By Laura Powers: Celebrity Psychic, Author, and host of Healing Powers Podcast.
Recently I have started to learn the importance of checking out ingredients in cosmetics for toxins. Sadly, the cosmetics industry in the United States is one of the least regulated industries. So, if you are buying products thinking they are safe for your body, you may be assuming incorrectly. I have noticed sensitivities to certain additives that I have determined through a process of elimination and decided to share my findings with you.
Since many cosmetic products have a long list of ingredients, it can be tough to research each ingredient and learn about it. Luckily there are some great resources for learning more about the safety of various products and services. One popular website is the Environmental Working Group’s, Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. There are also several handy apps that allow you to research products and ingredients including Healthy Living by the Environmental Working Group, Think Dirty, Good Guide, and Detox Me. I have found that not all products are in each app so sometimes I end up looking one product up in multiple places before I find the information I need.
Just a note to say that there are plenty of other toxic ingredients and these are just a few that I have found it best to avoid. On the Think Dirty app, for example, I have found that products above a 0-2 safety rating tend to give me a reaction so that my eyes water. I have also noticed that not all products by the same company are similar in terms of toxicity rating. For example, one brand may have a product that has a 7 rating on the toxicity scale while others have a 0-2 rating. So, I have learned not to assume that all products by a brand name are created equally. A lot of companies have started “greenwashing” their products, by describing them as green, or eco and body-friendly, even when they really aren’t. Doing research and empowering yourself as a consumer is really the best way to ensure you are using clean products. Another great benefit of buying and using non-toxic products is that it encourages the companies that make them to manufacture more of them. This is good for consumer choice and the environment because what is toxic for us is usually destructive for the planet as a whole as well.
An additional reason I decided to write this post is that cosmetics are primarily applied to the head and face on the skin which is highly absorbent and very near the brain. Since the brain is made mostly of fat and a lot of toxins are stored in fat, keeping toxins away from the brain is of paramount importance for overall health. Personally, I want to keep products off of my skin that are toxic and keep my brain as toxin-free as possible.
Many consider talc a safe ingredient though there are conflicting reports of its safety. Some talc is contaminated with asbestos, a known carcinogen (cancer causer). While most believe that asbestos-free talc is fairly safe, there have been issues with the reliability of data on the confirmation that the talc used is in fact, free of asbestos. Recently there was a scandal involving makeup sold by Claire’s boutiques that was lab tested and found to contain asbestos, despite claims that the talc contained was asbestos free. You can read more about that in this article. There are also numerous studies linking talc to ovarian cancer, lung cancer, lung disease, respiratory problems for infants and children. You can read more about those studies and findings here. I have found that when I use eye-shadows or powders with talc in them that my eyes water and are irritated. Since many of the cosmetic products that contain talc are in a powder form, this is concerning since inhaling talc has been shown to cause lung cancer and lung disease. Talc is incredibly prevalent in cosmetic products and even brands that tout themselves as green and non-toxic still use talc.
I believe that the use of Aluminum in our cosmetics will be viewed by future generations comparable to the use of lead in cosmetics to us now. Aluminum is a common ingredient in foundation, face-powders, eye-shadows, blushers/bronzers, deodorant, and dry-shampoos. This is an ingredient that is controversial in terms of toxicity with some believing it to be safe while others believe it to be highly toxic. It is incredibly prevalent not only in cosmetics but in food and household goods. When a large amount of aluminum is present in the body, symptoms can include confusion, bone pain and deformities or weakness, seizures, speech problems, muscle weakness, and slow growth in children. When aluminum toxicity becomes systemic and long-term, it can lead to the following diseases: cancer, bone disease, reproductive problems, brain disorders, nervous system dysfunction, reproductive issues, and possibly Alzheimer’s disease. I would be particularly cautious about using aluminum in any cosmetic form in which a large quantity is put on the skin or inhaled. Many popular dry shampoos include large amounts of aluminum starch. This is bad on two fronts as you can inhale the aluminum so that it goes into the lungs and then it can settle on the skin where it can be absorbed into the body. Since there are alternatives to aluminum, you can find plenty of products that do the job without the aluminum in them.
Mineral Oil/Petrolatum/Petroleum Jelly
Mineral oil is a relatively inexpensive oil and can be found in lotions and many products including surprisingly eye-shadows and face powders or various kinds. Mineral oil is problematic for a few reasons and one of the main reasons is it can be contaminated with metals and other toxins which are known to cause cancer. Mineral oil is a petroleum by-product. This product is also known as comedogenic which means it clogs and enlarges pores, which can lead to breakouts. Additionally, there are no benefits to mineral oil and there are plenty of other oils which have similar properties that are not toxic and don’t clog pores. Mineral oil can also be called mineral paraffin or paraffin oil.
Fragrance can include many different chemicals and in order to protect trade secrets, manufacturers are not required to list what it is in fragrances. This means that the term fragrance can include many different substances including synthetic petrochemicals. So, the term fragrance could include dozens of secret ingredients that are not listed in the ingredients. According to this Huffington Post Article, 95% of synthetic fragrances are made from petrochemicals. Many of these ingredients are known to cause cancer, allergies, birth defects, and problems with the nervous system. Basically this is bad news! This seemingly innocent label of fragrance can hide a whole host of toxic ingredients.
Magnesium stearate is an additive in many powdered cosmetics as well as supplements. While many sites state that magnesium stearate is safe, I have found that my body reacts to it very poorly. To look further into magnesium stearate, lets look at what exactly it is. It is a synthetically created additive made from stearic acid with added magnesium ions. Synthetic ingredients are often not recognized by the body and can cause cumulative health issues when ingested or used topically. If you want to read more about Magnesium Stearate, you can read this article which has extensive information on what it is and how its made. This particular additive makes my eyes water profusely and once I learned how unnatural it was, I was not surprised. Like aluminum, there are other ingredients that will fill the bill and it seems that one of the main reasons this ingredient is because it is cheap. While natural cosmetics are sometimes (and not always) more expensive, when you factor health concerns, are they really a better value?
I know it can feel overwhelming to avoid these ingredients, but it is possible to find great products with these ingredients. I’ll be working on a blog post of non-toxic cosmetics and would love to hear your favorites!