A few days after I was recovering from my thyroidectomy surgery, I was struggling to sleep. So, as I often do during sleepless nights (not recommended), I went down the Internet rabbit hole in search of reasons why I may have gotten thyroid cancer and/or why I may have developed Hashimoto’s Disease. While I didn’t get to the bottom of either mystery, what I stumbled across was alarming. There were toxins in almost all of my beauty products and household cleaners. Here’s what you need to know:
Visit the Environmental Working Group’s cosmetic database, Skin Deep. They’ve tested over 65,000 products to date and rank the products by toxicity level and will tell you what ingredients you should watch out for. They also have an app so you can scan labels while you’re at the store to take a lot of guesswork and memorization out of this.
Know your toxins. Here’s a few of the biggies:
- Parabens: Used in a variety of products and acts as a preservative. It is suspected to be an endocrine and reproductive disrupter, and may be a human carcinogen.
- Phthalates: Found in color cosmetics, lotions, nail polish, body washes and hair care products. It is suspected to disrupt the endocrine system and can be toxic to the reproductive system.
- Ethanolamine Compounds (TEA, DEA MEA and others): Used in a variety of products as an emulsifier and pH adjuster to counteract acidity in other ingredients. Has been linked to cancers and precancerous changes in skin and thyroid. DEA liked to accumulate in the liver and kidneys, and has been known to affect male reproductive health.
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS): Used as a foaming agent, it can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane which may be a human carcinogen. There are related products (such as PEG below), so watch for ingredients containing “eth.”
- Polyethylene Glycols (PEG): Petroleum-based compounds used in a lot of creamy cosmetics. The biggest concern here is that the compound may be contaminated with ethylene oxide (known human carcinogen) and 1,4-dioxane (possible human carcinogen).
- Synthetic Color (coal tar dyes): Watch out for p-phenylenediamine in products listed CI followed by a five digit number. You may also see them listed as Blue No. 1 or Blue 1. These have been linked to tumours in laboratory tests conducted by the U.S. National Cancer Institute. The colors may contain heavy metals which are toxic to your brain and other organs.
- Synthetic Fragrances or Parfum: If you see fragrance in the name, it can be disguising many different ingredients due to a loophole in federal law. These ingredients can have a range of side effects, including triggering allergies and asthma and may be linked to cancer, neurotoxicity or organ system toxicity. Read your labels, as I’ve personally seen a lot of “unscented” products with fragrances listed in the ingredients.
- BHA and BHT: Used as preservatives in a lot of moisturizers and makeup. The ingredients are suspected to disrupt the endocrine system and BHA has been linked to cancer.
Here’s a snapshot of what I tossed:
I educated myself and took a trip to Ulta where I spent over an hour reading every label to get the cleanest products I could. This was my initial purchase:
While these products aren’t completely perfect, they’re pretty clean. I also really like that Physicians Formula is affordable and is found in most drugstores and grocery stores. Since this initial purchase, I’ve purchased bareMinerals makeup and I’ve moved to oil cleansers and moisturizers. I’m currently using organic avocado oil to wash my face and warm, damp microfiber cloths to wipe off the oil. I also use organic argan oil as a moisturizer. My skin has gotten so soft and clear since I’ve started this routine.
The hardest part about this whole process has been finding a natural deodorant that actually works. Through a lot of trial and error, I finally found Schmidt’s deodorant. I personally prefer the deodorant in a jar.
I would love to hear your experience with natural products! Please comment below if you are hooked on something that works well for you.