Dangerous Toxins In Cosmetics – Safer Alternatives

Is it possible to avoid over 84,000 chemicals on the market today, many of which are known toxins?   Our home is meant to be a safe retreat, one of which we seek shelter and protection. This is the way it should be for all of us – but is it? Unknown to many of us, we are poisoning ourselves and our families. People need to be informed and educated to avoid dangerous toxins lurking in the many body care, cleaning, and oral care products, because these chemicals threaten our health. Many of the “benign” materials we come into contact with daily are actually highly toxic threats to our bodies which we can avoid by simply using “green” products and making our own natural, healing substitutes.

For instance, the average woman uses 12 personal care products containing 168 ingredients every day. Roughly 13,000 chemicals are used in cosmetics alone, of which only 10 percent have been evaluated for safety, and new ones are introduced every year. The CDC published data tables for most of the chemicals measured in the U.S at https://www.cdc.gov/exposurereport/. (EWG, 2007-2017) According to Safe Cosmetics, “The European Union, now 28 countries strong, has more stringent and protective laws for cosmetics than the United States. The hazard-based, precautionary approach of the EU acknowledges that chemicals linked to cancer and birth defects simply don’t belong in cosmetics – regardless of the concentration of the chemical being used. We don’t want to go shopping for cosmetics or body products with a chemical dictionary telling us which products are safe and which ones are not. We want to be able grab the product, put it in the shopping cart, pay for it, take it home, and give it to our families without worrying if we are harming our families. This short video hits the bulls eye accurately pointing out the toxic chemicals we are bombarded with called, “The Story of Cosmetics” http://storyofstuff.org/movies/story-of-cosmetics/. (Annie Leonard, Jonah Sachs, Louis Fox, 2010)

Other daily routines for many people after waking up can include a shower, shampoo, lotion, sunscreen, or moisturizers exposing themselves to many other harmful chemicals.  Studies on one chemical found in these products, parabens, were detected in 99 percent of breast cancer tissues sampled in a study of 40 women who were being treated for primary breast cancer. In 60 percent of cases, five of the different esters were present. (L. Barr, G. Metaxas, C.A.J. Harbach, L.A. Savoy, P.D. Darbre, 2012).  Parabens can mimic estrogen which can lead to “diminished muscle mass, extra fat storage, male breast growth.” and possibly even increase the risk of cancer. (Mercola, 2012) It is banned in Europe and Asia. (Marisa Marlow, 2016) It is important for people to understand that their skin absorbs what they put on it. Even Dr. Mercola recommends making your own products as an alternative.

The United States has much to learn from the EU example. The EU Cosmetics Directive (76/768/EEC) was adopted in January 2003 and most recently revised in 2013.  The EU law bans 1,328 chemicals from cosmetics that are known or suspected to cause cancer, genetic mutation, reproductive harm or birth defects.  In comparison, the U.S. FDA has only banned or restricted 11 chemicals from cosmetics. Unlike the United States, EU law requires pre-market safety assessments of cosmetics, mandatory registration of cosmetic products, government authorization for the use of nanomaterials and prohibits animal testing for cosmetic purposes.” (A Project of Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, 2017) We assume that just because products have made it to the shelf at our local store, those products are considered safe. We assume that all the products have be tested for safety. We assume that the chemical companies need permission to release their latest concoction, and we assume incorrectly.

Who, then, is responsible for the safety testing of cosmetics? FDA?? No, they are not. “FDA does not have the legal authority to approve cosmetic products and ingredients (other than color additives) before they go on the market. Now, that leaves the question – who is making sure the ingredients are safe? Oh, the answer is – the manufacturer is responsible. They are self-regulated! Manufacturers only have to make sure the “labeling” is correct. “Manufacturers are still responsible for making sure their products are safe when used according to the directions in the labeling…”  They don’t actually have to “test” their product as long as they are following a safety data sheet. “ (Product Testing, 2016)

In other words, you had better do your own research. Better yet, buy from a company dedicated to non-toxic or make your own.  Many websites, companies, and books are emerging to promote non-toxic alternatives. One such book is Organic Beauty by Rebecca Totilo which has over 400 plus homemade recipes. She states that, “Making a natural body powder without the talc (which can contain asbestos) is really quite simple to do.” (Totilo, 2012)

