Could cause cancer, allergies, asthma or damage to your liver. If you think these are the possible side effects of some rare chemicals, guess again. In fact, all of these repercussions could actually be triggered by common toxic ingredients in cosmetics. Bone-chilling, isn’t it?
You hop out of bed, ready to kick off your day the healthy way. Sugar free, corn-syrup-free whole-grain cereals, plant-based or hormone-free milk, fresh fruits from the Farmer’s Market (no-pesticides-thank-you-very-much). As you take the first sip of that fair trade (organic of course) coffee, you think with a sigh of relief that you’ve got this whole healthy living thing figured out! A total Gwyneth Paltrow. With that in mind, you head to the bathroom to get your beauty routine into full gear. You are comforted knowing you are making safe and sensible choices.
Or are you? That favourite lipstick and face cream can seem like just another item in your cupboard, but they most likely contain harmful chemicals that just threw your whole got-that-healthy-living-thing-covered statement down the drain. The worst part is that you are not alone! In fact, most people are unaware of what these toxic ingredients in cosmetics are.
Yes, we get it. What can you do when summer is long gone and blush is a well needed (aka: essential) part of your plan against the greyish tan you have been carrying around for weeks? Rest assured, there is a solution in your quest for that wholesome life. So, what’s the big secret? Reading labels. Yup, that’s all. Educating yourself about what to look out for on your beauty products ingredient list is all you need to do.
Reading Labels on Beauty Products: A Good Habit
No one paid attention to nutritional labels when you were a kid. It just wasn’t something people did. Otherwise, kool-aid and that famous orange mac’n’cheese might have been totally banned from your childhood memories. Fast-forward to the 21st century, reading food labels is almost part of our daily lives, thanks to awareness campaigns encouraging us to check out what we are really chomping down with every meal. Similarly, making sure you understand beauty product labels is only a matter of changing your habits and taking the time to do so.
There is one tiny little detail though. Ingredient lists on cosmetics such as shampoo, makeup or creams are not as easy to grasp as, say, the ones on a can of noodle soup. Companies have mastered the art of camouflage, using different names for the same ingredient to keep you confused. Where can you start? What should you look for? The Dirty Dozen, compiled by the David Suzuki Foundation, is a very useful list of the 12 main offenders found in beauty products.
Based on this compilation, we have listed these wrongdoers alphabetically, along with their aliases. They can’t hide anymore, we’ve made sure of it! Trying to pronounce these words is definitely mind-boggling, but with our handy guide in hand, reading labels will be a breeze!
The Dirty Dozen
BHA and BHT: Butylated hydroxyanisole, butylated hydroxytoluen, E320 (BHA), E321 (BHT), dibutyl hydroxytoluene and butylhydroxyanisole.
COAL TAR DYES: C.I. followed by five digits, P-phenylenediamine, para-phenylenediamine, tar and coal.
ETHANOLAMINE COMPOUNDS (MEA, DEA, TEA): Riethanolamine, diethanolamine, and words with DEA, MEA, TEA.
FORMALDEHYDE-RELEASING PRESERVATIVES DMDM: hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine, quarternium-15,18and 26, formalin, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate and formaldehyde.
PARABENS: Words containing “ethyl,” “butyl,” “methyl,” and “propyl” such as ethylparaben, butylparaben, methylparaben, propylparaben, isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben, other ingredients ending in -paraben.
PARFUM: Fragrance, parfum, perfume, aroma.
PEG COMPOUNDS: Polyethylene glycols, macrogol, propylene glycol, polypropylene glycol.
PETROLATUM: Mineral oil, petrolatum, petroleum jelly, paraffin oil, mineral Oil.
PHTALATES: Fragrance, parfum, perfume DEP, DBP and DEHP.
SILOXANE AND CYCLOMETHICONE: Words ending in -siloxane or in -methicone, cyclotetrasiloxane (D4), cylcopentasiloxane (D5) and cyclohexasiloxane (D6).
SODIUM LAURETH SULFATE: Sodium laureth, SLES.
TRICLOSAN: Triclosan (TSC) and triclocarban (TCC).
Choosing Natural Personal Care Products
Here you go, you know have an easy way to know which ingredients you should be on the lookout for!
Once you got going, you couldn’t stop yourself, right? If, in your frantic search, you happen to discover that your best shampoo, the one that says ALL-NATURAL on the bottle, has an item from the dirty dozen list, stop. Keep calm and read on. As it is the case with food labels, the ingredients are listed in order of predominance. On cosmetics, the first five usually make up for about 70% of your product. On the other hand, the last ingredients are present in a smaller proportion. If you can’t imagine living without that dear old bottle of shampoo, make sure that at least the first five elements are harmless, ideally natural, such as plant-based alternative like hemp oil, essential oils or plant extracts.Yes, I want natural care products!
At the end of the day, as in all things, less is best! You don’t have to rush and fill up a garbage bag with your favourite cosmetics to stay safe and healthy. Start by keeping only what is essential (because really, who needs 10 different shades of lipstick). Afterwards, as they reach their expiry date or the bottom of the jar, replace your beauty products with natural alternatives, free of harmful ingredients. You will get rid of that dirty dozen before you can even learn to say hydroxymethylglycinate!