Navigating through the cosmetics aisle in the drugstore can be pretty daunting. Where does one even start? What brands are the best? What ingredients are safe to use? How do natural and organic apply to cosmetics? The average teen uses 15 to 25 cosmetics per day.
Let’s do a quick rundown:
In the shower, one might use shampoo, conditioner, body wash, shaving cream, facial wash and after-shave. Those sweet-smelling, skin-softening, germ-killing products aren’t even the half of it.
Once out of the shower, there’s still moisturizer, toner, acne cream, deodorant, sunscreen and self-tanner. This list doesn’t even include make-up yet! Can you believe it?
Your skin is the biggest organ. Most of the things that you put on your skin, even if it’s just on the surface, gets absorbed and goes into your body. Some of them stay near the outer layer and are relatively harmless, but others get absorbed deeper into your blood stream. That’s where it starts to become a bigger cause for concern.
Here are some ingredients to watch out for and avoid:
Parabens are preservatives that prevent the growth of yeast, mold and bacteria in cosmetic products. While this may increase the shelf life of products, there are other side effects once absorbed by the body. Parabens have been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer because of its estrogen-mimicking properties as evidenced by biopsy samples taken from breast tumors. These preservatives can be found in facial cleansers, body washes, shampoos, deodorants and make-up.
When fragrance is listed down as one of the ingredients, it’s best to remain cautious. Fragrance is a lot like a supplement company’s ‘proprietary blend’. It’s their way of saying that it’s a secret formula, and all you need to know is that it’s technically a fragrance but they don’t want to tell you what’s in it exactly. There’s no telling if it’s something harmless, or it’s actually a powerful concoction that contains several hazardous chemicals. Fragrance blends and mixes have been linked to respiratory distress, dermatitis and allergies, as well as potential harmful effects on the reproductive system.
Similar in function to parabens, formaldehyde is a preservative used in cosmetic products to prevent the growth of bacteria. This chemical has been linked to nasopharyngeal and nasal cancers, and was deemed a carcinogen by the IARC (International Agency for Research on Carcinogens). It can be found in body washes, shampoos, conditioners, nail polish, eyes shadows and cleansers.
Triclosan is commonly found in deodorants, hand sanitizers and cleansers as an anti-bacterial agent and also as a preservative. Aside from cosmetics, triclosan can also be found in antiseptics (for wounds), facial tissues, laundry detergent and fabric softener. Anything labeled as “anti-bacterial” will most probably contain triclosan or something similar in order to combat mildew, fungi, bacteria and odors.
If your product label has “D&C” or “FD&C” on it, those letters represent artificial colors. D&C means drug and cosmetics, while F means food. A number and color usually follow these letters (e.g. D&C Blue 31). Synthetic colors come from coal tar or petroleum sources, and that fact alone should be a cause for alarm. Synthetic colors are said to be a human carcinogen and have been linked to ADHD in young children. It has been banned by the European Union, but not by the US.