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Hidden Dangers Lurking In Your Cosmetics And Personal Care Products

by Klaus Ferlow(more info)

listed in environmental, originally published in issue 168 - March 2010

Are you aware that the cosmetics industry in North America is big business with 50-60 billion in sales each year? Their products are sold mostly with 'brainwashing' typical North American advertising 'as seen on TV' in the multimedia, television, radio, magazines, newspapers and now more and more on the internet. Lots of claims are made about how good the products are at rejuvenating the skin by reducing wrinkles, lines and working anti-aging etc. But do you really know what the ingredients are in these products? Even if listed on the product label, do you understand for example what sodium lauryl sulphate, propylene glycol, methyl, propyl parabens, triethanolamine (TEA) and mineral oil mean and how it effects your skin and body?

Medicine Cabinet

Over the past half century, tens of thousands of new chemicals have come into use – in industry, in the workplace, in our homes. They have revolutionized industrial processes and changed the way how we live. But many of those chemicals (it is estimated that approx. 1000 new chemicals are quietly introduced to the marketplace every year), have also brought with them a variety of toxic effects to human health and the environment. Some have been shown to be carcinogens, substances that can cause cancer. Some have been shown to have toxic effects on reproduction, in humans and animals. Others may be endocrine disrupters, chemicals that effect the hormone producing organs of the body.

US researchers report that one in eight of the 82.000 ingredients used in personal care products are industrial chemicals inclusive carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins, and hormone disruptor's. Many products include plasticizers (chemicals that keep concrete soft), decreases (used to grime off auto parts) and surfactants (they reduce the tension in water, like in paint and inks). Imagine what that does to your skin and the environment.

In 1965, the UN's World Health Organization established the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to study causes and prevention of cancer around the world. In its 43 years of existence, they established an authoritative list of carcinogens, based on the findings of worldwide research. Sine then, new agencies, such as the US National Toxicology Program and California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment have also developed lists of toxic chemicals. Canada does not yet have its own list, although some substances have been declared toxic to health and the environment under the provisions of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA). Those lists are a powerful tool that we can use to identify potentially toxic chemicals and then eliminate or at least reduce our exposure to them.

The 'flowery' and often misleading language of cosmetics advertising tells you very little about the actual effectiveness. After years of waiting, consumers in Canada finally have mandatory ingredient labelling on cosmetic products as a result of new Health Canada regulations that became fully effective in November 2006. Most products, including lipsticks, shampoos, makeup, hair colouring and fragrances will be covered, although the regulations will not include products such as toothpaste and sunscreens which are considered drug products. Nor will it include natural health products. What Canadians don't have – unlike residents in California and those in the European Union – is hazard labelling on personal care products. Hazard labelling requires manufacturers to identify any carcinogens, reproductive toxins, or endocrine disrupters in their products with a readily identifiable symbol. Many groups in Canada, including LEAS (Labour Environmental Alliance Society, Vancouver, BC), are calling for hazard labelling of personal care and household products, and recent polls have shown Canadians want it to help them in making informed product choices. They published in 2004 their first edition of the CancerSmart Consumer Guide which changed the world of cancer prevention and showed the link between environmental and occupational chemicals. Cancer was not readily accepted by the media or even the country's cancer agencies. Today, research is shedding new light on the chemical-cancer link every day. Media stories that identify toxic chemicals as a critically important part of our understanding of cancer are commonplace.

Much of the change has come following CBC journalist Wendy Mesley's documentary Chasing the Cancer Answer. The television show – which featured the CancerSmart Guide included an interview with Mae Burrows, the Executive Director, was first aired in March 2006 and has been re-run several times, each time drawing thousands of comments from viewers. Many of them have underlined the key importance of cancer prevention, and the close link that exists between our own health and the environment.

Health Canada does maintain a 'Cosmetic Hotlist' specifying ingredients that are not permitted in cosmetics or are subject to certain restrictions. But the list does not have the same authority as legislated regulations and several ingredients that are banned from use in cosmetics in Europe, dibutyl phthalate, for example, are not on the hotlist. Consumers will need to look closely at the product packaging and read the labels to see some of the ingredients to avoid! In USA the law provides mandatory labelling of ingredients, but only chemists understand their purpose and dermatologists their problems. It seems that a large percentage of the population is suffering adverse consequences when using products containing many harmful chemicals and synthetic ingredients.

Toxin or Toxicant?

Information about toxic chemicals will sometime refer to 'toxins' and sometime to 'toxicants', making it confusing for the average consumer.

The term generally used by scientists to describe a toxic chemical is 'toxicant'. However, for many years, environmental groups have referred to toxic chemicals as toxins and the term has been generally accepted in popular language with that meaning. For that reason I am using 'toxin' rather than 'toxicant'.

The purpose of this article is to offer alternative methods of caring for body, your skin and hair since we are actively involved in the manufacturing/distributing of truly natural organic toxin-free medicinal herbal and personal care products using premium quality plant derived botanical extracts which are certified organic, organic or wild crafted without a trace of synthetics, artificial colour, scents or preservatives and none of our products are tested on animals! They are only available through professional health and wellness practitioners in traditional medicine and selected stores with holistic practitioners on staff in Canada and parts of USA

I would like to inform you of the various dangerous, hazardous chemicals by name, where they come from, and what they can do to your skin and body. Be aware that there are over 1000 chemicals available for us in cosmetics and herbal products that have toxic substances and are harmful to your health and well-being. Source: The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.

