Top Five Chemicals to Avoid
Top Five Chemicals to Avoid
Originally Posted October 2007, Updated 2015
There are thousands of dangerous chemicals in cosmetics today. I've chosen these top five based on their risk, and their widespread useage. Use this list as a guide to help you decipher if what you're buying is truly natural.
1. “Fragrance” can be one or more of 200 chemicals. Companies don't have to disclose the actual components of each fragrance, under the guise that their fragrances are trade secrets. Fragrance has been known to cause many side effects, including headaches and allergic reactions. Why put an unknown synthetic chemical on your skin when you don’t have to? The Environmental Working Group has an extensive database of cosmetic chemicals and their corresponding danger rankings. "Fragrance" recieves one of the highest rankings possible in their score system. For more on fragrance, read my article.
2. Methylparaben, or anything ending in “paraben.” These preservatives act like estrogen in the body, throwing off hormonal balance. Parabens have been shown to accumulate in cancerous breast tumors. For more, read this article.
3. Tetrasodium EDTA is a chelating agents that’s made from formaldehyde and sodium cyanide. (see how) The full name of Tetrasodium EDTA is Ethylenediaminetetraacetc Acid. This used to be on my top "avoid" list, however, as more information has become available, it appears to be a lower risk ingredient. While it does have a dubious history in the way it's made, the final chemical is not a carcinogen. It's used in small amounts in formulas a a chelating agent, binding with metals to make lotions more stable and soaps lather better without the interference of metal ions. Some animal studies have found Tetrasodium EDTA have reproductive effects, however, only at very high doses--because it's able to bind with metals, high doses are thought to pull zinc out of the body, causing deficiency and thus illness. This is not a risk when used in cosmetic items and only shows fetal reproductive effects at levels that are outwardly toxic to the mother. (Source)
4. Diazolidinyl Urea readily breaks down in the product or on the skin and releases formaldehyde. It's an endocrine disruptor, a possible neurotoxin, a known immune system toxicant, and has a possible link to cancer.
5. Propylene Glycol, among other things, is a penetration enhancer, meaning it’s a carrier for other chemicals, bringing them into your skin and your bloodstream. It's a known skin irritant, it has been shown to cause cancer in lab tests, a possible endocrine disruptor, and a possible neurotoxin. You can find it in over 3000 products, including lotions, deodorants, sunscreen, shampoo, conditioner and body washes.
For more updated information about chemicals to avoid, visit our Chemical of the Day blog.