Deathtraps in the Cosmetics we Use
Summary: There isn't one person I have ever met who knew anything about cosmetics, and that is because the chemistry of cosmetics has always been cloaked in secrecy.

My journey into cosmetic research began about ten years ago when I was told I would not recover my health. I was suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, allergies and immunological defect; I was having 10 to 12 seizures a day, and walking with two canes. I had always been a heavy user of cosmetics, and began to suspect in particular the acrylic nails I had used for years, so I began to research the ingredients they use.

Ingredients in Cosmetics

Charmaine Chiu on Flickr

Cosmetics are anything that we apply to our bodies including soap, toothpaste, shampoo, mouthwash, deodorant and shaving cream.

The United States has had labelling laws for the last 20 years, but in Canada there are no labels on containers. We need to let Health Canada know how seriously we need labels to disclose what is actually in these products.

Molecules that Penetrate the Body

CC Nina J. G.

When you put a coating of creme or shaving gel on your face, these chemicals penetrate the skin and get inside the body, but not everything you put on your skin is actually going to be absorbed. Some molecules are too large to get in, but some are very tiny and can stay in the body for many days.

Everyone used to think the skin is the perfect barrier, but one of the transport systems that takes these harmful ingredients into the body is the hair follicle.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

Sodium lauryl sulfate is a very strong surfactant that was developed for washing garage floors. The problem is that it denatures protein, and the body is made up of protein. Sodium lauryl sulfate is used in shampoos, toothpaste, lotions and creams.

Research shows that it causes damage to the eyes, the cells and the entire body. It can combine with other ingredients in the container and create nitrosamines which cause skin damage and irritation. A dental association in Japan tested sodium lauryl sulfate on bacteria, and found that it is a mutagen which means that it can change the genetics within the cell. In children under six, just the absorption of this ingredient through the scalp every day is enough to prevent their eye proteins from linking up properly.

These harmful ingredients are banned in Europe and Central America. Sodium laureth sulfate is also a toxic surfactant (milder but has ether added which is worse) used in shampoos and toothpastes.

Propylene Glycol

CC Sharealike Wagner Cesar Munhoz on Flickr

This is anti-freeze. If it spills in the garage, we wipe it up right away because we know that dogs and cats lick it and could die from it. The manufacturer of propylene glycol actually sends out a safety data sheet which states that when applied to the skin it causes liver abnormalities and kidney damage.

Propylene glycol has the ability to get into the skin, into the blood stream and into the body where it is stored for days and weeks at a time. It can actually alter brain waves to a state of anxiety. Propylene glycol is used in most cosmetic products, as well as food products like ice cream and muffins. It is a humectant and holds in the moisture. It is used in practically every single lipstick on the market, so has clear access to the limbic system of the brain.


I wore red lipstick for years and years, and I don't wear it anymore. I don't trust anybody's reds. If you took FD & C Red No.3, which is found in a great deal of cosmetics and put it into a petrie dish with breast tissue, you will find breast cancer. This ingredient is still on the market, and we know it causes cancer.

Nail Polish

The nails do absorb chemicals from nail polish, remover and the glue used with acrylic nails.


These contaminants do not appear on the label. It is not the cosmetic manufacturers who cause the contamination, but the suppliers of the raw materials. What we want in the industry is to have the actual raw materials cleaned up. Contamination can occur from the cleaning of the plants or from the solvents they use, and most of the products on the market are contaminated. DEA (diethanol amine) is widely used in shampoos, and scientists have been reporting that DEA, whether or not it's a DEA cocamide, mixes with the nitrogen-containing molecule in the same container and creates nitrosamines which get into your body and are carcinogens.

Sometimes ingredients which aren't harmful alone may go on to create a formaldehyde or a contaminant. In a recent study, they tested 54 ethoxylated moisturizing ingredients, and found all 54 of them contained exceedingly high levels of 1,4 dioxane which is a powerful xeno-estrogen.


Women today have so many problems with their hormones being out of balance with PMS and menopausal symptoms, and this shouldn't be because it doesn't occur in Third World countries, China, or Japan.

