Monday, November 17, 2008

12 Ingredients to Avoid in Personal Care Products

The Dirty Dozen 12 Ingredients to Avoid in Personal Care Products
(Info from

* Antibacterials
* Coal tar colors: FD&C Blue 1, Green 3
* Diethanolamine (DEA)
* Formaldehyde from quaternium 15
* Fragrance
* Hydroquinone
* Mercury and lead
* Nanoparticles
* Methyl-, propyl-, butyl- and ethyl parabens
* Petroleum distillates* Phenylenediamine (PPD)

Here are some ingredients to look for on labels and avoid:

Coal-Tar Dyes: These coloring agents can be carcinogens. Avoid cosmetics containing FD&C Blue 1, FD&C Green 3, D&C Red 33, FD&C Yellow 5, FC&C Yellow 6.

Glycol Ethers: Some glycol ethers have been linked to reproductive-system harm or birth defects, and overexposure can also result in kidney damage and liver abnormalities. Propylene glycol is a common skin irritant.

Fragrance: This blanket term generally covers synthetic fragrance using phthalates, a family of chemical plasticizers that have been shown to cause birth defects, reproductive impairments and liver damage in lab animals. And, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, fragrance is the number-one cause of allergic reactions from cosmetics.

Petrolatum: Although studies confirm that petroleum jelly, or Vaseline, is safe, it is derived from a non-renewable resource and can cause allergic skin reactions. And if you accidentally eat too much—not an impossibility if you are slathering it on your lips—you may wind up with diarrhea.

Preservatives: Parabens, including methyl-, butyl-, ethyl- and propyl-, often cause skin irritation and have been found in tissue samples from human breast tumors. Consumers should also avoid bronopol (often listed as 2-brono-2-nitropropane-1, 3-diol), diazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantion, imidazolidinyl urea and quaternium 15, all of which can release formaldehyde, a probable human carcinogen.

Hypoallergenic: Don't be seduced by this meaningless term. The FDA states that "there are no federal standards or definitions that govern the use of the term 'hypoallergenic.'" Some products labeled "hypoallergenic," for example, contain known allergens, such as quaternium 15 and propylene glycol.

What to look for:
Look for these “goodies,” generally less irritating and less risky for health and the environment, in a variety of personal care products. (You download and print this list as part of a comprehensive cosmetics guide, available at "The Good, The Bad & The Ugly").
Candelilla wax
Iron oxides
Jojoba oil
Pycnogenol (from pine trees)
Rice bran oil
Shea butter
Sunflower oil
Sweet almond oil
Titanium dioxide
Vitamins A,C,E

What's Good
Less-Toxic Personal-Care Products
(Caution: Although less toxic, these and other personal-care products can be harmful if ingested and should be kept out of the reach of children.)
Check out starred (*) "bad" ingredients

Antiperspirants & Deodorants

Tom's of Maine Natural Anti-perspirant & Deodorant. Contains buffered aluminum sulfate, naturally derived and less likely to irritate than aluminum chlorohydrate*. Does contain propylene glycol*, which carries a low risk of irritancy. No Tom's of Maine product contains phthalates, says spokesperson Kathleen Taggersell (, 800/FOR-TOMS).

Crystal Stick Body Deodorant. Simply uses only natural mineral salts and the naturally derived ammonium alum. (, 888/262-3884, or see the many crystal deodorants listed in The Green Guide's Deodorant Product Report).

Burt's Bees Herbal Deodorant. 99% natural; fragrance ingredients include sage and lemon oils (, 800/849-7112).

Kiss My Face Active Enzyme Stick Lavender. Scented with lavender essential oil (, 800/262-5477). Does contain propylene glycol*.

Perfumes & Fragrances
EWG's 2002 report "Not Too Pretty" found that 100% of the fragrances tested contained phthalates, even among such "natural" sounding product lines as Healing Garden. Only pure botanical fragrances can be assumed to be phthalate-free, but those with sensitive skin should still patch-test.

Aveda Pure-fumes are 100% natural (, 800/328-0849).

Sunrise Herbal Remedies Essential Essences contain botanicals mixed on site at a Connecticut herb farm (, 866/794-0809).

Tisserand Aromatherapy Essential Oils (through, 800/227-5120).

