To begin with green beauty journey and seek out chemically safe and natural products, it is important to understand what is listed on the ingredient label. But interpreting a cosmetic ingredient label is not easy, you need to be able to recognize different ingredients and knows how to choose the healthiest, most high-quality ingredients and production processes.
To help get rid toxic chemical from your body, it doesn’t necessary means be rigidly chemical free. It is meant to be easily incorporated and is made or formulated without harmful chemicals. Green or chemically safe products are not necessarily 100% natural and not all chemicals are toxic. Some chemicals can be relatively harmless to the body. Green beauty is not always organic either, and much of the mineral-based cosmetic contain organic ingredients, can’t be certified 100% organic. Green products should be defined chemically safe and eco-friendly.
Simple Rules For Reading Ingredient Labels:
Rule 1: Read from top to bottom. The list ingredients usually are in descending order, starting with the largest amount of the product (usually Aqua/Water). If a product touts a particular ingredient but it is listed near the end of the list, then not much of that ingredient is present.
Rule 2: The more ingredients listed, the more concerned you should be. There is not always the case, but often it is. It can be safely considered clean if only three natural ingredients were used to make the product.
Rule 3: Be extremely caution with long names that are difficult to pronounce. Safe cosmetics will list common names next to their scientific names. For e.g., Aloe Vera’s scientific name is Aloe barbadensis. Products with natural ingredients list both names.
Rule 4: Understand that when ingredients share the same name, there is no distinction better what is produced naturally or synthetically. The same chemical can be derived synthetically or naturally. The way ingredients are derived is seldom listed on the label.
Rule 5: Do not be fooled by marketing tricks. For e.g. “Dermatologist tested” doesn’t equal ‘dermatologist endorsed.” You can refer to this article for the frequent words used on skin care products.
20 Common Toxic Chemicals Found In Cosmetic
Many of the chemicals that are cancer-causing are legally allowed in personal care and cosmetic products. Some common ingredients in cosmetic are associated with endocrine disruption, interfere the growth, development, intelligence, and reproduction. See below for the common chemicals that are known as carcinogens and that can lead to cancer.
- 1,4-DIOXANE, a byproduct of the manufacturing process when the chemical petrochemical ethylene oxide is introduced. It is considered a portable human carcinogen by US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Look for chemicals with “eth” in their names, such as sodium laureth sulfate, plethora, myreth, and ceteareth. Also look for glycol and PEGs (polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, and polyoxyethylene)
- SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE (SLS) AND SODIUM LAURYL ETHER SULFATE (SLES) are coconut-derived foaming agents. These chemicals are used in a wide variety of hair care and skin care products. SLS is proven skin irritant and possible carcinogen. It alters skin structure, allowing other chemicals deeper penetration and therefore increasing a number of chemicals in the bloodstream. SLES contains the carcinogen contaminant 1,4-dioxane.
- FRAGRANCE (PARFUM OR PERFUME) is a ubiquitous term often used to mask the use of toxic chemicals. Upwards of three hundred chemicals in this class have never been tested for safety, including phthalates, which disrupt endocrine function and have been linked to reproductive and developmental harm.
- PARABENS (METHYL, ETHYL, AND BUTYL) are used in about 99% of beauty products to prevent oxidation, kill bacteria, other living organisms harmful to humans. They are rapidly absorbed into the skin and metabolize and accumulate in the body. Parabens disrupt endocrine function by mimicking estrogen. Improper endocrine function can adversely affect metabolism, the nervous system, and blood sugar levels.
- TRICLOSAN is used in almost all antibacterial products. It’s used as a preservative in soaps, toothpaste, and cosmetics. Triclosan is often contaminated with dioxins that are carcinogenic, weaken immunity, decrease fertility, and cause birth defects. A probable endocrine disruptor, triclosan is easily absorbed, leading to bioaccumulation at dangerous levels.
- HYDROQUINONE is commonly found in skin lighteners and facial moisturizers. It is an allergen, immune system and respiratory toxicant, probable neurotoxin, and possible carcinogen. Animal studies show endocrine disruption.
- TALC is used in many cosmetics, such as powdered eyeshadow and blush, and is a carcinogenic link between talcum prowler and ovarian cancer. Talc contaminated with asbestos can cause lung tumors and is a probable respiratory toxin.
- PHTHALATES are a class of toxic chemicals used in cosmetics to hold color and scent and to soften plastics. They are found in products ranging from fragranced lotions, body wash, and deodorants to most plastic containers. These chemicals are known as reproductive toxicants. Phthalates mimic estrogen and testosterone, increasing the risk of endocrine disruption.
- FORMALDEHYDE/FORMALIN is an immune system, respiratory, hematological and skin toxicants. It is a probable carcinogen, cardiovascular toxicants can damage DNA, and may trigger asthma. Animal studies show adverse effects on sense organs, the brain and nervous system, human development.
- COAL TAR is used in dandruff shampoos and anti-itch creams. Coal tar-based dyes, such as FD&C Blue 1, are used in toothpaste, while FD&C Green 3 is used in mouthwash. This chemical is known carcinogen, as a skin and respiratory toxicant.
