Personal Care Products: Avoiding Toxins for Health and Home

Shopping for Personal Care Products

This information was shared with Belmont High Students at the school’s March 2013 Health Fair.

There are no regulations for personal care products in the U.S. Anyone can claim their product is “natural” or “organic.” The word “organic” is not properly regulated with personal care products as it is with food products, In fact, some “organic” personal care products contain only a single-digit percentage of organic ingredients or use ingredients that were derived from natural sources but are highly processed and contain synthetic and petrochemical compounds. When it comes to the labeling of cosmetics and body care products, it’s kind of a free-for-all.  In a report released on March 14, 2008, the Organic Consumers Association found at least one toxic, cancer-linked chemical in over 40 percent of products that call themselves “natural.”

Beware of “Greenwashing,” the act of misleading consumers about the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service. It’s important to be a smart consumer. You can learn more at: [].

Alpha & Beta Hyrdoxy Acids:

In 1992 FDA issued a consumer warning that commercial “skin peel” products, advertised to remove wrinkles, blemishes, blotches and acne scars, could destroy the upper layers of the skin, causing severe burns, swelling, and pain. FDA describes the following progression: “The skin initially reddens, as with a sunburn, then darkens and finally peels away revealing what manufacturers claim will be “new skin” and may be painful and leave permanent
scars.” Most recently, FDA’s Office of Women’s Health has found that these
ingredients are linked to UV-induced skin damage and potential increased risks
of skin cancer. The studies identified a doubling of UV damage to skin among
people using AHA-containing products from 1992 to 2006.

Triethanolamine (TEA):

Lodopropynl Butylcarbamate:
  • Ingredients in nail polish and other cosmetics, especially those
    containing “fragrance”.
  • Shown to damage the liver, kidneys, lungs and reproductive systems in animal studies.
  • Can be absorbed through the skin or inhaled.
  • Scientists at government agencies in both the U.S. and
    Canada agree that exposure to the chemicals could cause a wide range of health problems in people including cancer.
  • 2003 European Union directive bans phthalates in cosmetics sold in Europe.
 Sodium Lauryl Sulfate:
  • According to the Environmental Working Group’s
    Skin Deep: Cosmetic Safety Reviews, research studies on SLS have
    shown links to irritation of the skin and eyes, organ toxicity,
    developmental/reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, ecotoxicology, and biochemical or cellular changes, possible mutations and cancer.
Where can you find out about health and environmental impacts of personal care products?

The Environmental Working Group Skin Deep This group provides information about products from toothpaste to sunscreen, products for women and men.  Skin Deep provides information to protect human health and the environment by giving solutions to protect yourself and your family from daily exposures to chemicals.