Large Corporations in the cosmetic and personal care industry are interested in the promotion and profit potential of their products so they can please their shareholders, not your health! They are selling an image, not necessarily a safe and effective product. You have to ask yourself what 'new and improved' really means on the package and label. Aren't you overwhelmed by all the claims made promoting their natural skincare products? Many of the so-called new improved products are old formulas in flashy new packaging designed to appeal to today's consumer. All it does is up the price, not the quality.

Companies selling cosmetics and personal care products hide controversial or dangerous ingredients under the label of 'trade secrets'. Because of intense competition in the industry, if a company believes it uses an ingredient that is relatively new to the industry or make their products unique, it can petition the FDA (in Canada it is Health Canada) to prevent disclosure of that ingredient by granting trade secret's that easy! This spells delight for the company and disaster for you!

More and more educated people are very health and beauty conscious and are willing to spend large amounts of money on cosmetics promising firming of sagging skin, removing wrinkles, nourishing the starving skin and or removing blemishes. Brand name cosmetics companies have developed a large profitable industry selling products that imply these, and other non-existing and impossible virtues and cures. Most cosmetic products on the market are formulated for a shelf life of over three years; therefore they contain a large amounts – usually four synthetic parabens – of preservatives to prevent spoilage. These preservatives are cellular toxins, otherwise they could not kill microbes. They penetrate the skin to a certain extent and many of them have been shown to cause allergic reactions and dermatitis. Over 80% of all ingredients in commercially available cosmetic products are of synthetic origin with all the associated health risks. On the other hand, there is a wealth of information and practical knowledge available about natural safe herbal products because they have been used for thousands of years, starting with aboriginal natives people, Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine.

In North America literally thousands of people are suffering from adverse effects when using cosmetic products. Most people don't associate burning sensations, reddening of the skin or pimples, rashes with a cosmetic product they are using. People simply discontinue using the product but seldom report it to the FDA or Health Canada. Many chemicals used in cosmetics never cause signs of toxicity on the skin, but contain potent systemic toxins.

Finally a list of cosmetic chemicals that have caused adverse effects was first published for the general public in the book Health risks in today's cosmetics. The book contains the surprising results of a recently conducted sample survey of the estimated 25.000 different off-the-shelf cosmetic products for sale in the US; over 80% of the products surveyed contained one or more ingredients that have caused documented adverse reactions in humans and animals in the past. In a survey carried out by the US Food and Drug Administration, nearly one-quarter of the people questioned said they had suffered an allergic reaction to personal care products. Have you ever suffered from skin irritation or considered whether it might have been caused by your cosmetics or toiletries? Have you ever looked at the daunting list of ingredients they contain and wondered what on earth they were? Attractive packaging makes products look harmless and we usually presume " would not be sold if it was not safe!" Or would it...? Best advice: carefully read the ingredient label of all products, comparing them against a list of reportedly harmful ingredients or contaminants. Only if enough consumers do just that, will unsafe products that contain harmful substances eventually disappear from the marketplace. And remember: consumers have power!

How often have you seen the words 'natural' or 'hypo-allergenic' on the front of a skincare product? From the Greek prefix 'hypo' means below normal or slightly causes fewer, allergic reaction inclusive skin irritation. Cosmetic companies use slick advertising to convince you that you are buying a safe product. There are no industry wide standards for what the word 'natural' refers to. Every week some cosmetic companies introduce new "'breakthrough' new products – what about the 'old' ones? – which are supposed to be better, more effective, healthier but are they really? A quote from the Boston Globe, September 1997: "The General Accounting Office, the investigative branch of Congress, has identified more than 125 cosmetic ingredients suspected of causing cancer and others that may cause birth defects.!"

What can you do to protect yourself and your family?

Read all labels and learn to decipher some of the chemical jargon. An explanation of many chemicals that are hazardous and dangerous to your skin and health follows in this article. Understanding the long-term effects of these chemicals and which products contain them is the first step in avoiding disastrous results for you and your loved ones. If nothing else, this information will make you a more informed consumer, one aware of the potential risks. Most could save your life!

Keep Out Of Reach Of Children

Many toothpaste and soap manufacturers include this warning on their labels, "Not for use by children under 6 years." What you may not realize is the dangers in your home are just likely to harm your children as anything outside. Products that your children are using every day may contain ingredients that studies have linked to cancer, blindness, and even death. On of the most widespread of these chemicals is Sodium Laufyl Sulphate (SLS). Manufacturers primarily use it because it is inexpensive and readily available. Some products containing SLS are: shampoo, soap, toothpaste, lotions. You are probably aware that your children's toothpaste may contain fluoride because that is what dentist have recommended for years to prevent cavities. However, most toothpaste contain enough fluoride in four ounces of toothpaste that could kill a small child since they tend to swallow the toothpaste. In 1990 a study stated, in the meantime many more studies showed the danger of fluoride (check on the website), that fluoride has been shown not to reduce cavities, and now scientists are linking fluoride to dental deformity, arthritis, allergic reactions and about 10,000 unnecessary deaths each year from cancer. Fluoride can corrode the teeth enamel and research indicates that it can lead to Crohn's disease when swallowing toothpaste.

In the same category is mouthwash. Did you know that some mouthwash contains even higher concentrations of alcohol than beer, wine and liquor? Containing more than 25% alcohol can be dangerous to your children. One ounce can cause seizures and brain damage and five ounces can kill! According to the National Cancer Institute, mouthwash with over 25% alcohol concentration increases the risk of oral and throat cancer by 60% for men and 90% for women than those who do not use mouthwash.

Another dangerous product is propylene glycol, an ingredient commonly used as a humectant (additive to keep products moist for a long time). It is an inexpensive glycerine substitute. Propylene glycol is bad enough for your skin but has is also been used in commercially baked good such as cakes and muffins. Consumers be aware!

