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Hidden Dangers Lurking In Your Cosmetics And Personal Care Products


This article was authored by Klaus Ferlow, HMH (Honorary Master Herbalist), innovator, lecturer, researcher, writer, founder Ferlow Botanical Enterprises Ltd, Vancouver, B.C. manufacturing/distributing organic toxin-free medicinal herbal and personal care products to professional health & wellness practitioners in Canada and parts of USA since 1993.

Hidden Dangers Lurking In Your Cosmetics And Personal Care Products

Are you aware that the cosmetics industry in North America is big business with 50 billion in sales each year? Their products are sold mostly with "brainwashing" typical North American advertising "as seen on TV" in the multimedia, television , radio, magazines, newspapers and now more and more on the internet. Lots of claims are made how good the products are at rejuvenating the skin by reducing wrinkles, lines and working anti-aging etc. But do you really know what the ingredients are in these products? Even if listed on the product label, do you understand for example what sodium lauryl sulphate, propylene glycol, methyl, propyl paraben, triethanolamine (TEA) and mineral oil mean and how it effects your skin and body?

Over the past half century, tens of thousands of new chemicals have come into use - in industry, in the workplace, in our homes. They have revolutionized industrial processes and changed the way how we live. But many of those chemicals, it is estimated that approx. 1000 new chemicals are quietly introduced to the marketplace every year, have also brought with them a variety of toxic effects to human health and the environment. Some have been shown to be carcinogens, substances that can cause cancer. Some have been shown to have toxic effects on reproduction, in humans and animals. Others may be endocrine disrupters, chemicals that effect the hormone producing organs of the body.

In 1965, the UN's World Health Organization established the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to study causes and prevention of cancer around the world. In its 43 years of existence, they established an authoritative list of carcinogens, based on the findings of worldwide research. Sine then, new agencies, such as the U.S. National Toxicology Program and California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment have also developed lists of toxic chemicals. Canada does not yet have its own list, although some substances have been declared toxic to health and the environment under the provisions of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA). Those lists are a powerful tool that we can use to identify potentially toxic chemicals and then eliminate or at least reduce our exposure to them.

The "flowery" and often misleading language of cosmetics advertising tells you very little about the actual effectiveness. After years of waiting, consumers in Canada finally have mandatory ingredient labelling on cosmetic products as a result of new Health Canada regulations that became fully effective in November 2006. Most products, including lipsticks, shampoos, makeup, hair colouring and fragrances will be covered, although the regulations will not include products such as toothpaste and sunscreens which are considered drug products. Nor will it include natural health products. What Canadians don't have - unlike residents in California and those in the European Union - is hazard labelling on personal care products. Hazard labelling requires manufacturers to identify any carcinogens, reproductive toxins, or endocrine disrupters in their products with a readily identifiable symbol. Many groups in Canada, including LEAS (Labour Environmental Alliance Society, Vancouver, B.C)., are calling for hazard labelling of personal care and household products and recent polls have shown Canadians want it to help them in making informed product choices. They published in 2004 their first edition of the CancerSmart Consumer Guide which changed the world of cancer prevention which showed the link between environmental and occupational chemicals and cancer was not readily accepted by the media or even the country's cancer agencies. Today, research is shedding new light on the chemical-cancer link every day. Media stories that identify toxic chemicals as a critically important part of our understanding of cancer are commonplace.

Much of the change has come following CBC journalist Wendy Mesley's documentary, "Chasing the Cancer Answer." The television show - which featured the CancerSmart Guide inclusive an interview with Mae Burrows, the Executive Director, was first aired in March 2006 and has been re-run several times, each time drawing thousands of comments from viewers. Many of them have underlined the key importance of cancer prevention, and the close link that exists between our own health and the environment.

Health Canada does maintain a "Cosmetic Hotlist" specifying ingredients that are not permitted in cosmetics or are subject to certain restrictions. But the list does not have the same authority as legislated regulations and several ingredients that are banned from use in cosmetics in Europe, dibutyl phthalate, for example, are not on the hotlist. CONSUMERS WILL NEED TO LOOK CLOSELY AT THE PRODUCT PACKAGING AND READ THE LABELS TO SEE SOME OF THE INGREDIENTS TO VOID! In USA the law provides mandatory labelling of ingredients, but only chemists understand their purpose and dermatologists their problems. It seems that a large percentage of the population is suffering adverse consequences when using products containing many harmful chemicals and synthetic ingredients.

