Whether high-end designer brands or house brand discount types, people rely on their makeup and toiletries to help them to feel and look better. However, it turns out that many cosmetics, shampoos and other beauty products are harming users with ingredients that are cancerous, disrupt hormones and even reduce testosterone levels, but here are some tips on harmful substances to avoid.
Manufacturing of shampoos, cosmetics, soaps, sunscreens and other products are not regulated as tightly as food and drugs. As a result, a panopoly of hard-to-pronounce (and hard-to-spell) chemicals are found in countless personal care products these days that are bad for users, according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and several scientific studies.
While no one is disputing the use of the chemicals, the short- and long-term effects on people are of concern. A new study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, shows their endocrinal impacts and the positive effects of taking short breaks from using some of the questionable products.
Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, partnered with a local health clinic and others in the study, which required 100 teen girls to forsake using their regular personal care products for three days and solely use products that are free of toxic chemicals. Teen girls are particularly at risk because they use more products per day than most women and are in a life phase with rapid development that could be impacts by the chemicals.
Comparing urine samples taken before and after the three-day trial showed a significant decrease in endocrine-disrupting chemical levels. Diethyl phthalate metabolites found in many perfumes decreased 27 percent; the methyl and propyl parabens used in many cosmetics dropped about 45 percent; and levels of triclosan from toothpaste and antibacterial soaps and the benzophenone-3 in many sunscreens fell 36 percent.
Phthalates are chemicals used for flexability in plastics, vinyl flooring and even lubricating oils. They are also in shampoos, soaps, hair sprays and nail polishes. However, a University of Michigan School of Public Health study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, showed that constant exposure to the chemical lowers testosterone levels, which affect a variety of health functions in both sexes. The study indicated the more than 2,000 participants had a 24 to 34 percent drop in testosterone levels they tied to use of products with phthalates.
Some companies, such as Revlon, have made moves to eliminate some questionable ingredients including phthalates, but they still use others that are potentially carcinogenic. Others have not changed their formulas or merely substituted one known-to-be bad ingredient for another questionable one.
Here are tips for consumers who want to avoid using cosmetics, shampoos and other personal care products with ingredients that are potentially harmful:
A simple ingredient list is better. Just like in processed foods, a list of ingredients that is long and filled with hard-to-pronounce or –spell items is not good. Keep it simple and there will be fewer synthetic chemicals. Be cautious to avoid labels that are too simple as well; some products just list “fragrance” without no clue that it consists of.
UV filters made from octinoxate, benzophenone, oxybenzone or homosalate are not the best options. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide options are usually better.
Hair conditioners have several questionable items to avoid. These include ethanolamine, cocamide dea, formaldehyde preservatives (diazolidinyl or imidazolidinyl urea, which are used as preservatives) or ‘eth compounds
Do not assume that organic, pure or natural on a package label is more than a marketing claim. Those claims are not tightly regulated. So, take the time to read the labels and research the contents.
As one of the teens in the Berkeley study, Maritza Cárdenas, noted, “One of the goals of our study was to create awareness among the participants of the chemicals found in everyday products, to help make people more conscious about what they’re using.” She indicated that she is now more discrete when shopping for beauty care items to avoid cosmetics, shampoos harming users and offers tips on the benefits to others. “Seeing the drop in chemical levels after just three days shows that simple actions can be taken, such as choosing products with fewer chemicals, and make a difference.”
Written and Edited by Dyanne Weiss
Campaign for Safe Cosmetics
UPI: Chemical-free cosmetics may be safer for teen girls, study suggests
Fox News: Taking a break from traditional beauty products drops levels of harmful chemicals in body
Medical Daily: Traditional Cosmetics, Soaps Drastically Increase Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals In Body
Medical Daily: Phthalates In Household Products Such As Shampoos, Soaps, And Hair Sprays, Cause Decline In Testosterone Levels
Photo by Pear285 – Creative Commons license