A brief description of some of
the Harmful or Carcinogenic
Ingredients Commonly Used
There are literally hundreds of potentially harmful ingredients to avoid in personal care products. Many are not only carcinogens, they may also be labeled as toxins, contaminants, and irritants.
You may be using personal care products formulated with harmful substances that might seriously damage your skin and hair, make you age faster or even worse. Check the labels on the products you are currently using to see if they contain any!
New ingredients come out all the time, and manufacturing methods change too. Also a lot of names of ingredients are confusing and look and sound alike, one may be safe and one not. Some harmful ingredients when combined during the manufacturing process create new compounds that are not harmful but others that are not harmful can combine and create something that is. Even the packaging that products are placed in could have a effect on the ingredients and cause them to change.
For example - bar soap used to always be made out of animal fat and is usually made with vegetable oils now. And even though lye (which is a harmful ingredient by itself) is used in the process of making soap, the finished product when done correctly contains no caustic nature as entirely new compounds have been formed that are not harmful. Some like glycerin used to always be made out of animal fat but now are mostly vegetable based.
It is hard to know about everything - which are good and which are not, which interact in a good way and which in a bad way. Your best bet is to find a company you can trust that makes safe products or make your own using ingredients that you know are safe. If you look around and do some investigating you can find a few companies that do the research and manufacture safe products.
Below you will find a brief description of commonly used ingredients In The Personal Care Industry and what they could potentially do.
Health Hazard Ingredients
Albumin A bovine serum that is the chief ingredient used in artificial face lifts that is being touted as a wrinkle treatment. Frequently touted as a wrinkle remover, cosmetic formulas containing albumin form a film over wrinkles to make them less obvious.
Alcohol A colorless, volatile, flammable liquid produced by the fermentation of yeast and carbohydrates. It is used frequently as a solvent and is also found in beverages and medicine. As an ingredient in ingestible products, alcohol may cause body tissue to be more vulnerable to carcinogens. Mouthwashes with an alcohol content of 25 percent or more have been implicated in mouth, tongue, and throat cancers.
Alpha Hydroxy Acid An organic acid produced by anaerobic respiration. Skin care products containing AHA exfoliate the skin to remove wrinkles and expose the younger skin cells beneath. In the process, as outer dead skin cells are exfoliated, the skin’s protective barrier is removed as well, thus exposing premature skin to environmental damage. Therefore, use of AHAs could make your age much faster and long term skin damage may result from its use.
Other acids, such as low-molecular weight glycolic acids, can be quite beneficial in skin care products due to their smaller size. Glycolic acid – an extract from sugar cane – is capable of penetrating the skin, instead of blocking the skin and causing skin damage as do AHAs.
Aluminum A metallic element used extensively in the manufacture of aircraft components, prosthetic devices, and as an ingredient in antiperspirants, antacids, and antiseptics. Aluminum has been linked to Alzheimer’s Dosease.
Animal Fat (Tallow) A type of animal tissue made up of oily solids or semisolids that are water-insoluble esters of glycerol with fatty acids. Animal fats and lye are the chief ingredients in bar soap, a cleansing and emulsifying product that may act as a breeding ground for bacteria.
Bentonite A porous clay that expands to many times its dry volume as it absorbs water. It is commonly found in many cosmetics foundations and facial masks, may scratch the skin surface, clog pores, and dry out and suffocate the skin. It forms a gas-impermeable film, which effectively stops the skin from releasing toxins and carbon dioxide and suffocates the skin by shutting out oxygen.
Collagen An insoluble fibrous protein that is too large to penetrate the skin. The collagen found in most skin care products is derived from cow hides and ground up chicken feet. This ingredient’s molecules are too large to penetrate the skin, rendering it useless. On top of it being ineffective, it forms a layer of film on the skin’s surface that may suffocate the skin.
