How many skin and hair products do you think you use each day?

The figure may shock you.  On average, women use twelve products a day comprising 168 different ingredients, and men use six products equaling 85 ingredients!

Some of these products include shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, nail polish and remover, skin lotion, toner, moisturizing lotion, sunblock, shaving cream, bath gel, and many more.   Aside from constantly subsidizing big cosmetic companies, what are the dangers of using all these products?  After all, Americans have been conditioned by the media to always smell good, look clean, and seem fresh, and companies are thrilled to fill that perceived need.

If you have ever read the list of ingredients in some of these products, it is amazing to see how long that list can be and how many syllables an ingredient may have.

Let’s look more closely at some of these ingredients:

1. Parabens:  This is a preservative used in skin and hair products to make them last longer.  They have been associated with neurologic damage, eye and skin irritation, allergic reactions and according to a 2004 Journal of Toxicology study, “…18 out of 20 breast tumors contained significant amounts of parabens.”  While further research needs to be done and is being done, just knowing that parabens can be absorbed into the breast tissue should give one pause when reading labels.

Parabens are also know as methyparaben,  butlyparaben, and polyparaben.

Parabens are banned in Europe.

2.  Propylene Glycol:  This preservative can be absorbed through all the layers of the skin and has been associated with endocrine disruption and toxicity.  It is non-toxic in food.

3.  Phthalates:  These are found mostly in cosmetics especially nail polish and are inhaled as well as absorbed through the skin.  They help products adhere to the skin.  They have been linked with sperm damage and with possible fetal damage.  Natural food stores sell phthalate-free polishes.  Phthalates are also banned in Europe.

4.  Sodium Lauryl Sulfate:  A very widespread preservative used in many products,

SLS, as it is also known, has also been associated with endocrine and reproductive toxicity and skin irritation.  It is a harsh ingredient as well, having almost detergent-like qualities.  For some, SLS in toothpaste has caused canker sores.  (not as strong as its cousin, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, but still irritating to the scalp and skin)

There are other ingredients to be aware and wary of such as mineral oil, some forms of alcohol (not stearyl or cetearyl), Triclosan (used in weed killer products), and Aluminum used in deodorants and linked to Alzheimers).

Certainly many consumers purchase products based on how they smell, searching for that “fresh smell” that promises youth and cleanliness.  However, fragrance is highly allergenic to those with sensitive skin and can be a neurotoxin.  If you have sensitive skin, avoid products that smell citrusy or minty and seek out fragrance free ones.  Even products that bill themselves as having all “natural” ingredients, have to have some preservatives in them; otherwise, they would go rancid within a few days.

So where to find products that do not have some or all of the above preservatives?  One place to start is the cosmetics aisle of your local health food store or a larger Whole Foods.   The cosmetics store Sephora carries an enormous diversity of products some of which are free of the above preservatives.  You can also order online.  The website is extremely helpful in reading about this topic and suggesting appropriate products.

Some product lines that you may want to consider include:

Alba Botanicals

Avalon Organics


Tom’s of Maine

Nature’s Gate


Kiss My Face

Beauty Without Cruelty

Aubrey Organics

Shikai shampoos


Burt’s Bees


Dr. Bronners


Pangea Organics

Skyn Iceland


Ecco Bella

Desert Essence

Dr. Hauschka

Pure Basic

You may want to try various products to see which agrees with your hair and skin.  The products on the above list are more well known, but there are many other lines as well.

While many well known brands found in drugstores all over are less expensive, this is a situation where you get what you pay for.  For $3 you certainly can purchase a large bottle of conditioner but many of its ingredients will have unrecognizable and unpronounceable words and will be harmful to your health. These ingredients are used because they are cheap, and companies can make a large profit from mass producing them.


You and your health are worth products that are free of preservatives.  If you are eating heathfully and reading ingredients in the food you  buy and prepare, why not do so for your hair and skin?   Unhealthy ingredients in food and cosmetics both get absorbed into the body through the skin, nose, and gut.


You can feel clean and fresh and contribute to your health and the health of the environment by using safer cosmetics.


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