Harmful Cosmetic Ingredients:
Common Misconceptions About Beauty
Before we begin, this is not a post about harmful cosmetic ingredients that’s intended to scare you, but rather educate you on some common misconceptions that many people have about beauty and what’s in the products we know and love. I’m not a big fan of fear-mongering and although I see many using this tactic as a way to gain followers, I prefer to keep things honest and open. I know you guys are smart, educated individuals and I’m not about to dumb down the facts by telling you something causes cancer if there’s no proof that end. On the flip side, I will tell you if said product is likely to cause an allergic reaction or if the studies suggest there is a risk for harm, is considered dangerous and/or toxic, and if I would personally advise that you avoid it. My hope is that this helps you to make better choices in your beauty, personal care, and home goods choices while also reminding you that it’s okay to be human and live without fear ♥
The thing you should know about parabens is that there is more than one kind and their basic function is to preserve your makeup and kill disease-causing bacteria. You can bet that anything water-based has some kind of preservative (though not always parabens) because bacteria, mold and fungi can easily grow where there’s water. Preservatives kill the bacteria off in your products so that you don’t get sick or get some jacked up infection and to prevent the product from breaking down. They also help products have a longer shelf life which is why foundations can sit on the shelves at stores for what seems like years and still be sold. Methlyparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and ethylparaben are the ones you’ll commonly find in cosmetics.
So, are parabens safe? According to a study by the FDA (even though they aren’t authorized to regulate cosmetics), they are safe to use in cosmetics up to 25% even though most cosmetics use them at a percent of 0.01% to 0.3% on average. So, why then, do people say they cause cancer? A study was done in breast cancer patients wherein parabens were detected in the breast tissue and were shown to have estrogen-like properties. If you didn’t already know, estrogen can spurn the growth of cancer, but this particular study did not prove that parabens were causing cancer, that they encouraged the growth of cancer cells, and they didn’t show a comparison group of non-breast cancer patients breasts (which may also contain parabens) which might very well be the case. Parabens are everywhere, even in our food, but of course, this doesn’t make them safe one way or the other. I would avoid these simply because more estrogen in our body has been shown to spurn the growth of cancer in various studies which is why many people avoid parabens and how the whole story got so convoluted in the first place. The estrogen-like properties of parabens does not equal instant cancer, but is it best to avoid them? Probably, yes. I would, but it’s ultimately your choice to make.
Heavy metals include lead, mercury, cadmium, nickel, and arsenic and these can actually do an incredible amount of damage to your body in the right amounts. That said, cosmetics typically use them in low concentrations so again, studies are inconclusive. I would personally avoid them only because high amounts of heavy metals have been known to wreak havoc in the body including cancer, disorders, contact dermatitis and other skin issues and allergies, hormone issues (endocrine disruption), respiratory and brain disorders, and the list goes on and on depending on the heavy metal in question. You can find these metals in anything from mascara to lipstick, blush, etc. The good news is that whatever heavy metals are currently in your body, these foods can help ♥
Sulfates are detergents which help shampoo, hand soap, and toothpaste to lather or foam up. The most common sulfates are SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) and SLES (sodium laureth sulfate) and both are known to cause skin irritations. Other studies have not found anything else that’s very concrete except that SLES is known to be commonly be contaminated by 1,4 dioxane which is a known carcinogen – yikes! – and is created as a by-product of many manufacturing process.
There are many formaldehyde-releasing preservatives out there, but the common ones are any of the ureas (anything with urea in the name), DMDM hydantoin, bromopol, glyoxal, quaternium-15, methenamine, and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate. Basically, what happens is these ingredients are added to products to help preserve the product’s integrity and also make the shelf life longer (you know, so they can sit at Walmart for all time), but they start releasing formaldehyde into the products the longer they sit on the shelf and formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. Scary, right? Let’s avoid these ones, for sure, shall we?
Synthetic Fragrances / Parfum
Aside from the fact that synthetic fragrances (parfum) can be incredibly irritating to your lungs, skin and eyes, the scary thing about fragrance is that since they are not actually required, by law, to denote the ingredients in their fragrance blends, they can basically put whatever they want in it. Many fragrances that were tested were found to include carcinogens and other toxic ingredients which are linked to everything from cancer to endocrine disruption, skin allergies, asthma, and neurotoxicity. They can also be incredibly harmful to fish and wildlife which make them harmful for our environment as well as ourselves.
Final Thoughts ♥
I don’t want you guys to demonize cosmetics companies who use these ingredients in their products. I don’t think it’s right that brands continue to use them even after studies show tons of disconcerting red flags, but I also don’t think it’s done maliciously. Now, whether they do it out of greed is another question entirely, but that’s a topic for another day. My goal in sharing this information with you is to educate you on the true studies about these ingredients because THERE ARE NO FACTS. Facts are only made when studies have enough evidence and the truth of the matter is that there just isn’t enough evidence to call it fact. I hope that by sharing this with you, you can look up the studies and decide for yourself. Look at the government, university, and medical journal studies – those are the ones you want to read. And if you want to skip it all and just live, well, I support you. We live in an uncertain, scary world, but it’s also beautiful and I think we should enjoy every inch of it with a free and open heart.
At the end of the day, we don’t live in a bubble. There’s no way to avoid all the things that can cause us harm and if you think that there is, well, I’m sorry, but you’re only deluding yourself. At this very moment, you’re most likely breathing in a toxin. It’s just a part of modern day life. If you want to minimize the amount of pollutants you’re currently inhaling or the fact that too much kale can kill you, then by all means, move to an isolated mountain town and swear off greens. If you want to live your life to the fullest while also minimizing the risks, then take a deep breath and just use cleaner cosmetics, get some exercise, and eat organic when possible (or just avoid the dirty dozen – but even that might be unfounded). Also, you should know that a certain amount of toxins is okay; our bodies are incredible machines built to fight off outside aggressors. In fact, bacteria surrounds our entire body and help us live in this home we call earth. So, I guess it’s not all bad, right?