With the effects of the somewhat recent trend toward all things natural and organic (not to mention local, seasonal, Greenmarket, etc., etc.), most of us have gotten used to reading the ingredients on the things we put in our bodies. Most of us know to avoid high fructose corn syrup, bleached and refined sugars and flours, trans fats, and artificial colors and flavors. But do you know that there are equally (if not more) harmful ingredients in your beauty and cleaning products? Just as we read the labels of what we put in our pantries, we also have to read the ingredients of what we put in our medicine cabinets.
There is definitely some controversy regarding the potential harm of the following ingredients, much of it spearheaded by the companies that use them, and the lobbies representing those who create and supply them. But my theory is, why take the risk? If there is even a chance that these ingredients can cause cancer or be in any way seriously detrimental to our health, why not take the safe route and avoid them altogether? We ought to. Here’s how!
- PARABENS: Parabens are preservatives found in most hair and skincare products that you would find at your pharmacy or supermarket. In addition to simulating the effects of estrogen (disturbing the endocrine system, and potentially increasing risk of breast cancer), and having been found in cancerous breast tumors, parabens have also been found to be harmful to men (adversely affecting the secretion of testosterone and the function of the male reproductive system).
- PHTHALATES: Phthalates are found in many haircare products, fragrances, and plastics. They have been found to be carcinogenic, lead to infertility and decreased sperm count, and can damage the proper development of male fetuses.
- SODIUM LAURYL SULFATES (SLS): SLS is found in many haircare products, deodorants, detergents, and toothpastes. Like parabens, it also has been found to mimic the effects of estrogen and may be responsible for a variety of health problems like a decrease in male fertility, increased risk for breast cancer, cataracts, urinary infections, as well as damage to skin and hair follicles.
- FORMALDEHYDE: (ie: Formalin, Methanal, Oxymethyline, Urea, 1,3-Dioxetane, Quaternium 15, Methylaldehyde, Methylene Oxide, Formic Aldehyde, Oxomethane Formalin, Phenol Formaldehyde) Formaldehyde can be found in a LOT of household and beauty products, under one of its many guises. Effects include leukemia, headaches, dermatitis and cancer. Come on people, this one’s a no-brainer.
- PETROLEUM: (ie: Petrolatum, Mineral Oil, ethylene oxide, PAHs, and 1,3-butadiene, Propylene Glycol, PVP) Petroleum, nearly ubiquitous in all its forms and derivatives, has been found to be a major carcinogen and toxin. It could cause breast cancer, dermatitis, ototoxicity, kidney damage and liver problems, according to various clinical studies.
Although this list is by no means exhaustive, it is a great start. A more thorough list of chemicals to avoid can be found here. Go through your cabinets, your shower, and all the products you use regularly and either throw out any products that contain these ingredients, or finish them off but do not replace them.
Click here for Step Two to learn about great household products to replace everything you’ve eliminated!