These days, it seems like absolutely everything directly or indirectly causes cancer.
But from a realistic standpoint, if we were to actually eliminate everything we are told causes cancer or disease, we would have to live on an isolated island in a mud shack, eating nothing but the food we grow or kill—although most fish does contain mercury, so fishing is probably out.
That being said, if we are to remain healthy we do need to consider ditching some of the more nasty cancer-causing products we use regularly. This is just common sense. And according to the newest studies, the first place to look is our beauty products.
We often forget that our skin is an organ—the largest organ, actually. And because our skin is porous, it absorbs any and everything we put on it. That means all the body creams, perfumes, deodorants, shampoos, conditioners and even our nail polishes and all the chemicals in these products, eventually wind up in our system.
You certainly wouldn’t think about eating or drinking these products but when you slather them on your skin, that is essentially what you are doing.
A Toxic Nightmare
Beauty products can actually be more toxic than some of the medicines and additives we ingest simply because we are being exposed to them is such vast amounts compared to the smaller amounts in food, for example.
What’s worse is that these types of products are not regulated like medicines or food additives. Neither the FDA, CDC, EPA, or the USDA, or any other agency for that matter, inspects personal care products.
Companies can even clearly mark an ingredient as “natural” if it contains some natural ingredients. Being the naïve consumers that we are, we see “Natural” on the label and think no further. We slather it on our bodies without a second thought. But our porous skin is soaking in all of the toxic chemicals in these products that are eventually finding their way into our bloodstreams, digestive tracts and even our lungs and the organs meant to cleanse our bodies.
Eventually, our systems become overwhelmed with these toxins and we start to become sick. We get allergies we never had, we get digestive issues that seem to come from nowhere. We put on weight, yet we are not eating more. We get more colds and flus than normal and we even begin to develop chronic diseases such as arthritis and even cancer. All this from your favorite body cream or shampoo. Pretty scary.
Read the Labels
But there is some good news in all of this. Many companies make truly “all natural” products that work just as well or better. Do yourself a favor, the next time you go to buy your favorite beauty product, look at the label. If you are going to put it on your skin, know that it is going to end up in your body. So, if you can’t pronounce an ingredient or it is not something you would not feel comfortable eating, put it down.
You may not be surprised to learn that the FDA has approved over 75,000 chemicals for use in the United States. Of these, approximately 15,000 are sold in volumes greater than 10,000 pounds per year. And according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, there are more than 10,000 ingredients used in cosmetics and personal care products.(1)
What may surprise you, however, is that Under the Toxic Substances Control Act the EPA only 5 of these chemicals are regulated.(2) To help you out, here is a list of the 7 most common toxins found in beauty products that you should avoid.
1. DEA, cocamide DEA and lauramide DEA (Related chemicals: MEA and TEA)
This chemical is found in most creamy or foaming products like moisturizers or shampoos. DEA is mainly found in moisturizers and sunscreens, while cocamide and lauramide DEA are found in soaps, cleansers, and shampoos.
Laboratory study show that exposure to high doses of these chemicals can cause liver cancers and precancerous changes to your skin and thyroid.(3) While the FDA openly admits that DEA can cause cancer, they do not regulate it.(4)
The European Union, however, classifies DEA as harmful on the basis of danger of serious damage to health from prolonged exposure.(5) And it is not just direct contact with DEA that is the issue, DEA compounds can also react with nitrites in cosmetics to form nitrosamines, which are classified as “a possible human carcinogen” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.(6)
These nitrites are often added to cosmetics and personal care products as anti-corrosive agents. As well, when these products degrade, many of the chemicals used as preservatives release nitrites when exposed to the air. Along with the previous regulatory boards, the Danish Environmental Protection Agency also classifies cocamide DEA as hazardous to the environment because of its acute toxicity to aquatic organisms and potential for bioaccumulation.(7)
Petroleum is an industrial chemical (a liquid mixture of hydrocarbons) commonly found in in hair products to make is shiny, lip balm/lipstick to moisturize, and many skin care products such as Vaseline, baby oils, baby lotions, suntan lotions and sunblock lotions.
It is essentially used as a “barrier” to lock moisture in the skin.
Petroleum is often contaminated with cancer-causing impurities such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Many studies show that exposure to PAHs through skin contact can, over extended periods of time, cause cancer.(8) As such, the European Union classifies petrolatum as a carcinogen, restricting its use in cosmetics.
It can also be harmful if inhaled as it can accumulate in your lungs, causing respiratory disorders and lung cancer.(10)
Thousands of babies and infants every year since the early 1980s, have actually died or become seriously ill after accidental inhaling baby powder.(11)
Lead is a neurotoxin commonly found in cosmetics such as lipsticks. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics tested 33 popular brands of lipsticks in 2007 and found that 61 percent contained lead, with levels ranging up to 0.65 parts per million.(12)
In fact, the FDA found the highest levels in three manufacturers—Procter & Gamble (Cover Girl brand), L’Oreal (L’Oreal, Body Shop and Maybelline brands) and Revlon. Yet the FDA clearly states, “ The FDA has not set limits for lead in cosmetics.”(13)
Once in your body, lead accumulates in your tissues, bone, as well as your liver, kidneys, pancreas, and lungs. About 50 percent of any lead in your blood will be excreted in 25 days (called the “half-life”).
In your soft tissues, however, it can take 40 days for half of the lead to be excreted. And in your bones and teeth it take 10 years or longer to be excreted.(14)
5. Parabens (methylparaben, butylparaben, propylparaben, isobutylparaben, ethylparaben)
Parabens are chemicals commonly found in cosmetics, makeup, moisturizers and shampoos. Once they enter through the skin, they mimic hormones, known as endocrine disruptors. Studies show that parabens were detected in breast cancer tissues, suggesting a link between parabens in cosmetics and cancer.(15)
Parabens may also interfere with the male reproductive system according to studies.(16) Other studies show that applying skin products containing methylparaben can react with UVB, causing increased skin aging and even damage your DNA.(17)
Approximately 75 to 90 per cent of all cosmetics contain parabens. Even though these chemicals have been shown to be toxic, they are still extensively used. While some foods such as barley, strawberries, currents, vanilla, carrots and onions naturally contain parabens at low levels, they are metabolized when eaten.
The synthetic parabens you absorb through your skin, however, bypass this metabolic process and directly enter your blood stream and organs. Because of this, studies suggest that women are exposed to 50 mg per day of parabens from cosmetics.(18)
6. Phthalates (Dibutyl Phthalate or DBP)
These chemicals are typically found in moisturizers, perfumes, nail polishes, soaps and hairsprays. Phthalates are commonly listed on ingredient labels as “fragrance.”
Because fragrance recipes are considered trade secrets, manufacturers are not required to disclose any chemicals used. DBP is absorbed through your skin and has been shown in studies to “enhance” the capacity of other chemicals to cause genetic mutations and cause developmental defects as well as changes in the testes and prostate, and reduce sperm counts.(19)
According to the European Union, DBP is a “suspected endocrine disruptor” based on evidence that it interferes with hormone function, and as reproductive toxin because it can harm the fetus and impair fertility.
They also classify DBP as “very toxic” to aquatic organisms. As well, DBP is listed as a “Chemical for Priority Action” under the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic.(20)
Antiperspirants form a temporary “plug” within your sweat duct, which stops you from sweating, this forces the toxic aluminum to flow back into your bloodstream.
Antiperspirant are typically applied near the breast and thought to cause estrogen-like effects, which can promote the growth of breast cancer cells. As such studies have now linked aluminum to breast cancer.(22)