Are the cosmetics that you use likely to harm your health severely?
The cosmetics industry has grown exponentially over the years. This growth coupled with consumer demands has led to the development of new chemical compounds that are being added to cosmetic products.
These chemicals are often known as preservatives, antioxidants (used as preservatives or as active ingredients), emulsifiers and stabilisers (to prevent separation of the ingredients), Some are used for enhancing some aspects of the product like colour or bleaching agent (to remove any colour), perfume or to give a shine, or a smooth texture or longer lasting effect of even simple moisturizing. Every skincare product has anyway between 10-20 chemicals.
While many of these chemicals add interesting and useful dimensions to the products, some of these chemicals. In fact, downright harmful. Some chemicals may irritate sensitive skins immediately, and cause harm to our bodies like an allergic reaction. Some people with non-sensitive skins might not be affected immediately by them. On the other hand, some harmful chemicals appear non-problematic in the short term, but lead to severe damage in the long term. So, some of these chemicals can be toxic, some can be hazardous, some can be both toxic and hazardous.
3 Skincare Chemicals which are Terrible for Women's Health
While many chemicals affect everyone's health, but since women tend to use many more cosmetics, and their endocrine functions have cascading and multiplier effects over their own life and even into the next generation.
What are they and why are they present in cosmetics? Parabens are widely used as preservatives to prevent the formation of mold and growth of bacteria. Preservatives are required in skin care cosmetics like moisturizers, sunscreens, make-up and in hair care, shaving products, toothpastes and mouthwashes as well. While there are benefits of preservatives like increasing the shelf life of the products, but some like parabens have been known to cause harm to consumers.
How do they affect us? Parabens are known to mimic the hormone estrogen, which can disrupt the hormonal system. Hormone disruptors are linked to PCOS and even breast cancer, as per EWG. A UC Berkeley study, published online Oct. 27, 2017 in Environmental Health Perspectives argues that previous research only looks at parabens in isolation. The study shows that when Parabens interact with other chemical changes in breast cancer cells the effect is much stronger.
How do we find them? People who use skin care products containing parabens are exposed to these chemicals every day. Luckily for us, parabens are easy to identify in the labels, even though we may not know the concentrations. Sometimes, they are used in conjunction or combination with each other or with other chemicals. The most common ones are methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and ethylparaben.
How can we avoid them? Where there is water, there is a preservative. Parabens? Or a different newer chemical on which research is still pending? So best avoid products that have "Water or Aqua" in them.
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What are they and why are they present in cosmetics? Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are chemicals used for giving the "long-lasting" or "smoothening" effects of moisturizing or texture or colour.
How do they affect us? According to EWG, exposure to PFAS is linked to hormonal changes in girls' development during puberty, timing alteration of mammary glands development, thyroid dysfunctions and higher risks of breast cancer. It may be of interest to note that PFAS is also linked to reduced effectiveness of vaccines.
During pregnancy, exposure to PFAS can lead to preeclampsia (high blood pressure, and often harm to organs like liver and kidneys)
How do we find them? Unfortunately, PFAS are very difficult to identify in the products, since there are no standardisations in the names. Some of the common ones used are PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene), perfluorooctyl triethoxysilane, perfluorononyl dimethicone, perfluorodecalin, and perfluorohexane.
How can we avoid them? Try to go natural for the texture or the colour. Use natural butters and oils. Use products multiple times, if required, to get the lasting effect.
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What are they and why are they present in cosmetics? Pthalates are used as solvents typically in lotions, perfumes, deodorants, hair sprays, colour cosmetics and nail .
How do they affect us? Research shows that some phthalates are linked to endocrine disruptions, which are further linked to thyroid malfunctions, reproductive issues and higher risks of breast cancer. Unfortunately, they are the most common products used by teenage girls. Besides this, they are harmful to use during pregnancy too, as they cross the fetal barrier and can cause abnormalities in babies.
How do we find them? While the word "pthalate" may be obvious, they are often listed only by the acronyms. For eg BBP (Butyl Benzyl Phthalate), DBP (Di-n-butyl Phthalate), DEP (Diethyl Phthalate), DiDP (Di- isodecyl phthalate), DnHP (Di-n-Hexyl Phthalate)
How can we avoid them? Go as natural as you can. Instead of lotions, use natural oils. Instead of synthetic perfumes, create your own natural fragrances and deodorants using hydrosols like rose water (gulab jal) or essential oils mixed in carrier oils and butters or natural and food-grade ethanol. Instead of hair sprays for styling, use natural butters on damp hair.
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Other ingredients to watch out for, which can affect women's health -
Synthetic Fragrance or Parfum: Apart from allergies, many are linked to endocrine disruptions (similar to pthalates above).
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Aluminium: Typically used in anti-perspirants, and though the research is still in its nascent stage, it is linked to breast cancer.
Skin care products have a large number of chemicals in them. Some of them are known for the short and long term health issues associated with them. However, new chemicals are getting formulated daily, the harmful effects of which may only be known many years later or sometimes only in the next generation. Hence, it is best to adopt a 100% natural regime or use 100% natural products, with time-tested ingredients.
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Some references -
1. EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database
3. UC Berkeley study in Environmental Health Perspectives