Synthetic Chemicals

5 toxic ingredients found in conventional beauty products

If you've ever found yourself unhappy with the synthetic chemicals in your food, prepare to be shocked by the quantities of toxins in conventional beauty products.

The skin, our largest organ, helps regulate and expel exogenous toxins - though it can only do so much. If you're slathering yourself daily with synthetic creams and cosmetics some toxins will be absorbed into your body via your skin. Toxins can also be inhaled if you're using powders and aerosol products, or consumed orally, like the petrochemicals in standard lipsticks. Once they've made their way into your body they start their health-damaging dirty work.

Despite harmful side effects, many beauty supplies on store shelves still contain toxic ingredients - mainly in the form of synthetic chemicals. This is because product regulation is not keeping up with the emerging research. Remember how we revealed 10 ugly truths about the beauty industry? Today we’re taking it one step further by exposing the toxic, synthetic ingredients found in some of the most commonly used beauty and personal care products. You may think that the concentration is not very high, or feel like you can't see an effect, but what scientists are becoming concerned about is the toxic load - the accumulation over time.


Why it’s bad for you: Effects can be felt in as little as five minutes after exposure and can include tiredness, dizziness, headache, nausea, loss of coordination, euphoria and loss of hearing. It can cause breathing problems and passes through skin slowly, causing serious irritation. It has been linked to developmental and reproductive toxicity and is of particular concern to children.

Where it’s most commonly found: Nail polish and some hair products (where it's often hidden in fragrance).


Why they bad for you: According to a study conducted by the Journal of Women’s Health in 2002, mineral oil was found to be one of the greatest contaminants of the human body. The study found that it disrupts the skin’s natural immune barrier and inhibits the skin’s ability to breathe and absorb natural moisture - this in turn slows down cell development and prematurely ages skin. Furthermore, mineral oils can be composed of organic and inorganic base stock oils combined with 'polymer packages' (plastic) to produce synthesised oil compounds. Lipsticks and lip care products may contain saturated hydrocarbons - either mineral oil saturated hydrocarbons (MOSH) or synthetic polyolefin oligomeric saturated hydrocarbons (POSH). Some of these hydrocarbons (for example, hydrogenated solids like paraffin wax) accumulate in the body and form granulomas in human tissue. This prompted Cosmetics Europe (former Colipa) to issue a recommendation to reduce their use in lip care and oral products

Where it’s most commonly found: Moisturisers, hair products, foundation, tinted moisturiser, some baby oils.


Why it’s bad for you: Studies on mice suggest Triclosan is an endocrine (hormone) disruptor that encourages the growth of breast cancer cells. If it turns out that Tricolsan also disrupts human hormones, it will especially effect children, infants and pregnant women. Worryingly, other studies have shown that Triclosan remains in the body. There are concerns about its accumulation in waterways, where its build-up could disrupt aquatic life by changing native bacterial communities. There is also initial evidence that overuse can result in strains of drug-resistant super-bacteria.

Where it’s most commonly found: Toothpaste, soap, facial cleansers and primers.


Why it’s bad for you: The Environmental Working Group has found fragrance to contain a cocktail of synthetic hormone disrupters such as phthalates, BHA, and musk. Phthalates can cause serious health issues by interfering with hormones in the body, which affect our reproductive and thyroid systems. They bring on early puberty in girls, cause hormonal changes in baby boys and affect fertility by reducing sperm count. They've also been linked to breast cancer, autism, ADHD, diabetes and asthma. BHA is a synthetic antioxidant used in fragrances to increase shelf life. It is restricted in Europe as it is a possible human carcinogen. The state of California requires warning labels on products containing BHA to notify consumers that the ingredient may cause cancer. Synthetic musks bind to and stimulate human estrogen receptors and have been linked to an increase in estrogen-responsive human breast cancer cells. What is particularly worrying about fragrance is the ingredient listing is never broken down for you to see, because the 'recipe' is protected by trademark laws and does not have to be revealed.

Where it’s most commonly found: Perfume and nearly every personal care product and cosmetic you can think of.


Why they bad for you: According to Scientific American parabens are a group of synthetic compounds commonly used as preservatives in a wide range of health, beauty and personal care products. If the product you are using contains methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben or isobutylparaben, it has parabens. They have been shown, in some cases, to increase breast cell division and the growth of tumours.

Where it’s most commonly found: Mascara, eye pencils, foundation.

Note: Avoiding all harmful chemicals is nearly impossible, but there are ways to reduce your exposure to damaging toxins. Swap products with synthetic ingredients for natural alternatives. Nourished Life is a great place to start your clean beauty journey (they also stock Lük Beautifood, so you know they've got good taste,). Get to know ingredient lists and be mindful of what you’re applying to your body. What goes on, goes in.

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