What Chemicals To Avoid in Cosmetics

Many of us are regularly detoxing from chemicals in our food, but what about the man-made chemicals in our cosmetics? It’s estimated the average woman applies 515 chemicals to her body a day. That’s a lot right? Taking these unnecessary and toxic chemicals out of your life will free up your organs of elimination allowing them to detox’ more efficiently, instead of the heavy burden they’re under before these chemicals are removed.

Toxins to avoid (3)

The top 28 companies in the personal care industry alone represent revenue that exceeds over $135 billion annually.

Who needs these toxic, damaging toxins anyway, especially when there are so many natural alternatives available that are doing neither us nor the earth any harm. They work, they smell divine – not covering your own pheromones or creating more bacteria, and very often in non-toxic, recyclable or recycled packaging.

The word ‘cosmetics’ covers make up as well as body, hair and skin care, and in Australia manufacturers aren’t required to list the ingredients on the bottle. So how do we know what’s they’re made from? Well, the company’s that are making pure, natural and chemical free products proudly state the ingredients on the bottle. Nom they don’t have to but they want us to know what’s inside.  Just because words like organic, natural, botanical, essences or herbal are in the name or on the label somewhere means nothing. If it truly is all- natural, and toxic chemical free then it’ll say. If it’s certified organic then you know that it has to be pure, clean and around 95% free of chemicals. In this case look for a certifying symbol on the packaging.

So what to look out for and avoid when buying cosmetics?


PARABENS (METHYL, ETHYL, PROPYL AND BUTYL). As they mimic human estrogen, these products have been linked to breast cancer and decreased fertility, although there has been no conclusive proof to date. It is advisable to avoid all products that include these ingredients. It’s used as a preservative and anti-bacterial agent. It’s present in many cosmetics and personal care products. If it doesn’t say NO PARABENS, then it probably does.


SODIUM LAURYL/LAURETH SULPHATE. SLS is an emulsifier and foaming agent commonly used in cosmetic products and industrial cleaners, (think degreaser for garage floors). SLS is present in most body washes, soaps, shampoos, toothpastes and laundry detergent. It’s known to cause dry skin, itchy scalp, stinging eyes, mouth ulcers, dermatitis, and that just the tip of it. The ‘Journal of the American College of Toxicology’ says that it has ‘a degenerative effect on the cell membranes because of its protein denaturing properties’. The Journal adds that ‘high levels of skin penetration may occur at even low use concentration’.

SLS may go by over 150 different names, but many products that are SLS-free will proudly state that on the packaging – loud and clear.


10 reason to Avoid SLS –


  1. A known skin irritant. If you have dandruff, dry skin, dermatitis, canker sores, or other irritated tissues or skin, it could be due to SLS.
  2. It pollutes our groundwater. It is toxic to fish and other aquatic animals and has the potential for bioaccumulation (meaning it accumulates in the bodies of the fish.) It also is undetected in many municipal water filters, getting into the tap water that you drink.
  3. It is actually a pesticide and herbicide. It is commonly used to kill plants and insects. Makers of SLS recently petitioned to have SLS listed as an approved pesticide for organic farming. The application was denied because of its polluting properties and environmental damage.
  4. It emits toxic fumes when heated. Toxic Sodium Oxides and Sulfur Oxides are released when SLS is heated. Makes a hot shower with an SLS shampoo (and body wash, toothpaste, cleanser…) pretty scary.
  5. It has corrosive properties. According to the American College of Toxicity, this includes corrosion of the fats and protiens that make up skin and muscle. SLS can be found in garage floor cleaners, engine degreasers, and car wash soaps.
  6. Long-term permeation of the body’s tissues. A study from the University of Georgia Medicine showed that SLS had the power to permeate the eyes, brain, heart, and liver.
  7. It’s an eye irritant. It was shown to cause cataracts in adults, and is proven to inhibit the proper formation of eyes in small children.
  8. Nitrate and other solvent contamination. Toxic solvents, including carcinogenic nitrates are used in the manufacturing of SLS, traces of which can remain in the product.
  9. Manufacturing process is highly polluting, emitting cancer-causing volatile organic compounds, sulfur compounds, and air particulates.
  10. It helps other chemicals get into your body. SLS is a penetration enhancer, meaning that its molecules are so small they’re able to cross the membranes of your body’s cells. Once cells are compromised, they become more vulnerable to other toxic chemicals that may be with the SLS.