Menopause is a North American disease and it may just be that we have created it through cosmetic use. We have a major problem with hormone mimickers like xeno-estrogens affecting our endocrine systems. A xeno-estrogen communicates with our cells as if it were an estrogen.

Many ingredients in cosmetics have the ability to be a xeno-estrogen. If found in a shampoo, it can lower the sperm count in men! And any exposure between the ages of birth to about six years old can definitely alter a child's hormones. So I always say "Mothers if you want your boys to grow up to be cowboys don't put them in a bubble bath!"

Extraction Process

We hear a lot today about ingredients coming from natural sources like coconuts. But to get the oil from a coconut and put it into a container of shampoo or face cream, it has to go through some type of chemical process, and in this process, many contaminants are formed. Many of us are not aware that essential oils and other products have been extracted from the plant with solvents like propylene glycol and benzene. There are better ways of doing this such as cold pressing, natural extractions and distilling.


Danielle Elder on Flickr.
Fragrance goes straight into the limbic system of the brain. A friend of mine who is a great researcher sent me some scans of people's brains before and after being exposed to fragrance. Perfumes and fragrances are actually made of 5,000 hydrocarbons which are all synthetics. There are no roses pressed into that beautiful bottle.

When a person's body begins to break down, the first thing that happens is they become sensitive to perfumes, room sprays, laundry detergents. We are actually absorbing and breathing these in, and the Environmental Protection Agency lists them as causing nervous disorders and brain disorders, and they are investigating a connection between fragrance and multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia.

Anything that a person is breathing in should be absolutely natural, and if you are using essential oils you must make sure that they have not been processed with some type of chemical solvent like propylene glycol or benzene.

Baby Products Contain Petroleum Byproducts and Carcinogens

Because shampoos irritate baby's eyes, they put an ingredient called ethylene oxide in the shampoo. Look on the Internet; you won't find one report that doesn't call it a carcinogen. It loads their system up with 1,4 dioxane.

Another problem with baby products is that they contain an enormous amount of petroleum byproducts like mineral oil and petrolatum, and petroleum byproducts can be contaminated with polycyclic hydrocarbons, dangerous carcinogens. Babies do not have immune systems able to tolerate these chemicals, so it's very important to have all baby products reevaluated. There is enough fluoride in a tube of toothpaste to kill a child. Children sometimes take too much on their toothbrush and swallow quite a lot.


My book has a chapter with recipes for making your own cosmetics, but the problem with making your own cosmetics is that the oils in the cremes are so heavy that they do not allow your skin to breath and expel toxins, so you have to be very careful about that. These days moisturizers are formulated using silicone which forms a mesh-like covering on the skin which allows your skin to breathe.

Let's Clean up the Products

Cosmetic ingredients are not regulated by the government. The industry is self-regulating. You must educate yourselves and demand that the manufacturers use safe ingredients and processes like vacuum stripping to remove the contaminants. This will increase the price of the raw material by about five times, but the cosmetic industry usually has maybe 5 to 15 cents worth of ingredients in it and the rest has all been going to profit, so there is plenty of room for change.

Keep up to date with ongoing changes in cosmetic formulating by reading my free newsletter The Cosmetic Health Report which has critiques on cosmetic manufacturing companies, product spotlights, lobbying updates, cosmetic recipes and free seminars.

This article written by Judi Vance can be found at Judi Vance has dedicated her life to educating the public about the harmful ingredients in cosmetics. She is presently campaigning to have these harmful ingredients totally banned. She publishes a newsletter called The Cosmetic Health Report and is the author of Beauty to Die For: the Cosmetic Consequence. You may contact Judi at The Cosmetic Health Report phone: 604-683-6312; fax: 604-681-4445.

Disclaimer: This article is provided by a third-party source. Providing a third-party article on indicates that we stand behind the content of that particular article, but it is not an endorsement by Amazing Health of the author's opinion, lifestyle or work published elsewhere.

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