Chemicals to avoid in Cosmetic Products
More and more patients coming to my clinic present with skin irritations and are sensitive to many cosmetic products on the market. Therefore it is important to check the ingredient list of the product you are about to buy to ensure that those are free of a number of potentially harmful chemicals as follows:
Parabens. Parabens are widely used preservatives that prevent the growth of bacteria, mould and yeast in cosmetic products. Parabens possess oestrogen-mimicking properties that are associated with increased risk of breast cancer. These chemicals are absorbed through the skin and have been identified in biopsy samples from breast tumours. They can be found in makeup, body washes, deodorants, shampoos and facial cleansers. You can also find them in food and pharmaceutical products.
Synthetic colours. FD & C or D&C, they represent artificial colours. These letters precede a colour and number (e.g. FD&C blue 1). These synthetic colours are derived from petroleum or coal tar sources. Synthetic colours are suspected to be a human carcinogen, and skin irritants. The European Classification and Labelling considers it a human carcinogen and the European Union has banned it.
Fragrance. Fragrance mixes have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system. It can be found in many products such as perfume, cologne, conditioner, shampoo, body wash and moisturizers.
Phthalates. A group of chemicals used in hundreds of products to increase the flexibility and softness of plastics. They are suspected to be endocrine disruptors and have been linked to increased risk of breast cancer, early breast development in girls, and reproductive birth defects in males and females. They can be found in deodorants, perfumes/colognes, hair sprays and moisturizers.
Triclosan. Tricolson is widely used antimicrobial chemical and suspected to be endocrine disruptor such as thyroid and reproductive hormones, and a skin irritant. Tricolson can be found in toothpastes, antibacterial soaps and deodorants.
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) / Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). This surfactant can be found in more than 90 percent of personal care and cleaning products (think foaming products). SLS may potentially interact with other chemicals to form nitrosamines, a carcinogen. They can be found in shampoo, body wash/cleanser, mascara and acne treatment.
Formaldehyde. Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (FRP’s) preservatives are used in many cosmetic products to help prevent bacteria growth. This chemical was deemed as a human carcinogen by The International Agency for Research on Carcinogens (IARC) and has been linked to occupational related cancers: nasal and nasopharyngeal. It is known to cause allergic skin reactions and it may also be harmful to the immune system. It can be found in nail polish, body washes, conditioners, shampoos, cleansers, eye shadows, nail polish treatments.
Toluene. A petrochemical derived from petroleum or coal tar sources. Toluene is a potent solvent able to dissolve paint and paint thinner. It may affect the respiratory system, cause nausea and irritate skin. It can be found in nail polish, nail treatments and hair colour/bleaching products.
Propylene glycol. Propylene glycol is a small organic alcohol commonly used as a skin-conditioning agent. It has been classified as a skin irritant and penetrator. It has been associated with causing dermatitis as well as hives in humans. It can be found in moisturizers, sunscreen, makeup products, conditioners, shampoo and hair sprays.
Sunscreen chemicals. These chemicals function as a sunscreen agent, to absorb ultraviolet light. These chemicals are endocrine disruptors and are believed to be easily absorbed into the body. Common names are benzophenone, PABA, avobenzone, homosalate and ethoxycinnmate.