12 Dirty Chemicals in your Personal Care Products


Attention ladies and gents, it’s time to detoxify your bathroom cabinet because it’s not just what you put IN your body, it’s also what you put ON your body. In fact, The David Suzuki Foundation did a study and found that over 12,500 personal care products from moisturizer to shampoo contain 80% of the 12 toxic chemicals aka “the dirty dozen”, listed below. In another study, the Environmental Working Group found the average person is exposed to 126 chemicals each day, just in personal care products alone. Chemicals from shampoo, to lotion and potions, lipstick and perfume.

Avoidance of chemicals in a big city can be difficult, but what if you could take simple steps to reduce your personal toxic exposure. Well guess what? You can! Personally, I aim to use mostly all natural, organic and chemical-free products in my home and on my body. But flashback 10-11 years ago and I was slathering my body in SLS, petroleum and paraben-infused products, to name a few. This was also the same time I had major hormonal imbalance. I had the hormone levels of a pre-pubescent girl, not fun when you are 22. Coincidence? I think not.

These chemicals below, are a problem because they are absorbed into the body, and can be stored in fatty tissue or organs such as the liver, kidney, reproductive organs and brain. Scientists are finding industrial plasticisers such as phthalates in urine, preservatives known as parabens in breast-tumour tissue, and antibacterials such as Triclosan and fragrance chemicals like the hormone-disrupting musk xylene in human breast milk. Medical research is proving that fragrances can trigger asthma; that the detergents in shampoos can damage eye tissue; and that hair-dye chemicals can cause bladder cancer and lymphoma. The cosmetics companies would have you believe it’s just hysteria and you have nothing to worry about. I don’t think so.

Not only is the cosmetics industry largely self-governing, Health Canada does NOT require pre-market testing of chemicals used in cosmetics. So it’s up to you, the consumer to decide what’s safe. Does this get your knickers in a knot? I mean really, you are not a chemist, nor am I but we do need to take the responsibility for what we put on our body.

Remember, your skin is your largest organ. What you slather on, gets absorbed into your blood and it’s a faster route to your blood than actually eating these chemicals. Make sure your products are clean and avoid the top 12 dirtiest chemicals in 80% of personal care products. Here they are:

1. BHA and BHT. Used mainly in moisturizers and makeup as preservatives. Suspected endocrine disruptors and may cause cancer (BHA). Harmful to fish and other wildlife.

2. Coal tar dyes: p-phenylenediamine and colours listed as “CI” followed by a five digit number. Look for p-phenylenediamine hair dyes and in other products colours listed as “CI” followed by five digits.1 The U.S. colour name may also be listed (e.g. “FD&C Blue No. 1″ or “Blue 1″). Potential to cause cancer and may be contaminated with heavy metals toxic to the brain.

3. DEA-related ingredients. Used in creamy and foaming products, such as moisturizers and shampoos. Can react to form nitrosamines, which may cause cancer. Harmful to fish and other wildlife. Look also for related chemicals MEA and TEA.

4. Dibutyl phthalate. Used as a plasticizer in some nail care products. Suspected endocrine disrupter and reproductive toxicant. Harmful to fish and other wildlife.

5. Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives. Look for DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine and quarternium-15. Used in a variety of cosmetics. Slowly release small amounts of formaldehyde, which causes cancer.

6. Parabens. Used in a variety of cosmetics as preservatives. Suspected endocrine disrupters and may interfere with male reproductive functions.

7. Parfum (a.k.a. fragrance) Any mixture of fragrance ingredients used in a variety of cosmetics — even in some products marketed as “unscented.” Some fragrance ingredients can trigger allergies and asthma. Some linked to cancer and neurotoxicity. Some harmful to fish and other wildlife.

8. PEG compounds. Used in many cosmetic cream bases. Can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which may cause cancer. Also for related chemical propylene glycol and other ingredients with the letters “eth” (e.g., polyethylene glycol).

9. Petrolatum. Used in some hair products for shine and as a moisture barrier in some lip balms, lip sticks and moisturizers. A petroleum product that can be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which may cause cancer.

10. Siloxanes. Look for ingredients ending in “-siloxane” or “-methicone.” Used in a variety of cosmetics to soften, smooth and moisten. Suspected endocrine disrupter and reproductive toxicant (cyclotetrasiloxane). Harmful to fish and other wildlife.

11. Sodium laureth sulfate. Used in foaming cosmetics, such as shampoos, cleansers and bubble bath. Can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which may cause cancer. Look also for related chemical sodium lauryl sulfate and other ingredients with the letters “eth” (e.g., sodium laureth sulfate).

12. Triclosan. Used in antibacterial cosmetics, such as toothpastes, cleansers and antiperspirants. Suspected endocrine disrupter and may contribute to antibiotic resistance in bacteria. Harmful to fish and other wildlife.

What to do now? Detox your personal care products by reading what ingredients are listed and check the safety on this database here: www.skindeep.com Be informed and exercise your right to clean products by avoiding buying toxic products. In my videos on my Joyous Health youtube channel, I often post videos of products I buy and use. Check them out!

Happy Weekend,


Joy McCarthy

Joy McCarthy is the vibrant Holistic Nutritionist behind Joyous Health. Author of JOYOUS HEALTH: Eat & Live Well without Dieting, professional speaker, nutrition expert on Global’s Morning Show, Faculty Member at Institute of Holistic Nutrition and co-creator of Eat Well Feel Well. Read more...

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