- Stop Believing Any Sort of Endorsements – Look at any marketing campaign with very cynical eyes. Just because a celebrity or a blog (including this one) says so, don’t blindly trust it.
- Research the Actives – Check if the actives used are natural, scientifically proven or hold any certifications.
- Research the Preservatives or Base ingredients – This is the most overlooked part for any product. When a product is claimed to be “natural”, it’s actives are natural but the preservatives or base ingredients might not be. Here’s something that can help you. European Union standards have defined 10 harmful chemicals. Check if the product has any of these.
- Packaging is just packaging – Don’t judge a book by its cover. When it comes to your baby’s safety, don’t get influenced by fancy or colourful packaging.
If you knew your personal care products had preservatives made from carcinogens, would you want to use them?
We didn’t think so. Yet one ingredient made from a potential carcinogen is found in many personal care products, and is reported by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review to be safe.
It’s tetrasodium ETDA, made from ethylenediamine, formaldehyde—a known carcinogen according to the National Cancer Institute—and sodium cyanide (which is made from the toxic gas hydrogen cyanide).
It gets worse. This ingredient is also a penetration enhancer. That means it breaks down the skin’s protective barrier, making it easier for other potentially harmful ingredients in the formula to sink deeper into your tissues and perhaps even into your bloodstream.
Some of your creams may contain a preservative made from formaldehyde—you deserve better.
What is Tetrasodium EDTA?
Tetrasodium ETDA (which stands for ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid) is a water-soluble ingredient used as a “chelator,” which means it binds to certain mineral ions to inactivate them. Through this action, it can prevent the deterioration of cosmetic and personal care products, as it stops the growth of mold and other microorganisms. Tetrasodium EDTA also helps maintain clarity, protect fragrance compounds, and prevent rancidity. One of its main uses it to help personal care products work better in hard water.
Laboratory technicians use the three ingredients mentioned above to synthesize EDTA, and then tetrasodium EDTA is derived from that. You’ll find it in moisturizers, skin care and cleansing products, personal cleanliness products, bath soaps, shampoos and conditioners, hair dyes, hair bleaches, and many other products. It’s also cleared for use in packaged foods, vitamins, and baby food.
Is it safe?
The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel evaluated the scientific data and concluded that disodium ETDA and related ingredients (including tetrasodium EDTA) were safe as used in cosmetic ingredients and personal care products. The panel also said the ingredient was not well absorbed in the skin. They did note, however, that since the ingredients are penetration enhancers, formulators should be careful when combining these preservatives with other ingredients that may be hazardous if absorbed.
The Cosmetic Safety Database rates the hazard of the ingredient at a low “2,” with a low overall health hazard, and EDTA has not been found to cause cancer in laboratory animals.
In addition to the formaldehyde thing, however—which makes me uncomfortable—this ingredient may also contain dangerous levels of dioxane, a by-product of manufacturing that is also carcinogenic. There have been some case reports of sensitive individuals developing eczema after using cream with tetrasodium EDTA, and it’s known to be a potent eye irritant. It can also be slow to degrade, making it a poor choice for environmental health.
Why take the risk?
This is another one of those synthetic preservatives that just doesn’t feel good. We don’t have established scientific data on whether long-term use may hurt us, but just looking at the sources, is this really something we want to be putting on our skin?
We have other alternatives we can use, like coconut and castor oils for lather, and orange and cedar wood essential oils for natural preservatives, just to name a few. I would much rather nourish my skin with natural ingredients I know to be safe, rather than take a risk with something chemical, harsh, and potentially harmful—particularly when I have a little one running around the house who may be even more sensitive!
To avoid this ingredient, watch for these on the label:
- Edetate sodium
- Tetrasodium edetate
- Tetrasodium salt
Do you avoid this ingredient in your products? Have you experienced sensitivity to it?
Read more about the “7 exclusions your wellness products must have“.
The common cosmetic and drug preservatives known as parabens are in thousands of products — and, at low levels, in the vast majority of Americans. But recent studies have shown that the compounds might have unwanted health effects. Now scientists report for the first time that the antimicrobials are also showing up in the tissues of marine mammals, including dolphins, sea otters and polar bears. Their results appear in ACS’ journal Environmental Science & Technology.
Manufacturers have been adding parabens to some lotions, makeup, foods and pharmaceuticals since the 1950s. They prevent bacterial growth and extend products’ shelf-lives. But research has shown that parabens and their byproducts can act like estrogen in animals. Although the potential effects on humans aren’t clear, an analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that most people whom they tested had detectable levels of parabens in their urine. And humans aren’t the only ones getting exposed. As products containing these preservatives wash into the sewage system, they can be released into the environment. Kurunthachalam Kannan and colleagues wanted to find out whether marine animals were accumulating parabens in their bodies, too.
