Make Sure you can Identify these
5 Chemicals on Labels.
If you are interested in switching to natural products, there are five major ingredients to avoid. Of course, debates continue as to whether they are actually harmful or not, yet these are the ingredients that are regularly cited as being potentially harmful. You should learn to recognize them when shopping for natural products. Check the ingredients list and look out for
Sodium Laurel Sulfate/Sodium Laureth Sulfate
SLS and SLES are classified as an anionic surfactant commonly used as an emulsifying cleaning agent in household cleaning products. It is a crystalline salt of lauryl alcohol and is inexpensive to produce. It can be derived synthetically, or naturally, but commercially it is a heavily processed product that is used to help the products interact more directly with the place of application.
Environ Health Insights published an article funded by Seventh Generation (which uses SLS in many of its products) arguing that SLS is safe to use in its recommended doses and suggests that most studies, where SLS is shown to be an irritant, were tested using higher concentrations than what is found in common household cleaners and body care products.
This statement is not typically argued, but it is important to consider the amount of chemicals we do use every day. Studies suggest that individuals, especially women, use at least six chemical-laden products, and even as many as fifteen, daily. This is upwards of 100 chemicals every single day and this number doesn’t include food. While, in small doses, most of the chemicals we use are surveyed as being non-toxic, the real concern is coming from the awareness that we use many chemicals, in many products, daily, for years. Although SLS and SLES are biodegradable, our bodies lack the enzymes to break them down. How can we be certain that a build up isn’t harmful?
No comprehensive study has really been completed to address these worries, nor have studies been conducted to show how they interact with other chemicals once they are introduced into the body. Most studies that sway one way or another can be traced back to a company that wants you to support its beliefs. We recommend that you do your own research and make a decision that is right for you. One of the best ways to avoid over use of potentially toxic substances is to reduce their appearance in your everyday body care products.
Parabens are most commonly used as a preservative. Again, they appear mostly in body care and food products. You will recognize the parabens by names like: butylparaben, methylparaben, and propylparaben—they can also be listed as Alkyl parahydroxy benzoates. As our purchasing habits have drifted away from fresh food and natural body care products, we find notable amounts of parabens in more and more products. Some studies suggest 90% of grocery store items contain parabens.
The non-profit, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (CSC) claims, “of greatest concern is that parabens are known to disrupt hormone function, an effect that is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer and reproductive toxicity. Parabens mimic estrogen by binding to estrogen receptors on cells. Research has shown that the perceived influx of estrogen beyond normal levels can in some cases trigger reactions such as increasing breast cell division and the growth of tumors”. Here again, there are clear links to poor health effects, but few comprehensive studies. The evidence is compelling enough that the European Union banned parabens in products in 2012.
If we can recommend reducing your intake of only one of these five chemicals, it would be parabens.
Petroleum and mineral oil are occlusive agents that seal off the skin from air or water, by forming a layer that block the pores. While this can be helpful to some chronically dry skin types, it also blocks the skin's natural respiration process.
The major concern with petroleum based products and mineral oil are the contaminants that are introduced to cosmetics in the manufacturing process. The non-profit Environmental Working Group recently released a study showing that many cosmetic products contained a carcinogenic chemical contaminated by an impurity called 1,4-dioxane. To avoid this, means avoiding a number of other chemicals including sodium laureth sulfate and ingredients that include the clauses "PEG," "xynol," "ceteareth," and "oleth."
Why avoid these products? The Journal of Women's Health reported a study that shows
"there is strong evidence that mineral oil hydrocarbons are the greatest contaminant of the human body, amounting to approximately 1g per person. The increase in MOSH [mineral oil saturated hydrocarbons] concentration in human fat tissue with age suggests an accumulation over time.”
What is clear is that these chemicals penetrate the skin, and even the blood stream, and accumulate over time. Since the 1,4-dioxane is a byproduct of the manufacturing process, this leaves a huge grey area for consumers to interpret themselves and also requires them to be savvy enough to truly interpret a product’s ingredient list.
FD&C (Food, Drug and Cosmetics and D&C (Drug and Cosmetics) represent artificial colors added to products and are preceded with a letter or number code. These synthetic dyes are derived from petroleum or coal tar sources. These are suspected to be a human carcinogen and skin irritant. Some synthetic dyes are yet another ingredient that the European Union has banned or required warning labels.
Bismuth Oxychloride is a synthetically prepared dye commonly found in make-up, nail products, cleansing products, fragrances and hair coloring products. It is a pearly white color derived from bismuth, a natural metal. The biggest concern about using Bismuth Oxychloride is that it frequently causes irritation and inflammation. The FDA considers it safe to use, yet is not allowed to be used in lip products.
Dyes can be found in all types of food and cosmetics, and are often unnecessary, but are added to be more appealing to consumers. They are easy to avoid by looking at your labels.
The term “parfum” can be found in almost any cosmetic product. The term is used to protect a company’s secret or specialized fragrances, but can also hide the chemicals they use to create it. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) Skin Deep Database claims that fragrances have been associated with “allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system.” In fact, many companies claim to be natural or even all natural but, while the integrity of the products might be worth praise, when it comes to the fragrance they settle for chemically produced perfumes. This is especially true in “natural” soaps and body washes.
The main culprit for the alarm on perfumes and colognes are chemicals called Phthalates. They are known to be endocrine disruptors and have been linked to increased risk of breast cancer, early breast development in girls and reproductive birth defects. Since the make up of parfum does not have to be disclosed, as a consumer you have no idea what is in it. However, not all ingredients labeled as parfum are bad. Essential oils can also, technically, fall under that category. Choose companies that are transparent about their fragrances.
Kainat Beauty works very hard to produce truly, all natural products made with ingredients with integrity. They use organic, Fair Trade shea butter and coconut oil. They also source beeswax and honey from local beekeepers. All of their products are made with either essential oils or organic fragrance oil and there are no artificial perfumes. Their color cosmetics are made with natural mica minerals and artificial dyes are never used. Palm oil has received criticism in the last few decades for being an unsustainable source of oil, so Kainat Beauty chooses to make soap that is palm oil free. None of the products are tested on animals and some are vegan friendly.