3 Toxic Ingredients to Avoid in Your Personal Care Products
Updated: Apr 21
Disclaimer: it was an absolute challenge to narrow down this list to just a handful of ingredients to be avoided at all costs in personal care products. This list is based on my risk-award assessment and is based on presumed frequency of use, overall health effects, short-term and long-term health consequences and the effects on women specifically. Some of these chemicals are found outside the personal care products mentioned and can even be found in foods, toys and the every day household items. This is by no means an endpoint for removing toxic ingredients from your home but it is a starting point.
Here’s a free resource for you that can help you remove many products in your home that contain these 3 ingredients: The Non-Toxic Home Guide.
The ingredients listed below can be found in a wide range of products that may enter your home. Make it a regular practice to read labels before you buy, research ingredients that you’re unfamiliar with and know a little bit about the companies you purchase from since many are ‘greenwashed’ to sell.
Greenwashing is a marketing tactic that is used to deceive the consumer. Greenwashed products appear, based on the visual representation of the label and terminology used in the titles and subtitles to be safe, natural, good-for-us and toxin-free. Unfortunately this is rarely the case. It’s important to have some education under your belt so you can start distinguishing truly safe options from marketing propaganda.
Phthalates are a group of chemicals that are endocrine disruptors- hormone disruptors.
According to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), phthalates have been used in many ways in both the cosmetic and personal care industry from plasticization for flexibility, holding colour and scent (phthalates are grouped as a fragrance, aka: parfum, in a cosmetic products, therefore you don’t know it’s there).
The primary purpose of phthalates used in cosmetic products have been dibutylphthalate (DBP), used as a plasticizer in products such as nail polishes (to reduce cracking by making them less brittle); dimethylphthalate (DMP), used in hair sprays (to help avoid stiffness by allowing them to form a flexible film on the hair); and diethylphthalate (DEP), used as a solvent and fixative in fragrances. According to FDA's latest survey of cosmetics, conducted in 2010, however, DBP and DMP are now used rarely. DEP is the only phthalate still commonly used in cosmetics (1).
The main concern for women is the effect phthalates have on their hormonal cycle and hormone production. Studies have also shown that prenatal exposure to phthalates affects children’s neurodevelopmental and neurobehavioral outcomes. A mother’s exposure to ortho-phthalates during pregnancy can impair her childs brain development that can later lead to learning disorders, behavioural disorders and attention disorders. (2)
Where you’ll find phthalates:
potentially anything fragranced
Triclosan is an antibacterial agent and preservative.
In 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declared that triclosan is not generally recognized as safe and effective for antiseptic products intended for use in health care settings. In 2016, the FDA also banned over-the-counter consumer antiseptic wash products containing triclosan from being marketed to consumers (3).
In Canada however, although the Canadian government acknowledges that triclosan is found in the environment when products like toothpaste and soap are washed down the drain, triclosan can pose a risk to living things in the water like plants and fish (4), it’s still allowed in our personal care products.
Where you’ll find triclosan:
liquid hand soaps
Parabens are artificial preservatives used to prolong the shelf life of products, known to be endocrine disruptors, and harm fertility and reproductive organs, affect birth outcomes, and increase the risk of cancer (5). Studies have also reported the estrogenic activity of parabens and the relation to female cancers such as breast cancer. Research has shown that the perceived influx of estrogen beyond normal levels can in some cases trigger reactions such as increasing breast cell division and the growth of tumors (7). The issue is how easily absorbed by the human body they are (6). Cosmetics typically contain mixtures of different types of parabens.
The most commonly used six types are:
methyl-, ethyl-, propyl-, isopropyl-, butyl- and isobutylparaben (5).
Where you’ll find parabens:
I hope this helps empower you to start being more mindful of the ingredients on labels, start understanding greenwashing and feel inspired to live a little more holistically. Don’t forget to download The Non-Toxic Home Guide here.
I’ll see you back here next week,