Products commonly found to contain Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate –





Tooth paste

Washing-up liquid / dish soap

Laundry detergent

Childrens soaps / shampoos

Stain Remover

Carpet Cleaner

Fabric glue

Body wash

Shave cream



Skin cleanser

Moisture lotion / Moisturiser

Sun Cream


PETROLATUM (or Mineral Oil) is a common toxic ingredient in cosmetics. It’s a semi-solid mixture that is either colourless or pale yellow. They are a bi-product of the distillation of gasoline from crude oil, and are the core ingredients in Bio-oil, Petroleum Jelly (eg. Vaseline), Sorbolene, some lip balms and many ‘baby care’ products. These petroleum based products accumulate, which can then slow and distort cellular development and create premature signs of ageing. They coat the skin, clog the pores and have been implicated as a major cause of eczema and similar skin conditions, and are a suspected cause of some cancers. These toxic ingredients in skin care products can also disrupt normal hormonal activity.


DEA disrupts hormones and forms cancer-causing nitrates. Found in toothpaste,


ALUMINIUM Aluminum has been long known to be neurotoxic, with mounting evidence that chronic exposure is a factor in many neurological diseases, including dementia, autism, and Parkinson’s disease. Cosmetics and personal care products such as antiperspirants, deodorants (including salt crystals, made of alum), lotions, sunscreens, and shampoos


PROPOLENE GLYCOL is an organic alcohol. It is one of the most widely used ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products. Propylene Glycol is used in many types of cosmetic formulations including fragrances. Propylene Glycol and Polypropylene Glycols attract water and function as moisturizers to enhance the appearance of skin by reducing flaking and restoring suppleness. Propylene Glycol is also used to help stabilize formulations.

The Environmental Working Group, a health and safety agency, reports that PG has been associated with cases of skin irritation, contact dermatitis and even urticaria, which is the presence of too many mast cells in the skin. Though the EWG rates PG a fairly low 4 on a hazard scale that ranges from 0 to 10, 10 being the most hazardous, it cautions consumers with claims that it has been linked to cancer, developmental toxicity and allergies.


TRICLOSAN Triclosan is an ingredient added to many consumer products to reduce or prevent bacterial contamination. It may be found in products such as clothing, kitchenware, furniture, and toys. It also may be added to antibacterial soaps and body washes, toothpastes, and some cosmetics—products regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Animal studies have shown that triclosan alters hormone regulation. However, data showing effects in animals don’t always predict effects in humans. Other studies in bacteria have raised the possibility that triclosan contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics.


PTHALATES: are a class of chemicals commonly used in consumer products. Phthalates cause a wide range of adverse health problems including liver, kidney and lung damage as well as reproductive system and sexual developmental abnormalities. It’s yet another synthetic preservative that’s carcinogenic and linked to negative reproductive effects (decreased sperm counts, early breast development, and birth defects) and liver and kidney damage.


FRAGRANCE: This term covers any number of harmful chemicals that do not have to be listed individually on the label. Some common ‘fragrance’ chemicals include –


Parabens: Synthetic preservatives known to interfere with hormone production and release.

Phthalates: Another synthetic preservative that’s carcinogenic and linked to reproductive effects (decreased sperm counts, early breast development, and birth defects) and liver and kidney damage.

Synthetic musks: These are linked to hormone disruption and are thought to persist and accumulate in breast milk, body fat, umbilical cord blood, and the environment.




FEMININE HYGIENE: Toxic ingredients found in tampons today include aluminum, alcohols, fragrance additives and hydrocarbons, and the bleaching process leaves behind dioxin. Dioxin is a toxic chemical (chlorine-compound) linked to cancer (and perhaps now to endometriosis). Dioxin can build up in your body over time, even the tiniest amount, found at parts per billion instead of million, could affect you. Europe doesn’t accept dioxin in the tampons and the ‘World Health Organization’ lists dioxin as a carcinogen.


Your skin is highly permeable — especially the skin around your vaginal area, not to mention inside the vagina. When chemicals come in contact with your skin, they are absorbed straight into your bloodstream without filtering of any kind, going directly to your delicate organs, and these chemicals accumulate. The average woman uses up to 16,800 tampons in her lifetime. Manufacturers of tampons and sanitary pads are not required to disclose the ingredients used because feminine hygiene products are considered ‘medical devices’.


According to Dr. Mercola’s research – ‘each conventional sanitary pad contains the equivalent of about four plastic bags! Chemicals in plastic like BPA and BPS disrupt embryonic development and are linked to heart disease and cancer. Phthalates — which give paper tampon applicators that smooth feel and finish — are known to dysregulate gene expression, and DEHP may lead to multiple organ damage. Besides crude oil plastics, conventional sanitary pads can also contain a myriad of other potentially hazardous ingredients, such as odor neutralizers and fragrances. Synthetics and plastic also restrict the free flow of air and can trap heat and dampness, potentially promoting the growth of yeast and bacteria in your vaginal area.


