Potential toxins in your skin care products

“Companies and individuals who manufacture or market cosmetics have a legal responsibility to ensure the safety of their products. Neither the law nor FDA regulations require specific tests to demonstrate the safety of individual products or ingredients. The law also does not require cosmetic companies to share their safety information with FDA.”

How does that statement make you feel? I bet  you thought that the shampoo, cleanser, moisturizer, nail polish, shaving cream, deodorant, etc that  you put on every day was tested for safety by “someone in charge”, didn’t you? Well, it’s not.

Contrary to what many believe, the FDA does not test the safety of cosmetics and personal care products before they are released to the public.   In fact, the FDA has only banned 11 ingredients for use in personal care products, leaving it up to individual companies to decide the safety and efficacy of ingredients.  Because of this, many cosmetics, shampoos and lotions can contain trace heavy metals, hormone and endocrine-disrupting chemicals that are thought to contribute to a variety of cancers and illnesses.  And it’s not just yourself you need to look out for – there are many ingredients that are actually bad for the environment as well.

You will often hear the argument that only “trace amounts” of a harmful ingredient may be used in a product, but the cumulative effect boosts that number much higher once you consider the number of products you use each day (an average of 20 products for most women!).

Our theory is “Why take the risk?”. If you can avoid potentially dangerous ingredients that might be to harsh for your skin anyway, why would you want to risk it?

With thousands of potential ingredients, it can be hard to keep up with the good, the bad, and the ugly. Below we’ve created a list of the things we feel are the heavy-hitters in terms of toxins, irritants, and environmental polluters, and, fortunately, most of them are pretty easy to avoid. To check out what’s on the label in your products, visit the Environmental Working Group Skindeep Database. We have used this database extensively to vet all of the products used at Plum Natural Nail Spa! Read about the products we use.

Parabens.  Parabens are a preservative used in up to 70% of conventional lotions, shampoos and many cosmetics. Denmark banned them in products made for children in 2010. The rest of the European Union banned parabens in 2012. Parabens are absorbed into the bloodstream. They can cause hormonal disruption and have been linked to breast cancer.  What to look for: methylparaben, ethylparaben, isobutylparagen (other variations ending in -paraben), hydroxybenzoic acid, and hydroxybenzoate.

Phthalates. Funny name – not so funny consequences. Phthalates are often found under “fragrance” on ingredient lists, and because fragrance is considered a proprietary formula, it’s hard to tell if a product includes them.  Phthalates have been linked to disorders in reproductive systems. Phthalates may also correlate to an increased risk of breast cancer, childhood obesity and premature births. Your best bet it to look for items labeled phthalate-free, or that are scent-free or only scented with natural essential oils.

Butylated hydroxyanisole, known as BHA. BHA is a preservative used in cosmetics, lotion, shaving cream, and other personal care products. It’s listed as a possible human carcinogen by The International Agency for Research on Cancer and as a hormone disrupter by The European Commission on Endocrine Disruption. It also adversely affects the environment, as it bio accumulates in oceans and fish. The European Union prohibits the use of BHA in fragrances, and California requires a warning label on products containing BHA.

Hydroquinone. Hydroquinone is used for hyperpigmentation and melasma, and it does work to lighten skin. However, it has been linked to lung irritation and tumors in mice. Canada and some Asian and African countries have banned the use of hydroquinone. The FDA stated that hydroquinone cannot be ruled out as a potential carcinogen, yet still has not banned its use. Sometimes listed as benzene-1,4 or quinol on ingredient lists.

Sunscreens. Protection from the sun can be achieved through chemical barriers and physical barriers. The most common sunscreens on the market contain chemical filters. These products typically include a combination of two to six of these active ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. A handful of products combine zinc oxide with chemical filters. Laboratory studies of several sunscreen chemicals indicate that they may mimic hormones and disrupt the hormone system.  Mineral sunscreens use zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide and are much safer.  Nano-particle technology means you won’t have the white sunscreen traces you might remember from the early day of zinc sunscreen!

Microbeads. Found in exfoliants, toothpaste, and soap, micro beads are just what they sound like – very tiny beads made out of plastic. They are likely not harmful to human, but are highly damaging to the environment. There are many alternative to microbeads used for exfoliation including bamboo, grape seed, seeds, and shells. Read about a recent study on micro beads to learn more.


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