Put Your Best Face Forward Safely
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) estimates that the average woman uses at least 12 personal care products—including soaps, shampoos, cosmetics and lotions—every day, many of which contain potentially toxic ingredients. The David Suzuki Foundation states, “U.S. researchers report that one in eight of the 82,000 ingredients used in personal care products are carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins or hormone disruptors.”
Stacy Malkan, of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, advises, “Beware of bogus claims like ‘certified hypoallergenic’, meaningless marketing terms like ‘clean and simple’, and companies that do not list the product ingredients on their website.” One of the most troublesome additives is paraben, a chemical preservative found in numerous products that mimics estrogen and may disrupt normal hormone function. Others include diethanolamine (DEA) and triethanolamine (TEA), hormone disrupters that can form cancer-causing nitrates and are common ingredients of shampoos, shaving creams and body washes.
Various artificial fragrances are among the top five allergens around the world, and can also contain neurotoxins. Triclosan and triclocarban, antimicrobial pesticides used in liquid and solid soaps, are toxic to the aquatic environment and disrupt thyroid function and reproductive hormones. Sodium lauryl and laureth sulfate—detergents common in facial cleansers, shampoos and shower gels—may be contaminated with carcinogens and neurotoxins and can irritate the skin, eyes and respiratory tract.
The EWG also suggests avoiding anti-aging creams with lactic, glycolic, AHA and BHA acids; hair dyes that contain ammonia, peroxide, p-phenylenediamine or diaminobenzene, and all dark, permanent hair dyes; nail polish and removers with formaldehyde; and skin lighteners containing hydroquinine. Forego sunscreen sprays and beware of oxybenzone; instead, use products containing at least 7 percent zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
Children’s products are not immune, either. Steer clear of play makeup, including lipstick, nail polish and perfume; diaper cream that contains boric acid or sodium borate; baby wipes with Bronopol; and fluoridated toothpaste for youngsters under 2.
The EWG’s Skin Deep database (ewg.org/skindeep) provides easy-to-navigate safety ratings for many personal care products and ingredients. Their Quick Tips for Safer Cosmetics wallet guide informs shoppers how to read personal care product labels and make smart choices.