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Intro to Harmful Chemicals

Chemicals Dirty Dozen Harmful Chemicals Toxin

Watch out for Harmful Chemicals…they are everywhere!

We are constantly exposed to toxins from the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, the cleaning supplies we use…and of course our body and cosmetics products.

Some ingredients in body care products are not pretty and totally unsafe…and they are legal! Eighty percent of all body care products are NOT regulated…yes you read this right!  It’s appalling in my opinion. Unlike food, body care products and cosmetics have very lose regulations. We certainly wouldn’t think about eating or drinking these products but when we slather them on our skin, that is essentially what we are doing.

We often forget that our skin is an organ—actually, it’s our largest organ. Because our skin is porous, it absorbs everything we put on it. If our products contain harsh chemicals, these get absorbed through the skin, with a direct path to our blood stream then to our organs causing havoc to our overall health.  In addition, once these are washed off the body, they travel from the shower or toilet and eventually wind up in our water system…spreading these toxic chemicals to our valuable marine life. 

It’s estimated that the average woman uses at least 16 personal care products every single day.  It may be hard to believe but think about it…you wake up, brush your teeth (toothpaste), take a shower and use soap, shampoo, conditioner, then put on deodorant and maybe body cream.  Perhaps you use gel or mouse or hair spray on your hair.  Then you sometimes put on perfume and apply makeup (skin, eyes, lips etc).  I’ve counted at least a dozen products before you get our of the bathroom in the morning!

This equals to approximately 130 unique chemicals you expose your body to every single day.  Chemicals including carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins, and hormone disruptors…ouch!

If you care about the source of the ingredients in your meals, why not your skin?

The best thing we can do as consumers is to be knowledgeable on what these harmful chemicals are and to read ingredient lists carefully and try to avoid these, even though they continue to be widely used. Bottom line, If we want to stay healthy, we need to consider ditching some of our more nasty cancer-causing products we use regularly and make the move to healthier alternatives…pure natural products from the earth.

Below is a brief overview of the list of harsh chemicals to watch for and avoid.  The David Suzuki Foundations calls them the “Dirty Dozen” or the “Unusual Suspects”. 

The dirty dozen

Courtesy of the David Suzuki Foundation

1 – BHA and BHT

Used in moisturizers as preservatives,

the suspected endocrine disruptors may cause cancer and are known to be harmful to fish and other wildlife

2 – Coal-tar dyes

Usually listed as CI followed by five digits. Used in some hair dyes, may be contaminated with heavy metals toxic to the brain.

3 – DEA, cocamide DEA and lauramide DEA

Used in some creamy and foaming moisturizers and shampoos. Can react to form nitrosamines, which may cause cancer. Harmful to fish and other wildlife.

4 – Dibuytl phthalate

Used as a plasticizer in some nail-care products. Suspected endocrine disrupter and reproductive toxicant. Harmful to fish and other wildlife.

5 – Formaldehyde releasing preservatives

Listed as DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine, quarternium-15 and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate.

Used in a variety of cosmetics. Slowly release small amounts of formaldehyde, which causes cancer.

6 – Paraben, methylparaben, butylparaben and propylparaben

Used in a variety of cosmetics as preservatives. Suspected endocrine disrupters and may interfere with male reproductive functions.

7 – Parfum

Any mixture of fragrance ingredients used in a variety of cosmetics. Some fragrance ingredients can trigger allergies and asthma. Some linked to cancer and neurotoxicity. Some harmful to fish and other wildlife.

8 – PEG Compounds such as PEG-60

Used in some cosmetic cream bases. Can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which may cause cancer.

9 – Petrolatum

Used in some hair products for shine and as a moisture barrier in some lip balms, lip sticks and moisturizers. A petroleum product that can be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which may cause cancer.

10 – Siloxanes

AKA cyclotetrasiloxane, cyclopentasiloxane, cyclohexasiloxane and cyclopethicone.

Used in a variety of cosmetics to soften, smooth and moisten. Suspected endocrine disrupter and reproductive toxicant (cyclotetrasiloxane). Harmful to fish and other wildlife.

11 – Sodium Laureth Sulphate

Used in some foaming cosmetics, such as shampoos, cleansers and bubble bath. Can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which may cause cancer.

12 – Triclosan

Used in some antibacterial cosmetics, such as toothpastes, cleansers and deodorants. Suspected endocrine disrupter and may contribute to antibiotic resistance in bacteria. Harmful to fish and other wildlife.


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