The majority of shampoos and other body care products do not have their ingredients tested for safety before being used. According to the FDA Office of Cosmetics and Colors, 1995, the “FDA cannot require companies to do safety testing of their cosmetic products before marketing.” It is unlikely that individual applications of one product are causing immediate harm, however, most of us use many products per day, such as shampoo, conditioner, make-up, skin care like facial cleanser, moisturizers, etc., and all these exposures may add up.

Did you know that pharmaceutical companies have investigated putting drugs into shampoos because the scalp is so thin that it readily absorbs substances that are put on it? Many other personal care products are put on our skin and stay there and are absorbed all day long. Do you ever wonder about their safety?

According to the Environmental Working Group, in the United States, the FDA has banned or restricted nine (9) ingredients out of 1,175 that are used in personal care products. The European Union, in contrast, has banned 450 ingredients for use in cosmetics. Hmm!

Some further food for thought: Cancer rates are now approaching 1 in 2 American men and 1 in 3 American women. This is up from 1 in 4 Americans in the 1950s despite huge expenditures on the “War on Cancer.” Dr. Samuel Epstein from the University of Illinois says that cancer rates have gone up about 60% from 1950 to 1998. A lot of us think that these rising cancer rates are at least in part due to our increasing exposure to carcinogenic chemicals, often in small amounts that accumulate in our bodies over time. These come from our food, our air and water, household furnishings and building materials, cleaning products and personal care products.

Commonly Used Chemicals in Personal Care Products That May Be Toxic:

Artificial fragrances are derived in large part from petrochemicals, not flower essences or other herbal products as many imagine. These petrochemicals release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that often cause headaches, skin irritation, nausea and allergies. Some are carcinogenic, contain or release formaldehyde or are toxic to the nervous system. Many artificial fragrances contain phthalates, which are linked to birth defects in the male reproductive system. Phthalates were found in a 2002 study by a coalition of environmental and public health organizations in deodorants, fragrances, body lotions, hair gels, mousses and sprays. Artificial fragrances in general are found in many cosmetic and personal care products.

The family of preservatives known as parabens, which includes methyl-, ethyl-, propyl-, and butylparaben, has recently been identified as xenoestrogens which mimic the sex hormone estrogen. They are widely used in shampoos and cosmetics for adults as well as children, even in many so-called “natural” products. However, Dr. S. Oishi of the Department of Toxicology, Tokyo metropolitan Research laboratory of Public Health, Japan, reported that the daily sperm production in lab tests of animals was significantly lower in those receiving a dose of parabens that is “similar to the lower level of acceptable daily intake for parabens in the European Community and in Japan.”

Diethanolamine (DEA) is often used as a foaming agent and emulsifier in shampoos. However, a federal National Toxicology Program completed a study in 1998 that found an association between cancer in lab animals and the topical application of DEA and other DEA-related ingredients. DEA can also lead to the formation of nitrosamines, which are known carcinogens. In response, many manufacturers switched to cocamide MEA. However, the FDA says that cocomide MEA is one “of the most commonly used ingredients that may contain DEA.” Other ingredients that include other types of MEA or TEA may also contain DEA.

Polyethylene glycol (PEG), including PEG-6, PEG-150 and other similar ingredients can be found in shampoos, lotions and other personal care products. However, a report in the International Journal of Toxicology routinely found many impurities in PEG, including ethylene oxide and 1,4-Dioxane. Ethylene oxide increases the risk of uterine, breast and other cancers. 1,4-Dioxane is a suspected human carcinogen. Testing commissioned by the Doctors’ Prescription for Health Living showed that around 50 percent of personal care products with PEG contain significant amounts of 1.4-dioxane. PEG is also found in some “natural” body care products.

High Quality Natural Body Care Products

If you are serious about reducing the amount of chemicals you are exposed to on a day to day basis, you need to search out truly natural body care products that are free of the above mentioned chemicals, as well as other toxins and carcinogens. A good place to start is to go to a health food store either online or a physical store, and make sure and read all the ingredients on the labels. Many products that call themselves “natural” contain questionable ingredients that you will be absorbing on a daily basis.