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For a very large portion of my life, I slapped whatever beauty product I had onto my skin without a second thought. I mean if my skin was glowing and my lips the perfect shade of pink, that’s about as far as I got in the thought process of what the product was doing for (or to) me. When I started becoming more interested in clean living, natural health treatments and plant based alternatives, I started to question what was in the products that sit on my skin all day, every day. I’m a lover of make-up, always have been and pretty sure I always will be. I find the idea of a make-up free day more horrifying than exciting, so my exposure to whatever is in my beauty products is pretty high due to the sheer frequency of use! Not only did I become concerned about detrimental effects to my well being, but I also started to think about where and what these products were being tested on. There’s a misconception that if you can go pick something up at a large retailer, that it is regulated, tested and safe. It’s actually scary how far from the truth that is.

Canada can use a lot of improvement when it comes to regulating the beauty industry. Currently Health Canada has banned or restricted about 500 chemicals for use in cosmetic products. In comparison, the European Union has banned or restricted over 2000 chemicals. Canada uses a risk based assessment approach, which means chemicals are evaluated by level of risk posed to Canadians through possible exposure. Even if we know a chemical has health risks associated with it, such as BPA, the risk based method means it can still be used in products if they deem the risk to exposure low enough, even if there is evidence of possible health threats. The EU uses a hazard based assessment model, which means that if there is a known hazard associated with a chemical, it is likely to be banned no matter how low the risk. 

There are problematic labeling loopholes that often disguise chemical bi products of production like formaldehyde and 1,4 dioxane (known to cause cancer and hormonal disruption). Because these chemicals are created during the manufacturing process, they are not required to be put on the label. 

Natural and organic are tricky as well, something can be labelled as natural and organic and still contain petro and synthetic chemicals. One of the biggest misconceptions in beauty is that natural is better. Many natural brands, including mineral makeup, are some of the worst offenders because they use a high concentration of ingredients that contain heavy metals like aluminum, cadmium, lead, mercury and arsenic.

 If you find this concerning, you can reach out to the government and use your political voice to advocate for stronger legislation in Canada.

Below I will talk about chemicals to look out for in your beauty and skincare products so you can make informed choices when purchasing your items. Not only are a lot of these ingredients detrimental to your system, but they are not sustainable for the environment.

Top Ten Ingredients to Avoid in Beauty and Skincare Products

  1. Parabens – These are preservatives found in everything from soap to lotion to makeup. Parabens are known endocrine disruptors and have been found in breast tumours, specifically methylparaben. If the word ends in paraben, stay away.
  2. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate – These are foaming agents used commonly in shampoo, hand soap, toothpaste and cosmetics. These surfactants cause allergies and irritation in some people. Nitrosamines are carcinogenic by products of the sulfation process.
  3. Artificial Fragrance/Parfum – Almost every skincare and beauty product, even those labelled unscented, contain artificial fragrance. Manufacturers aren’t required to disclose what is in their fragrances, and it could quite possibly be a mix of irritants, carcinogens, allergen and hormone disruptors.
  4. Phthalates – A phthalate is something that is added to prevent plastic from becoming brittle. Often found in hairspray, nail polish and fragrances, and labelled DBP, DEHP, DEP. These are endocrine disruptors and responsible for birth defects.
  5. Toluene – found in hair dye and nail polish, it is a volatile petrochemical solvent that is toxic to the immune system and can cause birth defects.
  6. Formaldehyde – used as a preservative, it is a carcinogen, and linked to asthma, neurotoxicity, and developmental toxicity. Look for words like quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, and imidazolidinyl urea.
  7. Polyethylene Glycol (GEP) – used as a thickener is lotions, shampoo, conditioner and sunscreen. PEG is often contaminated with the carcinogen ethylene oxide.
  8. Triclosan – an antibacterial once used in antibacterial soaps, it is still allowed in cosmetics. This contributes to antibiotic resistant bacteria, it is an endocrine disruptor, and shown to promote tumour growth and gut inflammation in mice.
  9. Diethanolamine – a carcinogenic and respiratory irritant used as a foaming agent in bubble bath, body wash and shampoo.
  10. Oxybenzone – a chemical sunscreen filter that is an endocrine disruptor and can alter thyroid function. Also linked to skin allergies, it can be found in moisturizers, lip balm and makeup.

How to Choose Safer Cosmetics

Apart from reading labels, there are some resources you can use to assist you. Think Dirty is a wonderful app and resource that allows you to scan or enter thousands of personal and household products and will give you a score based upon the safety of the product. Ewg.org is a database that works in the same way as Think Dirty. You can check your products and feel good about what you and your family are using on your skin. Hopefully this has been informative and you can use this information and these tools to start cleaning out your cabinets and filling them with safer, non toxic products.

For skincare and alternative pharmaceutical needs, Maple Organics offers pure, clean, certified organic products with absolutely no chemical ingredients.