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The Baddest of the Bad in Beauty Products:

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Ingredients to AVOID

Alcohol (Isopropyl): 
    As a solvent and denaturant (a poisonous substance that changes another substance's natural qualities), alcohol is found in hair color rinses, body rubs, hand lotions, after-shave lotions, fragrances, and many other cosmetics. A petroleum-derived substance, it is also used in antifreeze and as a solvent in shellac and diluted essential oils. According to A Consumer's Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients, ingestion or inhalation of the vapor may cause headaches, flushing, dizziness, mental depression, nausea, vomiting, narcosis, anesthesia, and coma. The fatal ingested dose is one ounce.

DEA (dienthanolamine), MEA (monoethanolamine), & TEA (methanolamine):
    DEA & MEA are usually listed on the label in conjunction with the compound being neutralized, so look for names like Cocamide DEA or MEA, Lauramide DEA, and so on. These are hormone-disrupting chemicals known to form cancer-causing nitrates and nitrosamines. They are almost always in products that foam, including bubble baths, body washes, shampoos, soaps, and facial cleansers. On the show "CBS This Morning," Roberta Baskin revealed that a recent government report shows these are really absorbed into the skin. Dr. Samuel Epstein, professor of environmental health at the University of Illinois, said, "Repeated skin applications...of DEA-based detergents resulted in a major increase in the incidence of two cancers-liver and kidney cancers." John Bailey, head of the cosmetic division for the FDA, says that the new study is especially important since "the risk equation changes significantly for children." tests at the University of Bologna in Italy found TEA to be the most frequent sensitizer used in cosmetics, gels, shampoos, creams, lotion, etc.

FD&C Color Pigments:
    According to A Consumer's Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients, "...many (pigments) cause skin sensitivity and irritation...and absorption (of certain colors) can cause depletion of oxygen in the body and death." In Home Safe Home, author Debra Lynn Dadd says that "colors can be used in foods, drugs, and cosmetics...are made from coal tar. There is a great deal of controversy about their use, because animal studies have shown almost all of them to be carcinogenic."

    Most deodorants, shampoos, sunscreens, skin care, body care and baby products contain fragrance. Many of the compounds in fragrances are carcinogenic or otherwise toxic. "Fragrance on a label can indicate the presence of up to 4,000 separate ingredients. most of all of them are synthetic. Symptoms reported to the FDA have included headaches, dizziness, rashes, skin discoloration, violent coughing and vomiting, and allergic skin irritation. Clinical observation by medical doctors has shown that exposure to fragrances can affect the central nervous system, causing depression, hyperactivity, irritability, inability to cope, and other behavioral changes." (Home Safe Home, Debra Lynn Ladd)

Mineral Oil:
    Used in many personal-care products (baby oil is 100% mineral oil), this ingredient actually coats the skin just like a plastic wrap, disrupting the skin's natural immune barrier and inhibiting its ability to breathe and absorb the Natural Moisture Factor (moisture and nutrition). As the body's largest organ of elimination, it is vital that the skin be free to release toxins. But the mineral oil impedes this process, allowing toxins to accumulate, which can promote acne and other disorders. It also slows down skin function and normal cell development, resulting in premature aging of the skin.

Polyethelene glycol (PEG):
    This is used in cleansers to dissolve oil and grease as well as thicken products. A number after "PEG" refers to its molecular weight, which influences its characteristics. Because of of their effectiveness, PEGs are often used in caustic spray-on oven cleaners, yet are also found in many personal care products. Not only are they potentially carcinogenic, but they contribute to stripping the skin's Natural Moisture Factor, leaving the immune system vulnerable.

Propylene Glycol (PG):
    As a "surfactant" or wetting agent and solvent, PG is actually the active component in antifreeze. There is no difference between what's used in industry and what's used in personal care products. Industry uses it to break down protein and cellular structures (what the skin is made of), yet is found in most forms of make-up, hair products, lotions, after-shave, deodorants, mouthwashes, toothpaste, and is even used in food processing. Because of its ability to quickly penetrate the skin, the EPA requires workers to wear protective gloves, clothing, and goggles when working with this toxic substance. PG's Material Safety Data Sheets warn against skin contact because PG has systemic consequences such as a brain, liver, and kidney abnormalities. But there isn't even a warning label on products such as stick deodorant, where the concentration is greater than most industrial applications.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) or Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES):
    Used as detergents and surfactants, these closely related compounds are found in car wash soaps, garage floor cleaners and engine degreasers, yet are even more widely used as major ingredients in cosmetics, toothpaste, hair conditioners, and about 90% of all shampoos and products that foam. In the article "Dangerous Beauty," Mark Fearer shares that, "In tests, animals that were exposed to SLS experienced eye damage, along with depression, labored breathing, diarrhea, severe skin irritation and corrosion, and even death...according to the American College of Toxicology." Children's eyes are also at risk: "Studies indicate SLS kept young eyes from developing properly by possibly denaturing (dissolving) the proteins and not allowing for proper structural formation. This damage was permanent." Still other research has indicated SLS may be damaging to the immune system, especially within the skin. "Skin layers may separate and inflame due to its protein-denaturing properties." One of the most dangerous of all ingredients in personal care products, research shows that "SLS when combined with other chemicals can be transformed into nitrosamines, a potent class of carcinogens that cause the body to absorb nitrates at higher levels than eating nitrate-contaminate food." According to the American College of Toxicology report, SLS stays in the body for up to five days. Other studies show that SLS easily penetrates the skin and enters and maintains residual levels in the heart, liver, the lungs, and the brain. This poses questions of its being a serious potential health threat through its use in shampoos, cleansers, and toothpaste.

