What’s In My Personal Care Products?!!! part 2

Would you put a moisturizer on your face or body if you knew it was made with toxic ingredients? Of course not. Yet our cosmetics and personal care products are so under-regulated most of us do it unwittingly every day.

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I recently read that the Environmental Working Group “has found Teflon and other similar chemicals in nearly 200 personal care products, ranging from shampoo to shaving cream to sunscreen.” This is the second in a series that lists some of the most common and toxic chemicals found in your personal care products.

Polyethylene Glycol = PEG

Polyethylene plastic beads are used in facial scrubs, exfoliating washes, makeup and toothpaste. The Cosmetic Database considers polyethylene to be a moderate hazard for skin irritation.  It should never be used on broken skin.  Polyethylene is frequently contaminated with 1,4-dioxane that the U.S. government considers to be a probable human carcinogen and one that readily penetrates the skin.

Polyethylene is different from Propylene glycol which is an organic alcohol commonly used for skin-conditioning.  This compound is a skin irritant and is known for causing hives.  Propylene glycol is used in shampoo, conditioners, hair sprays, moisturizers, sunscreen and a variety of makeup products.


The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the Environmental Working Group research found an average of 14 chemicals in 17 name-brand fragrance products, none of which were listed on the label. Some of them are hormone disruptors which are among the top 5 allergens in the world.

Sunscreen chemicals

These chemicals are endocrine disruptors and may cause cellular damage and cancer.  They absorb ultruaviolet light. They include PABA, benzophenone, avobenzone, ethoxycinnmate and homosalate.

Synthetic colors

FD&C or D&C (followed by a number) on a label means artificial colors are present.  The European Union has banned their use because they appear to be a human carcinogen, a skin irritant and linked to ADHD in children.


Formaldehyde and similar preservatives prevent bacterial growth and is considered a carcinogen, a compound that may be harmful to the immune system, and is known to cause allergic skin reactions.  Formaldehyde is found in nail polish and nail polish treatments, shampoos, conditioners, body washes and eye shadows.


Derived from petroleum or coal tar sources, Toluene may be listed as benzene, toluol, phenylmethane, or methylbenzene.  It is a very potent solvent that can dissolve paint and paint thinner.  It affects the respiratory system, may irritate the skin, and can cause nausea, and seems to be toxic to the immune system.  Pregnant women should avoid it as it can damage the fetus.  Toluene is found in nail polish, nail treatments, hair color and hair bleaching products.

There are many more chemicals.  Read the label!  If it sounds like a mix of chemicals made in a laboratory, it probably is.  Carry a list of these chemicals with you when you go shopping.  Protect yourself by being proactive to avoid something that might be toxic for you.


Environmental Working Group

10 Toxic Beauty Ingredients


About Cathie Lippman, M.D.

I invite you to visit my website: http://www.cathielippmanmd.com/
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