Saturday, March 1, 2008

Synthetic ingredients to avoid

If you have sensitive skin like I do, you know how hard it can be to find beauty products that don’t wreak havoc on your body. I suffer from a recurrent autoimmune skin inflammation that is exacerbated by stress and chemical pollution, so using products that are as natural and organic as possible is of the utmost importance to me.

I found this great list of synthetic cosmetic ingredients to avoid at Aubrey Organics and carry it with me whenever I go shopping.

"1. Methyl, Propyl, Butyl and Ethyl Paraben — Used as inhibitors of microbial growth and to extend shelf life of products. Have caused many allergic reactions and skin rashes. Studies have shown that they are weakly estrogenic and can be absorbed by the body through the skin. Widely used even though they are known to be toxic.

2. Diethanolamine (DEA), Triethanolamine (TEA) — Often used in cosmetics as emulsifiers and/or foaming agents. They can cause allergic reactions, eye irritation and dryness of hair and skin. DEA and TEA are 'amines' (ammonia compounds) and can form cancer-causing nitrosamines when they come in contact with nitrates. Toxic if absorbed into the body over a long period of time.

3. Diazolidinyl Urea, Imidazolidinyl Urea — These are widely used preservatives. The American Academy of Dermatology has found them to be a primary cause of contact dermatitis. Two trade names for these chemicals are Germall II and Germall 115. Neither of the Germall chemicals contains a good antifungal agent, and they must be combined with other preservatives. Both these chemicals release formaldehyde, which can be toxic.

4. Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate — A cheap, harsh detergent used in shampoos for its cleansing and foam-building properties. Often derived from petroleum, it is frequently disguised in pseudo-natural cosmetics with the phrase 'comes from coconuts.' It causes eye irritation, scalp scurf similar to dandruff, skin rashes and other allergic reactions.

5. Petrolatum — Also known as petroleum jelly, this mineral oil derivative is used for its emollient properties in cosmetics. It has no nutrient value for the skin and can interfere with the body's own natural moisturizing mechanism, leading to dryness and chapping. It often creates the very conditions it claims to alleviate. Manufacturers use petrolatum because it is unbelievably cheap. 

6. Propylene Glycol — Ideally this is a vegetable glycerin mixed with grain alcohol, both of which are natural. Usually it is a synthetic petrochemical mix used as a humectant. It has been known to cause allergic reactions, hives and eczema. When you see PEG (polyethylene glycol) or PPG (polypropylene glycol) on labels, beware—these are related synthetics.

7. PVP/VA Copolymer — A petroleum-derived chemical used in hairsprays, styling aids and other cosmetics. It can be considered toxic, since inhaled particles can damage the lungs of sensitive persons.

8. Stearalkonium Chloride — A quaternary ammonium compound used in hair conditioners and creams. Developed by the fabric industry as a fabric softener, it is a lot cheaper and easier to use in hair conditioning formulas than proteins or herbals, which are beneficial to the hair. Causes allergic reactions. Toxic.

9. Synthetic Colors — Used to make cosmetics 'pretty,' synthetic colors, along with synthetic hair dyes, should be avoided at all costs. They will be labeled as FD&C or D&C, followed by a color and a number. Example: FD&C Red No. 6 / D&C Green No. 6. Many synthetic colors can be carcinogenic. If a cosmetic contains them, don't use it.

10. Synthetic Fragrances — The synthetic fragrances used in cosmetics can have as many as 200 ingredients. There is no way to know what the chemicals are, since on the label it will simply read 'fragrance.' Some problems caused by these chemicals include headaches, dizziness, rash, hyperpigmentation, violent coughing, vomiting, skin irritation—the list goes on. Advice: Don't buy a cosmetic that has the word 'fragrance' on the ingredients label."

I can’t vouch for the quality of Aubrey Organics, as I have never used the products, but this is a great list. Basically, forget buying anything at your local grocery, pharmacy or big box store. Philosophy has a nice line of cleansing products that I love. The Body Shop is also great (and they never test on animals or use ingredients that have been tested on animals). Aveda hair products are the best in the business, in my opinion.

I’m lucky enough to live in a major city with an abundance of greener stores like Sprouts and Whole Foods, which carry a wide selection of organic beauty products. If you don’t have those stores in your area, look for GNC or The Vitamin Shoppe -- pretty much every mall has at least one of these. They often carry natural, organic shampoos and lotions, at the very least.

Anyone have any organic beauty brand reviews to share?

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