Toxin Or Toxicant?

Information about toxic chemicals will sometime refer to "toxins" and sometime to "toxicants", making it confusing for the average consumer.

The term generally used by scientists to describe a toxic chemical is "toxicant." However, for many years, environmental groups have referred to toxic chemicals as toxins and he term has been generally accepted in popular language with that meaning. For that reason I am using "toxin" rather than "toxicant."

The purpose of this article is to offer alternative methods of caring for body, your skin and hair since we are actively involved in the manufacturing/distributing of truly natural organic toxin-free medicinal herbal and personal care products using premium quality plant derived botanical extracts which are certified organic, organic or wildcrafted without a trace of synthetics, artificial colour, scents or preservatives and none of our products are tested on animals! They are only available through professional health and wellness practitioners in traditional medicine and selected stores with holistic practitioners on staff in Canada and parts of USA

I would like to inform you of the various dangerous, hazardous chemicals by name, where they come from, and what they can do to your skin and body. Be aware that there are over 1000 chemicals available for us in cosmetics and herbal products that have toxic substances and are harmful to your health and well-being. Source: The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.

Large Corporations in the cosmetic and personal care industry are interested in the promotion and profit potential of their products so they can please their shareholders, not your health! They are selling an image, not necessarily a safe and effective product. You have to ask yourself what "new & improved" really means on the package and label. Aren't you overwhelmed by all the claims made promoting their natural skincare products? Many of the so-called new improved products are old formulas in flashy new packaging designed to appeal to today's consumer. All it does is up the price, not the quality.

Companies selling cosmetics and personal care products hide controversial or dangerous ingredients under the label of "trade secrets". Because of intense competition in the industry, if a company believes it uses an ingredient that is relatively new to the industry or make their products unique, it can petition the FDA (in Canada it is Health Canada) to prevent disclosure of that ingredient by granting trade secret status...it's that easy! This spells delight for the company and disaster for you!

More and more educated people are very health and beauty conscious and are willing spending large amounts of money on cosmetics promising firming of sagging skin, removing wrinkles, nourishing the starving skin and or removing blemishes. Brand name cosmetics companies have developed a large profitable industry selling products that imply these, and other non-existing and impossible virtues and cures. Most cosmetic product on the market is formulated for a shelf live of over three years, therefore it contains a large amounts - usually four synthetic parabens - of preservatives to prevent spoilage. These preservatives are cellular toxins, otherwise they could not kill microbes. They penetrate the skin to a certain extent and many of them have been shown to cause allergic reactions and dermatitis. Over 80% of all ingredients in commercially available cosmetic products are of synthetic origin with all the associated health risks. On the other hand there is a wealth of information and practical knowledge available about natural safe herbal products because they have been used for thousands of years starting with aboriginal natives people, Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine.

In North America literally thousands of people are suffering from adverse effects when using cosmetic products and most people don't associate burning sensations, reddening of the skin or pimples, rashes with a cosmetic product they are using. People simply discontinue using the product but seldom report it to the FDA or Health Canada. Many chemicals used is cosmetics never cause signs of toxicity on the skin, but contain potent systemic toxins.

Finally a list of cosmetic chemicals that have caused adverse effects was first published for the general public in the book "Health risks in today's cosmetics." The book contains the surprising results of a recently conducted sample survey of the estimated 25.000 different off-the-shelf cosmetic products for sale in the US and over 80% of the products surveyed contained one or more ingredients that have caused documented adverse reactions in humans and animals in the past. In a survey carried out by the US Food and Drug Administration, nearly one-quarter of the people questioned said they had suffered an allergic reaction to personal care products. Have you ever suffered from skin irritation or considered whether it might have been caused by your cosmetics or toiletries? Have you ever looked at the daunting list of ingredients they contain and wondered what on earth they were? Attractive packaging makes products look harmless and we usually presume "...it would not be sold if it was not safe!" Or would it...? Best advise: carefully read the ingredient label of all products, comparing them against a list of reportedly harmful ingredients or contaminants. Only if enough consumers do just that, will unsafe products that contain harmful substances eventually disappear from the marketplace. And remember: consumers have power!

