Health: What’s in Your Personal Care Products?

I recently spent some time on the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics website and came away surprised and concerned over the worrisome chemicals found in many of the personal care products that we put on our bodies every day.

Here’s a short list of contaminants (and related health concerns) I have gleaned from the site:

  • Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives:  “used in many personal care products (i), particularly in shampoos and liquid body soaps. These chemicals help prevent bacteria from growing in water-based products,  but can be absorbed through the skin and have been linked to both skin sensitivity and cancer.”
  • 1,4-dioxane: “Most commonly found in products that create suds, like shampoo, liquid soap and bubble bath. Environmental Working Group’s analysis suggests that 97 percent of hair relaxers, 57 percent of baby soap.  1,4-dioxane is considered a probable human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and The California Environmental Protection Agency also lists 1,4-dioxane as a suspected kidney toxicant, neurotoxicant and respiratory toxicant.”
  • Parabens: “preservatives used in lotions, shampoo and other cosmetics. Some parabens are classified as endocrine disruptors because they mimic estrogen in the body. Higher estrogen exposures are linked to higher risk of breast cancer.”
  • Petrolatum: “a derivative of petroleum used in lip products and lotions. It can be contaminated with polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are both endocrine disruptors and carcinogens.”
  • Triclosan: “commonly used in anti-microbial soaps. More research is needed to understand how triclosan relates to breast cancer, but evidence suggests it affects male and female hormones as well as thyroid hormone, which effects weight and metabolism.”
  • Toluene-”found in some nail polishes- helps suspend the color and form a smooth finish across the nail. It also affects the central nervous system and can cause headaches, dizziness and fatigue. Toluene is a possible reproductive and developmental toxin.”

I also learned that the US federal government doesn’t require manufacturers to perform health studies on their products.  Instead, any testing is performed by a manufacturer-controlled entity called the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) panel.

So, what do I do with this information? Simple–change how I buy.   I have decided to make every effort to now only buy personal care products that I know are free of dangerous chemicals.  This may seem extreme, but I believe that, with repeated exposure over a lifetime, even trace amounts of these chemicals can do harm.  Consider how many different products (soaps, lotions, shampoos, hand sanitizers, etc) you put on you body every day.

The way I see it, choosing to buy safe products for my family is something that I can easily control, and I am voting for change with my pocketbook. Every time I don’t buy a product that contains dangerous chemicals and buy a “clean” product instead, I cast my vote for change.

Go to to learn more on this topic and find a list of companies that have signed the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics pledge “to avoid chemicals banned in other countries, avoid harmful ingredients whenever possible and fully disclose product ingredients.”



**Three More Sites Promoting Human & Environmentally Friendly/Sustainable Products:

Skin Deep Data Base (link)


“It’s our mission at Environmental Working Group to use the power of information to protect human health and the environment. EWG’s Skin Deep database gives you practical solutions to protect yourself and your family from everyday exposures to chemicals. We launched Skin Deep in 2004 to create online safety profiles for cosmetics and personal care products. Our aim is to fill in where industry and government leave off. Companies are allowed to use almost any ingredient they wish. The U.S. government doesn’t review the safety of products before they’re sold. Our staff scientists compare the ingredients on personal care product labels and websites to information in nearly 60 toxicity and regulatory databases. Now in its eighth year, EWG’s Skin Deep database provides you with easy-to-navigate safety ratings for a wide range of products and ingredients on the market. At about one million page views per month, EWG’s Skin Deep is the world’s largest personal care product safety guide.”


Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute (link)


Our mission is to guide product manufacturers and designers in making safe and healthy things for our world. The Institute, using the Cradle to Cradle® framework, works with leaders from academia, the NGO environmental community, government and industry to establish a rating system for assessing and constant improvement of products based upon five categories:

   1. safe and appropriately sourced materials;
   2. material reutilization;
   3. renewable energy;
   4. release of clean water; and
   5. social fairness.

Products that meet the transparent criteria of this rating system will receive the Cradle to Cradle certification mark.” (link)  ***Enter the code JMAG1952 and you’ll get %15 off your first order AND they will donate up to $35 to their selected charities.


At, everything’s green. Shop thousands of Vine-reviewed products from paraben-free skin care and natural cleaners to organic snacks, sustainably-made décor & more.

Our Green Standards: We review the claims of all our products to make sure they are either organic, natural, energy- or water-efficient; run on their own renewable energy; are made from sustainable materials; or contribute to a healthier home.

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