Cosmetics and personal care products

Many products that we use on our body (creams, lotions, dyes, gels, shampoos, deodorants, make-up) can contain chemicals which are harmful to our health. Scientists are becoming increasingly worried about the frequent exposure to these substances.

Substances added for different purposes (e.g. solvents, preservatives, synthetic fragrances, colourings, antioxidants etc.) can enter our bloodstream through the skin, as well as polluting the air inside our homes.

Without jumping to conclusions about these products, there is evidence to suggest that we should be careful.

Even products for children are often known to contain harmful substances. Examples of these from countries such as USA, for example, head campaigns to prevent the contamination of bath products for children with chemicals such as 1.4-dioxane and formaldehyde.

1.4-dioxane is a pollutant found in products made with ethylene oxide and has been linked with cancer by various scientific studies. These studies have also indicated the presence of ethoxylated compounds such as dimethicone, PEG-40, ceteareth-12 and other substances with the letters ‘eth’ o ‘PEG’ are found frequently in hygiene products.

Formaldehyde (and other preservatives such as quaternium-15, dimethyl-dimethyl (DMDM), hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroximethylglycene and 2-bromine-2-nitropropane-1, 3-diol (bronopol) etc.) can be found in liquid soaps, baby shampoos, nail varnishes, hair gels etc. Formaldehyde has been linked to problems such as skin sensitivity, rashes and cancer.

Phthalates are also found in creams, shampoos, lacquers and nail varnishes, and have been linked by many studies to a number of different disorders including feminisation, early puberty in girls, allergies etc.

1.3-butadiene, a chemical that has been linked by some studies to cancer, is a pollutant found in some sprays which use isobutene as a propellant (e.g. in gels, shaving creams, hair products, antifungal treatments etc.).

Sun creams can contain some benzophenones and derivatives of camphor amongst others, which can cause hormonal changes.

Hydroquinone is another harmful chemical which is found in some skin-lightening products and can also appear on other products such as face cleansers, hydrating creams o hair conditioners. In Europe, hydroquinone does appear in some products despite measures in place to restrict its use (it is allowed in the US). It has been linked to cancer, immunotoxicity and effects on development and reproduction.

Parabens are chemicals which are found in many personal hygiene products. Many of these have hormonal effects which several studies have linked to sperm defects, breast cancer etc.

Face creams, amongst other products, can contain mineral oils such as paraffin (from petrol) which can be problematic. Vaseline, which is used in many different items (lotions, lip balms etc.), can sometimes be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons which are linked to hormonal imbalances and cancer.

Some anti-microbe soaps, gels and toothpastes contain chemicals such as triclosan which has also been used as an anti-microbe in cleaning products. This chemical has been linked to several issues including contributing to bacteria resistance, affecting levels of thyroid hormones, often being found in human breast milk, polluting the aquatic environment and generating dangerous by-products.

It has been proven that some lipsticks can contain traces of lead which, along with other metals (chromium, zinc, cadmium or mercury), have been found in different cosmetics as colourings or contaminants. Aluminium is also found in certain deodorants.

There is also a group of problematic chemicals, including some nitrosamines, which can be carcinogenic, which are found in many hygiene products and cosmetics. In 2006, one in 5 products in Germany was found to contain these chemicals.

Many hygiene and cosmetic products, as well as perfumed products and fragrances, can cause problems such as those listed above.
 

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