How often have you seen the words "natural" or "hypo-allergenic" on the front of a skincare product? From the Greek prefix "hypo" means below normal or slightly causes fewer, allergic reaction inclusive skin irritation. Cosmetic companies use slick advertising to convince you that you are buying a safe product. There are no industry wide standards for what the word "natural" refers to. Every week some cosmetic companies introduce new "breakthrough" new products - what about the "old" ones? - which are supposed to be better, more effective, healthier but are they really? A quote from the Boston Globe, September 1997: "The General Accounting Office, the investigative branch of Congress, has identified more than 125 cosmetic ingredients suspected of causing cancer and others that may cause birth defects.!"

What can you do to protect yourself and your family?

Read all labels and learn to decipher some of the chemical jargon. An explanation of many chemicals that are hazardous and dangerous your skin and health follows in this article. Understanding the long-term effects of these chemicals and which products contain them is the first step in avoiding disastrous results for you and your loved ones. If nothing else, this information will make you a more informed consumer, one aware of the potential risks. Most importantly...it could save your life!

Keep Out Of Reach Of Children

Many toothpaste and soap manufacturers include this warning on their labels, "Not for use by children under 6 years." What you may not realize is the dangers in your home are just likely to harm your children as anything outside. Products that your children are using every day may contain ingredients that studies have linked to cancer, blindness, and even death. On of the most widespread of these chemicals is SODIUM LAUFYL SULPHATE (SLS). Manufacturers primarily use it because it is inexpensive and readily available. Some products containing SLS are: shampoo, soap, toothpaste, lotions. You are probably aware that your children's toothpaste may contain fluoride because that is what dentist have recommended for years to prevent cavities. However, most toothpaste contain enough fluoride in a four ounces of toothpaste that could kill a small child since they tend to swallow the toothpaste. In 1990 a study stated, in the meantime many more studies showed the danger of fluoride (check on the website), that fluoride has been shown not to reduce cavities and now scientists are linking fluoride to dental deformity, arthritis, allergic reactions and about 10.000 unnecessary deaths each year from cancer. Fluoride can corrode the teeth enamel and research indicates that it can lead to Crohn's disease when swallowing toothpaste.

In the same category is mouthwash. Did you know that some mouthwash contains even higher concentrations of alcohol than beer, wine and liquor? Containing more than 25% alcohol can be dangerous to your children. One ounce can cause seizures and brain damage and five ounces can kill! According to the National Cancer Institute, mouthwash with over 25% alcohol concentration increases the risk of oral and throat cancer by 60% for men and 90% for women than those who do not use mouthwash.

Another dangerous product is propylene glycol, an ingredient commonly used as a humectant (additive to keep products moist for a long time). It is an inexpensive glycerine substitute. Propylene glycol is bad enough for your skin but has is also been used in commercially baked good such as cakes and muffins. Consumers be aware!

Some women experience rashes, eczema, and or acne from using cosmetics loaded with synthetic ingredients. Occasionally the are using the same irritating product to try to alleviate the problem but are actually making it worse. When young women start using makeup, some really overdo it and the synthetics in the products are absorbed into their skin. This dries the skin and changes also the pH level (pH level refers to the acid or alkaline level of a product which is determined by the amount of hydrogen in various ingredients). Normal hair and skin have a ph between 4.0 and 6.0, slightly acidic. Synthetic cosmetic products will change the pH allowing secondary infections to occur. Acne is a widespread problem and results form an increased production of sebum, oils of the skin, which blocks pores. Those suffering form acne need to keep their skin clean and use only natural products that are made from certified organic, organic or wildcrafted herbal extracts and other botanical plant derived ingredients. Of course, some of us are more prone to acne inherited from previous generations. Open, unclogged pores and a balanced nutritional diet can help considerably. Certain synthetic preservatives, artificial fragrances, colours and light mineral oils can cause itchy rashes, skin damage and asthma like symptoms. The origin of a significant portion of dermatological complaints can be traced back to a chemical or non-natural substance applied to the skin.