A few other personal care products that we need to look carefully at are shampoos, lotions, deodorants, and toothpastes. Reading and researching the label is highly recommended. Just because a label states “natural” or “organic” means very little today. Natural does not mean non-toxic. Cleaning products, unlike body and oral care products, are not required by federal law to list all their ingredients. This means that the manufacturers can use as many, toxic chemicals they want, even if these chemicals trigger asthma, skin rashes or even if they are linked to cancer.  They don’t have to disclose this information to us. You don’t know if you are using a safe product or not. That is why knowing and making your own cleaning products is so important if you want to take back your health and keep your family safe.

Regrettably several toxins can still be found in toothpastes which is another reason to make your own. Several chemicals to avoid are Triclosan, a pesticide and hormone disruptor “Triclosan can be found in many places today. It has been added to many consumer products—including clothing, kitchenware, furniture, and toys—to prevent bacterial contamination. Because of that, people’s long-term exposure to triclosan is higher than previously thought, raising concerns about the potential risks associated with the use of this ingredient over a lifetime. In addition, laboratory studies have raised the possibility that triclosan contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Some data shows this resistance may have a significant impact on the effectiveness of medical treatments, such as antibiotics.” (Administration, 2017); sodium lauryl sulfate found in industrial cleaning agents, is a surfactant meaning it breaks surface tension can  cause canker sores and is a skin irritant according to EWG –  is inexpensive and found in many other products such as shampoos, mouthwashes, bodywash, and soaps as well as toothpastes; artificial colorings linked to ADHD; fluoride, can be toxic if swallowed; titanium dioxide, added to make the paste white, not the teeth; and glycerin that strips your body’s natural oral mucosa and leaves a film that coats the teeth and could alter the microbiome in the mouth impacting tooth remineralization. Making your own tooth paste is easy and just as effective. Ingredients such as coconut oil, trace minerals drops, bentonite clay, baking soda, and essential oils are excellent alternatives. (Deanna Risos, 2016) We can avoid the pitfalls of chemicals by making our own products, knowing that what we put in our products are safe and healing. Taking care of our families is a top priority and safety comes first. Toxic chemicals have no place in our homes.

Another problem that can be caused by toxins in our homes is allergies. Not all allergies are caused by foods, pets, dust, or the outside air. Knowing that some allergies are brought on by the products we use to “sanitize” the air in our homes will enable us to make some beneficial changes.   A few ways to freshen the air in our homes is to simply open the window. According to the EPA, some pollutants are 2 to 5 times higher inside our homes than outdoors. These can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, respiratory diseases, heart disease, and cancer. (Administration, Indoor Air Quality, n.d.) According to Dr. Ben Kim, 12 of 14 brands of common household air fresheners contained phthalates. “Phthalates are chemicals that are used to prolong the length of time that scented products maintain their fragrance. Regular exposure to phthalates can increase your risk of experiencing endocrine, reproductive, and developmental problems.” He stated that some of the brands were labeled as “unscented” and “all-natural” yet were tested positive for phthalates. Some brands, Walgreens Air Freshener Spray, Walgreens Scented Bouquet Air Fresheners, and Walgreens Solid Air Fresheners has since been removed from the shelves because they were exposed for not including phthalates on their lists of ingredients. (Kim, 2012) The EWG tested many school cleaning supplies and Febreze was found to be another toxic air freshener containing 89 air contaminants. One of those chemicals is linked to cancer and another to neurotoxicity. What is interesting is the warning on the Febreze label, “Caution: Use only as directed. Intentional misuse by deliberately concentrating and inhaling the contents can be harmful or fatal. Help stop inhalation abuse. For more information visit www.inhalant.org. Some hard surfaces may become damp when sprayed. Avoid slips and falls. KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN. Do not spray toward face.”  (Greener School Cleaning Supplies, 2009) These toxic chemicals accumulate in the fatty tissues over time and build up inside the body. It simply is not necessary. Why not diffuse an essential oil and reap the health benefits of that oil?


