Cosmetic & care products could be hurting your health


Toxicity in cosmetics and skin care products are often discovered years after release.

Naileah Meza, Staff Writer

We used hundreds of topical products every day assuming without fear of health risks, assuming those products have passed rigorous tests for toxicity. However, some Food and Drug Administration approved products are later found to be more harmful than expected. Currently, certain commonly used ingredients found in cosmetics, skin care and other personal care products are under scrutiny for possibly causing everything from skin irritation to cancer. So let’s get into the top five potentially harmful ingredients that we should all keep an eye out for and avoid when possible now that increasing studies are calling them into serious question. We’re often careful about what we ingest, but keep in mind, our skin can readily absorb toxins as well.

Parabens are found in cosmetics and skin care products such as mascara, shampoos and moisturizers. The intended purpose of parabens in these products is to preserve them, refine texture or prevent bacterial growth but a number of recent studies suggest that some parabens have been found to be associated with certain forms of cancer due to their interference with normal hormone balances. Even in small doses, Parabens have also been found to create skin problems, especially for those with sensitive skin. Keep an eye out for products with any “-paraben” suffix and instead reach for the product that says paraben free or the product that doesn’t have a “-paraben” suffix ingredient. Yet, keep in mind, unless a product is labled phthalate-free or paraben-free, it may still contain these ingredients masked under another word such as “fragrance.”

Formaldehyde & Formaldehyde Releasing Preservatives (FRP’s) can be found in the glue of eyelash extension kits, nail polish, lotions, and the list goes on. Formaldehyde is also used as a preservative in products but there is a safer alternative for companies to use such as sodium benzoate. Formaldehyde & FRP’s in cosmetic products are linked to allergic reactions, skin and respiratory irritation and with higher exposure, cancer. Read the labels for formaldehyde, quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, polyoxymethylene urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1, 3-diol (bromopol) and glyoxal. The FDA currently claims, that though Formaldehyde is clearly toxic, that the levels allowed in approved products are safe. However, though allowed levels may not be significant enough to cause cancer, multiple studies have confirmed that skin, eye and respiratory reactions are common.

Butylated Compounds (BHT or BHA)  found in makeup and skin care products such as foundations, blushes, eyeliners, moisturizers, skin cleansers and lipsticks. BHT and BHA is in cosmetics, personal care products and food as preservatives. BHA is found to be the number one substance that interferes with hormonal functions as well as BHT. BHT mimics estrogen which in some situations could promote the growth of tumors and or throw off the hormonal function in both men and women. On labels look for “BHA” or “BHT.”

Non Refined Petroleum/Petrolatum is found in foundation, baby oil, face powder, moisturizers, mascara and lip gloss. Petrolatum is not fully refined in the U.S., so it could potentially be contaminated with other toxic elements, but the compound creates problems all by itself as well. Petrolatum doesn’t allow the skin to breathe due to the barrier it creates which means it blocks pores and having your pores blocked causes blackheads and oily skin. It’s intended to preserve the moisture in skin, but the reality is that it traps in dirt and every other unhealthy residue your skin may have come in contact with throughout the day. Here’s what you should look for on labels while shopping petrolatum, petroleum jelly, paraffin oil, mineral oil and white petrolatum (refined and safe for use).

Homosalate found in sunscreens, as well as most skin care products that lists a Sun Protection Factor or SPF. Homosalate affects our body’s estrogen system. Breast cancer cells grow in response to estrogen. Our skin absorbs homosalate which leads to enhancing the amount of toxins that we absorb through our skin. Be sure to read the labels avoid homosalate products and reach for the products with zinc oxide or titanium oxide. Also, keep in mind, after extensive study, most sunscreens out on the market were found inadequate to protect skin against harmful UV rays and avoiding the sun entirely leads to vitamin D deficiencies. So, don’t be afraid to get a little sun; it’s healthy. If you’re in for a long day out, use a natural sunscreen without homosalate.

Now I know we don’t all have the time and or patience to be looking at the small prints of ingredients on every product that we may purchase. Perhaps instead of reading and trying to grasp the toxic ingredient in products you may want to consider using the link provided: to an online site that’s done the work for you like the Environmental Working Group’s site by clicking here . There are also hundreds of natural cosmetic companies gaining popularity that are increasingly available at chain stores like Whole Foods, Rite Aid and Walgreens. Brands like Alba, Avalon, Dr. Bronner’s, Tom’s of Maine and Burt’s Bee’s are just a few you can easily find a various stores in Fresno.