Are you ready for part 2? (If you haven’t read part 1 of this post, I recommend that you go ahead and check it out here! Now its time for the science-y part of my cosmetics abstinence. ;O)
(Funny tidbit before diving in: I started doing the circle nose in high school as an ode to the size of the Oster family noses. My sister does a little o, but I mostly do the big O for fun!) Anyway.. onto the facts!
It starts in the morning with your toothpaste. Whether you use Cinnamon flavored, Mint Flavored, Unflavored, Sensitive Teeth, Tarter blocking, Gingivitis protecting, gel, or “original” paste, you are likely to find two ingredients in it. Fluoride and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS).
What’s wrong with Fluoride you might ask? Well that’s what a lot of studies are asking as well. Other than the fact that it is a marked toxin (used in rat poison), some studies have found that it can lead to lower IQ’s, dental fluorosis, arthritis, and even cancer/death in high concentrations. (That is why all toothpaste tubes have a Poison Warning about the swallowing of toothpaste.) In most cases, it seems like tooth paste should be okay, since we spit it out. But there are two problems with that. One is that researchers are finding that fluoride, especially when given to children who are still developing, it can actually cause tooth decay. Infact, some studies have shown that 1 in 3 children exposed to fluoridated water suffer from dental fluorosis. And this is likely because the other bad part is that most city water in the U.S. is treated with fluoride, meaning that we ingest an unknown amount of it everyday through our mouths or your body’s largest organ, your skin (every time you shower).
So then, what is SLS? Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is a known carcinogen, and is also listed as a “moderate hazard” on the EWG Cosmetics Database, known for irritating the skin and scalp. Yet, take a look at your toothpaste, your shampoos, your body washes and cleansers, your make-up foundations, your liquid hand soaps, your bath oils, and your laundry detergents, and you will probably see SLS in in.
Why is it present? Because it creates a lather or foam, helps contribute to the “creamy” or “smooth” textures, and because its cheaper than other agents. Have you been seeing a lot more brands describing themselves as “sulfate free”? This is not only to protect the environment, but to protect ourselves.
(I will state that I tried sulfate free shampoos for a while and didn’t like the results as much- which is why I stopped using shampoo. However, I have heard that you must give your body TIME to adjust to these products- at least a month. Your body is not as fast as your smart phone is at updating!)
Just so you know, SLS is also known as: Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium dodecyl sulfate, monododecyl ester, sodium salt, Sulfuric acid, A13-00356, Akyposal SDS, Aquarex ME, and Aquarex methyl.
Most studies show that a small dose of SLS do not effect us in an isolated incident. However, they do cause many long terms effects if absorbed into the system cumulatively, and over a long stretch of time. (How many years have you been using that shampoo, tooth paste, and detergent? Do you use them everyday?)
There are many other chemicals in our products: Methylisothiazoline is one, found in most popular hair brands such as Head & Shoulders, Suave, Pantene, and Clairol. MIT for short, it is linked to neurological damage in humans (including unborn babies). Furthermore, it can cause allergic reactions and irritate the eyes and skin.
(Propyl, Methyl and Butyl) Parabens- they work as the preservatives in your shampoos, allowing them to retain a longer stable shelf life. Also seen as ethylparaben, butylparaben, methylparaben and propylparaben, they are known to be endocrine disruptors. Studies have shown that parabens can increase estrogen levels in the body, thus leading to Breast Cancer. According to research by the EWG (Environmental Working Group), “Parabens are also linked to.. reproductive toxicity, immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity and skin irritation.”
Phthalates- Used as fragrances in your shampoos, these plasticizers are also linked to hormonal and reproductive problems. Fragrances normally read as only that (no explanation required by the FDA) are also known to be sensitizers and allergens. According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, “Once sensitized to an ingredient, a person can remain so for a lifetime, enduring allergic reactions with every subsequent exposure. Fragrances are considered to be among the top five known allergens and are known to both cause and trigger asthma attacks.”
DEA and TEA, also known as Triethanolamine and Diethanolamin (and related to MEA-Methylisothiazoline), are used for adjusting the pH in shampoos and for creating the foaming sensation. Easily absorbed, they have many of the same problems as being a carcinogen as the others do. But they also strip your hair of all its good natural oils like keratin, and that can leave your hair brittle and dry, cause scalp irritations, and cause allergic reactions. California has actually banned DEA from being sold in cosmetic products.
Some experts say that these products are okay used in small doses for short amounts of times. Check your bubble bath however, as these sometimes creep into it. Here is a list of other places you might find these: body washes, soaps, facial cleaners, eyeliners, mascara, eye shadows, blush, make-up bases and foundations, hair dyes, shaving products, and sunscreens. Interesting that some of those products instruct you to leave them on for an extended amount of time. Still having trouble finding one of these ingredients listed in a product you own? Try taking a look at your pesticides ingredients list. (Yikes!)
For your knowledge, these substances are also known as: Cocamide DEA,Cocamide MEA, DEA-Cetyl Phosphate, DEA Oleth-3 Phosphate,Lauramide DEA, Linoleamide MEA, Myristamide DEA, Oleamide DEA, Stearamide MEA, TEA-Lauryl Sulfate, Triethanolamine.
Formaldehyde- Yes, this is generally used for embalming human corpses.. what is it doing in your cosmetics? Well, it can help smooth and straighten of course! Its also used in nail polish, nail glue, eyelash glue, hair gel, baby shampoo, body soap, and body wash. Unfortunately, and as many of you probably guessed, it is very toxic. Even the United States National Toxicology Program and the International Agency for Research on Cancer have deemed this a human carcinogen! Do you go to the nail salon often? Unfortunately for them, salon workers are one of the populations very vulnerable to the toxins from this agent. (Something to think about next time you think about going.)
Looking for Formaldehyde isn’t always easy.. check out these ingredients to find it: quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, and 2-bromo-2-nitr.
Why is it hard to find? Because they use FRP’s (Formaldehyde Releasing Preservatives) into their products, which masks the name of the true chemical. The difference? FRP just releases Formaldehyde at a slower rate.
Those are just some of the chemicals that we are up against today, and I know, it can be kind of scary. One study I have heard referenced is that on average, a person who uses cosmetics daily absorbs five pounds of chemicals and toxins into their bodies in a single year.
I encourage everyone to look up the information about these chemicals and more, either by opening up a search engine, or clicking on some of the links below. There is a vast spread of information out there, so you can make your own decisions.
If you’re wondering.. well, what do I do now? than stay tuned for my next post! I will talk about some of the methods I use for taking care of my body as naturally as possible, what the transitions felt like, and what I’ve experienced. I will also be sharing a number of websites and blogs with good tips for creating your own shampoos, deodorants, etc.
Thanks for reading, everyone! Part 3 will be coming soon!
P.s. If you think something in this post is inaccurate, please comment and let me know! I am very open to dialogue and knowledge sharing.
If you want to watch a great short video about this topic, check out Annie Leonard from the Story of Stuff Project! She’s great!!
For more information on Fluoride:
DEA and TEA: