1. Methyl, Propyl, Butyl and Ethyl Parabens.
Why used? A preservative. It's cheap.
Where used? Shampoos, makeup, moisturizers, toothpaste and food.
Dangers: A report in the New Scientist 2004 stated that in an analysis of 20 breast tumors that "high concentrations of para-hydroxybenzoic acids (parabens) [were found] in 18 samples. Parabens can mimic the hormone estrogen, which is known to play a role in the development of breast cancers. The preservatives are used in many cosmetics and some foods to increase their shelf-life." The jury is still out on whether parabens are to blame. But even the American Cancer Society says that more research has to be done to establish if parabens have an effect on breast cancer risk.
What to look for on labels: Anything ending with the word paraben.
2. Diethanolamine (DEA).
Why used? A wetting agent and provides a rich lather.
Where used? Shampoos, lotions, creams and other cosmetics.
Dangers: This isn't harmful in itself but it can react with other ingredients in the cosmetic formula to form a potent carcinogen called nitrosodiethanolamine which is absorbed through the skin and has been linked with stomach, oesophagus, liver and bladder cancers.
What to look for on labels: DEA, diethanolamine, or DEA-related ingredients, including: Cocamide DEA, Cocamide MEA, DEA-Cetyl Phosphate, DEA Oleth-3 Phosphate, Lauramide DEA, Linoleamide MEA, Myristamide DEA, Oleamide DEA, Stearamide MEA, Triethanolamine (TEA), TEA-Lauryl Sulfate.
3. Diazolidinyl Urea.
Why used? It's a preservative.
Where used? Many cosmetic, skincare products and shampoos, conditioners, bubble baths, baby wipes and household detergents.
Dangers: Established as a primary cause of contact dermatitis (American Academy of Dermatology). Contains formaldehyde, a carcinogenic chemical, is toxic by inhalation, a strong irritant, and causes contact dermatitis.
4. Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate. (SLS and SLES)
Why used? A foaming agent. It's cheap.
Where used? Car washes, garage floor cleaners, engine degreasers, soaps, shampoos, detergents and toothpastes. Used in 90% of products that produce foam.
Dangers: Skin and eye irritant. SLES is somewhat less irritating than Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, it cannot be metabolised by the liver and its effects are therefore much longer-lasting. In the same way as it dissolves the grease on car engines, sodium lauryl sulfate also dissolves the oils on your skin, which can cause a drying effect. It is also well documented that it denatures skin proteins, which causes not only irritation, but also allows environmental contaminants easier access to the lower, sensitive layers of the skin.
Perhaps most worryingly, SLS is also absorbed into the body from skin application. Once it has been absorbed, one of the main effects of sodium lauryl sulfate is to mimic the activity of the hormone Oestrogen. This has many health implications and may be responsible for a variety of health problems from PMS and Menopausal symptoms to dropping male fertility and increasing female cancers such as breast cancer, where oestrogen levels are known to be involved.
5. Mineral oil
Why used? To hydrate skin. Because it is a left-over from the oil industry it's very cheap. (In fact it's cheaper to buy it than to dispose of it)
Where used? Many baby product including baby oil (100% mineral oil), petroleum jelly, baby wash liquid soap, baby lotions.
Dangers: Coats the skin like plastic, clogging the pores. Interferes with skin's ability to eliminate toxins, promoting acne and other disorders. Slows down skin function and cell development, resulting in premature aging. What happens is that mineral oils cause the skin to actually dry out. Then you put on more mineral oil based products, which drys the skin even more and so a vicious cycle starts.
Why used? Resistant to moisture
Where used? Soaps, deodorant and baby powders.
Dangers: Scientific studies have shown that talc is similar in structure to asbestos, a well known cancer causing agent. Studies also show that women who used talc in their genital area had a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer. This is particularly disturbing since this cancer has such a poor prognosis when diagnosed at an advanced stage. Talc poses a health risk when exposed to the lungs. Talc miners have shown higher rates of lung cancer and other respiratory illnesses from exposure to industrial grade talc, which contains dangerous silica and asbestos. Since the early 1980s, records show that several thousand infants each year have died or become seriously ill following accidental inhalation of baby powder.
7. Triethanolamine (TEA).
Why used? Adjusts PH levels, and are often the base for cleansers
Where used? Cleansing milks, eye gels, shampoos, shaving foams etc.
Dangers: Problems associated with TEA include allergic reactions and dryness of skin and hair. They can also be toxic to persons exposed over long periods of time.
8. Propylene Glycol.
Why used? Prevents the escape of moisture, makes the skin smoother. It's cheap to produce.
Where used? Makeup, shampoos, deodorant, mascaras, skin cream, after shave, baby wipes, wallpaper stripper, paint and de-icer.
Dangers: Has many side effects including the risk of cancer, reproductive toxicity, usage restrictions, allergies and immune system toxicity, skin and eye irritations, organ system toxicity, endocrine disruption, contact dermatitis and neurotoxicity. It also is a penetration enhancer, meaning it penetrates skin cells, getting right into the bloodstream, carrying other chemicals with it. Many of the natural companies sell "paraben-free" and "aluminum-free" deodorants, but they still contain propylene glycol because it's a cheap ingredient.
9. Artificial colors.
Why used? Cheaper to produce than naturally occurring coloring agents
Where used? Most cosmetics
Dangers: Coal Tar by-products, sold on the cheap to manufacturers to mimic naturally occurring colors and scents. 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.
10. Artificial Fragrances.
Why used? Cheaper to produce than naturally occurring fragrances.
Where used? Most makeup, cosmetics and skincare products
Dangers: Can contain chemicals that aren't listed on the ingredients. (Would you buy some food that had an ingredient listed as 'other stuff'?) Artificial fragrances can be a combination of unknown chemicals, sometime up to 200, and it is often difficult to determine what is in a product "fragrance" or if the ingredients used are safe. That's because companies don't have to tell consumers what is in a "fragrance." This information is considered proprietary. Many synthetic fragrances contain phthalates which are toxic to the reproductive system and have been linked to health problems such as allergies, birth defects, cancer, and respiratory disorders.
The conclusion about these ingredients in makeup products: While it probably isn't possible to remove all chemicals from all products it's important for us to be well informed as to what we are buying and the implications. Certainly we all should be wanting to reduce the amount of chemical that our bodies absorb through the skin. From the other extreme, its not wise to get stressed out if you can't find something 100% natural. This would offset the benefits of using natural makeup.
This is where natural makeup and cosmetic products come in - we can protect our skin and bodies.
Did you also notice that the reason for many of these ingredients being used is because they are cheap. So it begs the question - if companies are putting so much cheap ingredients in their makeup, just why then are their cosmetic, makeup and skincare products so expensive? Yes, we are paying for advertising, packaging and then name.