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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Beware of these BAD & UGLY stuffs in your personal care products

Source: The Green Guide

Here are the ingredients to be most wary of on labels, and why.

Coal-tar colors

So-called coal-tar chemicals are found in many "FD&C" or "D&C" colors used in makeup and hair dye.

Health Problem: Allergens and irritants, possible carcinogens

Safer Alternatives: Annatto, beta carotene, carmine, hematite, henna, iron oxides, titanium dioxide (nontoxic, but can cause lung irritation if inhaled as powder)


A brain- and nervous-system toxin as well as a known carcinogen and hormone disruptor, lead accumulates in the bones. It is found in lead acetate in hair dyes and makeup.


Used widely in fragrances, deodorants, nail polishes, hair products and lotions, the oily texture of phthalates acts like a moisturizer and helps lotions penetrate skin.

Health Problems: Various members of this family of chemical plasticizers have been found to produce cancer of the liver and birth defects in lab animals.

Dibutylphthalate (DBP) is of particular concern because documented exposures are high and its health effects are potentially very serious. In nail polish and mascara, DBP helps thin films stay flexible, reducing brittleness and cracking. Animal studies show that DBP causes birth defects and harm to male reproductive organs. Timing of exposure was critical: Harm was done to animals exposed in the womb or shortly after birth.

A 2002 Environmental Working Group (EWG) report found DBP in 37 nail products from 22 different companies. Their 2002 report, "Not Too Pretty" (produced with Health Care Without Harm and Coming Clean), found phthalates in 52 of 72 different personal-care products.

Other commonly used phthalates include dimethylphthalate (DMP) and diethylphthalate (DEP).

Alternatives: Phthalates often "hide" behind the term "fragrance;" choose products labeled "fragrance-free" or that are scented exclusively with pure botanical or essential oils. Phthalates are also present in, and can evaporate from, soft vinyl (PVC) toys, flooring and other products, which should be avoided. For more information, search for "phthalates" at


Bronopol, often listed as 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol, can contribute to the formation of cancer-causing nitrosamines, according to the FDA. It can also break down to produce formaldehyde (see below).

Formaldehyde, found in eye shadows, mascaras and other cosmetics, is "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen," according to the National Toxicology Program's "Ninth Report on Carcinogens" (January 2001)**. The EPA classifies it as a probable human carcinogen.

In its liquid state, formaldehyde, present in the ingredients DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea imidazolidinyl urea and quaternium-15, can be absorbed through the skin and nails. As a volatile organic compound, or VOC, formaldehyde evaporates when the product is wet; levels drop sharply once it's dry. Consumer concern has led many manufacturers to remove it from their nail polishes.

Health Problems: Breathing formaldehyde fumes has been associated with many types of cancers, including those of the nose and throat. Levels of formaldehyde in air as low as 0.1 ppm (parts per million) can cause burning sensations in the eyes, nose and throat; nausea, coughing and wheezing.

Imidazolidinyl urea can trigger contact dermatitis in sensitive individuals.

Mercury: a tiny amount of this potent nervous-system toxin, which accumulates in the body, is allowed as a preservative in eye-area cosmetics.

The parabens: Methyl-, propyl-, ethyl- and butylparaben are the most common preservatives used in cosmetics.

Health Problems: Common allergens. Some recent research shows that parabens can mimic estrogen in rodents, making them potential hormone disruptors.

Quaternary ammonium compounds can irritate the skin and eyes. Quaternium-15 causes more dermatitis complaints than any other preservative, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

Healthier Preservatives: Vitamins A (retinoic acid), C (ascorbic acid), E (tocopherol), citric acid, pycnogenol.

Surfactants -- Sudsing/Foaming Agents

Suds-making detergents, known as surfactants, in shampoos also promote absorption of the product by the skin.

Diethanolamine (DEA), widely used in shampoos, is a suspected carcinogen, and its compounds and derivatives include triethanolamine (TEA), which can be contaminated with nitrosamines -- compounds shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals. Contamination is more likely if the product also contains Bronopol (see above).

Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) are both irritants, says the Cosmetics Ingredient Review (CIR), a panel of cosmetics-industry experts established to safety-test ingredients ( But the CIR reported that SLS also causes "severe epidermal changes" to mouse skin, a finding that "indicates a need for tumor-enhancing activity assays." This year, after review of over 250 existing SLS studies, the CIR concluded that SLS is not cancer-causing. However, Samuel Epstein, M.D., says he is not convinced and recommends avoiding SLS.

Other Ingredients to Avoid

Aluminum chlorohydrate, a wetness retardant used in antiperspirants, can cause allergic reactions.

Ammonia, used in hair dyes and bleaches, can irritate the eyes and skin and can be toxic when inhaled.

Mineral oil, found in many moisturizers, comes from petroleum, a nonrenewable resource.

Peroxide, used in hair-coloring products, can irritate the skin of hands and scalp and damage hair and eyes.

Phenylenediamine (PPD), found in many hair dyes, is linked with skin irritations, respiratory disorders and cancers, and is banned in Europe.

Polyethylene and polyethylene glycol (PEG ingredients), found in hair straighteners, antiperspirants and baby-care products, are safe in themselves but can be contaminated with 1,4- dioxane, which produced liver cancer in rodents in National Cancer Institute (NCI) studies.

Polysorbate compounds 60 and 80 are emulsifiers, used in lotions and creams, that can also become contaminated with the carcinogen 1,4-dioxane.

Polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP), widely used in hair-care products, especially sprays, has been found to stay in the body for months. In rats it contributed to tumor development.

Propylene glycol, a humectant, or moisture-attracting ingredient, found in mascara, lotions, creams and other cosmetics, can irritate skin in sensitive individuals.

Talc, a mineral found in many face and body powders, has a structure similar to that of asbestos, which has been linked to lung and ovarian cancers. Healthier alternative: cornstarch (but, like any powder, can cause breathing problems)

Toluene, a solvent, is found in some nail polishes. It is a nervous-system toxin.

Triclosan, an antibacterial agent found in deodorants and other products, is overused and is linked to antibiotic-resistant disease, says the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics (


Gel-Nails said...

Interesting content.

Just wanted to share some information that may help busy professionals caught up with work and who have less time to maintain their nails. You can try out gel nails which are now becoming a hot favorite as they are natural looking even without nail tips and the best way for nail enhancement. Also, if you are allergic to those strong smelling chemicals which you can experience with acrylic nails, then you should use gel nails as these are odorless.

However, when you are planning on gel nail application, make sure you approach a nail salon or a nail artist who is well versed with gel nails and is properly trained and mastered in gel applications. This will save you from problems that can arise with improper gel nail applications.

Mirna said...


Thanks for the info. Gel nail is such a unique product.

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