This article appears on the David Suzuki website, and has been reposted here:
'Dirty Dozen' cosmetic chemicals to avoid
Some of the ingredients in beauty products aren't that pretty. U.S. researchers report that one in eight of the 82,000 ingredients used in personal care products are industrial chemicals, including carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins, and hormone disruptors. Many products include plasticizers (chemicals that keep concrete soft), degreasers (used to get grime off auto parts), and surfactants (they reduce surface tension in water, like in paint and inks). Imagine what that does to your skin, and to the environment.
We surveyed Canadians to see how many of the Dirty Dozen ingredients below appeared in their cosmetics, and our findings show that 80 per cent of entered products contained at least one of these toxic chemicals.
BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) are closely related synthetic antioxidants used as preservatives in lipsticks and moisturizers, among other cosmetics. They are also widely used as food preservatives.
P-phenylenediamine and colours identified by "C.I." followed by a five digit number
In addition to coal tar dyes, natural and inorganic pigments used in cosmetics are also assigned Colour Index numbers (in the 75000 and 77000 series, respectively).
Use in Cosmetics
Coal tar-derived colours are used extensively in cosmetics, generally identified by a five-digit Colour Index (C.I.) number. The U.S. colour name may also be listed ("FD&C" or "D&C" followed by a colour name and number). P-phenylenediamine is a particular coal tar dye used in many hair dyes. Darker hair dyes tend to contain more phenylenediamine than lighter colours.
DEA (diethanolamine) and DEA compounds are used to make cosmetics creamy or sudsy. DEA also acts as a pH adjuster, counteracting the acidity of other ingredients. DEA is mainly found in moisturizers and sunscreens, while cocamide and lauramide DEA are found in soaps, cleansers, and shampoos. Industrial applications of DEA include its use in oil refineries to "scrub" hydrogen sulphide from process gas emissions.
Dibutyl phthalate (pronounced thal-ate), or DBP, is used mainly in nail products as a solvent for dyes and as a plasticizer that prevents nail polishes from becoming brittle. Phthalates are also used as fragrance ingredients in many other cosmetics, but consumers won't find these listed on the label. Fragrance recipes are considered trade secrets, so manufacturers are not required to disclose fragrance chemicals in the list of ingredients (see also Fragrance/Parfum). DBP is also commonly used in polyvinyl chloride plastic (PVC) to render it flexible.
These formaldehyde-releasing agents are used as preservatives in a wide range of cosmetics. Other industrial applications of formaldehyde include production of resins used in wood products, vinyl flooring and other plastics, permanent-press fabric, and toilet bowl cleaners. While formaldehyde occurs naturally in the environment at low levels, worldwide industrial production tops 21 million tons per year. i
Parabens are the most widely used preservative in cosmetics. They are also used as fragrance ingredients, but consumers won't find that listed on the label. Fragrance recipes are considered trade secrets, so manufacturers are not required to disclose fragrance chemicals in the list of ingredients (see also Fragrance/Parfum). An estimated 75 to 90 per cent of cosmetics contain parabens (typically at very low levels). i
Fragrance is an obvious ingredient in perfumes, colognes, and deodorants, but it’s used in nearly every type of personal care product. Credit: blue celt via Flickr.
Use in Cosmetics
The term "fragrance" or "parfum" on a cosmetic ingredients list usually represents a complex mixture of dozens of chemicals. Some 3,000 chemicals are used as fragrances. i Fragrance is an obvious ingredient in perfumes, colognes, and deodorants, but it's used in nearly every type of personal care product. Even products marketed as "fragrance-free" or "unscented" may in fact contain fragrance along with a masking agent ii that prevents the brain from perceiving odour. In addition to their use in cosmetics, fragrances are found in numerous other consumer products, notably laundry detergents and softeners and cleaning products.
PEGs (polyethylene glycols) are petroleum-based compounds that are widely used in cosmetics as thickeners, solvents, softeners, and moisture-carriers. PEGs are commonly used as cosmetic cream bases. They are also used in pharmaceuticals as laxatives.
*Cyclomethicone and ingredients ending in "siloxane" (e.g., cyclotetrasiloxane)
Use in Cosmetics
These silicone-based compounds are used in cosmetics to soften, smooth, and moisten. They make hair products dry more quickly and deodorant creams slide on more easily. They are also used extensively in moisturizers and facial treatments. Siloxanes can also be found in medical implants, water-repelling windshield coatings, building sealants and lubricants.
Sodium laureth sulfate (sometimes referred to as SLS) is used in cosmetics as a detergent and also to make products bubble and foam. It is common in shampoos, shower gels and facial cleansers. It is also found in household cleaning products, like dish soap.
Triclosan is used mainly in antiperspirants/deodorants, cleansers, and hand sanitizers as a preservative and an anti-bacterial agent. In addition to cosmetics, triclosan is also used as an antibacterial agent in laundry detergent, facial tissues, and antiseptics for wounds, as well as a preservative to resist bacteria, fungus, mildew and odors in other household products that are sometimes advertized as "anti-bacterial." These products include garbage bags, toys, linens, mattresses, toilet fixtures, clothing, furniture fabric, and paints. Triclosan also has medical applications.