Shampoo Can Make Or Break Your Hair

Everyone uses hair shampoo on anywhere from a weekly to a daily basis. Complaints from shampoo are among the most frequent made to the FDA, Health Canada and to manufacturers. People often complain about various brands of shampoo that have caused different conditions such as scalp irritation, drying of the scalp, itchiness, hair loss, severe hair damage and eye irritation. The vast majority of commercially available shampoo are loaded with chemicals that are hazardous to your scalp and body. Have you ever wondered why we have a higher percentage of brain tumours among the North American population than elsewhere in the world? Scientific studies have proven that the SLS = Sodium Lauryl Sulphate and Sodium Laureth Sulphate found in most shampoos damages protein formation in the eyes. After damage has been done, SLS even retards the healing process. Kenneth Gree, Ph.D., D.Sc., of the Medical College of Georgia warns that eyes affected by SLS take five times as long to heal. SLS can lead to cataract formation and eventually to blindness. Not only from direct eye contact, but through skin absorption over the long-term. Many varieties of shampoo are designed to treat dandruff and flaky scalp conditions, but these mostly contain coal tar. You won't find it on the label, however. It is listed as FD&C or D& C colour. Our youngest son worked at one time as a professional hair stylist and when dying the hair of customers he had to use long rubber gloves to protect his skin from the harsh and hazardous chemicals.

Shampoo sales are in North America between 4 and 5 billion dollars each year. There are many manufacturers offering an incredible assortment of products. Recently I checked some of the large chain and drug stores and was amazed that approx. 60-70% of the shampoos and conditioners had no ingredients listing. It showed artificial colours in dark green, red, blue, orange etc. It seems that most of these products without proper labelling came for the US. The remaining shampoos did have ingredients listed but many of them were synthetics and chemicals.

However, there are alternatives available without any of the harsh dangerous and hazardous chemicals, you just have to make the effort to find them.

Here you can find an article on 67 Chemicals & Synthetics To Avoid In Cosmetics & Personal Care Products.


This article is based on the research from books, the internet, studies, Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), Centre of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), www.cdc.gov/, Environmental Protection Agency, (EPA), www.epa.gov/-47k-, Environmental Working Group (EWG), www.ewg.org, National Toxicology Program, Dept. of Health and Human Services, www.ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ , Health Care Without Harm, Natural Skincare Authority.

For more information on additional hazardous, dangerous chemicals is cosmetics and personal care products, please check the following books and websites:

Cosmetics Unmasked: Your Family Guide to Safe Cosmetics and Allergy-Free Toiletries, Dr. Stephen & Gina Antczak, ISBN 0-00-710568-1

Health Risks in Today's Cosmetics: The Handbook for a Lifetime of Healthy Skin and Hair, Nikolaus J. Smeh, ISBN 13-9780963775505 or 096-377-5502

Beauty to Die For: The Cosmetic Consequence, Judy Vance, ISBN 1-57901-035-0

Drop-Dead Gorgeous: Protecting Yourself from the Hidden Dangers of Cosmetics, Kim Erickson, ISBN 0-658-01793-4

Dying to Look Good, Christine Farlow, DC, ISBN 0-9635635-3-X

The Safe Shopper's Bible: A Consumer's Guide to Nontoxic Household Products, Cosmetics, and Food, David Steinman, Dr. S. Epstein, ISBN 0-02-082085-2

Our Toxic World: A Wake Up Call, Doris J. Rapp, M.D., ISBN 1-880509-08-3

100,000,000 GUINEA PIGS. Dangers in Everyday Foods, Drugs, and Cosmetics., Arthur Kallet, F.J. Schlink, ISBN 040-5080255, first published Jan. 12, 1933

Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry, Stacy Malkan, ISBN 978-0-86571-574-5

Toxic Beauty: How Cosmetics and Personal-Care Products Endanger Your Health... and What You Can Do About It, Samuel Epstein, M.D., Randall Fitzgerald, ISBN 9788-19337-1625 (newest book)








www.cosmeticsdatabase.com, www.fpinva.org

www.leas.ca (CancerSmart Consumer Guide)





Words of Wisdom

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in the moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in moments of challenge and controversy."

Martin Luther King. Jr.

This information is offered for its educational value only and should not be used in the diagnose, treatment, or prevention of disease. Any attempt to diagnose and treat illness should come under the direction of your health care practitioner.

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page up: Your Health
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