By: Stephen Au
Cosmetic products have been around for decades, used by millions of people daily to cleanse, nurture, or enhance their lives. The practice itself has been around for hundreds of years: make-up, ointments, natural herbs, but as technology improved, products became increasingly toxic. Companies were able to use harmful ingredients to create products that produced visible results and invisible damages for humans and the planet. Harmful chemicals that are known to cause cancer, birth defects, and other illnesses are commonly found in many cosmetic products that people have used for years.
Concerns about the use of toxic ingredients in everything from food to beauty products began to take shape in recent years following the holistic health and environmental awareness movements. In addition to the negative effects on human health, there are hundreds of chemicals in beauty products that have bad effects on wildlife when flushed down the drain. Here are 6 common ingredients found in everyday cosmetic products that are harmful to both the human body and the environment:
Triclosan, commonly found in soaps, deodorants, toothpastes, and other cosmetic products is used for its antibacterial properties. When flushed down the drain, this chemical causes irreparable harm to aquatic wildlife and organisms. There is increasing evidence that this chemical is harmful and disruptive to the system that regulates hormones in animals and can cause growth defects and possibly infertility (according to Mayo Clinic). Triclosan is used as a preservative so getting rid of it is almost impossible avoiding it altogether would be best. (1)
- SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE (SLS)
This chemical is used to get rid of water-resistant things like grease and tar so it is commonly found in things like shampoos, soaps, and laundry detergents. SLS may also be listed as sodium dodecyl sulfate, sulfuric acid, monododecyl ester, sodium salt, sodium salt sulfuric acid, sodium dodecyl sulfate, aquarex me or aquarex methyl, reports the EWG. Undiluted SLS can cause skin and eye irritation, as well as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea if ingested, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. (2)
- PROPYLEN GLYCOL
This synthetic liquid substance is used mainly for its ability to absorb excess water and maintain moisture, hence it is commonly found in skin creams and lotions. Although it is helpful in smoothing wrinkles, frequent skin exposure to propylene glycol can sometimes irritate the skin and may actually speed up signs of aging.
- DIETHANAOLAMINE (DEA)
This compound is used in shampoos, soaps, as well as toothpastes to create the foamy and creamy feeling. The EPA reports that direct exposure to this chemical irritates the skin and eyes. Tests on animals have shown many negative health effects ranging from reproductive organ damage to skin, liver, and thyroid cancer. This chemical is classified as hazardous under the Danish EPA because of its toxicity to aquatic wildlife and the California EPA classifies this chemical as carcinogenic towards human life. (3)
Parabens are mainly used as a preservative and commonly found in everyday cosmetics because of its inexpensive and effective use for preventing bacterial growth and keeping products fresh. Parabens are suspected to disrupt hormonal balance in humans and reproductive systems. The FDA has found traces of parabens in breast tumors and studies show that this chemical acts similar to estrogen when introduced to the body. Avoid shampoos that have parabens in them, most shampoos advertise themselves as paraben-free! (4)
Also known as butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene respectively, these two chemical compounds are most commonly found in cosmetics such as make-up and food products as a preservative. Due to the resistant nature of preservatives, BHA and BHT are very hard to break down even after passing through the human body. When the chemicals find their way in the ocean after going through the sink and down your drain, it has a hard time breaking down in the ocean and when it does, aquatic wildlife is at risk for birth defects, malformations, and hindered growth development. Imagine what it could do to you!
These are just some of the many harmful chemicals found in everyday health and beauty products, including things like lipstick, shampoo, toothpaste, lotion, soap, mouthwash, and deodorant. Switching to products that are more natural would not only be more beneficial towards your health, but also more helpful for the environment and its depleting wildlife. The earth can use as much help as it can get right now so that our future is comfortable and radiant, and a simple switch to more natural ingredients can go a long way, so please do your part!