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toxic ingredients to avoid when buying cosmetics

Parabens. Parabens are widely used preservatives that prevent the growth of bacteria, mold and yeast in cosmetic products. Sounds good, right? Not so fast, they do more than that. Parabens possess estrogen-mimicking properties that are associated with increased risk of breast cancer. These chemicals are absorbed through the skin and have been identified in biopsy samples from breast tumors. They can be found in makeup, body washes, deodorants, shampoos and facial cleansers. You can also find them in food and pharmaceutical products.

Synthetic colors. If you take a look at your product label and notice FD&C or D&C, they represent artificial colors. F — representing food and D&C representing drug and cosmetics. These letters precede a color and number (e.g., D&C Red 27 or FD&C blue 1). These synthetic colors are derived from petroleum or coal tar sources. Synthetic colors are suspected to be a human carcinogen, a skin irritant and are linked to ADHD in children. The European Classification and Labeling considers it a human carcinogen and the European Union has banned it.

Fragrance. This particular category is pretty scary, because what does “fragrance” mean anyway? This term was created to protect a company’s “secret formula.” But as the consumer you could be putting on a concoction that contains tons of chemicals that are hazardous to your health. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Skin Deep Database, fragrance mixes have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system. It can be found in many products such as perfume, cologne, conditioner, shampoo, body wash and moisturizers.

Phthalates. A group of chemicals used in hundreds of products to increase the flexibility and softness of plastics. The main phthalates in cosmetics and personal care products are dibutyl phthalate in nail polish, diethyl phthalate in perfumes and lotions, and dimethyl phthalate in hair spray. They are known to be endocrine disruptors and have been linked to increased risk of breast cancer, early breast development in girls, and reproductive birth defects in males and females. Unfortunately, it is not disclosed on every product as it’s added to fragrances (remember the “secret formula” not listed), a major loophole in the law. They can be found in deodorants, perfumes/colognes, hair sprays and moisturizers.