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When it comes to health, it’s crucial to not only care about what you put in your body, but also what you put on your body. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), women use an average of 12 personal care products daily while men use an average of six. These beauty and personal care products do not follow the same stringent regulations that food does. There are no industry-wide safety standards and the Food and Drug Administration does not conduct any testing before these products hit the shelves. This leaves the consumer plenty vulnerable for coming into contact with toxic ingredients that are then absorbed, inhaled, or ingested into the body. With longtime use, which is common in beauty and personal care, this toxic exposure can do real damage.

Studies have shown some beauty product ingredients cause cancer, damage the reproductive system, and act as hormone and endocrine disruptors. While there are many toxins lurking in shampoos, lotions, and cleansers, below you’ll find some of the top ingredients to look for and avoid when making an informed purchase. For further information, see the EWG Skin Deep Cosmetics Database and The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

Phthalates

According to the CDC, phthalates are plastics used as dissolving agents in products ranging from vinyl flooring to soaps and shampoos. The EWG says this family of chemicals has been shown to damage the male reproductive system. Sometimes phthalates hide under the misnomer of “fragrance”.

Parabens

This chemical is commonly used as a preservative. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics lists it as an endocrine disruptor with links to skin cancer and reproductive damage.

Ethanolamine Compounds (MEA, DEA, TEA And Others)

This family of chemicals is used in shampoos, soaps, mascaras, foundations, and more. According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, they have been linked to liver tumors. The European Commission has classified them as known carcinogens and prohibited their use in beauty and personal care products.

Formaldehyde & Formaldehyde Releasers

According to the EWG, formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen. Although use in personal care products has decreased, it is still found in some hair straighteners. Formaldehyde releasers, used to kill bacteria, can irritate the skin and cause allergic reactions. They are still readily found in cosmetics and personal care products like shampoos, body washes, and soaps.

Coal Tar

Used in hair dyes, shampoos, conditioners, and more, this toxic chemical is a known human carcinogen. The EWG says hairdressers in the U.S. are exposed to this chemical regularly in hair dye. It is banned as an ingredient in hair dye in Europe.

Artificial Fragrance

Fragrance as an ingredient is misleading at best as it is often used as an umbrella term where brands can lump possible toxic ingredients under without coming out and naming them. According to the EWG, there are 3,100 stock chemicals, some of which have been linked to hormone disruption and sperm damage, that can be classified under the term ‘fragrance’.

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