Some women experience rashes, eczema, and or acne from using cosmetics loaded with synthetic ingredients. Occasionally they are using the same irritating product to try to alleviate the problem, but are actually making it worse. When young women start using makeup, some really overdo it, and the synthetics in the products are absorbed into their skin. This dries the skin and changes also the pH level (pH level refers to the acid or alkaline level of a product which is determined by the amount of hydrogen in various ingredients). Normal hair and skin have a ph between 4.0 and 6.0 – slightly acidic. Synthetic cosmetic products will change the pH, enabling secondary infections to occur. Acne is a widespread problem and results from an increased production of sebum, oils of the skin, which blocks pores. Those suffering form acne need to keep their skin clean and use only natural products that are made from certified organic, organic or wild crafted herbal extracts and other botanical plant derived ingredients. Of course, some of us are more prone to acne inherited from previous generations. Open, unclogged pores and a balanced nutritional diet can help considerably. Certain synthetic preservatives, artificial fragrances, colours and light mineral oils can cause itchy rashes, skin damage and asthma like symptoms. The origin of a significant portion of dermatological complaints can be traced back to a chemical or non-natural substance applied to the skin.

Shampoo Can Make Or Break Your Hair

Everyone uses hair shampoo on anywhere from a weekly to a daily basis. Complaints from shampoo are among the most frequent made to the FDA, Health Canada and to manufacturers. People often complain about various brands of shampoo that have caused different conditions such as scalp irritation, drying of the scalp, itchiness, hair loss, severe hair damage and eye irritation. The vast majority of commercially available shampoo are loaded with chemicals that are hazardous to your scalp and body. Have you ever wondered why we have a higher percentage of brain tumours among the North American population than elsewhere in the world? Scientific studies have shown that the SLS = Sodium Lauryl Sulphate and Sodium Laureth Sulphate found in most shampoos damages protein formation in the eyes. After damage has been done, SLS even retards the healing process. Kenneth Gree PhD DSc of the Medical College of Georgia warns that eyes affected by SLS take five times as long to heal. SLS can lead to cataract formation and eventually to blindness, not only from direct eye contact, but through skin absorption over the long-term. Many varieties of shampoo are designed to treat dandruff and flaky scalp conditions, but these mostly contain coal tar. You won't find it on the label, however. It is listed as FD&C or D&C colour. Our youngest son worked at one time as a professional hair stylist and when dying the hair of customers he had to use long rubber gloves to protect his skin from the harsh and hazardous chemicals.

Shampoo sales are in North America between 4 and 5 billion dollars each year. There are many manufacturers offering an incredible assortment of products. Recently I checked some of the large chain and drug stores and was amazed that approx. 60-70% of the shampoos and conditioners had no ingredients listing. It showed artificial colours in dark green, red, blue, orange etc. It seems that most of these products without proper labelling came for the US. The remaining shampoos did have ingredients listed but many of them were synthetics and chemicals.

However, there are alternatives available without any of the harsh dangerous and hazardous chemicals, you just have to make the effort to find them. Here you can find an article on 67 Chemicals & Synthetics To Avoid In Cosmetics & Personal Care Products.  


(A list of the most harmful chemicals to your health are listed here from the over 10,000 toxic chemicals - one in eight of the 82.000 ingredients to be found in cosmetics and personal care products)

1.AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid): the skin is exfoliated chemically instead of mechanically via abrasion, dries and increases skin aging. Supposed to be anti-wrinkle, found in many skin and hair care products. Used as solvent originally in cleaning compounds and  for tanning leather. A smooth finish is developed by stripping the outer layer of the skin, irritated skin can puff up.

2.Acetamide MEA: used in lipsticks and cream blusher to retain moisture, causes adverse reactions, carcinogenic, mutagenic, toxic.

3.Acetone: on EPA, RCRA, CERCLA hazardous waste list. Inhalation can cause dryness of the mouth and throats, dizziness, nausea, in coordination, slurred speech, drowsiness, and, in severe exposures, coma. Acts primarily as a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. You will find it in cologne, dishwashing liquid, detergent, nail enamel remover.

4.Alkyl-phenol-ethoxylades: mimics estrogen, used in shampoo, carcinogenic, mutagenic, toxic. Causes adverse reactions. Reduces sperm count.

5.Ammonium laureth sulphate: found in hair and bubble bath products. Laureth contains ether that is listed as carcinogenic, mutagenic, toxic and causes adverse reactions.

6.Aluminum: used as colour additive in cosmetics, especially eye shadow. Listed as carcinogenic, toxic and mutagenic.

7.a-Pinene: sensitizer, damaging to the immune system, in bar and liquid hand soaps, cologne, shaving cream, deodorants. Dishwashing liquid, air freshener.

8.a-Terpineol: highly irritating to mucous membranes, aspiration into the lungs can produce pneumonitis or even fatal edema., also can cause excitement, ataxia (loss of muscular coordination), hypothermia, CNS respiratory depression, headache, prevent repeated or prolonged skin contact, found in perfume, cologne, laundry detergent, bleach powder, laundry bleach, fabric softener, stickup air freshener, Vaseline lotion, soap, hairspray, after shave, roll-on deodorant.

9.Bentonite: used in fascial mask, makeup, face powder. Supposed to draw out toxins and claimed to be non-toxic, but rats died when injected with it.

