Did you know that ingredients in 33% of personal care products can be linked to cancer? That’s a finding of a recent University of Washington study. This statistic may seem surprising until you know that the U.S. does very little testing on personal care products. The Environmental Working Group found that only 11% of the 10,500 ingredients in these products have been officially tested for safety by the U.S. government.
We have covered natural skin care products before on our blog, including Banishing dry skin the natural way and Is your sunscreen organic?. Here’s a deeper look into how to ensure you’re using natural products, and what to look for when shopping for them:
1. Simplify: Go back to the basics and simplify your skin care products. Cleanser, toner, moisturizer and broad-spectrum sunscreen should meet all your needs.
2. Make Sure “Natural” Is Really Natural: Just because a product claims to be “all-natural” doesn’t mean it’s true. Avoid the ingredients listed below.
3. Avoid products with fragrance: Artificial fragrances frequently contain ingredients linked to cancer, so say “yes” to fragrance-free.
4. Look into the company’s values: Does the company practice animal testing? Are they committed to helping the environment? Do they have safe packaging (see below)? Visit the company’s website to learn how its values shape up.
5. Don’t forget safe packaging: Some plastics, like bisphenol-A, or BPA (recycling code #7), have been linked to cancer and other health problems. Glass is always a top choice, and packaging with the recycling codes #1, 2, 5 are safe. Avoid containers with recycling codes #7 and #3, which refers to PVC. Read about each plastics’ safety here.
6. Go organic: Organic products are grown without fertilizers or pesticides. Look for products that feature the USDA Organic seal.
7. Do other activities to keep your skin healthy: Drinking water, eating healthy (complex carbohydrates, protein and health fats like omega-3 fish oils) and exercising will keep your skin looking its best.
The Cancer Prevention Coalition has created a list of cancer causing ingredients found in skin care products:
- DIETHANOLAMINE (DEA), TEA (Triethanolamine): DEA and TEA can result in the formation of carcinogens in products containing nitrite preservatives. Chemical reactions between nitrites and DEA/ TEA occur during the manufacturing process and while products are stored in their containers. This reaction leads to the formation of nitrosamines. Most nitrosamines, including those formed from DEA or TEA, are carcinogenic.
- Bronopol (2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol) may break down in products into formaldehyde and also cause the formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines under certain conditions. One of the most expensive lines of cosmetics, Chanel, often uses this chemical. So do many leading brands of baby products. As does the Body Shop, whose product sales are built on a reputation of containing natural ingredients.
- 1,2-Dioxane in Surfactants/detergents: A wide range of personal care products including shampoos, hair conditioners, cleansers, lotions, and creams, besides household products such as soaps and cleaning products, contain surfactants or detergents such as ethoxylated alcohols, polysorbates, and laureths. These ingredients are generally contaminated with high concentrations of the highly volatile 1,4 – dioxane, which is both readily inhaled and absorbed through the skin. The carcinogenicity of dioxane in rodents was first reported in 1965 and subsequently confirmed in other studies including by the National Cancer Institute in 1978; the predominant sites of cancer were nasal passages in rats and liver in mice. Epidemiological studies on dioxane-exposed furniture makers have reported suggestive evidence of excess nasal passage cancers. On the basis of such evidence, the Consumer Product Safety Commission concluded that “the presence of 1,4 – dioxane, even as a trace contaminant, is a cause of concern.” These avoidable risks of cancer in numerous personal care, besides other consumer, products is inexcusable, particularly as the dioxane is readily removed from surfactants during their manufacture by a process known as “vacuum stripping.”
- Artificial Colors: Some artificial colors, such as Blue 1 and Green 3, are carcinogenic. Impurities found in commercial batches of other cosmetic colors such as D&C Red 33, FD&C Yellow 5, and FD&C yellow 6 have been shown to cause cancer not only when ingested, but also when applied to the skin. Some artificial coal tar colors contain heavy metal impurities, including arsenic and lead, which are carcinogenic.
- Hair Dyes: The use of permanent or semi permanent hair color products, particularly black and dark brown colors, is associated with increased incidence of human cancer including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and Hodgkin’s disease. There are several natural hair-coloring products which are relatively effective and safe.
- Lanolin: Lanolin itself is perfectly safe. But cosmetic-grade lanolin can be contaminated with carcinogenic pesticides such as DDT, dieldrin, and lindane, in addition to other neurotoxic pesticides.
- Talc: Cosmetic talc is carcinogenic. Inhaling talc and using it in the genital area, where its use is associated with increased risk of ovarian cancer, are the primary ways this substance poses a carcinogenic hazard.
- Silica: Some silica used in cosmetics, especially amorphous hydrated silica, may be contaminated with small amounts of crystalline quartz. Crystalline silica is carcinogenic.
Another great resource on this topic is Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Stop by our retail store or visit our website to learn more about the natural skin care products that are available at Charleston Naturally.