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The bad side of beauty products

All Natural, Non-Toxic, Organic

We all have encountered these in the beauty and personal care products we buy, and immediately, we are assured that it is safe for use. But be minded that not all products labeled such as “Contains Natural Extracts” or “Made With Organic” come from 100 percent natural ingredients. More often than not, it has added chemicals to it, and is just a marketing phrase to sell the product. So how do you know that your mascara is safe for use, or your shampoo won’t cause health problems in the future?

Pretty ugly

Consumers encounter those attractive, catchall phrases mentioned above because in truth, the beauty industry is largely unregulated, such that any company can add almost any chemical on their product, tested or not, and even have the option to disclose the ingredients or not, to the public. This is disappointing and a major concern for all of us, as not only are we deceived by some of these products pretending to be safe, but our health also becomes at risk. It has been studied that human skin absorbs more than half of any substance or product that is applied to it, and children’s skin absorbs significantly more than an adult’s. This is why even if only a swipe, a spray, or a small amount is used, its accumulation over time can lead to serious health problems, from hormonal imbalance, digestive problems, immune system and respiratory diseases, and even certain cancers. This week, list down or take a snapshot of the following toxic substances below. These are only some of the hundreds of toxic chemicals used in beauty products today. There are countries, like those in Europe, that have taken an active stand against these harmful ingredients and banned them from their products already. Do your part and take note of the following, then remind yourself to check this list on your next trip to the grocery store or the beauty aisle.

 1. Pthalates are mainly used in plastics to make them flexible. It is also found in many consumer products, from household products to cosmetics. It has been reported that pthalates may potentially cause hormonal problems, liver, and kidney problems, to DNA damage. Pthalates may not be found in labels but may be included under the ingredient “fragrance/ parfum.”

2. Hydroquinone is a popular ingredient for skin whitening. It has been reported that it can cause ochronosis (skin pigmentation if used for more than six months).  Some studies on animals show that continued use can lead to development of cancer on laboratory animals. But this is still being used today in a regulated manner due to its potent bleaching effects. No significant studies have found that it can be carcinogenic to humans.

3. Paraben is a shorter term for parahydroxybenzoate. Like pthalates, it is used in a lot of products as preservatives, from mascaras to lotions, to keep bacteria or fungi from growing on the product. Parabens can have a lot of names such as methylparaben, butylparaben, and propylparaben. Parabens are reported to have links to breast cancer and endocrine problems but no direct links have been found yet.  It’s now being banned in some countries in Europe but still being used in Asia.

4. Formaldehyde is commonly found in shampoos, hair dyes, hair straightening products, and nail care products to prolong their shelf life but is a potential cancer-causing ingredient.

5. Lead is mostly found in lipsticks as it is present in some pigments. Exposure to lead, especially with large amount and prolonged period of time, is a serious health risk that may lead to cancer and brain damage.

6. Mercury, contained in skin whitening and anti-aging products, is reported to cause memory and vision problems.

7. Triclosan is popular among anti-bacterial products, including deodorants. It is linked to affect hormones of the body and was not found to be more effective than ordinary soap and water.  It’s now being banned in, however, the US.

8. PABA, or para-aminobenzoic acid, is initially used for sunscreens because of its capability to absorb UV-B rays, but must be avoided as it may cause skin irritations and in some reports, DNA damage.

 The state of our health is a mirror and a reminder of what we put in our bodies, which is why a growing number of people become conscious of what they eat. So how come we are not conscious of what we wipe, put on, or rub on our skin?  While we have a long way to go before local and international organizations demand and impose stricter regulations on complete product labeling, testing, and research on the ingredients of products, be proactive starting today and begin being mindful of what you put on your body. Study labels carefully, and if there is no label or ingredients listed, do not buy the product. It doesn’t hurt to always be on the safe side.