The Dirty Dozen
1. Phthalates : ‘Dibutyl Phthalate
What is it? : Phthalates can be easily absorbed by our skin. It enhances the capacity of other chemicals to cause genetic mutations.
Why is it harmful? : It has been shown to cause developmental defects and is toxic to reproductionand can also harm the unborn and impair fertility.
What is it? : Primarily used as a foaming agent or detergent to be found in shampoos, facial cleansers, bubble bath products, household and utensil cleaning detergents.
Why is it harmful? : Depending on the manufacturing process it can work as a possible human carcinogen and can even harm the nervous system.
What is it? : Primarily used as a preservative, they are used as fragrance ingredients, not listed in your favorite perfume label. Perfume recipes are considered trade secrets; hence the manufacturers are not obliged to disclose the ingredients. An estimated 75-90% of cosmetics contain this toxin.
Why is it harmful? : Parabens are easily absorbed by our skin. Parabens can mimic estrogen and has been detected in human breast cancer tissues. It is estimated that women are exposed to 50mg of parabens per day.
What is it? : These are primarily preservatives commonly found in cosmetics.
Look for: DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine, quaternium-15, and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate. These ingredients slowly and continuously release small amounts of formaldehyde.
Why is it harmful? : Formaldehyde has a very sharp odor. It is also blamed for allergic reactions in sensitive people.
5. BHA and BHT
What is it? : BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) are synthetic antioxidants used as preservatives in lipsticks and moisturizers and are also used as food preservatives.
Why is it harmful? : They can cause allergic reactions, liver, thyroid and kidney problems along with lung function impairment and problems in blood coagulation. Moreover, they mimic estrogen and can have an adverse impact on reproduction.
6. Coal-Tar dyes
What is it? : Coal tar-derived colorants are used extensively in cosmetics. P-phenylenediamine is used frequently hair dyes. These dyes are generally identified by a five-digit Colour Index (C.I.) number.
Why is it harmful? : Coal tar is a carcinogen and dyes made from it have a high potential for causing cancer. These colours are sometimes contaminated with aluminium substrate which is toxic to the brain.
7. DEA compounds
What is it? : DEA (diethanolamine) and its compounds are used in moisturizers and sunscreens, while cocamide and lauramide DEA are found in soaps, cleansers, and shampoos to create more lather.
Why is it harmful? : These cause mild skin and eye irritation. Exposure to high doses of these chemicals has caused liver cancers and pre-cancerous changes in skin and thyroid in a few cases.
What is it? : Apart from being used in perfumes and deodorants, they are used in nearly every type of personal-care product. Of the thousands of chemicals used in fragrances, most have not been tested for toxicity, alone or in combination. Over 3000 chemicals are used to manufacture synthetic fragrances.
Why is it harmful? : These are often unlisted ingredients that are irritants and can trigger allergies, migraines, andasthma symptoms and lead to asthma in children.
9. PEG compounds
What is it? : PEGs (polyethylene glycols) are widely used in cosmetics as thickeners, solvents, softeners, and moisture-carriers and hence used for products requiring a cream base and also in laxatives.
Why is it harmful? : Ethylene oxide is a human carcinogen while 1, 4-dioxane – a possible human carcinogen. Ethylene oxide harms the nervous system and causes developmental problems. They are also known to cause skin irritation and systemic toxicity.
What is it? : Mineral oil jelly or petroleum jelly is used as a moisturizer and in hair-shine products.
Why is it harmful? : Petrolatum can be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Exposure to PAHs is associated with cancer and skin irritation and allergies.
What is it? : Cyclomethicone and ingredients ending in “siloxane” make hair products dry quickly and deodorant creams slide on easily. They are also used extensively in moisturisers and facial treatments to soften and smoothen and in medical implants.
Why is it harmful? : Cyclotetrasiloxane and Cylcopentasiloxane —D4 and D5 — are endocrine disruptors, interfere with human hormone function and possible reproductive toxicants that may impair human fertility, cause uterine tumours and harm the reproductive and immune systems.
What is it? : Triclosan is used mainly in antiperspirants/deodorants, cleansers, and hand sanitizers as a preservative and an anti-bacterial agent. Also used in laundry detergent, facial tissues, and antiseptics for wounds.
Why is it harmful? : It can pass through skin and is suspected of interfering with hormone function (endocrine disruption). Extensive use may contribute to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It can cause irritation to the skin and eyes.
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