Manufacturers and big box stores usually want their products to last a long time in warehouses and in the store. This requires strong preservatives to fight bacteria, fungus and yeast. Shipping containers and warehouses may not have temperature control, subjecting products to extremes of heat and cold. Expiration dates are a nuisance, so it is more convenient to put in preservatives that keep products like lotions safe from germs for an indefinite period of time.
Consumers are also very irresponsible about the way that they handle products, often leaving them in hot cars where temperatures may reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit, or in cold cars that freeze. These extremes encourage manufacturers to put in chemicals that do not deteriorate under these extremes. Even prescription lotions have unhealthy chemicals in them, and doctors often don’t scrutinize the labels before they prescribe them.
That leaves, you, the consumer, to pay attention and to protect yourself and your family. READ ALL LABELS!
Parabens are a category of preservatives that are often added, because they protect lotions and creams from fungus, yeast, and bacteria. They will appear on labels as methylparaben, propylparaben, isoparaben or butylparaben. These chemicals react in similar ways to estrogen, and are absorbed quickly into the bloodstream.They are suspected of being carcinogens, and fertility disruptors. But they are FDA approved.
Phthalates are a category of chemicals used to produce artificial fragrance. They may be listed as “fragrance,” “parfum,” or other terms. These are often found in lotions, shampoos, soaps, perfumes and other items. They may cause respiratory distress and may disrupt hormones. They are used in the production of plastics and their content is regulated in children’s toys.
Artificial colors may be beautiful, but they are usually produced from petroleum and coal tar sources. Green #3 and yellow #5 may cause hyperactivity in children. My granddaughter suffered from migraine headaches until she eliminated all yellow color from her diet. She found it in her favorite breakfast cereal, and suffered severe distress before she learned she was allergic to artificial yellow.
Triclosan is a bacteria basher that is often used in deodorants. It is easily absorbed into the skin. It seems to disrupt hormone function and may be carcinogenic. It should appear as triclosan in the label. It is used in hospitals for antimicrobial scrubs, but has been criticized for causing resistance to antibiotics.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) or Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) cause shampoos and toothpaste to foam more easily. SLS can penetrate the skin because of its small molecules and causes the skin to degenerate. SLES is more dangerous and may cause kidney and respiratory problems.
Formaldehyde is the chemical we all remember that is used to pickle laboratory specimens. We see it as kids in jars on museum and school shelves. Prolonged exposure may cause respiratory and immune system problems. It is known to be a human carcinogen. It is often found in nail hardeners. It may be listed as Methanediol, 1,3,5 Trioxane or Paraformaldehyde.
Toluene is a strong chemical that can dissolve paint. It may be used in nail polish and hair dyes. Pregnant women should avoid using any products that contain toluene, as it may cause developmental damage to the fetus. Use hair dye and nail polish in well ventilated spaces.
Propylene glycol is used to condition skin, but prolonged use actually dries out the skin and may cause dermatitis. Sometimes referred to as PEG, it is also mixed with water to create antifreeze for automobiles.
Oxybenzone, a chemical used in sunscreens, can cause serious skin reactions. It can be found in blood, breast milk and urine samples. It effectively blocks ultraviolet light. Better to use sunscreen with mineral blockers such as zinc oxide or titanium oxide.
This isn’t everything, but it is more than most of us can remember when we are shopping. Always be wary of very long lists of ingredients. Pay attention. Stop using anything that causes discomfort. Believe your body!
Online references: Health Prep “Ten Beauty Ingredients You Definitely Want to Avoid.” Naturally Mindful, “Top Chemicals to avoid in Beauty Products.” Wikipedia