Top Ingredients to Avoid in Personal Care Products

Not sure which ingredients to avoid on lotion, shampoo and deodorant labels? Use our handy guide to buy with confidence.


| September/October 2011


Lotion and sunscreen. Shampoo and body scrub. Powder and deodorant. The collection of personal-care products in our bathroom cabinets—women use an average of 12 a day, men six—contains an assortment of chemicals, including some that have been shown to disrupt hormones or increase cancer risk. Because each of these products contains about 12 chemicals, we are literally bathing, lathering, brushing, spraying, powdering and rubbing ourselves and our children with dozens of chemicals every day. Nearly all of these chemicals can penetrate the skin, and some we ingest directly from our lips or hands.

While many of the chemicals used in common personal-care products are benign, some are known carcinogens, neurotoxins or reproductive toxins. Others are endocrine disrupters that upset the body’s hormonal balance (leading to weight gain and other hormone-related health problems), including chemicals that mimic estrogen in the body and can cause problems in sexual development and adult sexual function, as well as increase the risk of breast and prostate cancer.

Unfortunately, these toxic ingredients may be more prevalent than you think: More than one-third of all personal-care products contain at least one ingredient linked to cancer. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, as less than 20 percent of the chemicals in personal-care products have been tested for safety. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate or limit the use of chemicals in personal-care products or require that all of the ingredients be listed on the label.

As a result, trying to choose safer personal-care products can be confounding. You can read labels, but because the FDA doesn’t regulate the health claims or labeling for personal-care items, the words “organic,” “herbal,” “natural,” “hypoallergenic” and “nontoxic” used on these products have no legal meaning. One particularly maddening example of this is the “pink-washing” of brands that have campaigns to fight breast cancer while continuing to use chemicals that have been linked to cancer.

No one should have to worry about inadvertently choosing toxic products while shopping in the personal-care aisle. That’s why a group of organizations, including the Breast Cancer Fund, have come together to form The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a coalition working to eliminate dangerous chemicals from cosmetics and personal-care products through legislative, regulatory and corporate reforms.

But you don’t have to wait for major reforms to find safer  products. Here’s what you can do today to protect and promote your health and safeguard your family:

MaryJoyceRossignol
2/7/2018 9:56:58 AM

Very interesting-made a note of these chemicals and I will certainly try to avoid them when purchasing products.


Kathleen Kubic
10/23/2012 3:17:19 PM

Thank you! Very informative






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