As we become more educated on the risks of using certain products such as plastics, oils, and GMO foods, it is often overlooked that many of the products we use on our bodies could also be increasing the toxin load inside our bodies.
Being that cosmetics are marketed predominantly to women, it is troubling that women are literally ‘dying to be beautiful’ as many of the chemicals in our makeup and personal care items are actually harmful to us. These chemicals known as hormone disruptors mimic naturally occurring hormones in the body such as estrogen, and when there is too much our bodies have difficulty functioning properly, leading to a multitude of health problems.
Today we are going to have a look at some toxins that show up in body washes, makeup and even toothpaste that can wreak havoc on the endocrine (hormone) system, in women, men, and children. This is only a select list, but these chemicals show up mainly in cosmetics, but never fear, there are ways to minimize your risk.
What are Parabens?
Simply put, a paraben, which can be any of the following: methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and ethylparaben, are preservative chemicals that have been deemed ‘safe’ for human use for the past 70+ years. These chemicals inhibit the growth of fungus and bacteria in mascara, shampoo, creams, lotions, deodorant, and even foundation. While some of these personal care items are used on the skin and washed off, most are left on the skin and are therefore absorbed through the skin into the body at a much more concentrated level.
There is some controversy as to whether parabens actually deserve all the bad press they receive, but some studies have shown that they have the ability to mimic estrogen in the human body, which some argue is a contributing factor in the increased cases of not only breast cancer but lower sperm counts in men, disrupting the human endocrine system.
One such study found 18 out of 20 breast tumour biopsy samples contained parabens. One argument for a closer look at parabens is the fact that about 55% of all breast tumours are found on the outer portion of the breast, closest to the armpit, where, you guessed it, we apply deodorants almost daily.
This issue is gaining traction, as Denmark was the first country to ban the use of parabens in children’s products (for children under 3 years of age). The European Union has also banned the use of sodium methylparaben in fragrance as they have found it strips the skin of pigment and has linked the use of this preservative to other health concerns.
You Can Run, but You Cannot Hide – From Phthalates
For a number of years now, we have seen many makeup products emerge in the beauty market labeled ‘phthalate free.’ This large group of chemicals appear in a lot of every day products (but in many countries it does not have to be listed in the ingredients) such as perfumes, hairspray and moisturizers and even cleaning products as it keeps scent intact at the original level so that it will not break down and change over time.
Like parabens, phthalates are readily absorbed through the skin and have been linked to endocrine disruption as they also mimic estrogen, but they have also been linked to asthma in children, ADHA, breast cancer, and male reproductive issues. In fact, in 2008, a bill was passed in the US that banned the use of some phthalates in children’s products and acknowledged that a closer look was needed into these chemicals. But what you do to protect yourself and your family to minimize exposure? An easy option is to purchase items in glass bottles, avoid plastic wrap and look closely at ingredients; if a product says it contains ‘fragrance’ (different than natural fragrance) or ‘parfum’ this is a dead giveaway that phthalates are present.
When shopping for scent, in particular, try to shop for items that state they are not formulated with synthetic fragrance. Instead, opt for items scented only with essential oils like Saje’s Goddess rollerball scent. If you still love your current scent and want to continue using it, the best way to do this in a safer way is to spray the perfume in the air and walk through the mist. This way you are getting the scent that you want without contact on the skin. This is a great way to also keep the scent from becoming overpowering or changing due to skin PH and body heat.
For a resource list of phthalate free body care items check out EWG’s Skin Deep Database here.
Triclosan – Antibacterial – but Killing More than Just Germs?
Triclosan or ‘antibacterial’ on a product label is common; in North America, we are obsessed with antibacterial everything, which is actually making us sick. Triclosan is found in antibacterial products, but it is also found in soap, face and body washes, creams and lotions, laundry detergent, toothpaste and deodorant as it inhibits mold growth.
But tricky Triclosan affects thyroid hormones and acts like estrogen in the body as well. Too much estrogen has been linked to breast cancer and reproductive health issues as I mentioned before, but to make things worse, Triclosan promotes antibiotic resistance in bacteria that inhibits antibiotics from treating bacterial infections. So by trying to keep ourselves from getting sick, we could actually be setting ourselves up for more severe infections down the road.
There is no evidence that soaps saying they are ‘antibacterial’ perform any better at killing germs than traditional soap and water, so avoid falling for this marketing trick. Steer clear of cosmetics and body care products labeled ‘antibacteria’ – check the label as Triclosan will be listed in the active ingredients in the product.
In September of 2016 Triclosan in soaps was banned in the US but it is still contained in toothpaste, for example. So far Canada has not banned this chemical, so it is very important for those of us north of the border to check labels carefully. We do have options though – Method cleaners are Triclosan free, and Jason and Tom’s of Maine have toothpaste and mouthwashes that are free of this little-known but harmful chemical.
I love discovering new products that are better for the planet and for my body. There are many new options on the market every day not just for humans, but for our furry friends too. For some amazing natural, vegan handmade products for you and your pet, check out Best Friend Beauty and use my special BLUSH reader discount code BELLE25 to get 25% off your purchase. Did I mention that a portion of all their sales is donated to help end animal testing? What a perfect way to shop!
Peace, Love, and Lipstick,
Next week: Paint your piggies – the best crueltyfree nail polish