Cornstarch is a nontoxic alternative to talc, but take caution: These and other fine particles/powders can, if inhaled, irritate airways and provoke asthmatic reactions.

Burt's Bees Wings of Love Facial Powder, talc-free, uses mica, calcium carbonate (chalk), kaolin (clay) and zinc oxide (, 800/849-7112).
California Baby Calming Non-Talc Powder (www.california, 877/576-2825).

The products below are free of the most problematic synthetic chemicals.

Burt's Bees Milk & Honey Body Lotion (, 800/849-7112).

Jason Natural Cosmetics Vitamin K Creme Plus for Skin (, 800/JASON-05).

Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose Complexion & Body Moisturizer (, 800/282-7394).

Kiss My Face Ultra Hydrating Moisturizer (, 800/262-5477).

Haircare Products

Safer Shampoos & Conditioners

Avalon Organic Botanicals Therapeutic Shampoo contains the preservatives methyl-* and propylparaben*, but they pose less risk in rinse-off products (, 800/277-5120).

Aubrey Organics Soothing Blue Camomile Shampoo (, 800/282-7394); their hair product line contains no SLS/SLES surfactants*.

Dr. Hauschka Herbal Hair Conditioner (, 800-247-9907).

J. R. Liggett's Old-Fashioned Bar Shampoo -- no bottle! (, 603/675-2055).

Hair Groomers: Sprays, gels and other "fixitives"

Dr. Hauschka Neem Hair Lotion (, 800-247-9907).

Aveda Brilliant Hair Spray (, 800-328-0849).

John Masters Sweet Orange & Silk Protein Styling Gel (, 800-599-2450).

John Masters Hair Pomade (, 800-599-2450).

Hair Dyes
The safest hair-coloring products last the least amount of time:
"Semi-permanent" products, which coat the hair and wash out after several shampoos, contain no ammonia*, peroxide* or other harsh chemicals. Gray strands will come out looking like highlights, but these products can't cover an entire head of gray.
They include: Aveda color-enhancing shampoos and conditioners (, 800-328-0849) and Logona Kosmetik Pure Vegetable Hair Color ( or from the Merz Apothecary, 800-252-0275).

"Demi-permanent" tints typically last twice as long and can cover more gray -- but they do contain peroxide.
A good choice: Clairol Natural Instincts Demi Permanent Haircolor contains no ammonia and is low in peroxide (at stores nationwide; www.clairol.,com, 800-223-5800).

Step up to permanent hair dyes and highlights and you've entered a world of harsh chemicals, including cancer-linked "coal tar" dyes. Safest bet: Avoid coal-tar ingredients and keep formulations off the scalp. As Deirdre Imus says, "Simply work with your colorist to keep the process as safe as possible."

Good Makeup
FlowerColor Eyeshadow by Ecco Bella (, 877-696-2200) contains no synthetic preservatives.

Paul Penders (, 888-278-0889) makes a mascara with no tar, alcohol or petroleum-based colors or chemical drying agents.

Eyeliner from Burt's Bees (, 800-849-7112) contains only natural ingredients and also works as an eyebrow pencil.

Aubrey Organics (, 800-282-7394) makes Natural Lips, a 100% vegan product that can double as a blush.

Water-based nail polish that peels off (no remover necessary) is available from Color 'N Peel (, 888-420-2628).

The following companies also make a full range of cleaner color cosmetics:
Dr. Hauschka (, 800-247-9907)
Gabriel (800-497-6419)
NaturElle (, 800-442-3936)
Real Purity (, 800-253-1694)

Healthier Ingredients Roundup
Look for these "goodies" in a variety of personal-care products: Annatto, beeswax, candelilla wax, carmine, carrageenan, cornstarch, hematite, iron oxides, jojoba oil, kaolin, pycnogenol (from pine trees), rice-bran oil, shea butter, sunflower oil, sweet almond oil, titanium dioxide, vitamins A,C,E.

Or make your own products. Check out this post all about making your own Natural body products . There are lots of recipes for homemade toiletries, etc...


Anonymous said...

great post!
my favorite safe & green products
afterglow cosmetics
they have a great range of safe wonderfully beautiful makeup, plus they are gluten free! i use their makeup everyday. it has even helped clear up my skin.

& for face moisturizers i use pangea products, paraben free & very natural & gentle.
i pick it up at whole foods.


Anonymous said...


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