How Safe Are Your Cosmetics?


On average a woman uses about 12 to 25 different cosmetics a day and applies more than 200 chemicals to her body in the process. Men use an average of nine personal care products on a daily basis and as a result are exposed to about 85 different chemicals. However, one third of personal care products contain at least one chemical linked to cancer, according to the Skin Deep report by the Environmental Working Group, a partner of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

In Europe, 1,328 chemicals are banned from personal care products because they may cause cancer, birth defects, or reproductive problems. However, in the United States only about 11 chemicals are banned from cosmetics.

The term “cosmetics” does not refer only to make-up, but includes any product applied to the body that is not a drug.

This includes the following:

• Shampoo

• Conditioner

• Deodorant

• Hand soap

• Sunscreen

• Lip balm

• Hand lotion

• Toothpaste

• Shaving creams

There are thousands of ingredients used in personal care products, yet only about 10 per cent of the ingredients have even been evaluated.

Remember, the skin is the largest organ of the body, so when these chemicals enter our bodies by contact with the skin or from inhalation, we’re exposing ourselves to potential harm. What are some of these chemicals we are referring to?

Some of the most problematic cosmetics ingredients are:

• Mercury

A possible human carcinogen; may contain toxins harmful for human reproductive and development. Mercury is found in some eye drops, ointments and deodorants.

• Lead acetate

Known human reproductive and development toxin. The substance is found in some hair dyes and cleansers.

• Formaldehyde

A known human carcinogen, formaldehyde is found in some nail treatments.

• Toluene

Also known as a human reproductive and development toxin, toluene is a hazardous solvent found in nail polishes.

• Petroleum distillates

A possible human carcinogen, petroleum distillates may contain harmful impurities. The substance is found in some mascara, perfumes, foundations, lipsticks and lip balms.

• Ethyl acrylate

A possible human carcinogen, ethyl acrylate is known as human sensitiser. It is found in some mascara.

• Coal tar

A known human carcinogen, coal tar may contain harmful impurities. It is found in dandruff shampoos, anti-itch creams and hair dyes.

• Dibutyl phthalate

Possible human reproductive and development toxin. Found in some nail polishes, perfume and hair spray. Phthalates are a family of plasticiser chemicals used as additives in cosmetics, fragrances, plastic toys, automotive products, PVC products, and several other items.

Several scientific studies have concluded the following about phthalate: It can impair reproduction and development; negatively affect the liver and kidney function; can damage the heart and lungs and affect blood clotting; impair the development of male reproductive organs, and disrupt normal hormonal processes, raising concern about their implications for increased breast cancer risk.

The highest concern product categories are:

• Hair colour and bleach

• Hair relaxer

• Nail polish

• Skin lightener

• Nail treatment

Still, there are safer alternatives one can use.

Products used by men

Reliable scientific studies have proven the following:

Two products marketed to men to colour grey hair (EBL Grey Ban and Grecien Formula 16) contain lead acetate which can affect fertility.

Some of the other product categories that are of the highest concern are aftershave lotions, anti-dandruff shampoo, teeth whiteners, sunless tanning products and colognes. Again, there are safer alternatives out there.

The cosmetic industry would like its consumers to think that the level of these ingredients are too small to impact your health. But think of the vast variety of cosmetics we continually use in one day, accumulated over years and our lifetime. Any ingredients linked to cancer should not be in our personal care products. Many of these chemicals are cheap and very unnecessary in our skin care. Be informed and empowered, look for products without them, they are out there.

Remember: paying more doesn’t mean buying safer products; natural doesn’t always mean safe, and many popular brands have these unsafe ingredients.

Be informed, read your ingredients.

•Kenya Mortimer-McKenzie is an anti-aging skin care specialist at the Baha Retreat Anti-Aging Spa. Visit www.baharetreat.com or e-mail kenya@baharetreat.com.


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