Diethanolamine (DEA) A colorless liquid or crystalline alcohol that is used as a solvent, emulsifier, and detergent (wetting agent). DEA works as an emollient in skin softening lotions or as a humectant in other personal care products. When found in products containing nitrataes, it reacts chemically with the nitrates to form potentially carcinogenic nitrosamines. Although earlier studies seemed to indicate that DEA itself was not a carcinogen, more recent studies show its carcinogenic potential, even in formulations that exclude nitrates. DEA may also irritate the skin and mucous membranes. You should also be careful using products with other ethanolamines in them: triethanolamine (TEA) and monoethanolamine (MEA)
Dioxins A potentially carcinogenic by-product that results from the process used to bleach paper at paper mills. Dioxin-treated containers sometimes transfer dooxin to the product itself. (see sodium laureth sulfate)
Return to Top of Page
Elastin of High-Molecular Weight A protein similar to collagen that is the main component of elastic fibers. Elastin is also derived from animal sources and cannot be absorbed by the skin or restore skin tone. There are two types of elastin: high-molecular weight elastin and low-molecular weight elastin. The molecules comprising high-molecular elastin are too large to penetrate the skin, and therefore, it only leaves a suffocating film on the skin. Even if injected into the skin by a dermatologist or plastic surgeon, this type of elastin is useless to human skin due to its molecular structure. Low-molecular weight elastin, on the other hand, is a powerful form of natural elastin that is easily absorbed and utilized by the skin due to its smaller molecular weight.
Fluorocarbons A colorless, nonflammable gas or liquid that can produce mild upper respiratory tract irritation. They are commonly used as a propellant in hairsprays
Formaldehyde A toxic, colorless gas that is an irritant and a carcinogen. When combined with water, it is used as a disinfectant, fixative, or preservative. It is found in many cosmetic products and conventional nail care systems.
Glycerin(glycerol) A syrupy liquid that is chemically produced by combining water and fat. It is used as a solvent and plasticizer. The humectant improves the spreadability of creams and lotions and prevents them form losing water through evaporation. But, unless the humidity of air is over 65 percent, glycerin draws moisture from the lower layers of the skin and holds it on the surface, which dries the skin from the inside out. Although glycerine can be potentially drying in skin care products, when applied inside the moist cavity of the mouth, its properties as a humectant are potentially beneficial. Glycerin helps dental products retain moisture, as well as improve products consistency and spreadability without any negative effects. With skin care products additional moisturizing agents can be added to counteract this drying effect.
Kaolin A fine white clay originally found at Mt. Kaolin in China, which is used in making porcelain, and also in facial powders and masks. Like bentonite, it’s gas-impermeable film can dry, smother and weaken the skin.
Lanolin A fatty substance extracted from wool, which is frequently found in cosmetics and lotions. Although it is frequently prooted as being more absorbable than many oil-based ingredients, there is little scientific proof of this. Instead it is a common skin sensitizer that can cause allergic reactions, such as skin rashes
Lye A highly concentrated watery solution of sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide. Lye is combined with animal fats to make bar soaps, which may corrode and dry out the skin.
Large Molecular Weight Hyaluronic Acid Although hyaluronic acid from plant or animal sources is identical to that found in human skin, it can only be utilized by the skin if it is appliced in a low, molecular-weight form or injected by physicians. In most cosmetics, it has an extremely high molecular weight (up to 15 million) and cannot penetrate the skin. It sits on the surface of the skin and functions much the same as collagen.
Lauramide DEA The principle fatty acid found in coconut oil, which is used in personal care products as a skin softener and foaming agent. It is partly natural, partly synthetic chemical used to build later and thicken various cosmetic products. It can be drying to the hair, cause skin and scalp itching, and allergic reactions. It is also used in dishwashing detergents for its grease-cutting ability.
Return to Top of Page
Mineral Oil A derivative of crude oil (petroleum) that is used industrially as a cutting fluid and lubricating oil. Instead of penetrating the skin, it forms an oily film over skin to lock in moisture, but traps in toxins and wastes, and hinders normal skin respiration by keeping oxygen out. Petrolatum, paraffin oil, and propylene glycol are common forms of mineral oil, any of which can cause petrochemical hypersensitivity.
