Ah the power of media. One little report comes out saying that a chemical, by product or synthetic dye ‘could’ be bad for you, even though the findings may be unsupported or inconclusive, and the response from the public is dramatic. Then the suppliers have no choice but to figure out alternatives to these products to satisfy the new demand for products free of these ingredients regardless of whether their danger has been confirmed.
Poor little parabens. This estrogen-mimicking chemical preservative has been in cosmetic products for years. Check your hand soap, shampoo, lipstick… the list goes on. A preliminary study found parabens in breast cancer tissues but the study couldn’t link parabens as the cause of the tumour. This little study, though, has led to a major change in the cosmetic industry attempting to remove parabens entirely or at the very least the parabens found in that study (polyparabens and butylparabens). Since that fateful study more research has been done to see if there is any causal link between parabens and estrogen related cancers or disorders and so far nada. Doesn’t meant that the link isn’t there and one day we will find out that, yup, the media induced panic around parabens was worth it. Regardless of how many drugstore and salon shampoos now boast being “paraben free” major suppliers continue to use methylparaben and propylparaben in their products. Check out LUSH: it’s their go-to preservative for now as it’s in the majority of their products. I do like LUSH products and frequently purchase their bath bombs and bubble baths, but I was surprised to find out that their products aren’t quite as natural as I originally thought.
Sad little sulphates. Sulphates have been given a bad reputation over the last few years with many products removing sulphates and often replacing it with other chemicals that have even less research to back up their efficacy and safety than sulphates do. Because really when you come down to it, sodium laurETH sulphate and sodium laurYL sulphate (gotta love those closely named chemical compounds) are just skin irritants. They are generally mild and, for even the most sensitive of skins, to truly react to the sulphate one would have to lather up their shampoo and leave it on their head for a few hours. Truly. Who has the time to do that? That being said, the main issue with sulphates was that sodium laurETH sulphate was frequently contaminated with a proven carcinogenic chemical called 1,4-Dioxane. Technically sulphates were never the problem: they just got too close to the dioxane…
Pesky little phthalates. The thing that scares me the most about phthalates is that they don’t actually have to be listed on the ingredients list. Phthalates can hide under the umbrella term “parfum” or “fragrance”. The reason why this strikes fear into this diva’s heart is because phthalates DBP and DEHP have been completely banned from toys but are still allowed in cosmetics. Yes. That’s right. We have decided they are too dangerous for children to play with toys with phthalates on the off chance that they absorb too much of this chemical though their skin or the toy ends up in their mouth (we all know it happens) but when it comes to something that we put everyday directly on our skin the chemical is not regulated or banned. Not in Canada anyway. The European Union has restricted some phthalates from cosmetics, but we North American’s haven’t jumped on board yet. Even California, who usually is on top of these things, still allows them in cosmetic products. Frightening, no?
Chemicals to avoid for proven carcinogenic reasons: BHA (required by law in California to have a warning label about cancer), BHT (both also bad for aquatic life), DEA or diethanolamine (limited use in Europe), DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine, quaternium-15, Bronopol, polyethylene glycol and triclosan (also toxic for aquatic life).
Chemicals to avoid for environmental reasons: Palm Oil (see previous post), petrolatum, parrafin, mineral oil, and petroleum distillates.