And what about the bleach used to make them perfectly white? Chlorine is commonly used for this, which can create toxic dioxin and other disinfection-by-products (DBPs) such as trihalomethane. Studies show that dioxin collects in your fatty tissues, and according to a draft report by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), dioxin a serious public health threat that has no ‘safe’ level of exposure! Published reports show that even low or trace levels of dioxins may be linked to –


Abnormal tissue growth in the abdomen and reproductive organs

Abnormal cell growth throughout the body

Immune system suppression

Hormonal and endocrine system disruption


And GMO’s? 94 percent of all the cotton planted in the US is genetically engineered, so is inserting a GMO tampon into your vagina several times every month any different than ingesting GMO food? It may be worse, considering the fact that your vaginal wall is highly permeable, allowing toxins direct access into your bloodstream — be it pesticide residue or a GMO protein.’


Please use ORGANIC tampons and pads, not just cotton, as they’ll likely be made with GMO cotton, beach, chlorine and dioxin DBP’s. There are 2 organic brands that I know of – both easily available from your health food shop. I personally use washable cloths and have done for years. I use organic tampons very rarely. Also look out for ‘sponges’ and ‘cups’.


SUNSCREEN. The active ingredients in sunscreens come in two forms – mineral and chemical filters. Each may pose a threat to our health. The most common sunscreens on the market contain chemical filters. These products typically include a combination of two to six of these active ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. Mineral sunscreens use zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. A handful of products combine zinc oxide with chemical filters. Look for straight zinc oxide, a natural sunscreen from your health food store, or DIY at home using coconut or carrot oils. You’ll find zinc oxide, or another safe, natural sunscreen – containing none of the above chemicals – from your health food store, some pharmacies and online. I personally don’t use sunscreen unless I have to be outside in Summer in the midday sun for longer than about 20 minutes. In this case I use straight zinc oxide, and cover up – Slip, Slop on zinc and Slap.

What you’ll find in most sunscreens –


  1. Oxybenzone: Terrible stuff. Its primary function is to absorb ultraviolet light. Oxybenzone is also believed to cause hormone disruptions and cell damage that may provoke cancer. According to EWG:2. ‘…the chemical oxybenzone penetrates the skin, gets into the bloodstream and acts like estrogen in the body. It can trigger allergic reactions. Data are preliminary, but studies have found a link between higher concentrations of oxybenzone and health harms. One study has linked oxybenzone to endometriosis in older women; another found that women with higher levels of oxybenzone during pregnancy had lower birth weight daughters.’


  1. Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A palmitate): Sunscreen products may actually increase the speed at which malignant cells develop and spread skin cancer because they contain vitamin A and its derivatives, retinol, and retinyl palmitate. The problem occurs when this form of vitamin A is exposed to the sun (as opposed to when it is used in night cream, for example), which is why sunscreens that contain it should be avoided.


  1. Fragrance: This term covers any number of harmful chemicals that do not have to be listed individually on the label. (See above for more detail.)



TOOTHPASTE: Avoid fluoride. I know this is controversial but the fluoride they put in toothpaste is different to naturally occurring fluorine, and is toxic. It’s a by-product of aluminum manufacturing that can also be found in rat poisons and industrial pesticides. Also commonly found in toothpaste are saccharin, sugar, sodium laurel sulphate – invented as a degreaser in garages, propylene glycol – a petroleum- based chemical anti-freeze, DEA or diethanolamine is used in products that foam, including toothpaste (DEA disrupts hormones and forms cancer-causing nitrates); artificial food dyes like yellow no. 10 and blue no. 1- some of the worst colourants.


Here’s how to make your own –


2 tbsp bentonite clay

2-4 tbsp clean (filtered or boiled water that has cooled)

4 drops tea tree oil

5 drops liquid stevia or xylitol

10-15 drops peppermint essential oil

Small pinch of sea or Himalayan salt


Method –

Combine 2 tbsp of water with clay in a non-metal bowl and mix well using a wooden spoon. (The clay should never come in contact with any metals.) Add tea tree oil, stevia and 10 drops of peppermint essential oils. Mix well.

Add pinch of salt, mix well and taste. Add additional stevia, peppermint essential oils (one drop at at time), and water (2 tsp at a time) to taste and texture.

The flavors will meld together over time, so wait 48 hours before checking and adjusting the flavour.

Store toothpaste in a glass jar with a lid.

The toothpaste will dry out over time if left uncovered. To rehydrate, simply add a little water


Variation –

To make lemon toothpaste, reduce tea tree oil to 2 drops, and substitute lemon essential oil for peppermint essential oil.

To make orange toothpaste, do the same this as above but use orange essential.


Some lovely Australian cosmetic companies I’ve tried and continue to use myself are –



www.pureandgreenorganics.com.au (certified organic)


There are plenty more of course – just be sure the cosmetics you buy are free of any toxic chemicals.[/private]




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