"Fragrance“ This vague term can include hundreds of chemicals and trigger allergic reactions. Skip products that use the term “fragrance” in the list of ingredients and instead find a product with natural ingredients and ingredients you can pronounce. Ingredients can have harmful contaminants. Many common ingredients can contain impurities linked to cancer and other health concerns. Avoid these common ingredients where possible:
- DMDM hydantoin,
- Diazolidinyl urea,
- Imidazolidinyl urea,
- Polyethylene glycol and PEG
Fragrances are in everything from shampoo to deodorant to lotion. Federal law doesn’t require companies to list on product labels any of the chemicals in their fragrance mixture. Recent research has discovered an average of 14 chemicals in 17 name brand fragrance products, none of them listed on the label. Fragrances can contain hormone disruptors and are among the top 5 allergens in the world.
Hydroquinone: A skin bleaching chemical that can cause a skin disease called ochronosis, with blue-black lesions that in the worst cases become permanent black caviar-size bumps. In animal studies, hydroquinone has caused tumor development. The National Toxicology Program is conducting reproductive toxicity and dermal carcinogenicity studies of this chemical.
Methylisothiazolinone and methylchloroisothiazolinone: Preservatives, commonly used together in personal care products, among the most common irritants, sensitizers and causes of contact allergy Lab studies on mammalian brain cells suggest that methylisothiazolinone may be neurotoxic.
Oxybenzone: Sunscreen agent and ultraviolet light absorber, found in nearly all Americans , according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In human epidemiological studies, oxybenzone has been linked to irritation, sensitization and allergies. A study of 404 New York City women in the third trimester of pregnancy associated higher maternal concentration of oxybenzone with a decreased birth weight among newborn baby girls but with greater birth weight in newborn boys. Studies on cells and laboratory animals indicate that oxybenzone and its metabolites may disrupt the hormone system.
Parabens (Propyl, Isopropyl, Butyl, and Isobutylparabens): Parabens are estrogen-mimicking preservatives,found in breast cancer tumors of 19 of 20 women studied. The CDC has detected parabens in virtually all Americans surveyed. According to the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Products, longer chain parabens like propyl and butyl paraben and their branched counterparts, isopropyl and isobutylparabens, may disrupt the endocrine system and cause reproductive and developmental disorders.
PEG/Ceteareth/Polyethylene compounds: These synthetic chemicals are frequently contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which the U.S. government considers a probably human carcinogen and which readily penetrates the skin. Cosmetics makers could easily remove 1,4-dioxane from ingredients, but tests documenting its common presence in products show that they often don’t.
Petroleum distillates: Petroleum-extracted cosmetics ingredients, commonly found in mascara. They may cause contact dermatitis and are often contaminated with cancer-causing impurities. They are produced in oil refineries at the same time as automobile fuel, heating oil and chemical feedstocks.
Phthalates: A growing number of studies link this chemical to male reproductive system disorders. Pregnant women should avoid nail polish containing dibutyl phathalate. Everyone should avoid products with “fragrance” indicating a chemical mixture that may contain phthalates.
Resorcinol: Common ingredient in hair color and bleaching products; skin irritant, toxic to the immune system and frequent cause of hair dye allergy. In animal studies, resorcinol can disrupt normal thyroid function. The federal government regulates exposures to resorcinol in the workplace, but its use is not restricted in personal care products.
Retinyl palmitate and retinol (Vitamin A): Vitamin A is an essential nutrient, but excessive amounts can cause severe birth defects if women are exposed during pregnancy New evidence shows that when applied to sun-exposed skin, for instance, in sunscreens, lip products and daytime moisturizers, these compounds can break down and produce toxic free radicals that can damage DNA and cause skin cancer. Recent date from the federal Food and Drug Administration indicate that when retinyl palmitate is applied to the skin in the presence of sunlight, it speeds the development of skin tumors and lesions.
Toluene: Volatile petrochemical solvent and paint thinner and potent neurotoxicant that acts as an irritant, impairs breathing and causes nausea A pregnant woman’s exposure to toluene vapors during pregnancy may impair fetal development. In human epidemiological and animal studies, toluene has been associated with toxicity to the immune system. Some evidence suggests a link to malignant lymphoma.
Triclosan & Triclocarban: Antimicrobial pesticides in liquid soap (triclosan) or soap bars (triclocarban), very toxic to the aquatic environment. often found as contaminants in people due to widespread use of antimicrobial cleaning products. Triclosan disrupts thyroid function and reproductive hormones. American Medical Association and the American Academy of Microbiology say that soap and water serves just as well to prevent spread of infections and reduce bacteria on the skin. Overuse may promote the development of bacterial resistance.
Thanks to EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetic Database for help with all the chemical info.