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Toxic Chemicals to Watch For in Personal Care Products

When shopping for self-care products like deodorant, moisturizer, shampoo, and toothpaste, be sure to check the ingredients list.

Certain chemicals in these products are easily absorbed by the skin, and have been linked to skin irritations, endocrine system disruptions, reproductive problems, behavioral issues, and even an increased risk of cancer.

10 Toxins to Avoid in Your Self-Care Products

1. Formaldehyde- nail polish, body wash, shampoo, hairspray, and other personal products. Watch out for this ingredient hiding under other names, including Diazolidinyl urea, 3-diol Imidazolidinyl urea, DMDM Hydantoin, Quaternium-15, Nitorpropane-1, Formalin, Methanal, Methyl Aldehyde, and Methylene Oxide.

2. Fragrance. The word fragrance sounds harmless enough, but cosmetic companies use it as an umbrella term for a whole host of different chemicals that can be toxic to your health. According to the Environmental Working Group, these chemicals have been linked to allergies, respiratory distress, skin irritations, and other unwelcome side effects.

3. Parabens. Many cosmetic products, deodorants, shampoos, and body washes contain parabens to help prevent the growth of mold, yeast, and bacteria. As good as that might sound, parabens also have a serious downside: They’re known endocrine disruptors, and they’ve been found in biopsy samples of breast tumors. The most commonly used parabens are methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and ethylparaben.

4. Phthalates. This group of chemicals can often be found in nail polish, lotion, perfume, and hairspray. Phthalates have been identified as endocrine disruptors, and they’re linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, as well as reproductive birth defects in both men and women. They’re often disguised as dibutylphthalate (DBP), dimethylphthalate (DMP), or as the word “fragrance.”

5. Propylene glycol is an alcohol known to cause skin irritations, including dermatitis and hives. It’s able to penetrate deep into the skin, causing irritations at concentrations as low as 2%. Propylene glycol may be hiding in your moisturizer, sunscreen, shampoo, conditioner, and other cosmetic products.

6. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). This chemical is added to more than 90% of personal care and cleaning products. If the product foams (think body wash or face wash), there’s a good chance it includes SLS.

7. Synthetic colors. Keep an eye out for “FD&C” or “D&C” on labels — this means the product includes artificial colors, like Red 27 or Blue 1. Synthetic colors, derived from petroleum or coal tar, may be carcinogenic.

8. Toluene, also known as benzene, toluol, phenylmethane, or methylbenzene. Like synthetic colors, it is derived from petroleum or coal tar, and it can cause nausea, skin irritations, and respiratory irritations.

9. A known endocrine disruptor, triclosan is an antimicrobial chemical that often causes skin irritations. It can be found in antibacterial soaps, toothpastes, hand sanitizers, and deodorants. Research suggests that triclosan may be especially harmful to the thyroid and reproductive hormones.

10. Benzophenone, PABA, avobenzone, homosalate, and methoxycinnamate are chemicals commonly added to sunscreen to absorb ultraviolet light. While they may help protect you from a sunburn, these chemicals can also be easily absorbed into your body, causing cellular damage and even cancer.

In general, a mile-long list of ingredients you can’t pronounce is often a good indication that the product contains some less-than-ideal additives.

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