Take lavender essential oil, for instance. Lavender has much research indicating the protective activities against oxidative stress and diabetes in rats. Their findings suggested protection due to its potent antioxidant properties. (Hichem Sebai, Slimen Selmi, Kais Rtibi, Abdelaziz Souli, Najoua Gharbi, Mohsen Sakly, 2013) Other benefits of lavender helps reduce anxiety, emotional stress, heals burns, improves sleep, restores skin complexion, and improves eczema. (Axe, 2015) Diffusing lavender is non-toxic and freshens the air. It is a relaxing scent and is healing to the body. We don’t have to worry or be alarmed as we are when reading about the 84 chemicals in Febreze.


In conclusion, it is hard to completely avoid toxic chemicals; however, we can take action to reduce our exposure. We can be proactive about the products we purchase, products we put on our skin, products we put in our mouths, and products we spray in our homes. We can read the labels and do research. We do have a choice, and we have natural alternatives right at our fingertips! There are many incredible benefits to making our own products especially when we incorporate the healing benefits of essential oils. We are not only enriching ourselves and our families by living a chemical free life; we are taking a stand against the poisons that are lurking so many of our products.



A Project of Breast Cancer Prevention Partners. (2017). Safe Cosmetics. Retrieved from Campaign for Safe Cosmetics: http://www.safecosmetics.org/get-the-facts/regulations/international-laws/

Administration. (2017, January 02). FDA. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm378393.htm: https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm378393.htm

Administration. (n.d.). Indoor Air Quality. Retrieved from United States Environmental Protection Agency: https://cfpub.epa.gov/roe/chapter/air/indoorair.cfm

Annie Leonard, Jonah Sachs, Louis Fox. (2010, July 21). The Story of Cosmetics. Retrieved from The Story of Stuff Project: http://storyofstuff.org/movies/story-of-cosmetics/

Axe, D. (2015, April 14). 7 Lavender Oil Benefits for Healing. Retrieved from Dr. Axe: https://draxe.com/lavender-oil-benefits/

Deanna Risos, D. (2016, October 14). http://www.drrisossmilebydesign.com/blog/diy-how-to-make-toothpaste-at-home/. Retrieved from http://www.drrisossmilebydesign.com: http://www.drrisossmilebydesign.com/blog/diy-how-to-make-toothpaste-at-home/

EWG. (2007-2017). Exposures add up – Survey results. Retrieved from EWG’s Skin Deep : http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/2004/06/15/exposures-add-up-survey-results/

Greener School Cleaning Supplies. (2009, November 3). Retrieved from EWG: http://www.ewg.org/research/greener-school-cleaning-supplies/school-cleaner-test-results?schoolprod=219

Hichem Sebai, Slimen Selmi, Kais Rtibi, Abdelaziz Souli, Najoua Gharbi, Mohsen Sakly. (2013, December 28). Lavender Essential Oils Attenuate Hyperglycemia and Protect. Retrieved from Science Open: https://www.scienceopen.com/document?vid=8b8e471f-7d0e-4d8c-9555-90888a2cee9a

Kim, D. B. (2012, September 26). Beware of Toxic Air Fresheners. Retrieved from Dr. Ben Kim Experience Your Best Health: http://drbenkim.com/dangers-air-fresheners.html

Barr, G. Metaxas, C.A.J. Harbach, L.A. Savoy, P.D. Darbre. (2012, January 12). Measurement of paraben concentrations in human breast tissue at serial locations across the breast from axilla to sternum. Retrieved from Journal of Applied Toxicology: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jat.1786/abstract

Marisa Marlow, R. (2016, September 16). Parabens Banned in Europe and Asia. Retrieved from The Oil Academy: http://www.theoilacademy.com/online_course/parabens-are-they-dangerous/

Mercola, D. (2012, April 2). 40 Women With Breast Cancer Had Parabens in Their Tissues. Retrieved from Mercola: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/04/02/toxic-parabens-on-breast-cancer-patients.aspx

Product Testing. (2016, 10 5). Retrieved from U.S. Food and Drug: https://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ScienceResearch/ProductTesting/ucm2005153.htm

Totilo, R. P. (2012). Organic Beauty with Essential Oil. In R. P. Totilo, Organic Beauty with Essential Oil (p. 145). Florida: Rebecca at the Well Foundation.