If you’re like most women, you use about a dozen personal care products per day. You may look and smell great, but you’re also being exposed to more than 150 chemicals, some of which are known toxins. The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t require cosmetics makers to test these products, while though those that do aim for an “acceptable” amount of toxins.
The problem is that most of us use multiple products every day. The cumulative effects of this exposure are only recently beginning to be studied. Itâ��s well-known that chemicals in beauty products can pass through the skin into our bloodstream and organs. If all the products we used were natural, this wouldnâ��t raise much concern, but since many components are synthetic, those ingredients may be harmful to our health.
In recent months, scientists have made new discoveries about the widespread use of chemicals that may have damaging effects. Here are a few potentially hazardous chemicals commonly used in personal care products:
Ã�Â�Ã�Â¢Ã�Â�Ã�Â�Ã�Â�Ã�Â¢ Siloxanes â�� Often found in lipstick, lotions, hair care products, soaps, cookware, and cleaning products, siloxanes are chemicals that stay in the body for long periods of time and have been linked to cancer as well as reproductive problems.
Ã�Â�Ã�Â¢Ã�Â�Ã�Â�Ã�Â�Ã�Â¢ Phthalates â�� These hormone-disrupting chemicals are found in countless products, including lotions, soaps, shampoo, nail polish, vinyl flooring, and household items. Phthalates are often disguised as â��fragranceâ�� on product labels and have been linked to childhood obesity, behavioral problems, type 2 diabetes, hormone disruptions, birth defects, asthma, allergies, and reproductive problems. In 2009, the Consumer Product Safety Commission even banned the use of several phthalates in childrenâ��s toys. The Environmental Protection Agency added eight phthalates to its â��Chemicals of Concernâ�� list and is conducting further investigation.
Ã�Â�Ã�Â¢Ã�Â�Ã�Â�Ã�Â�Ã�Â¢ Formaldehyde â�� The same chemical used to preserve dead bodies is used in makeup, hair care products, moisturizers, and other personal care products. It has been linked to migraines, allergies, asthma, and cancer.
Ã�Â�Ã�Â¢Ã�Â�Ã�Â�Ã�Â�Ã�Â¢ Parabens â�� These preservatives are used in certain skin care products. Studies have linked them to breast cancer and male reproductive problems.
These chemicals are just the tip of the iceberg. Lead, mercury, coal tar, phenylenediamine, benzene, and many others are also found in commonly-used products associated with a range of health problems. So why are these dangerous chemicals still used? Itâ��s because the chemicals are so widely used that itâ��s difficult to prove that specific ones are causing health problems. In addition, there are loopholes in some regulations that allow the use of harmful substances if those substances cannot reasonably be removed.
So whatâ��s a girl to do? Chances are youâ��re not going to toss all of your favorite beauty products, but there are a few small changes you can make to minimize the health risks:
Ã¢Â�Â¢ Read labels to see if your beauty regimen contains dangerous chemicals.
Ã¢Â�Â¢ Gradually replace potentially harmful personal care products with a less-toxic alternative, such as a certified organic or a 100% natural product. Look for “three-free” nail polishes and choose products that are fragrance-free. The Environmental Working Group lists products free from phthalates and other chemicals.
Ã¢Â�Â¢ Look for products that are European Union Cosmetics Directive Compliant. Europe has tighter regulations for cosmetics than the U.S., having banned several phthalates and other chemicals.
Are some of the biggest threats to our health the result of overexposure to toxic chemicals in our everyday home and personal care products? It’s too early to say. Until we know more, take steps to limit your exposure. There are plenty of other ways to look and feel your best without jeopardizing your health in the process.
Images courtesy of Adella.com, Biobliss.com
Dr. Carolyn Ross is an internationally known physician, author and speaker on addictions, obesity and eating disorders. She serves as a consultant to The Ranchâ��s eating disorder treatment program in Tennessee, maintains a private practice in Denver, is the author of The Binge Eating and Compulsive Overeating Workbook: An Integrated Approach to Overcoming Disordered Eating as well as The Joy of Eating Well and also hosts a weekly radio show, The Vital Life.