jessica alba honest company
Jessica Alba may be all smiles but her business, Honest Company, is under fire for making false product claims. (Photo: TPG)

Harmful chemicals in cleaning and personal products can lead to health problems and if you’re trying to live a clean, green life it only makes sense to seek out non-toxic, all natural option. So, what should you look out for when buying cleaning products and personal products? We give you the rundown on what should not be on the list of ingredients on those bottles you pick up.

  1. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate/Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS)

SLS is a cheap detergent and surfactant that is widely used in shampoo, body wash, shaving cream, toothpaste, and other products. The American College of Toxicology found that SLS easily penetrates the skin and can circulate in the body for up to five days, leaving residues in the heart, liver, lungs, and brain. SLS can strip moisture and oils from the hair and skin, causing rashes, hair loss, and a condition similar to dandruff.

  1. Fragrance

Fragrance of any kind isn’t good. Cosmetic companies can mask a vast range of synthetic chemicals under this label. Fragrance is present in mostly existent in sunscreens, skin and body care, shampoos, and some baby products. It is highly toxic, can clog the lymphatic system and induce major organ system toxicity. Medical research by physicians has related overexposure of fragrance to affect the central nervous system. There are reports of hyperactivity, changes in behavior, and depression.

  1. Parabens

Parabens are a group of chemical preservatives used in shampoo and other personal care products. These have been banned by the European Union in 2003.  They keep hairsprays sticky and bacteria and fungus out of things like nail polish and perfume. It has been noted to be carcinogenic and particularly linked to breast cancer even at very low doses.

  1. Cocamidopropyl Betaine

Found in many personal care products, including shampoo, toothpaste and body wash. It is a foaming agent derived from coconuts and has been associated with skin and eye irritation as well as allergic contact dermatitis. Although it is regarded as safe, many people still have negative reactions to it.

  1. Phenoxyethanol

Another preservative used in cosmetics and hair care products. Causes organ system toxicity, and is an irritant to the skin, eyes and lungs. It only recently came to public attention in the US when the FDA issued a warning indicating that phenoxyethanol can cause shut down of the central nervous system, vomiting and contact dermatitis.

  1. Retinyl Palmitate

Retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A, which can speed the development of skin tumours and lesions, making it a possible carcinogen. Causes reproductive toxicity and organ system toxicity. It has caused reproductive effects at low doses in one or more animal studies, and there is limited evidence of cancer and skin toxicity, although it has been shown to be easily absorbed into the skin.

  1. Dimethicone

Dimethicone is a silicone oil that can make the scalp and skin incredibly dry and irritated. It forms an almost plastic-like barrier on the outside of the skin and traps bacteria, sebum and impurities with it. Those prone to acne or with oily skin are more likely to see increased blackheads and breakouts when using products containing this ingredient. Prolonged exposure can increase skin irritation and create a dependency on the product. Just like petroleum jelly, dimethicone can actually end up drying your skin the more you use it, as it interferes with the natural hydrating processes, making fine lines and wrinkles more noticeable. It is also an eye irritant and is non-biodegradable.

  1. Behentrimonium Chloride

Behentrimonium Chloride is a type of ammonium salt used as a preservative and surfactant. It is a toxic compound, with concentrations of 0.1% and higher having been shown to damage the eyes. It is irritating to the skin and causes inflammation.

  1. Talc

Everyone knows about this powder but are you aware that is may be infused with asbestos? And asbestos is recognised as being cancerous. Talc is present in everyday cosmetics such as rouge and with large controversy, baby powder. The US Department of Health’s National Institutes of Health has been pushing for talc to be classified as a carcinogen but their attempts up to date have been unsuccessful.