Most people are blissfully unaware of the toxins hiding out in normal products. You think that because it’s sold on the shelves of your local grocery store that it’s fine, but the truth is there are around 1300 toxins allowed in US products that other countries, like in Europe, do not allow in their body care products. What does this mean? It means that every day you are being exposed to small amounts of harmful toxins that can build up in your system and, over time, cause cellular damage and disease.
Some of these toxins contribute to asthma. Others are carcinogenic and can lead to cancers, while others can still affect fertility. While there are plenty of products that are greenwashed — products with clever marketing that masquerade as natural alternatives — truly natural products will reveal it in their ingredients list. Here are some of the top toxins to try to avoid if you’re looking to reduce your toxicity.
Parabens are a group of chemicals used as preservatives in cosmetics and other personal care products, but they can also be found in food. Parabens are the most common type of endocrine-disrupting chemical (EDC) found in the environment. This means that parabens are a chemical that changes the way the endocrine system functions in the body. By doing this, these chemicals can cause many long and short-term health issues.
The European Union has banned four parabens from being added to cosmetics because they may cause skin irritation and allergies, though the FDA maintains that parabens are safe at concentrations used by companies today. And while there’s no evidence yet that these chemicals cause cancer on their own, they can act like estrogen once inside your body—and some studies suggest this might make them more dangerous than previously believed.
You know those smells that linger when you go to the laundromat, walk by the cleaning aisle in the store, or catch a whiff of scents from the lotion shop in the mall? Those are almost always artificial fragrances. You’ll know them by the name perfume or fragrance on the labels of the products. If it’s not on the label, but the fragrance lingers for hours, then it’s likely toxic. It’s why some people look for fragrance free face cleanser, laundry detergents, and even sprays made from essential oils instead. Fragrances hide an assortment of toxins, so it’s difficult to know what their side effects of them might be, as it depends on what it’s made out of.
Phthalates, chemicals used to make plastic more flexible, are found in many personal care products. They’re also endocrine disruptors that can cause cancer and reproductive problems, as well as asthma. The European Union bans phthalates from cosmetics, but the U.S. does not regulate them at all. They are typically used to make PVC pipes and other plastics more flexible. But as a liquid, it’s found in shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, and more.
Retinyl acetate is a type of vitamin A. It’s used in cosmetics to help treat dry skin and can be found in products like lotions, face masks, and creams. Retinyl acetate has also been known to cause allergic reactions when applied topically or ingested orally. Unfortunately, it’s known to cause swelling, breathing problems, and even urine changes.
Formaldehyde is a colorless gas that can be found in embalming fluid and used to preserve human tissue. Formaldehyde is also a known carcinogen, meaning it’s linked to cancer. As a preservative in body care products, it can cause skin irritation, lung irritation, and eye problems. These can lead to shortness of breath, asthma, and more lung conditions if exposed to it long term. It should be avoided in personal care, home, and body products. Some countries have banned its use, but it’s still allowed in the United States in these products.
Dyes and Colorants
Dyes are used in many products, from food to medicine. They can be derived from a variety of sources, including plants, minerals, or animals. These dyes are used to make products look more attractive and appealing. Synthetic dyes are created in a lab from chemicals called chromophores (which absorb light) and often include heavy metals like lead or mercury that can have toxic effects on the body when consumed. Synthetic dyes are cheap and stable but have been linked to health problems, including cancer and neurotoxicity.
Aluminum has been linked to breast cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, but that doesn’t stop manufacturers from using it as an active ingredient in many body care products. In fact, a study found that when people applied deodorant with aluminum chloride on the skin of mice for over eight hours every day for one week, it caused kidney damage.