Petrolatum A petroleum-based grease that is used industrially as a grease component. It exhibits many of the same potentially harmful properties as mineral oil. While attempting to hold moisture in the skin layers it does not allow the skin to respire.
Extract from the placenta comes from the highly vascular fetal organ through which a fetus absorbs nutrients, oxygen, and other substances, and excretes carbon dixiode and other wastes. In cosmetic moisturizers these ingredients allegedly moisturize and nourish the skin. The manufactures of these products take advantage of the belief that since the placenta nourishes the developing fetus, an extract of it can rejuvenate aging skin. It can do not such thing. Worst yet, many may come from aborted fetuses or might not be properly sanitized.
Propylene Glycol A cosmetic form of mineral oil found in automatic brake and hydraulic fluid, and industrial antifreeze. It is the most common moisture-carrying vehicle (other than water) in personal care products. In skin and hair care products, it works as a humectant, which is a substance that retains the moisture content of skin or cosmetic products by preventing the escape of water. Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) warn users to avoid skin contact with propylene glycol as this strong skin irritant can cause liver abnormalities and kidney damage.
Royal Bee Jelly A substance secreted from the digestive tubes of worker bees that is promoted in cosmetics as nourishing, moisturizing, and age-retarding. But studies suggest that it is essentially ineffective when applied to the human skin.
Eggs, milk, and honey are other “favorites” of some moisturizer manufactures. Without question, eggs are nourishing for the embryo, milk is nourishing and life-sustaining for infants, and honey and royal bee jelly are nectar for bees. When applied to the skin, however, they do little for you, although they may give a moisturizer a smoother consistency.
Seaweed A plant with gelatinous properties that is a major ingredient in thin, clear facial masks that peel off in one piece. Often touted as being nourishing and moisturizing to the skin, it is also used in face creams and lotions where it give body and substance to the products – not to the skin.
Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) A surfactant that is a harsh detergent and wetting agent used in garage floor cleaners, engine degreasers, and auto cleaning products. SLS is well-known in the scientific community as a common skin and scalp irritant. It is rapidly absorbed and retained in the eyes, brain, heart, and liver, which may result in harmful long-term effects. In addition to contributing to the formation of possible carcinogens, SLS could retard healing, cause cataracts in adults and keep children's eyes from developing properly. You will find this ingredients in lots of things.
Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES) A surfactant that is a higher-foaming ethoxylated form of SLS. SLSL is the alcohol form (ethoxylated) of SLS. It is slightly less irritating than SLS, but may cause more drying. Both SLS and SLES may cause potentially carcinogenic formations of nitrates and dioxins to form in shampoos and cleansers by reacting with other product ingredients. Large amounts of nitrates may enter the blood systems from just one shampooing. Clinical studies show that it could cause hair loss when applied to the scalp.
Talc A soft gray-green mineral used in some personal and cosmetic products. Inhaling talc may be harmful as this substance is recognized as a potential carcinogen and has been linked to ovarian cancer.
Tyrosine A crystalline amino acid that is an essential precursor to the process of melanization (darkening). Some tanning accelerator lotions do contain tyrosine. But melanization is an internal process, and spreading lotion on the skin’s surface does nothing to fuel it. Similar logic would have us trying to rub food through our pores to satisfy hunger. Indeed, it is doubtful that sufficient amounts of tyrosine can penetrate to the level of the skin where it could enhance melanin production.
Other ingredients to watch out for: Sodium Fluoride, Ammonium Chloride, Cocamide DEA, MEA, PABA, PEG, Artificial flavors, Artificial colors, Ether, Coal Tars
Return to Top of Page
Return from Descriptions page back to Harmful Ingredients page
Go to the Frank and Hidden Carcinogens Page
Go to Healthy Homes page
Go to Aromatherapy Natural Healing Home Page