10.     Benzaldehyde: narcotic, sensitizer, local anesthetic, CNS depressant, irritation to the mouth, throat, eyes, skin, lungs, an GI tract, causing nausea and abdominal pain, may cause kidney damage, do not use with contact lenses. Found in perfume, cologne, hairspray, laundry bleach, deodorants, detergents, Vaseline lotion, shaving cream, shampoo, bar soap, dishwasher detergent.

11.     Benzene: found combined with other chemicals in many personal care products and is known a bone-marrow poison, carcinogenic, mutagenic, toxic and causes adverse reactions.

12.     Benzyl acetate: carcinogenic, linked to pancreatic cancer, from vapours irritating to eyes and respiratory passages, exciting cough, can be absorbed through the skin causing systemic effects, do not flush to sewer, used in perfume, cologne, shampoo, fabric softener, stickup air freshener, dishwashing liquid and detergent, soap, hairspray, bleach, after shave, deodorant.

13.     Benzyl alcohol: irritating the upper respiratory tract, headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, drop in blood pressure, CNS depression, and death in severe cases due to respiratory failure. Used in perfume, cologne, soap, shampoo, nail enamel remover, air freshener, laundry bleach and detergent, Vaseline lotion, deodorants, fabric softener.

14.     Benzyl violet: used as a colouring in various products, including nail treatment, it is a possible human carcinogen, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC, Group 2B), on US and European labels, it is frequently listed as violet 2 or violet 6B.

15.     BHA and BHT (butylated hydroxyamisole) and (butylated hdroxytolune), are closely related to synthetic antioxidants used as preservatives in lipsticks and moisturizers, and other cometics. They are wildely used as food preservatives too, cancause allergic reactions in skin,the International Agency of  Research on cancer classifies BHA as a possible human carcinogen. The European Commission of Endocrine Disruptors has lisstedBHA asa category1 priorityl substance based on evidence that it interferes with hormone function. BHT is harmful to fish and wildlife.

16.     Camphor: local irritant and CNS stimulant, readily absorbed through body tissues, irritation of eyes, nose and throat, dizziness, confusion, nausea, twitching muscles and convulsions, avoid inhalation of vapours, found in perfume, shaving cream, nail enamel, fabric softener, dishwasher detergent, nail color, stickup air freshener.

16.a Coal Tar derivatives: many kinds of shampoo designed to treat dandruff and flaky scalp  contain it. Disguised with names such as FD, FDC or DF&C colour. It causes potentially severe allergic reactions, asthma attacks, fatigue, nervousness, headaches, nausea, lack of concentration, cancer, carcinogen, cough, redness of skin, burning sensation, can irritate nose, throat, hoarseness, nosebleeds, coughing, phlegm, changes in skin pigment and a rash. A 2001 California study published in the International Journal of Cancer found that women who used to permanent hair dyes once a month were twice likely to develop bladder cancer! There are many factors involved with hair colouring. Studies in the U.S. have suggested that the chemical reaction created by hair colouring products may be having a carcinogenic effect and have also associated hair colourings with an increased risk of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Try to avoid dark hair dyes entirely and choose products made with natural ingredients instead. Banned in EU cosmetics!

17.     Cocamide DEA: (also listed as Cocamide diethanolamine, triethanolamine, monoethanolamine, cocamide DEA), emulsifiers and foamers in  range of products inclusive shalmpoos, face and body washes, make-up nitrosamines can form in all cosmetic ingredients containing amines, nitrosamines and amino derivatives with nitrogen compounds, are known to be carcinogen causing allergic reactions and contact dermatitis. When DEA is applied to the skin known carcinogens can form, mostly found in shampoo. The National Toxicology Program in the U.S. published in 1998 a study that topical skin application of cocamide DEA created in mice and rats liver tumours. 

18.     Cocomidopropyl Betaine: used in shampoo in combination with other surfactants, synthetic, causes eyelid dermatitis.

19.     Carboner 9ds34, 940, 941, 960, 961C: as thickener, stabilizer in creams, toothpaste, eye makeup, bathing products, may cause eye irritation

20.     DEA (Diethanolamine): a synthetic solvent, detergent and humectant (moisturizer) widely used in brake fluid, industrial degreaser and antifreeze. Mostly used in liquid soap, shampoo and conditioner. Can be harmful for the liver, kidneys and pancreas. May cause cancer in various organs, irritates skin, eyes, mucous membranes. Found also in hair dye, lotions, cream, bubble bath, liquid dishwashing detergent and laundry soap. Creates health risk especially to infants and young children. Forms nitrosamines known to be carcinogens. Causes allergic reactions and contact dermatitis, hazardous and toxic.

21.     Dibutyl phthalate: used in nail polish in combination with toluene and formaldehyde, a colourless, oily liquid with a week aromatic odour, irritation of eyes, nose throat, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, may cause nausea, tearing of eyes, vomiting, dizziness, long term exposure may cause liver and kidney damage, my harm the development of foetus and male testes, may cause mutations, reproductive damage, headache, drowsiness, seizures, affect nervous system, harm to the unborn child, possible risk of impaired fertility, dangerous for the environment, banned in EU cosmetics, used in epoxy resins, insect repellent, clothing and a solvent for perfumes, oils and textiles.

22.     Dimethylamine: known to cause cancer, can irritate and cause severe burns of the skin, irritate and burn the eyes with possible permanent  damage, even causing blindness, prolonged exposure may damage the liver, can affect you when breathed in and by passing through the skin, cough, headache, sore throat, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, slurred speech, irritable mood, used in de-hairing, detergents and pesticides, used in leather tanning and pharmaceutical products, banned in EU cosmetics.