- DMDM DYDANTOIN is an antimicrobial formaldehyde releaser that is used as a preservative. It is used in hair products, cosmetics, skin oils and moisturizers, sunscreen, and even baby wipes. DMDM hydantoin is a known human allergen and immune toxicant, causing irritation to the skin, eyes, and lungs, and is a possible carcinogen.
- TRIETHANOLAMINE (TEA) is used primarily as an emulsifier and surfactant, both useful for binding water with oil. This chemical is commonly used in products such as mascara, styling gel, hand cream, and laundry detergent. It is both an immune system and respiratory system toxicant, and skin allergen.
- POLYETHLENE GLYCOL (PEG) is a petroleum derivative compound that is made from ethylene glycol (ethane-1,2-diol), the main ingredient found in antifreeze. It is used to prevent foaming, and in cosmetics as a thickener and softener. PEGs can be contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane, which is harmful to the nervous system and a possible carcinogen.
- CYCLOSILOXANES are the building blocks for many silicones. Some widely used ones are: hexamethylcyclotrisiloxane (D3), octamethycyclotetrasiloxane (D4), decamethylcyopebtasiloxane (D5), and dodcecamethylcyclohexasiloxane (D6). They mimic estrogen activity, increasing the production rates of many types of human breast cancer cells. They can be found in hair conditioners.
- SYNTHETIC DYES appear on the ingredients label as FD&C or D&C and are used to provide color for products such as shampoo, makeup, pharmaceuticals, and food. Synthetic dyes are probable carcinogens. When present, these chemicals will appear as FD&C or D&C followed by a color and a number like Red No. 6 and Green No. 6.
- ALUMINUM ZIRCONIUM and other aluminum compounds often used in eyeshadow as a color additive and most commonly found in antiperspirant deodorant. The Ingredient blocks pores, which prevents sweat from leaving the body. Aluminum in ionic forms is carcinogenic, toxic, and mutagenic. Aluminum salts mimic estrogen and have been linked to breast cancer.
- OXYBENZONE is a chemical used in sunscreen for the purpose of Uv protection. It is a bioaccumulate, possible immune toxicant, endocrine disruptor, and allergen. Oxybenzone is also used in an anti-aging cream, conditioner, lip balm, and lipsticks.
- LAURAMIDE DEA (SAME AS COCAMIDE MEA) is coconut oil-derived dimethanolamine used as a foaming agent and emulsifying agent. Lauramide DEA or Cocamide MEA is human immune toxicant. Animal studies show that this chemical is linked to sense organ effects and skin irritation.
- DIETHANOLAMINE (DEA) is a chemical used as a wetting agent in shampoos, lotions, creams, and other cosmetics. It is a skin and immune toxicant, and possible carcinogen. Animal studies show DEA linked to endocrine disruption and neurotoxicity.
- TOLUENE is useful for suspending Colour in nail polish, nail treatments, hair color, and hair bleach. In nail products, toluene forms a smooth finish across the nails. Toluene is a respiratory toxicant, skin irritant, and probable human development toxicant.
Our bodies are continuously exposed to hundreds of chemicals on a daily basis. You can refer here for the 100 toxic cosmetic ingredients currently used in skincare, haircare, makeup, and fragrance as a reference.
The industry for petrochemicals started in the 1940s during World War II when there was a demand for synthetic materials to replace costly materials. Over the years, they have slowly crept into our cosmetic and they can be found in everything -including shampoos, facial creams, mascaras, perfumes, foundations, and lipsticks – virtually across every cosmetic category.
Petrochemical appears on labels as mineral oil, petrolatum, paraffin. Identify the following petrochemicals by prefixes (the beginning letters) and suffixes (the extensions):
- Chemicals ending in “eth” means that the petrochemical ethylene oxide was used to produce them. For e.g. myreth, oleth, laureth, and ceteareth
- Butanol can be identified with the prefix “butyl.” For example, butyl alcohol, butylparaben, and butylene glycol
- Ethanol can be identified with “ethyl”. For example, ethyl alcohol, ethylene glycol, ethylene dichloride, and ethylhexylglycerin, or by the abbreviation EDTA (ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid).
- Methanol can be identified by “methyl” preceding its compound. For example, methyl alcohol, methyl paraben, and methyl cellulose.
- Avoid ingredients containing DEA (diethanolamine) it MEA (monoethanolamine)
- Be alert to Ingredients with “propyl”. For e.g. isopropyl alcohol, propylene glycol, propyl alcohol, cocamidopropyl betaine.
The Three Ps
If you feel overwhelmed with all the chemicals, you don’t need to memorize all, just get familiar with them, use them as a guide. You can remember the Three Ps and avoid these chemicals as often as you can:
- PARABENS: Look for the prefixes methyl, propyl, ethyl, butyl, and isopropyl
- PERFUME: Look for parfum or fragrance
- PETROCHEMICALS: Look for the abbreviations PEG, DEA, and SLS, as well as any ingredients with x and y, for example, ethylexyglycerin
It is daunting to read labels and understand what everything means. Look at the chemicals, many of them will soon become part of your daily vocabulary when you start using them as a guide. Be mindful and after some time as you shop, seek out chemically safe or greener products.
[Source: The Green Beauty Rules by Paige Padgett]