The researchers analyzed 121 tissue samples from eight species of marine mammals from the coastal waters of Florida, California, Washington and Alaska. They detected methyl paraben in many of the samples. A metabolite of methyl paraben called 4-hydroxybenzoic acid (4-HB) was in every sample. The levels ranged from trace amounts of methyl paraben in polar bears to tens of thousands of nanograms of 4-HB per gram of tissue in some dolphins and sea otters. The metabolite also occurs naturally in plants, but the scientists say the positive correlation between methyl paraben and 4-HB in samples suggests they come from synthetic sources. They add that further research is needed to determine what potential health risks these substances might pose to marine animals.
Source: ACS News Service
Paraffin and Microcrystalline Wax are derived from petroleum. Emulsifying Wax, Synthetic Wax and Synthetic Beeswax are manufactured waxes. In cosmetics and personal care products, these waxes are used in many types of products including lipsticks, baby products, eye and facial makeup, as well as nail care, skin care, suntan, sunscreen, fragrance, and noncoloring hair preparations.
Why is it harmful?
One of the criticisms of paraffin is that it doesn’t actually moisturize the skin. It’s certainly important to reinforce the skin’s natural moisture barrier, but many skin care experts suggest that the feeling of moisture isn’t real. After someone uses a cream with paraffin, the soft, silky sensation on the skin is that of mineral oil on the surface, and not of the actual skin texture. Some eczema sufferers seem to experience an exacerbation of symptoms when using creams with paraffins.
Propylene Glycol, also known as 1,2-propanediol, is a synthetic (i.e., man-made) organic alcohol that attracts/absorbs water. Due to this property, propylene glycol is broadly used by food, drug, and cosmetic and personal care product manufacturers.
Why are they harmful for you?
Prolonged skin exposure has caused irritation, possibly due to its dehydrating effect on the skin, despite being used in skin care products that advertise to do the opposite. PPG can also cause an allergic response on contact with the skin (allergic contact dermatitis), particularly in people that suffer with eczema, fungal infections and in people with lower sun exposure and vitamin D stores.
EDTA is in many products as a preservative, to stabilize it, or to enhance the foaming action. It’s also used as a chelating agent, which means it us used to precipitate out metals from the formulation (if tap water were used to make the formulation instead purified water, for example, and it can bind with metals dissolved in your shower water).
Why is it harmful for you?
Tetrasodium ETDA is made from ethylenediamine, formaldehyde—a known carcinogen according to the National Cancer Institute—and sodium cyanide (which is made from the toxic gas hydrogen cyanide). Even though, it has been scientifically not proven that EDTA itself is carcinogenic, it is better to be on the safe side of this ingredient.
EDTA is also a penetration enhancer. That means it breaks down the skin’s protective barrier, making it easier for other potentially harmful ingredients in the formula to sink deeper into your tissues.
Why is it harmful for the environment?
A study conducted in 2003 brings EDTA use under scrutiny. The compound has one of the highest concentrations in inland European waters. In natural environments studies detect poor biodegradability. It is concluded that EDTA behaves as a persistent substance in the environment and that its contribution to heavy metals bioavailability and remobilization processes in the environment is a major concern.
Mineral oil is a colorless and odorless oil that’s made from petroleum—as a by-product of the distillation of petroleum to produce gasoline. It’s long been used as a common ingredient in lotions, creams, ointments, and cosmetics. It’s lightweight and inexpensive, and helps reduce water loss from the skin.
Why are they harmful for you?
- It May be Contaminated with Toxins
The World Health Organization (WHO) has found that this unpurified form contains contaminants that have been linked in studies to an increased risk of cancer. A 2011 report by the National Toxicology Program, for example, stated, “Untreated and mildly treated mineral oils are known to be human carcinogens based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity from studies in humans.”
Cosmetics, on the other hand, use “cosmetic grade” mineral oil, which is more purified than technical grade. Studies have not linked this oil with cancer, but scientists have expressed concern about it. A 2011 study, for example, reported that contamination could be a relevant source of “mineral oil contamination.” Researchers stated, “There is strong evidence that mineral oil hydrocarbons are the greatest contaminant of the human body, amounting to approximately 1 gram per person. Possible routes of contamination include air inhalation, food intake, and dermal [skin] absorption.”
