Co-Written by Holly-Ann Haines, Jessica Haines and Michelle Wynne
Cosmetics have had a long history of being seen as an essential element of beauty. Engrained into our minds by the ongoing bombardment of media are redder lips, darker lashes, and unblemished skin, molding our perceptions of what it means to be beautiful.
But what many women and men may not realize is that these cosmetics and skincare products may not only be harmful to the environment, but to a person’s bodily environment as well.
Numerous chemicals used in the manufacturing of cosmetic and skincare products are now known to be toxic and have alarming health effects. For a list of the 12 worst chemicals found in cosmetic and personal care products, check out David Suzuki’s list at http://www.davidsuzuki.org/issues/health/science/toxics/dirty-dozen-cosmetic-chemicals/. We will also provide some information on chemicals to avoid below, as well as some information on great alternatives.
Many deodorants and antiperspirants contain the chemicals dimethicone and cyclomethicone, which are silicone-based chemicals used to create a smooth glide on the skin and supply moisture to the product.
Keeping true with the moisturizing capabilities of these polymers, these chemicals are not limited to cosmetic usage, but are, in fact, used for industrial lubricants, hydraulic fluids, and as anti-foaming agents. These chemicals have been found to be endocrine disruptors, affecting human hormones that are important for many functions in the body. These polymers, when tested in high concentrations, have even been linked to uterine tumours and reduced fertility.
Shampoo can contain a large concoction of harmful chemicals to make the foam, scent, and feel that we have come to love so much in our daily cleansing routines. Five of the most harmful ingredients are methylisothiazolinone, sodium lauryl sulfate, parabens, phthalates, and formaldehyde. Each of these has been found to be carcinogenic, and to cause allergies, neuronal and hormonal damage, and disruptions of the organs, specifically reproductive organs. Should chemicals used in engine degreasing and abrasive cleaning products really be something we should be putting on our skin?
Sodium laureth sulphate, said to be the “safer” version of sodium lauryl sulphate, is a common ingredient in foundation which is used by men and women alike to even out skin tones and cover up blemishes. According to David Suzuki’s “Dirty Dozen,” this ingredient is known to cause irritation to the skin, can harm the nervous system, and is a potential carcinogen. This ingredient is not biodegradable, making us wonder where the ingredient goes once it is put on our skin. If a product is unable to breakdown in the natural environment, we should be concerned about how its chemicals will interact with our bodies, and whether they will accumulate in our systems over long periods of use.
If something has so many potential health effects, why do we continue to use it on a daily basis? Do the benefits really outweigh the costs? There are many alternatives to using these products, as well as resources to make informed choices about the cosmetics you buy. The Environmental Working Group provides a database on different cosmetic and skincare products called Skin Deep, which allows you to see the toxicity rating of the products you use. http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/.
While natural alternatives can be costly, it is economical to make your own products, tailoring the ingredients to best suit your skin and preferences. With a simple search on the internet, hundreds of easy and affordable recipes can be found, and small recyclable containers can be easily purchased at the dollar store. Try this recipe for a peppermint lip balm, made of wholesome ingredients you can pronounce. We, as consumers, should be aware of what chemicals are going into our products, and, using our consumer power, can influence companies by supporting those brands which keep the health and wellbeing of their consumers in mind.