Have you ever stopped to think about how much exposure you’ve had to chemicals that may be unstable or unsafe for human use? Did you know the average person uses 9 products on their bodies everyday? With an average of 14 ingredients in each product, that means on average people are exposing themselves to 126 unique chemicals every single day. Chemicals build up in our systems as we continue to expose ourselves to them over time. A consideration you should be making is, how much chemical toxin buildup do you have in your system? Scientists are beginning to refer to the amount of chemical exposure we face as our chemical body burden. The sad reality is that federal regulations on most commonly used ingredients have remained largely unchanged since the 1930s, which means the FDA is not exactly the most reliable source for what is and is not safe for our bodies.
Here are 4 commonly used ingredients you need to look out for in your daily-use products:
Petrolatum, or petroleum jelly, is often found in cosmetics and skincare products as a moisturizing and occlusive (hydration retaining) ingredient. It is a common solution to chapped lips, soothing dry spots and more. Pure petroleum is actually not very hazardous; however, experts have found that petrolatum is often not refined enough to remove all of the carcinogens from it. The particular carcinogen experts and scientists are concerned with are polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Exposure to PAHs via skin contact over extended periods of time has often been associated with cancer. Because of this, the EU only allows petrolatum in cosmetics and skincare if there is a full, traceable history associated with the ingredient’s refinement.
Often formaldehyde is used in shampoos, body washes, hair products, etc. as an anti-bacterial preservative. Well, it sure does work. In fact, it’s so effective at preservation that it’s what morticians use to embalm dead bodies in order to prevent decay. Needless to say, formaldehyde is very hazardous to one’s health. As you can guess, formaldehyde is carcinogenic. Formaldehyde is often hidden on ingredients lists under formalin, formic aldehyde, methylene glycol, diazolidinyl urea and more.
Mica is often found in powders, mineral foundations, highlighters, sunscreen, bronzers and more. While mica is naturally occurring mineral dust that makes your makeup glitter and shine, it has a dark side as well. Mica is extremely harmful for our lungs. Over time it can cause deep, irrecoverable scarring, shortness of breath, weakness, coughing, etc. 80% of mica is also mined in a very unethical way by use of child labor in poverty stricken regions.
Check out the label of your favorite perfume, cologne or scented lotion. One of the ingredients listed on the label is likely “fragrance”. The reality is that fragrance is not one single ingredient, but is instead a mix of many ingredients used to create our favorite aromas. Most fragrances contain at least 14 chemicals unlisted on the label. These chemicals are often known toxins, allergens and hormone disruptors; however, the FDA allows companies to list fragrance as an ingredient without offering further detail of what is used to create said fragrance. According to the Fair Package and Labeling Act of 1966, companies are allowed to keep their fragrance ingredients at a minimum so others cannot replicate their formulas. Unfortunately, as consumers we get the short end of the stick with cheap, often toxic ingredients in our daily use products.
So What Can We Do?
Before making purchasing decisions, consider using tools such at the Environmental Working Group (EWG) website to determine whether products are safe. The EWG breaks down the ingredient list for thousands of products and rates them according to toxicity. Note that no database with thousands of data points is perfectly accurate; however, it is a good starting point for those that may not know what to be looking out for.