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What's on Your Face? What's in Your Hair?

Monday, November 10, 2014   (2 Comments)
Posted by: Lindsay Kittleson
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Source: King County's Go, Green Team! Blog 


The average teen uses 15 to 25 cosmetics a day, including deodorant, shampoo, nail polish, toothpaste, sunscreen, and aftershave. Chemicals in products used on the skin are absorbed. Some stay near the surface while others enter the blood stream. Given the number of cosmetics teens put on their skin daily, it’s important they limit their exposure to harmful ingredients. Here are some to look out for in particular:

The Toxic Trio in Nail Polishes
The three worst chemicals found in nail polish are formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), and toluene. They’re often found in less expensive polishes since many big companies have removed them from their products due to increased public awareness of their harm. 

Formaldehyde has been linked to lung and nasal cancer. Dibutyl phthalate is used to make plastics extra flexible and has been linked to reproductive issues if a woman is exposed to it while pregnant. It’s been phased out by many major companies, but is still allowed in U.S. products. It’s been banned in cosmetics by the European Union. Toluene is often included in polish for smoother application and has been known to affect the nervous system and to cause birth defects, developmental abnormalities, and liver and kidney damage. It has also been banned by the European Union, but not by the U.S.

Coal Tar in Shampoos, Soaps, Hair Dyes, and Lotions
Coal tar is a known carcinogen derived from burning coal. Experiments have found that exposure to coal tar produces skin tumors and neurological damage. 

Triclosan in Soaps
Studies have linked triclosan to skin irritation, endocrine disruption, and bacterial and antibiotic resistance. As a result of pressure from consumer groups and scientific evidence of adverse health effects, major manufacturers have removed triclosan from their products. In 2013 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed a rule requiring makers of antibacterial soaps to prove that their products pose no long-term hazard and are more effective than regular bar soap. FDA hopes to finalize its rule by September 2016. 

Parabens in Lots of Products
Parabens are found in shampoos, moisturizers, deodorants, shaving gels, tanning lotions, sunscreen, cleansing gels, topical pharmaceuticals, and toothpaste. Parabens can mimic the hormone estrogen, which is known to play a role in the development of breast cancers. 

Phthalates in Lots and Lots of Products
Phthalates make plastics more flexible and harder to break. In addition to being found in personal-care products (soaps, shampoos, hair sprays, and nail polishes), phthalates are used in vinyl flooring, adhesives, detergents, lubricating oils, automotive plastics, and plastic clothes (raincoats). The health effects of phthalates are not yet fully known but are being studied. As mentioned earlier, dibutyl phthalate has been linked to reproductive issues.

Environmental Concerns
What happens to all those products that get washed off our bodies and down the drain? They enter the water system, contaminating it and negatively affecting aquatic ecosystems. 
Nanoparticles used in sunscreens and cosmetics may have harmful effects on bacteria and a certain type of beneficial soil microbe. And, of course, there is the energy and water consumption, carbon emissions, and packaging waste that come from manufacturing, transporting and disposing of all those products. 

What Can You Do?
Read the labels on personal care products you buy. Try to avoid products with the following ingredients:

Butyl acetate 
Butylate hydroxytoluene 
Coal tar 
Cocamide/lauramide DEA 
Diazolidinyl urea 
Ethyl acetate 
Petrolateum (petroleum) 
Sodium laureth sulfate 
Propylene glycol 


Emily Phillips, Washington State Recycling Association says...
Posted Thursday, November 13, 2014
Great resource, Stephanie. Thanks for sharing!
Stephanie Schwenger, City of Bellevue Resource Conservation Program says...
Posted Wednesday, November 12, 2014
The non-profit Environmental Working Group's (EWG's) SkinDeep database provides a hazard rating for thousands of skincare products based on their ingredients: The EWG even has an app you can use in stores to see whether the products you buy are hazardous to your health.

 Washington State Recycling Association | 545 Andover Park W, Ste 209, Tukwila, WA 98188 | 206.244.0311 |

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