4. Mineral oil
4. Mineral oil
"Natural" and "organic" are terms that are bandied around often in cosmetics and skincare. If you want to know which products are living up to their claims, however, you'll have to play detective. The first place to look? An item's list of ingredients. Conventional beauty products are littered with toxins, but once you identify what they are, shopping for healthier options become much easier. Here are our top six no-nos to look for.
Talc, also known as hydrous magnesium silicate, is a toxic ingredient similar to asbestos. Listed on the Environment Canada Domestic Substance List as a substance that is "expected to be toxic or harmful," talc is commonly found in eye shadow, baby powder, face powder, and other loose-mineral cosmetics, where it's used as an absorbent, anti-caking agent. Asbestos-containing talc particles have been known to cause tumors in human ovaries and lungs, according to the American Cancer Society. Although asbestos-free talc has been widely used since the '70s, evidence about its safety remains fuzzy.
With properties similar to estrogen, methyl-, propyl-, butyl-, and ethylparaben are used in many skincare products and cosmetics as a chemical preservative. In a 2004 study published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology, researchers examining 20 breast-tumor biopsy samples found six different parabens unaltered by the body's metabolism and in "measurable concentrations" that closely paralleled their use in cosmetics products. Another study, published by the European Journal of Cancer Prevention in 2003, concluded that the "frequency and earlier onset of antiperspirant/deodorant usage with underarm shaving were associated with an earlier age of breast cancer diagnosis." Approximately 90 percent of all personal-care products contain this dangerous ingredient, even those that claim they are “natural.”
Also known as 1,2-dihydroxypropane, 1,2-propanediol, methyl glycol, and trimethyl glycol, this colorless, odorless liquid is used in most conventional personal-care products as a penetration-enhancer. It is the main ingredient in massage oils and deodorants, but you might also recognize it as a component of antifreeze and car- and boat-deicing solutions. Large amounts of propylene glycol on the skin can lead to skin irritation, inflammation, rashes, and breathing problems, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This is a crude oil derived from the distillation of petroleum to produce gasoline. Colorless and odorless, mineral oil is used in baby lotions, cold creams, and ointments. On a more-benign scale, mineral oil has been linked to a number of skin problems, including clogged pores and acne. Untreated and mildly treated mineral oils, however, are also listed as known carcinogens in the National Toxicology Program's 2011 Report on Carcinogens. Inhalation, skin contact, and ingestion should be avoided.
SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE
One of the most dangerous ingredients used in personal-care products. It's also used in floor cleaners, engine degreasers, and car-wash soaps. Products containing sodium lauryl sulfate can lead to skin damage, permanent eye damage, and liver toxicity. To add insult to injury, it's also listed on the Environment Canada Domestic Substance List as a "suspected environment toxin."
Phthalates are a group of endocrine-disrupting chemicals used in personal-care products for more staying power. It's also used as a plastic softener for children’s toys and medical devices. Exposure to this chemical can lead to damaged kidneys and lungs, early breast development (which, in turn, is associated with increased risk for breast cancer), as well as reproductive problems, according to studies too innumerable to list.