23.     Dioform: many toothpastes and other tooth whiteners contain it, damages your teeth enamel and weakening their protective shell

24.     Dioxane: also called 1,4 Dioxane, a flammable liquid, may form explosive chemicals, especially when anhydrous (very dry), enters the body when people breathe air or consume water or food contaminated with dioxane., can also be absorbed through skin contact, causes watering of the eyes, redness of skin and eyes, pain, headaches, nausea, cough, sore throat, abdominal pain, dizziness, drowsiness, vomiting, unconsciousness. Is used in facial moisturizer/treatment, shampoo and a variety of cosmetics.

25.     Disodium EDTA: may contain dangerous levels of ethylene oxide and or dixane, both potent toxins, a manufacturing by- product, also used as chelating agent, carcinogenic.

26.     Hydantoin DMDM: causes dermatitis, acts as a preservative and may release formaldehyde and is suspected carcinogen. Rats develop cancer when injected with is chemical.

27.     Elastin: supposedly improves the elasticity of the skin when applied topically, but there is no proof it’s true.

28.     Ethanol: On EPA hazardous waste list, creates fatigue, irritating to eyes and upper respiratory tract even in low concentrations. Inhalation of ethanol vapours can have effects similar to those characteristic of ingestion. These include an initial stimulatory effect followed by drowsiness impaired vision, ataxia, stupor, causes CNS disorder, found in bar and liquid hand soap, cologne, perfume, shaving cream, deodorants, dishwashing liquid, air freshener.

29.     Ethyl acetate: narcotic, on EPA hazardous waste list, irritating to the eyes and respiratory tract, may cause headache and narcosis (stupor), de-fatting effect on skin and may cause drying and cracking, anemia with leukocytosis and damage to liver and kidneys, wash thoroughly after handling, found in after shave, cologne, perfume, shampoo, nail color ,nail enamel remover, fabric softener, dishwashing liquid.

30.     Ethylacrylate: acrylates and methacylates are monomers that are combined with other monomers or polymers to produce plastics us in cosmetics, medicine, dentistry and manufacturing industries. When inhaled causes cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, redness of eyes and skin, pain, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, skin allergy, liver and kidney damage, severe irritations and burns of the eyes and skin, respiratory system, sensitization by skin contact and is a flammable and reactive liquid, a fire and explosion hazard, banned in EU cosmetics.

31.     FDC-n (FD&C): various artificial different colours and some are simply irritants while others are strong carcinogens.

32.     Fluoride: hazardous chemical, researchers linked it to cancer years ago, but no one was listening. Fluoridated toothpaste is especially dangerous to young children who tend to swallow it since it is tasty after brushing their teeth. Supposed to stop tooth decay, however, it seems just to do the opposite and Scientists are now linking fluoride to dental deformity, arthritis, allergic reactions, can lead also to Crohn’s disease, a manufacturing toxic by-product.

33.     Formaldehyde: due to its bad reputation it is sometimes hidden under the name DMDM hydantoin , methanol, formic aldehyde, methyl aldehyde, oxomethane, oxymethane, DMDM hydanhydantoint , diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, trade name is formalin.  Immune system toxicant used as a preservative, especially in nail products, hair colourant, false eyelash adhesives, amony others.Released by diazolidinyl urea, causes dermatitis, adverse effects, is very toxic when inhaled or swallowed, skin irritant, a suspected carcinogen and linked to cancer, burning sensation, cough, headache, nausea, shortness of breath, watering eyes, blurred vision, corrosive, should be handled with extreme caution, can irritate nose, throat and mouth, is a highly flammable gas and a dangerous fire hazard, should be handled with extreme caution.

34.     Fragrance/parfum (also called perfume), “hidden chemicals” linked to a large variety of health effects, including allergies, immune system toxicity, headaches, dizziness, and suspected carcinogenic activities

35.     g-Terpinene: causes asthma and CNS disorders, found in cologne, perfume, soap, shaving cream, deodorant, air fresheners

36.     Hydroquinone: used in skin lightening creams, increases skin’s exposure to UVA/UNB, and linked to organ toxicity, developmental tocicity, immunotoxicity, and neurotoxicity.

35.     Imidazolidinyl Urea: skin sensitizer, can instigate immune system response that include itching, burning, scaling, hives, blisters of skin, severe respiratory reaction, gastrointestinal or liver toxicity hazards suspected, used in a huge variety of cosmetics and personal care products

36.     Lauramide DEA: potentially contaminated with impurities, linked to cancer and other significant health problems, used in many cosmetics, shampoo, hair color, spray and bleaching, liquid hand soap, bubble bath shaving cream, bath oil etc.

37.     Lead (also called lead acetate):  often not listed on labels, a contaminant in many lipsticks even well known brand names  and hair dyes, , evidence of carcinogenic effect, may cause kidney and brain damage, damage to the blood cells causing anemia, cough, sore throat, redness of eyes and skin, causes pain, abdominal cramps, constipation, convulsion, nausea, vomiting, carcinogen, and hormone disrupter, , in 2005 Health Canada did act against this hair ingredient, found in men’s hair colouring, Grecian formula 16, by placing it on the “cosmetic hot list.”

38.     Limonene: carcinogenic, prevent its contact with skin or eyes because it is an irritant and sensitizer, always wash thoroughly after using this material before eating, drinking, applying cosmetics, do not inhale limonene vapour. Found in perfume, cologne,  disinfectant spray, bar soap, shaving cream, deodorants, nail color ands remover, fabric softener, dishwashing liquid, air fresheners, after shave, bleach, paint and varnish remover.

39.     Linalool: narcotic, respiratory disturbances, attracts bees, causes CNS disorder, toxic to animals, used in perfume, cologne, bar soap, shampoo, hand lotion, nail enamel remover, hairspray, laundry detergent, dishwashing liquid, Vaseline lotion, air fresheners, bleach powder, fabric softener, shaving cream, after shave, sold deodorant.

