What to Avoid?
What you put on your body is just as important as what you put in it. Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and it absorbs everything including toxins. If you are concerned about not eating unhealthy foods like trans fat, then you'll definitely want to know which synthetic ingredients you should watch out for in the products you use.
- Methyl, Propyl, Butyl and Ethyl Parabens: Used as a preservative to inhibit microbial growth and extend shelf life. Unfortunately, it can cause allergic reactions and skin rashes. Preliminary research found parabens in human breast cancer tumors.
- Diethanolamine (DEA), Triethanolamine (TEA): These are used as foaming agents, but can cause allergic reactions, eye irritation, and dryness of the hair and skin. DEA and TEA are toxic if absorbed into the body over a long period of time, and are associated with cancer in lab animals.
- Diazolidinyl Urea, Imidazolidinyl Urea: Often used as preservatives, the American Academy of Dermatology has found these chemicals to be a primary cause of contact dermatitis (irritation caused by foreign substance). Both these chemicals release formaldehyde, which can be toxic.
- Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate: This is a cheap, harsh detergent used in many shampoos for its ability to cleanse and foam. Often derived from petroleum, it causes eye irritation, dry scalp, skin rashes and other allergic reactions. Be on the lookout for pseudo-natural products that list this ingredient with the phrase "comes from coconuts" - it's still bad for you.
- Petrolatum: Also known as petroleum jelly, this is a mineral oil derivative that can clog your pores. This in turn disrupts your body's natural ability to moisturize its own skin, leading to dryness and chapping. Manufacturers use it because it's really inexpensive.
- Propylene Glycol: Ideally this is a vegetable glycerin mixed with grain alcohol, both of which are natural, but it's usually made from synthetic chemicals. It has been known to cause hives and eczema. Beware of related chemicals labeled PEG and PPG.
- PVP/VA Copolymer: A petroleum-derived chemical that's used in hair styling products and some cosmetics. Considered toxic since if inhaled, it can damage the lungs.
- Stearalkonium Chloride: This toxic chemical was designed by the fabric industry for use as a fabric softener. Companies use it in hair conditioners and lotions because it's much cheaper than natural conditioning ingredients such as proteins.
- Synthetic Colors: Labeled as FD&C or D&C and followed by a number, these make products look pretty but can be carcinogenic.
- Synthetic Fragrances: Labeled simply as "fragrance," there's no way to tell what chemicals are actually in the product. People can get headaches, dizziness, rashes, and respiratory problems from them. People may also experience hyper-pigmentation, which means this chemical may cause brown spots to form on your skin.