Beauty Products + Toxicity: An Overview
by Ariane Boisvert
published April 04, 2012
rating: (23 Ratings)
What you need to know
The ingredients list of beauty products has been making headlines for some time now. The accused: potentially carcinogenic chemicals that sometimes appear on said list. A quasi-impenetrable issue, we certainly don’t claim to know the ins and outs of it, but we did do the rounds of the most recent studies to tackle the matter. Below, our report on the topic.
A good number of scientists are concerned with the use of certain preservatives in beauty products. Among these, one in particular is on everyone’s lips: synthetic parabens. What are they, exactly? Used in more than 75% of beauty products, parabens have antibacterial and antifungal properties that ensure the preservation of cosmetic formulas. We also find them in medicinal drugs and certain processed foods and beverages, making them difficult to avoid!
Why should we be wary of them? Studies have shown that parabens easily penetrate the skin. A few demonstrate that, once inside the body, these chemicals can have a disruptive impact on the endocrine system, which is responsible for women’s hormonal functions. Even more worrisome, scientists have found parabens in cancerous breast tissues, which suggests that they are potentially carcinogenic. Now, just think about all those creams that women generously apply on their skin!
Ingredients to watch out for: methylparaben, butylparaben and propylparaben. In sum, any ingredient ending in -paraben.
Perfumes and fragrances
Canadian cosmetic regulations stipulate that the ingredients contained in a beauty product must appear on the bottle or packaging. However, beauty labels are not required to disclose absolutely all components of the fragrance added to their formula. Hence, the regulation states that, “In the case of fragrance and flavour, the words ‘parfum’ and ‘aroma’, respectively, may be inserted at the end of the list of ingredients to indicate that such ingredients have been added to the cosmetic to produce or to mask a particular odour or flavour.” What components are hidden behind these names? It’s certainly difficult for consumers to decipher.
Among these concealed ingredients, we find synthetic musk. The latter is singled out by environmentalists because not only have traces of it been found in fish from the Great Lakes, but have also been detected in the blood from human umbilical cords. Reason enough to raise an eyebrow at our beloved musky fragrances!
Phthalates are also used in the preparation of perfumes. The latter enables the desired scent, or famous base notes, to stand the test of time. Well, it seems phthalates interfere with certain hormonal functions. They can, among other things, be responsible for a “reduced sperm count in men, and reproductive defects in the developing male fetus” according to a worrisome report from the David Suzuki Foundation. We also learn that Health Canada has issued a ban on the use of six types of phthalates used in the manufacturing of children’s toys. However, these same substances can still be used within the beauty industry.
So… are all our beloved creams headed for the garbage bin? Not if we refer to Health Canada, which guarantees that the concentration of controversial ingredients found in beauty products is safe.
According to governmental authorities, these chemicals are used in small quantities, and hence do not represent a real health risk. What’s more, manufacturers are required to provide a complete list of ingredients used in their products. That way, if a product contains an excessive amount of harmful chemicals, its sale will immediately be prohibited.
This is a hot topic that resonates with lovers of makeup and other cosmetic embellishments. If our exposé piqued your interest, or if you were already aware of this issue, perhaps you would like to find out more. Here are a couple of resources to help you pursue your reflection on the matter:
-The David Suzuki Foundation, which, in addition to working to protect the environment, also takes active interest in health-related issues, produced a complete report outlining toxic products used in cosmetology. It thus found 12 types of ingredients that are harmful to our system. Click here to consult the list. Visit www.davidsuzuki.org.
-Also visit Health Canada’s website. Therein, we find information on just about all health-related issues, including our beloved beauty products! Visit www.healthycanadians.gc.ca.
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