What you put on your body is just as important as what you put in it. We strive to eat clean for optimal health, and we must also use household, personal care, and beauty products that are clean, too. Here is a list of the most common toxic chemicals that may be lurking in your home—and some suggestions for safe, natural, and clean alternatives.
DEA (Diethanolamine), MEA (Monoethanolamine), TEA (Triethanolamine). Commonly found in shampoos, soaps, bubble baths, and facial cleansers, research indicates that these hormone‐disrupting chemicals have a strong link to liver and kidney cancers.
FD&C color pigments. Avoid artificial colors and dyes in your food as well as in your personal care and makeup products. Most artificial pigments are made from coal tar with studies showing they are carcinogenic. They can also cause skin sensitivity and irritation and oxygen depletion in the blood. FD&C Red #4 is no longer added to foods due to its link to adrenal gland and urinary bladder cancers.
Fragrance. There are nearly 4,000 different “fragrance” ingredients and most are synthetics which can be toxic. Toxic, artificial fragrances affect the central nervous system and are found in most shampoos, deodorants, sunscreens, skincare, and body care products.
Imidazolidinyl urea and DMDH hydantoin. These are both derivatives of formaldehyde, a carcinogen used to preserve corpses and body parts. Prolonged exposure to these chemicals is linked to allergies, chest pain, chronic fatigue, depression, dizziness, ear infections, headaches, joint pain, loss of sleep, and can trigger asthma and weaken the immune system. They are used in skin, body, and hair products, as well as antiperspirants and nail polish.
Isopropyl alcohol. Commonly used in hair color rinses, hand lotion, and aftershave lotions as well as antifreeze and shellac, isopropyl alcohol is considered relatively low in toxicity in small doses. However, research shows that prolonged exposure destroys intestinal flora, causes headaches, dizziness, depression, nausea, vomiting—and in extreme cases—coma.
Mineral oil. This petroleum derivative coats the skin like Saran Wrap and prevents it from breathing, absorbing, and excreting. It also slows the skin’s natural cell development, causing premature aging. Baby oil is 100% mineral oil—and 100% bad for you and your baby’s sensitive skin.
Parabens and Phthalates. Banned by the European Union in 2003, these chemicals are commonly used as preservatives in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and personal care products like shampoo and body wash. They keep hairspray sticky and bacteria and fungus out of perfume and nail polish. Research shows both to be carcinogenic with strong links to breast cancer.
Petrolatum, aka petroleum jelly. Used as a moisturizing agent, this petrochemical prevents skin from breathing and excreting, and contains two well-known carcinogens: benzo(a)pyrene and benzo(b)fluoranthene.
Polyethylene glycol. Commonly used in spray‐on oven cleaners and in many hair and skin products, PEG’s main function is to dissolve oil and grease. Thus, on the body, they take the protective oils off the skin and hair, making it more vulnerable to other toxins.
Propylene glycol. This is the active ingredient in antifreeze, and it’s also commonly used in makeup, toothpaste, and many stick deodorants. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires workers to wear protective gloves, clothing, and goggles when working with it as large amounts may be toxic to the brain, liver, and kidneys. Anything that requires special gear for handling has no business in your personal care products.
Quaternium-15. Used as a preservative in many skin and hair care products, quaternium-15 commonly causes allergic reactions and dermatitis and breaks down into formaldehyde. Hairdressers and janitors are considered particularly at-risk, as their jobs can require prolonged exposure to the chemical.
Sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate. These are perhaps the most toxic chemicals on this list as when they’re used in combination with other chemicals, they can form nitrosamines, a toxic class of carcinogens. They are used at car washes, to clean engines and garage floors, and they are still the most popular ingredients for makeup, shampoo, conditioner, and toothpaste. Exposure causes eye damage, depression, diarrhea, and many other ailments.
Talc. A common ingredient in baby and adult powders, makeup, and foundation, talc has been linked to ovarian and testicular cancer because of its potential for contamination by asbestos.
Triclosan. A synthetic antibacterial ingredient used in soaps and disinfectant gels. The EPA registers it as a pesticide and a chlorophenol—both highly toxic to living organisms. Triclosan disrupts hormones, can affect sexual function and fertility, is linked to paralysis, suppression of the immune system, brain hemorrhages, and heart problems. It is widely used in antibacterial cleansers, toothpaste, and household products.
Replace your toxic products with alternatives from these home and beauty brands found online and at many major retailers: 100 Percent Pure ACURE Alba Botanica Aubrey Organics Avalon Organics Beauty Without Cruelty Burt’s Bees Dr. Bronner’s EO Products Gabriel Cosmetics Giovanni Jane Iredale JĀSÖN Kiss My Face Lush Method Mineral Fusion Nature’s Gate Pacifica Schmidt’s Naturals Shea Moisture Zuzu Luxe
For more shopping assistance, download an app like the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Healthy Living App, or the Leaping Bunny’s Cruelty-Free App, whose 900+ certified companies are overwhelmingly natural, organic, and chemical-free.