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Beauty and the toxic beast

What is in your morning bathroom routine? Most likely, you take a shower with a zesty, invigorating shower gel; you shampoo and condition your hair; you wash and maybe scrub your face with a foaming fresh-smelling cleanser; if you are a man, you also shave. You splash your skin with a toner or an astringent, top it with a moisturizer with (hopefully) some sunscreen in it, followed by makeup (again, optional), rub some antiperspirant under your arms, and add a spritz of a fragrance to seal the deal.

Too Good to Be True?

How many times have you stumbled upon the phrases “our studies show” and “dermatologist tested”? These marketing clichés are so common, you hardly pay attention. The cosmetic industry, one of the largest and most profitable of all industries, spends more on advertising than any other trade. Each advertisement claim should be validated, and there’s a well-established claim validation business that serves the beauty industry.

The Solution

It’s no secret we are ready to pay more for beauty products that claim to be clean from contaminants. However, a visit to any health food store unfortunately reveals the majority of products in the personal care section with “organic” brand-claims contain only cheap water extracts of organic herbs and maybe a few other token organic ingredients to justify the “organic” claim on the label. The core of such products is composed of conventional synthetic cleansers and conditioning ingredients usually made in part with petrochemicals, often containing toxic contaminants like 1,4-Dioxane.

Conclusion

When it comes to short-term effects from daily use, contact allergic dermatitis is the most common side effect of using products containing propylene glycol and various PEGs. These chemicals are known to aggravate acne and eczema by rupturing skin cell membranes (Gonzalo et al. 1999). Propylene glycol, used as a penetration enhancer and humectant, has been found to provoke skin irritation and sensitization in humans in concentrations as low as 2 percent, while the industry review panel recommends that cosmetics can contain up to 50 percent of the substance (Johnson 2001).

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