40.     Mercury: best known name in vaccines is thimerosal, also called mercuric oxide, phenyl mercury acetate, phenyl mercuric benzoate, mercurochrome, found in eye drops can effect you when breathed in and by passing through your skin, irritate skin and eyes, may cause allergy, neurological impairment, negatively affects brain development, cough, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, shortness of breath, vomiting, fever or elevated body temperature. Used in mascara, eye liners, dental amalgam fillings, skin-lightening cream, nasal sprays, soaps, haemorrhoid treatments, antiseptics and as preservative in eye make up. Mercury fumes can collect inside a jar of skin cream or a tube of mascara, and a person could inhale them when the container is opened. The State of Minnesota and many European countries have banned it due it harsh toxicity.

41.     Methylene chloride: Banned by the FDA in 1988! No enforcement possible due to trade secret laws protecting the chemical fragrance industry. On EPCERCLA hazard waste list, carcinogenic, absorbed in body fat, it metabolizes to carbon monoxide, reducing oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood, headache, giddiness, stupor, irritability, fatigue, tingling in the limbs, causes CNS disorder, still used in shampoo, cologne, paint and varnish remover.

42.     Mineral oil: also called petrolatum, cheap petroleum by-product , coats the skin like plastic, clogging up pores, interferes with skin’s ability to eliminate toxins, promoting acne, eczema, resulting in premature aging, can be absorbed through skin contact. Manufacturers use white petrolatum because it is very cheap, used in moisturizer, baby oil, foundations, lipstick, gloss and hair products, concealer, sunscreen, tanning oil, facial cleaners etc.

43.     Mono sodium glutamate (MSG): a neurotoxic (brain damage), endocrine disrupting substance found literally in thousands of products. For more details please read the book from John Erb “The Slow Poisoning of North America”, and also the websites:, and put into google “MSG Obese”.

44.     Nitrosamines: is mutagen and a number are transplacental carcinogen. They are metabolized the same in humans and animal tissues, it seems highly likely that humans are susceptible to the carcinogenic properties of nitrosamines. Used in thousand of consumer products such as fried bacon, cured meats, bee, tobacco products, gastric juices, rubber products, metal industry, pesticide products and use, certain cosmetics and chemicals, may cause cancer. More detailed information can be obtained from the article “Nitrasomines and Cancer” from Richard A. Scanlan, Ph.D., Dean of Research Emeritus and Professor of Food Science of the Linus Pauling Institute at the Oregon State University, Corvallis,

45.     Oxbenzone: also called benzophenone-3, benzol-5, 5-methoxyphenol, 2-hydroxy-4-methoxybenzophenone, methanone, solaquin, active ingredient in chemical sunscreens, linked to alleries, hormone disruption, cell damage, low birth weight.

45.     Parabens: trade names are benzyl, butyl, ethyl, isopropyl, methyl, propyl (alkyl-p-hydroxybenzoates) acting as preservatives in cosmetics and personal care products preventing bacteria, fungus and microbes, neuro- and immuinotoxins, skin irritants. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that parabensdisplayed estrogenic activity in several tests and can have endocrine-disrupting action. Dr. Philippa Darbre at the University of Reading, UK detected in a study in 2004 parabens in 18 0f 20 samples of tissues from breast tumour biopsies.  The women used underarm deodorant spray. More scientist issue warnings about parabens. Because of the possible link to breast cancer and reproductive effects in boys, parabens are also an issue in sunscreens, since many are applied by massaging them into the skin. An article about the “Truth about Parabens” will follow shortly!

46.     Para-phenylenediamene (also tetrathydro-6-nitroquinoxaline, PPD, p-diaminobenzene, p-phenylenediamine, p-aminolaniline, 1,4-benzenediamine, ): these are commonly found in hair colouring products (including products “Just for Men) and other hair products. Immune system and organ toxicant, allergen, linked to dermatitis, causes cancer in lab animals. Health Canada issues a warning August 2003 that PPD should not be used in “black henna” tattoo ink and paste since it is unsafe and should not be sold and used in cosmetics, creates allergy, red skin rashes, contact dermatitis, itching, blisters, open sores, scarring and other potentially harmful effects.

47.     PABA (Para Amino Benzoic Acid): can create nausea, skin rashes, vomiting and may cause liver damage, mainly used in commercial sunscreens.

48.     Phenylphenol: known carcinogen, can effect you when breathed in and may enter the body through the skin, possible eye damage, irritating eyes, respiratory system and skin, very toxic to aquatic organisms,  abdominal cramps and pain, cough, laboured breathing, dangerous for the environment, possible carcinogen, banned in Europe

49.     Phenoxyethanol: skin irritant, causes allergic reactions, used as preservative in vaccines.

50.     Phosphoric acid: a clear, odourless, colorless liquid that is irritating to the skin and eyes, moderately toxic if ingested, it is used in the production of soaps, detergents, fertilizer and animals food.

51.     Phthalates:  rarely listed on labels but hidden in fragrance, linked to liver, kidney, and lung damage, found in many plastics as well as cosmetics and personal care products. An endocrine-disrupting chemical, some of them are alsoxenoestrogens, but many work in a different way as “anti-androgens” that interfere with male hormones. Exposure to phthalates during pregnancy is linked to development defects in male children, but they may also play a role in breast cancer. Some have been shown to increase proliferation of breast cancer cells in lab experiments and to reduce the effectiveness of the anti-cancer drug tamoxifen.

