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Are your cosmetics actually making you sick?

Most natural consumers are concerned with the products they put in their bodies and on their skin. In a polluted, industrialized system that sometimes seems a bit powerless to meet our needs, we try to gain some kind of control over our health by buying healthy chemically free products.

We’re sure that we want only “natural” and “pure” products, but have a difficult time finding these products on the shelves that qualify.

There is a reason why it is so difficult to make truthful choices that reflect our needs. The natural products consumer is targeted by commercial companies that want our revenue, but don’t have the deep desire to promote healthy products that we assume.

It’s all about packaging and marketing. Marketers, advertisers, and CEO’s of personal care products companies literally sit around tables figuring out how to convince us that what they are selling is natural. This is done with clever wording, choice of color and label design, packaging style, and choice of ingredients. Many of these products contain plant extracts that are highlighted on the label, but the base ingredients are synthetic. The same companies that are producing synthetically based products set aside “a portion” of their budget to create and promote a “natural line”. 

So how are we, as caring and educated as we are, so easily fooled? The first mistake that we make is when scanning an ingredient list on the back of a product, our eyes (and minds) skip over the long, complicated ingredients that we don’t understand, and rest on ingredients such as chamomile, lavender, and aloe. I cannot count the number of customers who have said to me, “Oh I just bought a natural chamomile lotion by “such and such (commercial brand)”, it smelled so good, and it’s all natural”. If I ask “Does it have methylparaben or propylene glycol in it?”, the answer is invariably “No, it’s all natural”. Upon follow up research, I consistently find that though the product may contain some plant-based ingredients, it also lists some dangerous chemicals.

I personally take offense at the large number of chemical-bearing personal care products that line the shelves of natural food stores. A natural products consumer goes to this type of store looking for a haven; a safe-house, where the frightening chemical-laden society recedes, and Nature presides. Because they are so trusting of the establishment, they are less critical of the products, and more likely to believe the advertising claims on the bottles of shampoo and lotion.  As a case in point, one of the largest “natural food chains” boasts that they don’t carry any food items with preservatives, yet they carry hundreds of personal care products that contain those exact preservatives.

It is a well known fact that 60% of what we put on our skin is absorbed into our body. If you have convinced yourself that these questionable ingredients are not something that you have to worry about, then ask yourself these few questions:

  • Do you know, or know of a woman that has or has had cancer?
  • Do you know, or know of a woman, man or child that has eczema, psoriasis, or scalp   problems?
  • Do you know, or know of a woman or a man that is suffering from hair loss or arthritis?
  • Do you know of a child that has suffered from genital infections?

If you can say yes to any of these questions, and if any of them apply to you, then you do need to become concerned about some of these questionable ingredients.

One last point, before presenting an informative list of ingredients to avoid, is the question that our customers constantly ask: Why does the FDA allow so many  products to carry toxic ingredients? The answer revolves around capitalism, greed, and power. Laws in Congress are influenced by lobbyists, and the large personal products manufacturers have very powerful lobbyists. The FDA does not require studies on the long-term health risks of the ingredients in personal care products, only short-term irritancy tests (think animal testing). To change this we must band together and become a more powerful voice, and let our congressman know that our and THEIR mothers, sisters and friends are dying of cancer, in direct relation to the quantity of chemicals that they apply to their skin over a lifetime.


QUATERNIUM 15: (DOVE, Johnson’s Baby Shampoo) FORMALDEHYDE, a carcinogen.

FD&C DYE: These dyes are produced from COAL TAR, and are documented to be CARCINOGENS.

BUTYL CELLOSOLVE, and ISOBUTENE: (Fantastic, Windex, and Formula 409)
A neuro-toxin. Damages the central nervous system, kidney and liver. Listed as a pesticide.

DIOXIN: Lysol disinfectant. Carcinogen, 500,000 times more deadly than DDT Ethyl Alcohol.

PROPYLENE GLYCOL: (contained in shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, lipstick, lotion, face cream, etc) This industrial solvent is so HIGHLY toxic, that industrial workers are warned of SEVERE health risks if contact occurs, such as brain, liver, and kidney abnormalities. They are required to wear protective clothing, gloves, and goggles during handling, and PG can only be disposed of in hazardous waste sites at a cost of $500.00 to $1,000 per drum!!!

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
Sodium Laureth Sulfate
Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate
Sodium Myreth Sulfate

The above ingredients and other detergents are industrial surfactants that are linked to cancer, and literally strip the scalp and skin of necessary oils, leaving it dry, and severely itchy and flaky. They were originally designed to clean floors and engines and now are found in 95%!!!! of shampoos and body cleansers, even the NATURAL brands. The saddest aspect of this is that this SLS causes irritation and infection in the genitals of young children, yet is the main ingredient in baby shampoos and bubble bath.

TALC: (contained in baby powder, foot powder, pressed eye shadow and blush, and foundation)
Linked to uterine cancer and respiratory problems in infants. Literally “suffocates” the skin.

DEA, MEA, and TEA: Repeated use of these chemicals leads to a major increase in the incidence of liver and kidney cancer. Restricted in Europe.

DMDM Hydantoin & UREA: Preservatives that release FORMALDEHYDE into the body. Funeral directors are now saying that there is such a high concentration of formaldehyde present in the human body at death that they are using 50% LESS formaldehyde than they used to.

FRAGRANCE (including FRAGRANCE OILS): Linked to cancer and mental problems including depression.

TRICLOSAN (found in ANTI-BACTERIAL SOAPS): Registered as a PESTICIDE with the FDA, linked to cancer, a hormone disruptor.

METHYLPARABEN, PROPYLPARABEN: Preservatives that deposit in the human system that disrupt normal enzyme activity.

PTHALATES: (Used nail polish, fragrance and a host of other products) Extremely toxic chemicals (regulated under environmental law) that reduce fertility, harm the male reproductive system, and are especially dangerous to pregnant womens’ fetuses. Found in products by Proctor & Gamble, L’Oreal, Lever Brothers, Maybelline, Chesebrough-Pond’s, Colgate, Elizabeth Arden, Kraft, and Revlon.

CARMINE: (found in lipsticks, glosses blushes, and eye shadow) This extract from the carmine beetle in South America, has been connected to heart problems.

Now, aside from these obviously toxic chemicals, there are other issues that arise with products that claim to be “all natural from pure vegetable sources”.

There are several ways to extract an oil or a wax from a plant, (eg. jojoba oil, evening primrose oil, shea butter, cocoa butter). It can be extracted with a solvent, which leaves toxic residues in the products, or by extremely high heat, which DESTROYS the botanical properties associated with the plant, or by the cold-pressed method. If you are a consumer or a manufacturer, ASK QUESTIONS. How was the shea butter extracted? Are the oils cold-pressed? Is the vitamin E or glycerin synthetic or natural?

Find out if the ingredients are organic. This is an extremely important issue, due to the very high toxicity level of pesticides that become concentrated in liquids extracted from plants.

Look for the words ‘cold-pressed’ and ‘organic’ on labels, and if you don’t see them, put the product down and keep looking. Ask questions to store owners, who in turn can call suppliers and manufacturers.

Stay away from ingredients that contain long words you cannot pronounce, that have the phrase “from coconut oil” in parentheses. Any natural products that have been chemically broke down are no longer natural and should be avoided at all costs. Sodium Laureth Sulfate is derived from coconut oil is still an unhealthy product, despite its source.

This list could go on for ages, but if you would like to gain more knowledge, start asking questions. Call the manufacturer, log on to the FDA website, and get the word out.