The went on to remove fat specimens from women who underwent cesarean sections, and also collected milk samples from the women after delivery. They found that both fat and milk samples were contaminated with mineral oil saturated hydrocarbons—and stated that these compounds likely accumulated over time from repeated exposure. “Cosmetics might be a relevant source of the contamination,” they stated.
An earlier 2008 study noted a similar concern about “mineral oil contamination,” and stated that it has “not been proven convincingly” that this contaminant can be tolerated without health concerns. “It has been shown that the molecular mass of the mineral paraffins [another name for mineral oil] resorbed by our body is higher than assumed by the safety evaluation of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Further, probably a majority of the mineral oil products are not ‘white paraffin oils’: they easily contain 30% aromatic component, a substantial proportion being alkylated adding to the health risk.”
In lay terms, that means that these scientists are concerned that much of the mineral oil we are exposed to on a daily basis does contain contaminants that could affect our health.
- It Clogs Pores
Mineral oil is considered “comedogenic,” which means it can clog your pores and increase the risk of acne and blackheads. The more refined, the less comedogenic, but there’s no way to know how purified the mineral oil is that’s in the product.
Even high grade of mineral oil can trap ingredients in your pores, however, because the oil is an “occlusive agent”—which means that it forms a physical barrier over your skin to reduce moisture loss. So if you already have bacteria on your skin (most likely), or if you have other ingredients in your product that can clog pores, even the most refined mineral oil will keep all of that close and tight to your skin, increasing risk of breakouts.
- It Doesn’t Give Your Skin Anything Beneficial
It’s not infusing it with nutrients. It’s not providing hydration that actually goes into the skin where it counts. It’s just sitting there on the top of the skin preventing moisture loss.
That may have been okay fifty years ago, but today we have so many better alternatives! We have natural plant extracts, nut butters, natural oils, and more that provide so many benefits, including essential fatty acids that plump up skin, antioxidants to fight free radical damage, and nutrients to help maintain skin firmness. Why settle for a film made from petroleum when you can do so much more for your skin?
PEGs (polyethylene glycols) are petroleum-based compounds that are widely used in cosmetics as thickeners, solvents, softeners, and moisture-carriers. PEGs are commonly used as cosmetic cream bases. They are also used in pharmaceuticals as laxatives.
Why are they harmful for you?
Depending on manufacturing processes, PEGs may be contaminated with measurable amounts of ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies ethylene oxide as a known human carcinogen and 1,4-dioxane as a possible human carcinogen. Ethylene oxide can also harm the nervous system. While 1,4-dioxane can be removed from cosmetics during the manufacturing process by vacuum stripping, but there is no easy way for consumers to know whether products containing PEGs have undergone this process. In a study of personal care products marketed as “natural” or “organic” (uncertified), U.S. researchers found 1,4-dioxane as a contaminant in 46 of 100 products analyzed.
While carcinogenic contaminants are the primary concern, PEG compounds themselves show some evidence of genotoxicity and if used on broken skin can cause irritation and systemic toxicity. The industry panel that reviews the safety of cosmetics ingredients concluded that some PEG compounds are not safe for use on damaged skin (although the assessment generally approved of the use of these chemicals in cosmetics). Also, PEG functions as a “penetration enhancer,” increasing the permeability of the skin to allow greater absorption of the product — including harmful ingredients.
Why are they harmful for the environment?
California Environmental Protection Agency has classified Ethylene oxide as a developmental toxicant based on evidence that it may interfere with human development. 1,4-dioxane is also persistent. In other words, it doesn’t easily degrade and can remain in the environment long after it is rinsed down the shower drain.
Michelle Scott-Lynch, founder of paraben-free haircare brand Bouclème says, ‘Parabens are a type of preservative, first introduced in the 1950s. They’re used to prolong shelf life in many health and beauty products by preventing the growth of mould and bacteria within them.’
Why are they harmful for you?
In 2004, a British study found traces of five parabens in the breast tissue of 19 out of 20 women studied. The study didn’t prove that parabens can cause cancer but identified that the parabens were able to penetrate the skin and remain within tissue.
Parabens are believed to disrupt hormone function by mimicking estrogen. Too much estrogen can trigger an increase in breast cell division and growth of tumours, which is why paraben use has been linked to breast cancer and reproductive issues.
Why are they harmful for the environment?
A scientific study reported that parabens have been found for the first time in the bodies of marine mammals. Researchers believe that it is likely these parabens come from products we use that are washed into the sewage system and released into the environment.