Rachel Schwartz is a Natural Home & Garden editorial intern. She attends the University of Kansas where she studies Journalism and writes columns about environmental and organic health for the campus newspaper, The University Daily Kansan. She is passionate about reducing her carbon footprint and filling her body with the best possible foods.
In ecology class in high school, we could do a project about anything we wanted to (well, basically anything) and I chose the effects of conventional personal care and beauty products. My mom is the kind of person who scrunches up her nose in disgust when she smells the strong fragrances of conventional candles, sprays and soaps. She had recently started using organic candles, which she said didn’t cause those headaches she got from the other ones. And she had told me that some body products caused cancer. Sometimes I feel like everything supposedly causes cancer but this made me want to see if there was legit information to back up this claim. Soon I found out just how harmful these products are—nd I am still discovering other harmful products all of the time.
Aluminum: If you use conventional body care products, you are rubbing this on your armpits everyday—unless you like sweating. According to the National Cancer Institute, while findings are inconclusive, there are links between the aluminum in deodorants and breast cancer. When I found this out, I immediately stopped using conventional deodorants. My great aunts and grandma died from breast cancer, and I don’t want anything else heightening my chances of getting it. Not to mention, in my opinion, organic deodorants smell much better. I recommend Nature’s Gate’s lavender and aloe scent.
Propylene glycol, a man-made chemical often used in beauty products for its ability to lock in humidity, is found in hand sanitizers, moisturizers and baby products—meaning those products you are applying on your face and body use the same chemical as hydraulic fluid! Disgusting, right? This chemical is even connected to liver disease and kidney damage.
Dibutyl phthalate can be found in nail polish, shampoo, deodorant and other unknown products. “Unknown?” you ask. Yes. Dibutyl phthalate is used to make some cosmetics have that enticing, sometimes overwhelming, smell. But because it is just fragrance, companies are not required to list it; it’s their “secret ingredient” per se. Maybe they don’t tell us because they don’t want us to know that it can cause developmental defects and even trigger asthma, which is a big deal seeing as there are more than 300 million people with asthma in the world! Not to worry, though. Many organic nail polishes and naturally scented products, including body sprays, are made without dibutyl phthalate, so you can smell great without worrying about health risks.
Petrolatum, more commonly known as good ol’ petroleum jelly, is used to lock in the moisture in moisturizers and hair care products. While it has a great purpose, its effects are not so great. Petrolatum causes skin irritations but, more importantly, it can cause cancer, including breast cancer, says Dr. Oz.
Triclosan goes in your mouth everyday as it’s in toothpaste and mouthwash. (So if you use both, you get a double dose of this harmful chemical.) Triclosan is also used in other products such as soaps and deodorants. Triclosan is one of those chemicals, yet again, linked to cancer. It also causes development of drug-resistant bacteria, and allergies in children. Besides this, it restrains immune function and can build up to toxic amounts harming the liver, kidneys and lungs. My dentist told me organic toothpaste wasn’t effective so I switched back to conventional toothpaste, but, after learning about the harmful effects of triclosan, I’m switching back to organic. Today.
These are only a handful of the chemicals in conventional personal care products. More than 884 toxic chemicals in total are used in cosmetics, according to the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety. With all of the chemicals in these conventional products, why not go organic? For more information on toxic chemicals in beauty products, check out the article "Top Ingredients to Avoid in Personal Care Products."