How to Make
Sure Your Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Are Safe
by Christine H. Farlow
Choosing safe products can be a daunting task
without the proper knowledge and tools. Many product packages are
deceptively designed to make you believe that the product inside the
package is herbal, all natural, safe and gentle, when in fact the
product contains little or no natural or herbal ingredients, is
contaminated with carcinogens and is irritating to the skin. This is
the case because of the lack of regulation in the cosmetic and personal
care product industry. But armed with a little knowledge and some
helpful tools, there is much you can do to protect yourself.
Here are ten things you can do to make
safer and healthier choices when selecting your toiletries.
Read the ingredients on the label.
The packaging may say such things as natural, herbal or hypoallergenic.
This has nothing to do with what's really in the product or how safe it
is. Manufacturers make a lot of claims on the package to "sell" the
product. They can do this because some of the terms don't have official
definitions and they can use them however they want. To really find out
what's in a product, you must read the ingredients in the small print,
you know, the ones that you sometimes need a magnifying glass to be
able to see.
Interpret and understand the ingredients.
Once you find the ingredients, you have to be able to know what they
are and if they are safe, harmful, questionable or untested. A great
many ingredients have chemical names that only a cosmetic chemist would
understand. However, you don't have to be a cosmetic chemist. The book,
Dying To Look Good, makes it easy for you to choose products with safe
and healthy ingredients.
Choose products without parabens.
Parabens are xenoestrogens or endocrine disrupters. They disturb the
hormone balance in your body. They are also skin sensitizers and have
the potential to cause allergic reactions. They have been found in
breast cancer tumors, but it is not known if they cause breast cancer.
Stay away from products containing amines.
Chemicals that fall into the category of amines can combine with
nitrosating agents to form nitrosamines, which cause cancer.
Nitrosamines are formed during the manufacturing process when an amine
combines with a formaldehyde-releasing preservative. Some of the amines
commonly used in cosmetics and personal care products are Cocamide MEA,
Cocamide DEA, TEA, sodium lauroyal sarcosinate and amino methyl
propanol. Several of the formaldehyde-releasing preservatives include
sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin and
Steer clear of products containing talc.
Talc is found in talcum powder, baby powder and makeup. It is a
carcinogen if it contains asbestiform fibers. The quantity of
asbestiform fibers in cosmetic-grade talc is unregulated in the U.S.
Some research suggests a link between talc and ovarian cancer.
Be cautious about products that contain
fragrance. Manufacturers are not required to disclose the
ingredients used in frgrances. A single fragrance may contain hundreds
of different chemicals. Some of the chemicals used in fragrances are
hazardous, such as benzyl chloride, methyl ethyl ketone, methylene
chloride, toluene and phthalates. Fragrances may also contain chemicals
that cause cancer. Even products listed as fragrance free may have
fragrance added to mask offensive odors.
Avoid D&C and FD&C Colors.
Most D&C and FD&C colors are derived from coal tar
which is a carcinogen. Most coal tar colors are potential carcinogens,
may contain carcinogenic contaminants and cause allergic reactions.
These colors must be certified by the FDA to contain not more than 20
ppm of lead and arsenic, but the certification does not address any
other harmful effects these colors may have on the body.
Beware of products containing chemical
preservatives. Chemical preservatives can be irritating and
are the number one cause of contact dermatitis. Some preservatives you
should watch out for are benzethonium chloride, BHA, BHT, diazolidinyl
urea, imidazolidinyl urea, phenoxyethanol and methylisothiazolinone.
Watch out for "and other ingredients."
This means there are one or more ingredients that the manufacturer
considers a trade secret and does not want to list on the label. There
is no way of knowing if these ingredients are safe or not.
Be wary of products with long lists of
ingredients. Many of the chemicals used in cosmetics and
personal care products have not been tested or have not been adequately
tested. Even those that have been tested have only been tested
individually, not in combination with other ingredients. Nobody knows
the effects of the many different ingredients used in thousands of
different combinations, the effects of using numerous different
products, one on top of the other, or the effects of repeated use of
ingredients or products over time.
Become a label reader and learn how to decipher
the ingredients for safety. It's easy with the help of Dying To Look
Dr. Christine H. Farlow, D.C. is "The Ingredients
Investigator." She has been researching ingredient safety since 1991.
She is the author of three books, including the new, second edition of DYING TO
LOOK GOOD. To learn more about the safety of ingredients in
your cosmetics and personal care products, visit DyingToLookGood.com.
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Copyright © 2005 Christine Farlow.