Six makeup chemicals to avoid

Photo: istockphoto.com/ANNAMARIA SZILAGYI

Many consumers are under the impression that labels on cosmetics offer some kind of protection. Unfortunately this is not the case, especially in the USA where personal care ingredients don't need FDA approval, any health studies or pre-market testing. Canada is not much better; it just approved cosmetic labelling in November 16, 2006 but with a year deadline for compliance.

Approach your personal care products and cosmetics with caution. Read the label and decide whether that lovely shade of lipstick, blush or eye-shadow is worth the risk. Is having full volume hair or thick eyelashes worth compromising your health? The following list is just a few of the chemicals found in basic personal care products. You can learn more and even do a search of your particular product with Skin Deep Safe Cosmetics Database, a campaign being run by the Environmental Working Group.

Phthatale family or di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP) and di(2-ehtylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP)

  • Can result in: endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCS) and carcinogen linked to birth defects; premature breast developments; lowered sperm counts; testicular injury; damage to reproductive organs; lung, liver and kidney cancer
  • Why used: makes plastic soft and malleable.
  • Found in: nail polish, hair-straighteners and sprays, body lotions, and deodorants.
  • Banned in: Europe
  • Lauryl sulfate(SLS), Sodium laureth sulfate(SLES)

  • Can result in: suspected carcinogen linked kidney and liver damage; nervous system disruption; damage to eyes leading to cataracts; eczema and dermatitis, known to inflame skin layers.
  • Why used: foaming agent and emulsifier.
  • Found in: toothpaste, shampoo, bath salts, body and shower gels.
  • Banned in: Europe and Central America
  • Paraben preservatives or alkyl-p-hydroxybenzoates (methyl, propyl, butyl, and ethyl)

  • Can result in: hormone disrupter, estrogenic (mimics natural estrogens that leads to cancer); linked to breast cancer; skin rashes.
  • Why used: germicide and preservative.
  • Found in: conditioners, hair styling gels, nail creams, foundations, concealers, mascara, facial masks, skin creams, and deodorants, sunscreen, hair-colouring.
  • Banned in: Japan and Sweden. Under review in the UK.
  • Formaldehyde family or Diazolidinyl urea, 3-diol Imidazolidinyl urea, DMDM Hydantoin , Quaternium-15, Nitropropane-1, Formalin , Methanal , Methyl aldehyde, Methylene oxide, Morbicid acid, Oxymethylene

  • Can result in: carcinogen, causes allergic reactions and contact dermatitis; headaches; irritates mucous membranes; damaging to eyes; linked to joint and chest pain; depression; headaches; fatigue; dizziness and immune dysfunction.
  • Why used: disinfectant, germicide, fungicide, defoamer and preservative, cheap and mixes easily with water.
  • Found in: shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, liquid antiseptic hand wash, skin lotions, bubble bath, hair care products, antiperspirants, nail polishes, talcs; mascara, mouthwash, make-up remover.
  • Banned in: Europe
  • Amine family Diethanolamine (DEA), triethanolamine (TEA), amonoethanolamine (MEA)

  • Can result in: hormone disrupter; carcinogen linked to liver and kidney cancer; irritant to hair and skin; corrosive to eyes; causes contact dermatitis; react with other chemicals to form carcinogenic nitrosamines.
  • Why used: emulsifier, pH adjuster, and preservative, foaming agent added to coconut oils.
  • Found in: shampoos, soaps, hairsprays, sunscreens, foundations, concealers, eyeliner, talc, face powders, shaving creams, hair colouring products (women and men), hair sprays.
  • Banned in: Currently under review in the USA, UK and Europe
  • Propylene / Butylene Glycol (PG)

  • Side Effect: linked to possible brain, liver, and kidney abnormalities respiratory and throat irritation, central nervous system depression, pulmonary oedema, brain damage, hypoglycaemia, skin rashes and dermatitis, neuro-toxin that weakens protein and cellular structure.
  • Why: cheap substitute for glycerine, Humectant (retains moisture).
  • Found in: deodorants, body lotions, body washes, hair conditioner, hair gel, creams, hand-wipes, lipsticks.
  • Banned in: Europe
  • Companies offering alternatives

  • Aubrey: hair, skin and body care products
  • Burt's Bees: chapsticks, skin care, makeup, hair care
  • BWC (Beauty without Cruelty): makeup and skin care
  • Dr. Hauschka: skin care products
  • Druide bath products and hair care
  • Ecco Bella: makeup, skin care and bath products
  • Erbaviva
  • Giovanni: bath, hair and skin products
  • Juara Skincare
  • Lavera: makeup and skin care products
  • Little Forest Baby
  • MOP (Modern Organic Products): hair care products
  • Mychelle Dermaceuticals Naddara Suki Naturals

  • Weleda: cosmetics
  • Upurea has one of the largest selections of enviro-friendly skincare products sold online.