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ingredients article - what is really in your products?

by Szilvia Hickman
green spa|
what is really in your product?
THERE WAS A TIME - NOT too long ago - when the majority of consumers did not have to think about what was in the food products they consumed. Milk was delivered weekly because it was fresh. Bread was purchased every other day because there were no preservatives in it.
What is the single most effective way of avoiding ingredients you do not want in your food? Cooking or preparing it yourself. But we cannot do that as easily with skin care and other personal care products, even though consumption of these have as much of an impact on us as the consumption of undesirable ingredients in food does.

Lack of regulations
Approximately 60 percent of topical skin care products are absorbed through the skin and often into the bloodstream. Additionally, scientists have found evidence that chemical ingredients from personal care products found in wastewater adversely affects aquatic ecosystems. So chemical ingredients from personal care are not only potentially harmful to our bodies, but to the environment as well.
Unfortunately the U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is decades behind in evaluating ingredients in personal care products. Additionally, cosmetic products and ingredients are not even subject to FDA pre-market approval, with the exception of color additives. To date, the European Union has banned 1,100 chemicals in cosmetics while the FDA has prohibited only 9 (none since 1989). Many of these ingredients banned in other countries are linked to different types of cancers, birth defects, genetic mutations, skin disorders, etc.

Read the fine print
But without proper regulations in place, how do you lead a life with as few synthetic ingredients as possible? Besides maximizing home-cooked meals, you need to become a label lover. Do not just examine the color, the aromas and the cool name, but flip that product around and get close... real close. Find the ingredients and take your time scanning the list.
In the United States, the FDA requires that all cosmetics include a list of ingredients using the standardized INCI (international nomenclature of cosmetic ingredients) name for each ingredient per the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act. In Canada, INCI is required by Food and Drugs Act and Cosmetic Regulations.
INCI ingredient names on product labels allow consumers to easily compare the ingredients between multiple products, using a common language. INCI also ensures transparency in cosmetic ingredient disclosure. Declaration of ingredients in personal care products with the INCI names is required to be in descending order.
And do not listen to those who say, "If you can't pronounce it, it can't be good for you." Cosmetic labeling laws were designed to ensure consumer safety and to give the consumer a consistent means to identify the ingredient content. All cosmetic ingredients therefore have scientific (Latin) names that the majority of consumers cannot pronounce. For example: Butyrospermum parkii, commonly known as shea butter, is extremely safe and desirable. Carum petroselinum is not a petrochemical but the scientific name of the healthy parsley. And despite its synthetic sounding name, Sorbitan stearate is an emulsifier compound of all natural sorbitol and fatty acids.
Conduct research
So how do you gain relevant and usable knowledge in the virtual sea of potential ingredients? Become familiar with some of the more common ingredients and their INCI names through Internet research. After that, focus your investigation by determining the key concerns that you have and research/identify the ingredients that are likely to contribute or exacerbate those conditions.
Get started by printing out a short list of the "must avoid" ingredients. You will find that your knowledge quickly expands, and one day you surprise yourself when you notice you are giving advice to others.
But what if a product does not use INCI ingredient names? Proceed with caution. A company that does not take the time to label accurately may not go to the trouble of fully understanding the effects of its ingredients.
So let's get started. Before you hit the Internet, here is a head start on ingredients to avoid.*

Petrochemicals: Mineral oil, petrolatum, liquid paraffin, ethylene glycol, propylene glycol, butylene glycol, dimethicone, and other petrochemicals can clog pores, cause photosensitivity and irritation, strip skin of natural oils and contain impurities that may be carcinogenic. These humectants and solvents are widely used in all types of personal care products. Propylene glycol is considered a skin irritant and may cause kidney or liver damage. This environmental toxin is widely used and a typical hidden ingredient in extracts (not listed separately on labels).

DBP, DMP, DLP stabilize scents in artificial perfume and skin care. This endocrine disruptor is linked to developmental problems and hormonal imbalances that lead to infertility and cancer. Many products with "fragrance" or "parfum" contain phthalates�but not all (look for fragrance made of essential oils).

Artificial colors: FD&C or D&C colors - i.e., D&C Red 30 Lake, FD&C Blue 1 - are coal tar derivatives, listed by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) as human respiratory toxins. They also can be allergens, skin irritants and potential carcinogens. They are often tested on animals due to their carcinogenic and toxic nature, and these animal tests found almost all of them carcinogenic. They are found in lotions, body washes and soaps.

Parabens: Paraben preservatives (ethylparaben, methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben and isobutylparaben) can mimic estrogen in the body. They are found in all types of personal care products.

Toluene: Another coal tar derivative, a.k.a. methylbenzene, toluene is stored in fat tissue and can irritate skin and damage the lungs. This solvent or paint thinner is a common ingredient in hair color and nail polish.

Formaldehyde/formaldehyde releasing preservatives: Ingredients like diazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, quaternium 15 and bronopol can release formaldehyde, a known carcinogen that triggers asthma and irritates the skin (contact dermatitis), stomach and liver. They are found in moisturizers, scrubs, cleansers etc.

1,4-Dioxane: Considered a probable human carcinogen by the EPA, you will not find it on ingredient labels because it is a by-product of the manufacturing process. Look for these skin irritant and hormone disrupting 1,4-dioxane donor chemical ingredients with "eth" - i.e., sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), polyethylene glycol (PEG), diethanolamine (DEA), triethanolamine (TEA), monoethanolamine (MEA), disodium laureth sulfosuccinate (DLS), phenoxyethanol and more. These pH adjusters and surfactants are found in lotions, soaps, body washes, etc.

Sulfates: Sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, ammonium laureth sulfate and sodium myreth sulfate are harsh detergents that can cause skin and eye irritation, and may contain 1,4-dioxane. These widely used surfactants are found in cleansers, shampoos, bubble baths, body washes and toothpaste.

Hydroquinone: A skin-bleaching chemical known to cause serious skin irritation, liver cancer and DNA damage. It has been banned in many countries for years.

Nanoparticles: Increase the ultraviolet-blocker absorption and free radical level in the body. It is found in sunscreen, makeup and SPF moisturizer.

Talc: It is closely related to asbestos, a known and banned carcinogen. Talc particles, in powder formulations, are easily inhaled and may lead to tumors in lungs and ovaries. It is found in makeup.

Octoxynols: This surfactant is linked to cancer, developmental toxicity and endocrine disruption. Octoxynols are found in cleansers, scrubs, moisturizers, etc.

Triclosan: An antibacterial agent that irritates skin, it can cause developmental and reproductive problems, as well as increase the tendency for allergies and immunity to antibiotics. While banned in many countries, it is often found in soaps, hand sanitizers, toothpaste, mouthwashes, deodorants and even in bedding and workout clothes in the United States.
Remember, we all must take an active role in determining what is good for us and for our only planet. Choose natural or organic whenever possible in the products you expose your skin to.

* Sources: Green Spa Network, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, EPA

Szilvia Hickman is co-owner and senior vice president of Szp let, the exclusive distributor of ilike organic skin care. For more information on ilike organic skin care products call 888.290.6238 or visit www.szepelet.com. Hickman can be reached at shickman@szepelet.com.

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