You never see the words “dioxane”, “formaldehyde”, or “nitrosamines” in the ingredients list, but those are the names of chemicals linked to asthma, allergies, and even cancer that are present in many personal care products. Loopholes in FDA guidelines allow manufacturers to omit certain chemicals from the ingredients list if they are present due to contamination. Think of it this way, if you often leave a bit of egg shell in the batter when you make cookies, that doesn’t mean you have to include “egg shells” when someone asks for the recipe. Product manufacturing isn’t a perfect process either and FDA regulations don’t require companies to “tell all”. The FDA also doesn’t test cosmetics before they are sold in stores, so no one truly knows what’s in a product except the manufacturer.
Any product, even those that have the words “natural” or “organic” on their labels can contain harmful chemicals. Usually the levels of unwanted chemicals are very small, but health advocates argue that consumers, especially women, use so many products that when you add up all the small amounts of chemicals, you end up with a high level of exposure. This issue has gotten enough public attention that some large companies are making the effort to formulate safer products, but until stricter guidelines are put into place, it’s up to you to protect your health. Use these five strategies to improve your beauty routine and limit your exposure to chemicals from hair, skin, and body products.
1) Decrease the number of products you use on a daily basis. Can you get it down to less than 10? That would include everything from mouthwash to perfume. The fewer products you use, the better.
2) Pay the most attention to the products that you leave on your skin. Some chemicals are not harmful when they’re rinsed off, but they cause problems when they’re left on. This is the most important reason not to leave conditioner on your hair and scalp for longer than the maximum time in the instructions.
3) Always wash your hands with soap and water after applying personal care products. A chemical’s ability to cause you harm depends on which areas of your body it comes into contact with and for how long. If you apply your products and then proceed to rub your eyes, touch your mouth, cook dinner, etc., you are increasing your risk of exposure.
4) Minimize the number of store brought products you use on children. Just like with certain foods, pregnant women and children need to be most careful. With that said, it’s important to use products that deliver results so that your children can grow up understanding how to work with their coils and curls. My favorite hair products for kids are made by CURLS, Free Your Mane, Kinky-Curly and Mixed Chicks. You can replace other products like lotion and lip balm with homemade mixes.
5) If you have a bad reaction to a product (hair loss or a rash for example) report it to the FDA as soon as possible. The FDA relies on consumers to report problems, especially when the reaction is visible. You may be able to prevent other people from having a bad (or worse) experience if you speak up.
Luckily, hair products are the least of your concerns. Hair is not a living tissue like your skin, so it makes more sense to focus on minimizing your face and body cosmetics. Simple changes like washing your hands and using products as directed can make a huge difference.
I am becoming more conscious of the ingredients in my skin care products for myself and my son. I always wondered why his skin was dry and realized that Johnson&Johnson has sulfates in their body wash. I have stopped using their products for him now. If I use sulfate-free shampoo, then I want to use sulfate-free body wash on my 2 year old!
Hi Megan – Yes, DMDM Hydantoin is a type or preservative called a "formaldehyde releaser". If you use a product that contains that ingredient make sure it's one of the last 3 on the list. Some cheapie products list it pretty high up and those are to be avoided (IMO). Thank you for sharing your experience!
Hi Brooke B – I'm glad the article was helpful! I know what you mean about going through products quickly. Even when you bargain hunt, it still adds up fast!
Hey caramelcurls – Yes, scalp itching is a bad sign! Thanks for posting 🙂
7Oops I forgot my name Megan Montgomery for 6-25-12 at 3:51 p.m. but like I stated I am going to eliminate or limit the use of those products rinse off conditioners and try new healthier ones.
I remember when I did not know what parabens and formaldehyde were until I heard about them on t.v. even dmdm is formaldehyde they just don't flat out say formaldehyde. I seen formaldehyde in some of my conditioners rinse off and parbens. Now I am going to eliminate or limit the use of them. I am starting to purchase more natural products for hair because majority of my skin and body care are natural.
This article was very helpful & as a consumer & mom I try to use as many natural products for my family & self. Sometimes it's hard to stay all natural because we go through a lot of product amongst ourselves but I do my best. Thanks for this article.
The only products that I use on my hair daily are water and either grapeseed oil or whipped shea butter to seal. I use paraben, silicone, and sulfate free products on my hair and body.
I find that products with a lot of chemicals cause my scalp to tingle (in a bad way) and/or itch.
This is good information Nicole–thanks for sharing!