52.     Petroleum distillates: extremely hazardous for humans, may cause cancer, lung damage if swallowed, many chemicals are petroleum based, for example 95% of all synthetic fragrances creating serious health problems.

53.     Placental extract, also known as placenta, placenta protein, hydrolyzed placental protein, used in skin and hair care products, line to endocrine

54.     Polysorbate-n(20-85): emulsifier in cosmetic creams, lotions, cream deodorant, baby oil, sun lotion, can cause sensitivity and skin irritation

55.     Polyquaternium: use in a variety of cosmetics such as hair care, moisturizing lotions, creates allergic contact dermatitis

56.     Potassium dichromate: a carcinogen, handle with extreme caution, can affect when breathed in, may cause skin allergy and affect the kidneys, heritable genetic damage, toxic for the reproductive system, pain, blurred vision, sore throat, wheezing, severe deep burns, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, shock or collapse, very toxic, banned in EU cosmetics

57.     Propylene glycol also known as PEG, also avoid  PG, and PPG, PEG possibly contaminated with 1,4-dioxane and ethylene glycol, both known carcinogens, one of the most chemicals used in cosmetics and personal care products, creams, lotions, shampoo, conditioners, moisturizers, cleansers, hair products, perfume, shaving cream, toothpaste, body spray, bath oil, bubble bath, mascara, antiperspirant, deodorant, lip gloss etc. and also used in antifreeze and de-icing, solutions for cars, boats, aircraft, solvents for paints, plastics, laundry detergent. Is a skin sensitizer, causes irritation of nasal and respiratory passages and if ingested can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, itching, burning, scaling, hives, blistering of the skin, alters skin structure, allows other chemicals to penetrate deeper into the skin, increasing the amounts of other chemicals that reach the bloodstream, contact dermatitis. Research has shown to be mutagenic and can cause cardiac arrest, degreases the skin. Japanese studies have shown that it can damage cell DNA (genetic code), toxic.

58.     Selenium Sulfide: used for dandruff and scalp dermatitis, may cause skin irritation, dry skin, hair loss, can irritate eyes on contact with possible eye damage, high exposure may cause headache, nausea, vomiting, garlic odour of breath, metallic taste, and coated tongue, known to cause cancer, may damage the liver and kidneys, prolonged exposure may cause pallor, nervousness and mood changes. Banned in EU cosmetics!

59.     Siloxanes: used in a variety of cosmetics to soften, smoothand moisten, suspected endocrine disruptor and reproduction toxicant, harmful to fish and wildlife. It is a silocone-based compound and makes hair products dry more quickly and deodorant cream slide on more easily, also used extensively in moisturizers and facial treatments, can also be found in medical implants, water repelling windshield coating, building sealant and lubricant.

60.     Silicone-derived emollients (cyclomethicone, dimethicone, dimethicone copolyol, used in products that make hair and skin tumors in lab tests, said to accumulate in liver and lymph  nodes.

61.     Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), other names are sodium dodecyl sulphate, sodium PEG lauryl sulphate, monododecyl ester, sodium PEG lauryl ether sulphate, makes products foamy, a sknown skin irritant that is easily absorbed, another chemical that you will find in as many cosmetics and personal care products as propylene glycol. The key ingredient to this foaming facial washer is a detergent that started as an industrial degreaseant and garage floor cleaner. When applied to the human skin it has the effect of stripping off the oil layer and is irritating and eroding the skin, leaving it rough and pitted. Is used as a lathering agent, corrodes hair follicle and impedes hair growth, penetrates your eyes, brain, liver and remains there for a long time. Degenerates cell membranes and can change the genetic information (mutagenic) in cells and damage the immune system. May cause blindness and lead to cataracts, retards the healing process. Enhances the allergic response to other toxins and allergens and can react with other toxic ingredients to form cancer-causing nitrosamines. The U.S. government has warned manufacturers of unacceptable levels of dioxin formation in some products containing this ingredient.

62.     Sodium laureth sulphate (SLES): chemical name sodium lauryl “ether” sulphate. An ether chain is added to SLS, used as premium agent in cleansers, conditioners and shampoo. It is very inexpensive, but thickens when salt is added in the formula and produces high level of foam. Also used as wetting agent in the textile industry. Irritates skin and scalp and creates itching, may cause hair loss.

63.     Sodium PCA (na-pca): PCA = pyrrolidone carboxylic acid, natural version is derived from fruits, grasses and vegetables, occurs naturally in skin, is binding moisture to cells, however the synthetic version causes throat irritation and lung constriction, irritation to eyes, neurological effects such as dizziness, classified in the EU harmful by inhalation.

64.     Sodium Cyanide: a highly toxic compound, also known as sodium slat of hydrodyamic and cyanogran. Immediate medical attention is required in the event of cyanide poisoning, as it is quickly fatal. Used in extracting gold, silver, copper, poison to control indoor pests, irritates and severely damages tissues of eyes, skin, respiratory tract and the gastrointestinal tract, inhalation causes headaches, dizziness, convulsion, vomiting, unconsciousness, redness of eyes and skin, severe deep burns and nausea.

65.     Sodium oleth sulphate: used in shampoo, liquid hand soap, makeup-remover, conditioner, body wash, cleansers, bubble bath, antibacterial skin cleanser, may contain levels of ethytlene oxide and or dioxane, both potent toxins.

66.     Styrene monomer: causes sensitization by skin contact, throat irritation and lung constriction, irritation of the eyes, dizziness.

