As customers we’re having difficulty making purchase decisions for personal-care products due to unfamiliar ingredients on product labels. There was a study named “2017 Ingredient Confusion” done by Label Insight and the result was shocking. The study found that 81 percent of more than 1,000 consumers surveyed do not recognize ingredients on personal-care product labels on a regular basis. And a mere 2 percent “always” understand what they are reading on labels. It was also revealed that American women are ready to pay more for personal care products with recognizable ingredients as opposed to products that fail to clearly define what they contain.
There are endless personal care products available in the market for customers to choose from. Every product claims to solve issues with unbelievable effect. At least the advertisements of the products convey the same. But the ground reality is different. Personal care products like shampoos, soaps, body washes, body lotions, hair oils come first in the list; but the list includes many more. It is needless to say that during production of personal care products, various harmful chemicals are used. Your skin is the largest organ in your body. So when you apply the chemically formed products on it, it absorbs the chemicals quickly and easily. Once applied on the body the chemicals can enter the blood system and travel throughout the body, also pass through the blood brain barrier and even through the placenta into the mother’s womb. The most common ingredients in personal care are fragrances, chemical preservatives, antioxidants, ultraviolet absorbers, humectants, emollients, emulsifiers, acrylates etc.
Demand of personal care products is increasing constantly and few companies take the advantage to mass produce chemically formed products which they claim can solve your issues or take care of your skin or make you beautiful. But indeed it does exactly the opposite. There are enough reasons for the concern of the consumers. In July in 2018, a newspaper heading got the world’s attention – A well-known company was ordered by a jury in an US court to pay huge compensation to women who alleged that its talc products caused them to develop ovarian cancer. The lawyers alleged that the company knew its talc was contaminated with asbestos; but they failed to warn consumers about the risks.
In recent decades reproductive and developmental problems have become more prevalent. Environmental chemicals are strongly suspected to be the major contributing factors. Several recent reports highlight the presence of concentrations of potential reproductive or developmental toxicants, particularly Phthalates, in cosmetics and personal care products. The threatening part of this story is that various researches conducted by research institutes like Environment California indicate that make-up, shampoo, skin lotion, nail polish, and other personal care products contain chemical ingredients that lack safety data. However, all the time the consumers cannot make judgment about the personal care products without knowing the ingredients contained in the products they use. Sometimes all data is not revealed; like “Fragrances in cosmetics”. In addition, personal care products are not well regulated. Most of the regulations and safety testing is regulated by the product manufacturers on their own. It will be worth mentioning here that while the FDA regulations were being created in USA, many of the manufacturing companies fought back. The situation is worse in third world countries.
We take this opportunity to highlight some of the chemical components largely used in the personal care products to avoid…
Avobenzone: A synthetic sunscreen ingredient to protect the skin against the entire range of the sun’s UVA rays. In some research this ingredient is cited as an endocrine-disrupting agent.
Ethanolamine: Used as emulsifiers or foaming agents. Generally, Diethanolamine (DEA), Monoethanolamine (MEA), and Triethanolamine (TEA) are mentioned in the ingredients of the products containing ethanolamine. Repeated and prolonged use can form cancer-causing nitrates and nitrosamines. Almost all products generating foam like bubble baths, body washes, shampoos, soaps, and facial cleaners contain that. Ethanolamine is found in eyeliners, mascara, eye shadows, and blush too.
Formaldehyde: Personal care products have various preservatives which help to prevent bacteria. At the same time various preservatives can release formaldehyde to the skin causing allergic skin reactions and cancer. How to find that culprit in ingredient? Check for formaldehyde, quaternium- 15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2- nitropropane-1,3-diol (bromopol).
Heavy Metals: Heavy metals like lead, arsenic, mercury, aluminum, zinc, chromium and iron are found in a wide variety of personal care products including lipstick, whitening toothpaste, eyeliner and nail color. Some metals are intentionally added as ingredients, while others are contaminants. Exposure to metals has been linked to health concerns including reproductive, immune and nervous system toxicity. Try to find out lead acetate, chromium, thimerosal, hydrogenated cotton seed oil, sodium hexametaphosphate in the list of ingredients to avoid them.
Paraben: Widely used as preservatives by cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. Paraben is found in almost every cosmetic; from the shampoo and shaving cream to the moisturizer and makeup. Various researches indicate paraben as a human carcinogen. If you find text in ingredients ending with paraben; like ethylparaben, butylparaben, isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben, methylparaben, and propylparaben, that product has paraben.
Petrolatum: Mineral oil jelly or petroleum jelly is used as a barrier to lock moisture in the skin in a variety of moisturizers, in hair care products to make the hair shine; in diaper creams, lip products and sunscreens. If petroleum is not absolutely refined, they can form polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). IARC has declared 14 PAHs as probable or possible carcinogens and one PAH as a known carcinogen. Look for petrolatum, petroleum jelly, paraffin oil, mineral oil and white petrolatum in the label.
Phthalates: Used in cosmetics and personal care products, including perfumes, hair sprays, soaps, shampoos, nail polishes and skin moisturizers. Still the harm caused by this ingredient is under research. However, Di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate is listed as ‘reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen’ in the Twelfth Report on Carcinogens published by the National Toxicology Program. Phthalates generally include the term “phthalate” in the name, like “diethyl phthalate.”
146 cosmetic ingredients may contain harmful impurities linked with cancer. How to get rid of those harmful chemicals? There are only two options, (1) either prepare your personal care & cosmetic products at home or (2) pick only those products where only natural and organic ingredients are used and it is clearly mentioned in the product labels. Only a conscious group of consumers can help to transform the society into a more sustainable world and provide a better life to live.