Urea (imidazolidinyl) & DMDM Hydantoin:
    These are just two of the many preservatives that release formaldehyde (called "formaldehyde donors"). According to the AMyo Clinic, formaldehyde can irritate the respiratory system, cause skin reactions and trigger heart palpitations. Exposure to formaldehyde may cause joint pain, allergies, depression, headaches, chest pains, ear infections, chronic fatigue, dizziness, and loss of sleep. It can also aggravate coughs and colds and trigger asthma. Other possible side effects include weakening the Immune system and cancer. Formaldehyde-releasing ingredients are very common in nearly all store brands of skin, body and hair care, antiperspirants, and nail polish. A more complete list of products that contain formaldehyde can be found in the book by Doris J. Rapp, MD, titled, is This Your Child's World?

Special Note on Chlorine:
    Although chlorine isn't in personal care products, most such products do not protect against chlorine's damaging effects. Exposure to chlorine in tap water, showers, pools, laundry products, cleaning agents, food processing, and sewage systems can contribute to asthma, hay fever, anemia, bronchitis, circulatory collapse, confusion, delirium, diabetes, dizziness, irritation of the eyes, mouth nose, throat, lung, skin and stomach, heart disease, high blood pressure, and nausea. It is also a possible cause of cancer.

    This is the latest rage in the arsenal of antibacterial chemicals, included in detergents, dish washing fluids, soaps, deodorants, cosmetics, lotions, creams, and even toothpaste. In 1998, American snatched up $540 million of these products, without proof that they even do what they claim.
    But is Triclosan safe? The EPA registers it as a pesticide, giving it high scores as a risk to both human health and the environment, and the USP recently proposed a new monograph for the specific testing of tricolsan. It is chlorinated aromatic, similar in molecular structure and chemical formulation to some of the most toxic chemicals on earth: dioxins, PCBs and Agent orange. Its manufacturing process may produce dioxin, a powerful hormone-disrupting chemical with toxic effects in the parts per trillion: one drop in 300 Olympic-size swimming pools. Hormone disrupters pose enormous long-term chronic health risks because they interfere with the way hormones perform, such as changing genetic material or fostering birth defects.
Triclosan is a chlorophenol, a class of chemicals suspected of causing cancer in humans. Externally, it causes skin irritations, but since...phenol can temporarily deactivate the sensory nerve with it often causes little or no pain. Internally, it can lead to cold sweats, circulatory collapse, convulsions, coma, and death. Stored in the body fat, it can accumulate to toxic levels, damaging the liver, kidneys, and lungs, and can cause paralysis, sterility, suppression of immune function, brain hemorrhages, decreased fertility and sexual dysfunction, heart problems, and coma.
    All these chemicals are persistent organic pollutants (POPs). They are chlorinated, persist in the environment, and accumulate to higher concentrations with each step up the food chain...Once absorbed into the body fat, it is almost impossible to eliminate POPs. Employing a strong antibiotic agent such as tirclosan for everyday use is of questionable value as it takes a shotgun approach to killing microscopic organisms while destroying the beneficial bacteria in the environment and in our bodies. These so-called friendly bacteria cause no harm and often produce beneficial effects such as aiding metabolism and inhibiting the invasion of harmful pathogens.
    Boston-based microbiologist Laura Mc Murray and colleagues at the Tufts University School of Medicine say that "triclosan is capable of forcing the emergence of 'superbugs' that it cannot kill. And experiments have shown that it may not be the all-out germ killer scientists thought it was...Using triclosan daily in the home - in products ranging from children's soaps to toothpaste to 'germ-free' cutting boards - may be unwise. Public Health Officials have blamed the indiscriminate prescription of antibiotics by doctors for the spread of drug-resistant bacteria. The Tufts study suggests the recent widespread sue of antibacterial agents in everyday products might have similar results. A safe, non-toxic alternative that has many applications is Grapefruit Seed Extract.

(this information was excerpted from the writings of Linda Chae, expert on chemicals in beauty products)