67.     Talc: als called French talc, cosmetic talc, used as cosmetic talcum powder to absorb moisture in blush, make-up, deodorant, baby powder, an astringent powder used to preventing rashes on the area covered by a diaper (diaper rash) , food additive or in pharmaceutical products. Several studies have established preliminary links between talc and pulmonary issues, lung, skin and ovarian cancer and is a probable respiratory toxin, tumours in animals.

68.     Toluene: other names are toluene-2,5-diamine, toluene-2,5-diamine sulphate, methylbenzene, too, benzene, methl, also avoid butylated hydroxytoluene, possible  hormone disruptor nd known immune system toxicant, hidden sometines in fragrance, used as a solvent and chemical intermediate, when inhaled causes sore throat, dizziness, drowsiness, headache, nausea, unconsciousness, abdominal pain, skin allergy, irritating nose, mouth, repeated exposure may cause liver, kidney and brain damage, death may occur, possible risk of harm to unborn child, harmful, highly flammable, toxic.

69.     Triethanolamine (TEA):synthetic emulsifier, highly toxic, over 40% of cosmetics containing it, have been found to be contaminated with nitrosamines, which are potent carcinogens, harmful if swallowed, irritant corrosive and serious damage eyes, avoid skin and eye contact, used also a pH adjuster, avoid breathing vapours if generated.

70.     Triclosan: also called microban, is basically used as an antimicrobial to prevent growth of harmful bacteria, also called an anti-bacterial, virus and fungi in a huge variety of household good, personal care products (antibacterial soaps, liquid hand soaps, deodorants, toothpaste, processed food, clothing, dish soap, detergent, floor wash, counter and disinfecting spray, glass cleaner, mouthwash, laundry soap, lotion, moisturizers, children’s toys, cleaning supplies. Suspected carcinogen and endocrine disruptor. Other antimicrobials include antibiotics, anti-virals, anti-fungals, disinfectants and antiseptics. Studies in Sweden, Institute of Odontology, Huddingen, USA, Virginia Tech University, Blacksburg and Canada,  University of Victoria, B.C. have shown that triclosan may promote the emergence of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, creates allergy and asthma in children, can interfere with the thyroid hormones and is a health hazard to humans in general and wildlife. The American Medical Association suggest that consumers should check product ingredient lists for triclosan, tricocarban, quaternary ammonium compounds and it is sometimes listed as Microban.

Samuel S. Epstein, MD (with Randall Fitzgerald) , Professor of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the School of Public Health, University at Chicago, is an internationally recognized authority on the causes and prevention of cancer, the toxic carcinogen effects of pollution in the air, water, soil, and the workplace, and ingredients and contaminants in consumer products in food, household products, and cosmetics, personal care products and toiletries. In his book “Healthy Beauty” – Your Guide to Ingredients to avoid  and products you can trust you find under “Appendix One” a list of 113 Toxic Ingredients Tear-Out Sheet  that lists additional hazardous, dangerous toxic chemicals.

This article is based on the research from books, the internet, studies, Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)Centre of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Protection Agency, (EPA),

Environmental Working Group (EWG), www.ewg.orgNational Toxicology Program, Dept. of Health and Human ,Health Care Without Harm, Natural Skincare Authority.

For more information on additional hazardous, dangerous chemicals is cosmetics and personal care products, please check the following websites:

Dr. Stephen & Gina Antczak, Cosmetics Unmasked, Harper-Collins, 2001

Judy Vance, Beauty To Die For, ProMorion Publishing, 1998

Gilian Deacon, There’s Lead in your Lipstick, Penguin Group, 2011

Dan Fagin, Marianne Lavelle, Toxic Deception, Common Courage Press, 1999

John Stauber, Sheldon Rampton, Toxic Sludge is good for you, Common Courage Press 1995

Helke Ferrie, dispatches, from the war zones of environmental health, KOS Publishing, 2004

Rodney Parker, And the waters turned to blood, Touchstone Books, 1997

Eve Hillary, Children of a Toxic Harvest,  Lothian Pub Co., 1997

Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002

Kim Erickson, Drop Dead Gorgeous, McGraw-Hill, 2002

Christine Farlow, DC, Dying To Look Good, Kiss For Health Publishing, 2001

Nikolaus J. Smeh, Health Risks in Today’s Cosmetics, Sports Touch, 1995

Dr. Samuel S. Epstein, MD, David Steinman,The Safe Shoppers Bible, MacMillan, 1995

Doris J. Rapp, MD, Our Toxic World, Environmental Research Foundation, 2004

Arthur Kallelt & F.J. Schlink, 100.000.000 Guinea Pigs – Dangers in Everyday Foods, Drugs and Cosmetics, The Vanguard Press, first published Jan. 12, 1933

Stacey Malkan, Not Just a Pretty Face, New Society Publishers, 2007

Samuel S. Epstein, MD, Randal Fitzgerald, Healthy Beauty, Ben Bella Books, 2009 (CancerSmart Consumer Guide)


This information is offered for its educational value only and should not be used to diagnose, treatment, or prevention of disease, contact your health care practitioner. 


  1. Prof. Dr. Ram S. Hamsagar said..

    Very informative. Thanks. I am also interested in the Cosetic industry wastes and their effective treatment and disposal

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About Klaus Ferlow

Klaus Ferlow HMH HA Author, Formulator, Lecturer, Researcher, Writer, Core-founding member of the WNO – World Neem Organisation, member of the International Herb Association, Plant Savers, founder of Ferlow Botanicals & NEEM RESEARCH, co-author of the book "7stepstodentalhealth" and author of the  Award winning book "Neem: Nature's Healing Gift to humanity", the third edition and his new book Neem: The Tree that Heals Nations will be released in May 2024. He can be reached at:, ,,


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