There are thousands of chemicals out there in personal care products, and only a small percentage that have been tested for safety. Although there are many more chemicals to avoid, I've created this top five list as an important starting point and shopping guide for you.
Althought it sounds fairly benign, the ingredient "fragrance" is one of the most dubious. Synthetic fragrances commonly contain chemicals called phlatates that are known hormone disruptors. They bind to your body's estrogen receptors, disrupting the delicate balance of hormone function. In women, they can be a root cause of monthly hormonal extremes and irregularities. But it doesn't just affect women. Phlalates can disrupt thyroid function, leading to hyperthyroidism. The scary part is that companies don't have to disclose the actual ingredients in "fragrance" so they can add whatever chemicals they want to. Many people also have allergic reactions to these strong synthetic fragrances, from asthma to dermititis. Typically found in: make-up, lotion, deodorant, shampoo, hair products, soaps.
2. Synthetic colors
FD & C Blue. Yellow Lake. You've probably seen them on labels before. Synthetic colors like these are made out of some nasty stuff, from petroleum to acetone to coal tar. These colors can contain impurities like lead acetate, which is toxic to the nervous system. These dyes are allergens, skin irritants, and even known carcinogens. Contrary to common sense, and popular belief, there is no law out there that keeps companies from putting known carcinogens in personal care products. The state of California enacted their own law requiring companies to disclose any carcinogenic ingredients, but there is no national governing body. Always check the label, avoiding Lake or FD&C colors. Typically found in: shampoos, & conditioners, deodorants, lip balm, lipsticks and other makeups, lotions, liquid hand soaps, bar soaps, shower gels.
The public is becoming increasingly aware of parabens nowadays, and that's a good thing. Parabens, (methyl, ethyl, butyl, iso, propyl) are preservatives that have been shown to act like estrogen in the body. Not only are they hormone disruptors, but studies have found them to accumulate in breast cancer. Although chemical creators and users deny a direct link to breast cancer, the chemical is under harsh scrutiny right now by organizations like the Environmental Working Group and The Breast Cancer Fund. Typically found in: shampoo, conditioner, lotion, deodorant, facial washes, shower gels.
4. Propylene Glycol
Propylene glycol is used even in some of the supposed natural products, most commonly in deodorants. The problem with propylene glycol is that it's a penetration enhancer. It breaks down and passes your skins protective barrier, going straight into your bloodstream. It also will carry other chemicals with it, so the artificial fragrance, the parabens, and other chemicals are going straight into your bloodstream. Typically found in: toothpaste, lotions, deodorants
5. Aluminum Chlorhydrate and other aluminum salts
These aluminum salts are common ingredients in anti-perspirants. They clog and shink your sweat glands and pores so you don't sweat. But sweating is a natural process of the body. It helps you regulate your internal temperature and helps you release toxins. Aluminum salts are also being studied for their estrogen-mimicking properties, and for a link to Alzheimers. Doctors have noted that Alzheimer's patients have had aluminum deposited in the brain, and many people believe that aluminum from anti-perspirants are to blame for much of this exposure. Typically found in: anti-perspirants.
Do you have another suggestion for a chemical to avoid? Have a question about another chemical? Leave a comment below! Also, check out my chemical database to read about other chemicals to avoid. Or rat out a "natural" company here that you have found using any of these chemicals.