Your Trusted Toiletries May Be Killing You
By Carol Crenna
CROW’S FEET? SANDPAPER HANDS? BAD HAIR DAY?
If you run out of your trusted toiletries, you can always use the antifreeze in your car. In fact, if you’ve ever used hair spray, hand lotion, deodorant or liquid foundation makeup, you have already used it – with the ingredient propylene glycol.
This chemical, linked to health problems including kidney and liver abnormalities, changes to the brain and cell damage, is also used for brake fluid and antifreeze.
You probably know that Health Canada regulations now require manufacturers to list ingredients on packaging (as of 2007). The labeling is designed to help shoppers make informed choices about everything from perfume and nail polish to toothpaste and shaving cream.
BUT WHAT IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT TO LOOK FOR?
If you haven’t studied chemistry, you may be baffled.
Learn to identify dangers in products you now take for granted:
HAND IT OVER
Your hand moisturizer may be poisoning you with PETROLATUM, linked to cancer; POTASSIUM HYDROXIDE, highly irritating and causing internal bleeding if ingested; and PHENOL CARBONIC ACID, which can induce vomiting and circulation problems if ingested in tiny amounts.
Even if you don’t accidentally eat it (perhaps while putting food in your mouth right after applying the moisturizer), it goes onto your skin, a highly absorbent organ directly linked to other organs.
The common ingredients in shampoo and body wash, SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE or SODIUM LAURETH SULFATE, damage skin, may increase cataracts, and are mutagens capable of changing the genetic code within cells.
Chemicals including sodium lauryl sulfate (a close relative to what’s used in spry-on oven cleaners) become more carcinogenic when contaminated with other chemical ingredients such as T.E.A. (Judi Vance, Beauty to Die For)
In your beloved berry lipstick (which you end up eating), the common colourant FD&C Red #3, along with at least four other red dyes, has been found to mimic estrogen in human molecules and damage breast cells.
FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH OR THE TRUTH?
Even The Body Shop founder Anita Roddick states that claims for anti-wrinkle creams are “rubbish,” and recommends spending your money on a good bottle of pinot noir instead.
Chemicals including ALPHA-HYDROXY ACID, RETINOIDS and HYALURONIC ACID may accelerate rather than prevent aging. GLYCERIN used in anti-aging moisturizers actually draws out moisture from the skin so it sits on the surface, which may dry it from the inside. And ISOPROPYL MYRISTATE is said to clog pores and has carcinogenic effects. (Judi Vance, Cosmetic Health Report)
PASS ON PERFUME?
“People will be surprised what’s in their cosmetics. Many ingredients are quite harmful to our health over long-term use. We’re looking at health risks like carcinogens, mutagens and reproductive toxins,” said Madeleine Bird of Campaign for Safe Cosmetics Canada on CBC News.
“We should avoid using perfumes, nail polishes and dark hair dyes — products of most concern,” she concluded. Keep in mind that perfume is in almost every grooming product you own.
TEN THOUSAND CHANCES TO LOSE
Health Canada estimates that 10,000 cosmetic products are available in Canada. Some may not pose serious health dangers but may cause irritation.
In hair dye, for example, PARA-PHENYLENEDIAMINE (PPD) triggers allergic reactions. Eczema may show up on the face or hairline, and in severe cases, face swelling leads to painful bruising that requires hospitalization.
More than two-thirds of hair dyes contain PPD or related chemicals. Studies on men who use hair dye showed almost double the risk of bone cancer, and on women showed a much higher risk of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. (Living Healthy in a Toxic World by David Steinman)
DANGERS ON YOUR DRESSING TABLE
About 5 per cent of adults suffer noticeable reactions to chemicals, experiencing rashes, hair loss and breathing problems. (A recent trip to a massage therapist’s office resulted in a highly itchy, swelling rash all over my neck and shoulders from the cream used, and no ingredients were listed on the bottle.)
But, even if you don’t see evidence that it isn’t good for you, as Bird stated, “The concern is that we use many cosmetics in many ways on our bodies every day for many years,” and it’s cumulative.
The Canadian Cancer Society is urging the government to introduce stricter regulations, including warning labels for substances that may cause cancer.
I’m not suggesting that you forgo daily hygiene, dying your hair, or donning makeup, but you can be more conscious of what’s necessary and what’s not, and of products that contain fewer chemicals.
Consider not using facial toners, for example, which contain numerous chemicals and simply dry out and irritate the skin, and talcum powder, since studies show it may cause ovarian cancer. And keep in mind that a 7-ounce tube of conventional fluoride toothpaste contains enough fluoride to kill a small child.
Look for products that don’t include synthetic fragrance and use essential oils instead. These use lecithin to replace petroleum ingredients, and botanicals (plant colourants) to replace chemically-created colours.
TRIED AND TESTED BY OUR MOTHERS
Remember that not long ago washing your hair meant grabbing a bar of soap and water ─ try the latest all-natural shampoo bars that last far longer than a bottle of shampoo, have no chemical ingredients, are better for the environment (available at health stores).
EXTRA HAIR HELP
Slowly combing your fingers through it makes hair shine from natural oils with no silicone-based shine-enhancers required. If you need extra support, try pure argan oil (the popular, but chemical-filled Moroccan Oil includes this, but buy the real thing from health stores) or a touch of virgin coconut oil instead. And if you want to continue dyeing hair, at least seek out those that don’t contain ammonia, paraphenylenediamine (PPD) or resorcinol, available in many hair salons.
For your face, unrefined oils such as evening primrose and borage oil create exactly the same moisture barrier as expensive face creams when used topically, and also taste good on salad.
Others to try include seabuckthorn oil (found in capsule form at health stores) and camellia tea oil (at specialty tea stores). And, as you probably know, what you put inside your body, by eating healthful omega oils, avocados, fish, and lots of fresh vegetables, is reflected outside in supple, youthful, vibrant skin.