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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
Apr 23, 2011 | Joy McCarthy

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: 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,


nndr   •   April 23, 2011

Hi. Nice article. I enjoy your website and only wish I could afford a consultation with you at this time. A friend recommended you...but its not in my financial cards. I'd like to ask if you've ever read "Ultrametabolism" by Steven Pratt, or " The Maker's Diet" by Jordin Rubin. I am finding Rubin's book fascinating. Thoughts? I'm actually a bit curious about your own personal sample day of eating, and exercise. Would be highly inspiring. Thanks Joy.

Joy McCarthy   •   April 24, 2011

Colleen   •   April 26, 2011

Hi there, I enjoyed this article very much. Have you heard of the book "The Healthy Home"? written by Dr. Wentz and David Wentz? This is a must read and lines up with your blog suggestions and research. I've been using the products recommended and designed by Dr. Wentz for over 10 years ... paraben free is the way to be!


Nicholle   •   May 8, 2011

Hi Joy .. have you found an all natural deodorant? I find EWGs ratings confusing sometimes as the citrus deo by Weleda has a worse score than some of the Dove, Secret, and Mitchum formulas. Please let me know if you have come across anything!!

Joy McCarthy   •   May 10, 2011

Ashley   •   May 31, 2011

Hi Joy! Thanks for all the great articles and recipes! I've heard you talk about using natural shampoo and conditioner that you get for under ten bucks in a video, but I can't seem to find an article or video where you say what it is. I tend to buy expensive salon stuff, and I just can't bring myself to buy another $50 bottle of shampoo, but I don't want to sacrifice having great hair either. Help? Thanks!

Joy McCarthy   •   June 3, 2011

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Awhile ago, I believe I saw on your Blog, lists of 'beauty products' (from sunscreen to lotions, etc) that were rated from good to bad. I seem to have misplaced the email Blog. Where can I find this. Thank you.

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Milena   •   November 22, 2012

Hi Joy, Thanks for all your help and encouragement! I hope you can help me out with cleaning products and laundry detergent. Also, do you use hand sanitizer? What products do you like and or use? I'm trying to get my household fully chemical free. I kinda feel comfortable asking you these questions because you give us some great tips from grocery shopping to skin care. Any info would be fantastic. Thanks so much


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Lisa   •   December 29, 2018

Hi Joy, you’ve inspired me to go through all my personal care products to look for nasty ingredients and replace them with more natural products. Do you have any tips on responsible ways to dispose of products that you no longer want to use? I don’t want to pollute the environment by tossing bottles of creams or shampoos in the trash or pouring them down the drain.

Joy McCarthy   •   December 30, 2018

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