It wasn't until this past year that I became more cognizant of some of the toxic ingredients hiding in everyday products such as lotions, shampoos, face washes, and makeup. I certainly don't follow a completely toxin free life, however now that I'm more aware of what certain ingredients can do to my body, I'm ready to start weaning off of them and add cleaner & greener products into my daily routine. After doing a workshop on how to reduce your toxic load, I realized how ignorant I've been about what the heck I'm putting onto my body and face. Studies showing results of endocrine disruption, exacerbated skin irritations, and increased damage to our organs (yes, your peach scented lotion could be doing this) has me motivated to pursue less toxic options. We know that endocrine disruption = hormone imbalance. And hormone imbalance can lead to loads of problems such as weight gain, fertility issues, gut irritations, abnormal sleeping patterns, etc. Sounds fun, right? Nah.
Here's five commonly used ingredients to start looking out for in your products.
Phthalates are a group of chemicals that are used to soften and increase the flexibility and durability of plastic and vinyl. This one can be tricky because the label does not always clearly state that phthalates are present in the product. So where are they lurking?
Find them in: perfumed skincare products, nail cosmetics, perfumes, shampoos, detergents, deodorant, plastic bags, cleaning materials, wallpapers
The harmful effects: increased risk of endometriosis, associated with high BMI and waist circumference, lung problems such as asthma & respiratory obstruction, association with increased pregnancy complications, as well as neurodevelopmental and behavioral problems in children
How to avoid them: choose cotton over synthetic bedding material, fresh over processed/packed meats, glass containers over plastic for food, and search for "phthalate free" labeled skin care products (they will usually market them as phthalate free very clearly). Or if they don't, then check to make sure they are fragrance free. They are found in 71% of all cosmetics tested, 100% of all fragrances (don't forget perfumes), 86% of hair gels, and 67% of all nail polishes. Wowza.
Parabens are preservatives used in cosmetics, food, and drugs to help inhibit the growth of fungus and bacteria.
Find them in: face wash, creams, lotion, sunscreen, toothpaste, pre-packaged baby and toddler foods (I know, what?), canned foods
The harmful effects: while it is still controversial, many studies point to possible actions on breast cancer initiation, an increase of breast cancer tumor proliferation, infertility in males, and can promote skin aging.
How to avoid them: Consume fresh fruits and veggies rather than canned, avoid packaged foods for kids and toddlers, choose fresh meat over processed or packed meat, and scan the ingredient lists of cosmetics for absence of parabens/look for "paraben-free" on the label. Parabens are typically listed at the end of the ingredient list. Be wary of plant-based and organic products, sometimes these can still contain parabens! Look out for alkyl parahydroxybenzoate, butylparaben, methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, or isobutylparabens on ingredient lists.
3. Synthetic sunscreen ingredients:
Now that spring and summer are (very slowly) approaching, it's important to be wary what drugstore sunscreen you put in your cart. While our general idea of sunscreen is that it protects us from the sun, it actually exposes us to other hazards we might be unaware of.
Find them in: Sunscreens, facial moisturizers, lip protection
The harmful effects: Oxybenzone is a known endocrine disruptor that can mimic estrogen in the body and is linked to endometriosis and low birth weight in newborns.
How to avoid them: Check the label for these ingredients: 4-Methyl-Benzylidencamphor (4-MBC), Oxybenzone Benzophenone-3, Octyl-methoyl-cinnamates (OMC), Octyl-Dimethyl-Para-Amino-Benzoic Acid (OD-PABA), Homosalate (HMS)
4. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
SLS is an inexpensive chemical and surfactant in MANY of our hygiene products. What's a surfactant? Well, it basically means that it breaks surface tension and separates molecules to better allow interaction between the product and its contact surface (hair, teeth, skin). It essentially makes your product foamy.
Find it in: household soaps, toothpaste, mouthwash, makeup, body wash, face wash, bubble bath products, and shampoos
The harmful effects: harmful skin irritations, corrosion of the skin, irritation of gums. Depending on the manufacturing process, SLS can become contaminated with Dioxane which is a suspected carcinogen that lasts much longer in the body. While still unsubstantiated, there are findings that link this ingredient to hormone imbalance due to the high concentration absorbed in the bloodstream over time. In animal studies, subjects experienced eye damage, and labored breathing.
How to avoid them: Check the label for these ingredients: Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate, Anhydrous Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Irium
This is one you might already be aware of, but it's important to discuss how this common ingredient in our deodorant can adversely affect our health. Aluminum is used as an antiperspirant agent and works by blocking the pores in your skin to stop us from sweating. When some sweat does come through, it mixes with the aluminum salts which causes those yellow stains on your shirts. Thanks, aluminum!
Find it in: basically, all your name-brand deodorant and antiperspirants
The harmful effects: Studies suggest that aluminum based compounds absorbed near the breast can cause estrogen-like effects. Since the hormone estrogen has the ability to promote the growth of breast cancer cells, it's possible that aluminum in these products could contribute to breast cancer. Large amounts of aluminum can contribute to nerve toxicity and possibly Alzheimer's disease, although this is still controversial.
How to avoid it: Check out some more natural options for deodorant that market as "aluminum-free". Trust me, if it's not in the product, they'll let you know.
While it can be hard to officially make the switch to more natural and greener products, the internet is going to be your best friend when it comes to helping you find products within your budget that actually work. Start doing your research, get shopping, and you'll be on your way to detoxifying your beauty routine in no-time!