It’s great knowing what the best, most healthy ingredients are so you know what to look for. But perhaps, what's even more important is knowing what ingredients to avoid.
Thanks to the FDA’s generally lenient restrictions and a lack of sufficient oversight, potentially dangerous ingredients often stay in products for years before definitive research can be done. When research finally states that an ingredient is harmful, only then can these ingredients be forced to be removed from products. Even then, many companies continue to use the banned ingredients and hope they slip through the cracks. Or, even worse, companies discover loopholes that keep them within in the bounds of the law while they continue to use harmful ingredients, all in the name of profit.
So, be careful when buying personal care products! The best way you can protect yourself, in our opinion, is to purchase all-natural products. That way, you know you’re buying a safe product. But we understand that’s not always possible, so we want to help you avoid some of the more common and dangerous synthetic ingredients that are used in personal care products today.
You may have heard of SLS/SLES because they are common detergent surfactants used in many personal care products for their ability to clean and create suds. Once thought to be safe, both are now known eye and skin irritants. Yet, the National Institute of Health’s “Household Products Database” lists dozens of products from big companies, such as Clearasil and Pantene, using SLS and SLES. To make matters worst, SLES may also become contaminated with ethylene oxide or 1,4-dioxane during the manufacturing process due to the ethoxylation process, which is a chemical reaction that helps make cheap, harsh raw materials less irritating. The International Agency for Research on Cancer lists ethylene oxide as a known carcinogen and 1,4-dioxane as a possible carcinogen. However, there is no way for the consumer to know if traces of these dangerous chemicals remain in their product as they are not active ingredients - yikes! That’s how easily, and legally, a dangerous ingredients can end up in your home.
Parabens are a popular preservative used in many cosmetic and pharmaceutical products, such as shampoos, moisturizers, makeup, and toothpaste. Parabens are suspected endocrine disruptors, which means they can interfere with our body’s hormones. The European Scientific Committee on Consumer Products (SCCP) stated in 2006 that there is not enough data to determine whether propyl, butyl, and isobutyl paraben can be safely used at concentrations up to 0.4%, which is the allowed limit in the European Union. You would think that if Europe limited the concentration of parabens to 0.4%, the US, being more lenient with such things, might be around 1% or so. But nope! There is NO LIMIT on the amount of parabens that can be used in products in the United States, as they have been deemed safe by the FDA.
Phthalates...sounds scary enough just reading the name. They are primarily used as softeners in personal care products, such as perfumes, moisturizers, hair sprays, and liquid soaps. Phthalates have been identified by the European Union as possible endocrine disruptors and the EPA is adding eight phthalates to their “Chemicals of Concern” list. One commonly used phthalate in beauty products, dibutyl phthalate, has been classified as very toxic to aquatic organisms by the European Union, meaning using products with this ingredient will damage our oceans once they go down your drain.
Continuing the pattern of unnatural sounding dangerous ingredients, triclosan is an antibacterial and antifungal agent that is used in everything from toothpastes and deodorants to soaps and face washes. Studies have raised concerns that triclosan is an endocrine disruptor, skin irritant, and may lead to microbial resistance (thus reducing the effectiveness of antibiotics). It also potentially causes skin cancer. The European Union also classifies triclosan as very toxic to aquatic organisms. Even the FDA is beginning to recognize the danger presented by this ingredient. Considering all the stuff the FDA lets companies get away with, if they say something is bad, then you REALLY know it’s bad. On September 6, 2016, the FDA issued a final rule on triclosan and 18 other active ingredients used in over-the-counter antiseptic products intended for use with water (antiseptic washes) that they are not generally recognized as safe and effective (GRAS/GRAE) and are misbranded. Companies misbranding their products and using unsafe ingredients so they can make more money - imagine that!
Speaking of deception, the word “fragrance” or “parfum” in personal care products usually means an artificial melting pot containing dozens of chemicals, many which have not been tested or regulated in any way. Many of these unlisted ingredients are irritants which are known to have immune or allergenic effects on humans. They may also be potentially toxic to wildlife and the environment. Since the FDA does not require the listing of individual fragrance ingredients, because they are considered trade secrets, there’s no way to truly know what ingredients are contained within the word “fragrance”. We say enjoy the aromas of nature and stay away from artificially scented products.