo, hand soaps, foundation and lip balm to baby wipes and lotions.

Hormone disruptors; found in 99% of breast cancer tumours.

PETROLATUM (PETROLIUM JELLY)

A semisolid mixture of hydrocarbons obtained from petroleum.

May be contaminated with PAHs (see PAHs).

 

PHENACETIN

Used as a fever-reducing drug but banned in drugs in 1983; now used as a stabilizer in cosmetics.

A known carcinogen.

 

PHENOLPHTHALEIN

Used in hair relaxers, shampoos and conditioners.

A carcinogen; a hormone disruptor.

 

PHENONIP

Preservative found in many skincare products.

A mix of preservatives Phenoxyethanol (see PHENOXYETHANOL), Methylparaben (see PARABENS), Ethylparaben (see PARABENS), Butylparaben (see PARABENS), Propylparaben (see PARABENS), and Isobutylparaben (see PARABENS).

PHENOXYETHANOL

A preservative, found in many skincare and cosmetic products.

A skin, eye, and lung irritant. Restricted in Japan; in European Union considered harmful only for products used on the lips and around the mouth.

 

PHTHALATES

Plasticizers use in plastics, lubricants, lotions, and fragrance.  Found in perfume, eye shadow, moisturizer, nail polish, liquid soap, and hair spray.

Scientific studies link phthalate exposure to reproductive abnormalities in baby boys, reduced testosterone and sperm quality in men and early puberty in girls.  

PLACENTA ENZYMES

These are derived from the uterus of slaughtered animals; widely used in skin creams, shampoos, and masks.

May be contaminated with progesterone, estrogen, and estrone.  Therefore causing hormone disruption.

 

POLYSORBATE-20

A surfactant and emulsifier used in cleaners and personal care products.

May be contaminated with carcinogenic Ethylene Oxide (see ETHYLENE OXIDE) and 1,4-Dioxane (see 1,4-DIOXANE),

 

PROPYLENE GLYCOL

An organic alcohol commonly used as a skin conditioning agent i.e. moisturisers also found  in deodorants and toothpastes.

May cause an allergic contact dermatitis and itchiness; irritation may happen at propylene glycol concentrations as low as 2%.

 

QUATERNIUM-15

Used as a preservative in many cosmetics.

A formaldehyde-releasing preservative (see FORMALDEHYDE), skin, eye, lung irritant.

RETINYL PALMITATE (VITAMIN A PALMITATE)

A synthetic vitamin A; restricted in cosmetics use in Canada.

According to FDA studies, when applied to the skin in the presence of sunlight, may speed the development of skin tumours and lesions and daily skin application of vitamin A creams may build up in the woman’s body a high enough level of Vitamin A that may be toxic to a foetus.

SELENIUM SULFIDE

An antidandruff and hair conditioning agent; banned in European Union and Japan.

A carcinogen; persistent and bioaccumulative.

 

SODIUM BENZOATE

Used as a preservative in many cosmetics.

When combined with ascorbic acid, benzene may be formed (see BENZENE).

SODIUM HYDROXYLMETHYLGLYCINATE

Preservative found in skincare products.

Skin irritant; a formaldehyde-releasing preservative (see FORMALDEHYDE).

SODIUM LAURETH SULFATE (SLSE)

An emulsifying and foaming agent found in hand wash, shampoo and bubble bath.

May be contaminated with carcinogenic Ethylene Oxide (see ETHYLENE OXIDE) and 1,4-Dioxane (see 1,4-DIOXANE).

SODIUM LAUROYL SARCOSINATE

A foaming agent, and a skin and hair conditioning agent; restricted in cosmetics in Japan.

Can break down into Nitrosamines (see NITROSAMINES).

 

SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE (SLS)

An emulsifying and foaming agent found in hand wash, shampoo and bubble bath.

An emulsifying and foaming agent; an eye, skin (eczema), and lung irritant.

 

SODIUM PCA

A skin and hair conditioning agent found in moisturisers and conditioners.

Can break down into Nitrosamines (see NITROSAMINES).

 

TALC

Talcum powders.

May be contaminated with asbestos fibres causing respiratory toxicity and cancer; asbestos-free talc is still toxic and carcinogenic.

TOLUENE

A petrochemical solvent and paint thinner; in cosmetics, used in nail polish.

A toxin to the reproductive system; can cause damage to a foetus.

 

TRICLOSAN

An antibacterial agent and preservative in personal care and home-cleaning products.

Persistent and bioaccumulative; a hormone disruptor; a skin, lung, and eyes irritant; may be contaminated with chloroform (see CHLOROFORM) and dioxins (see DIOXINS).

 ThinkWise What Chemicals Should I Avoid

Posted by Jodie - ThinkWise Founder

Categories Ingredients    Expecting Mamas    Healthy Homes    Newborns    Skin Care    The Science   

Comments

Kelly 1/04/14 6:35 AM

I had no idea there were so many chemicals to look out for - will be going through my cupboards tonight. Thanks for sharing!