While it might not seem like an important thing to do, reading the ingredients label on your personal care products and cosmetics is a good way to distinguish one toxic product from another. In addition, there is more than meets the eye when it comes to labeling.
Since it’s been permitted to be sold on the shelves, it must be safe right? Wrong. The US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate products that they approve, and with many brands available Singapore mentioning that they are FDA-approved, it is natural to think that they are the gold standard for safe skincare and cosmetics. It is difficult to prove that these products are indeed safe, especially when they are used it with other personal care products and/or cosmetics containing more chemicals.
To begin lightening the toxin load from our bodies, we can start with something every one of us has in our homes – shampoos and body washes. These contain nasty chemicals that can affect our reproductive system, immune system, and brain function.
Common harmful chemicals in household skincare and cosmetic brands that we should avoid include:
- Triclosan is an anti-bacterial agent, and is not only a carcinogen, but has also been found to affect the immune system.
- Parabens are used as a preservative, can mimic oestrogen, and is known to play a role in the development of breast cancer.
- Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) are skin irritants and foaming agents, and are esters of Sulphuric Acid. When absorbed by the body, both can cause health problems.
- Cosmetic talc is a carcinogen that when used on the genital areas can contribute to ovarian cancer.
- Coal tar is used to treat skin ailments such as dandruff and psoriasis, but it is also known to cause allergic reactions as well as cancer in animals when absorbed by the skin.
- Diethanolamin (DEA) and triethanolamine (TEA) can react with nitrites during the cosmetics manufacturing process leading to nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic.
There are also some things that are good to know when it comes to labeling. According to the book “No More Dirty Looks”:
- Ingredients are listed in descending order of concentration. So if the first ingredient in that $150 anti-wrinkle cream is water, you are probably getting ripped off.
- Certain products are classified as both drugs and cosmetics, and in those cases, the “active” is listed first. Drugs in cosmetics – like the aluminum in antiperspirant or the avobenzone in sunscreen – are subject to premarket approval. This labeling can be misleading, since the logical assumption would be that the active ingredient is also the main ingredient. Not so.
- Certain words used on labels are unregulated. This includes the promises to make you younger, smoother, and hotter, as well as the use of phrases like “dermatologist-tested,” “allergy-tested,” “hypoallergenic.” “non-irritating,” “gentle,” “herbal,” “botanical,” “natural,” and “cruelty-free.”
- Trade-secret laws protect companies from having to disclose the hundreds of ingredients used to make the “fragrance” or “parfum” in your products, which means they are not on the label. At all.
For an informative list on other commonly found toxic ingredients, visit the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. Better yet, key your product name in the search box to find out what health concerns you are exposing yourself to when you use them.