When we think of toxic wastelands, we usually think of the oil-soaked Gulf of Mexico or perhaps plastic-surgery queen Heidi Montag’s new body. But after taking a peak at the labels of everyday products we use to buff and shine ourselves, we’ve changed our minds. Here we’ve sniffed out some of the shocking potential toxins hiding in your bathroom cabinets and makeup collections. Proceed with caution.
You may think there’s nothing sexier than a shiny mane, but this shampoo, and many others, contain the chemicals sodium laureth sulfate and PEG compounds (which break down into the carcinogen 1,4-dioxane), as well as methylisothiazolinone (MIT), which, at high concentrations, may damage your nervous system and is cytotoxic (toxic to your body’s cells). Do you really want to scrub something like that into your scalp? What else is cytotoxic? Ah yes … snake venom. Feel manly washing your head with with a product in the snake-spit family. Take that, Old Spice Guy!
Here’s a little video advice from Umbra Fisk on how to make your own nontoxic shampoo and conditioner. Don’t have time to DIY? Worry not, we’ve saved you the trouble and reviewed a few eco-friendly alternatives, no anti-venom necessary.
Photo courtesy jamelah via FlickrNARS Lip Gloss in Striptease
We bet you didn’t know that slick, fish-faced look beloved by models contributed to another slick: the BP oil spill. Next time you gloss up, be on the lookout for one of the primary ingredients in these pucker-pastes: petroleum jelly or petrolatum. And don’t think the Gulf’s fish are the only ones eating petroleum right now. Glossy-lipped ladies gulp down an average of seven pounds of the stuff over a decade. As if that weren’t enough, watch out this summer because gloss can also intensify the sun’s rays as they hit those luscious lips, increasing the risk of skin cancer of the kisser.
That’s some sexy spackle you’ve got on your face. Seriously, spackle. Silica, an ingredient that helps face powder go on seductively smooth, is also used in construction spackling on walls. Makes a certain amount of sense, except that when construction workers apply spackle, they wear face masks to keep the fine particles from entering and scarring their lungs. Oh, and that BHA used to preserve the oils in your bronzer? There’s strong evidence that it’s an endocrine disruptor, disrupting the usual performance put on by hormones and glands. If you’re not much into the show your endocrine system is putting on, then, by all means, bronze, baby, bronze.
Rohto V Cool, Redness Relief, Original Formula Eye Drops
Duuude, you’re totally harshing my mellow with this one. Sorry to turn informer, Spicoli, but naphazoline, the active ingredient in your drugged-out eye disguise, is banned in the U.K., and unlike your favorite weed, we don’t see any petitions going around to legalize this substance. Not fazed by banned substances in your eye drops? How about Boric acid? Get ready to trip; this acid can affect your brain and nervous system and also has a bad rap for messing with the endocrine system. It’ll be detention for these drops!
Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil in Oil Slick
As much as we love a swashbuckler in eyeliner — we’re looking at you, Johnny Depp — these pencils-for-peepers will make your eyes pop when you see what’s in ’em. Aluminum powder is the scurvy villain in eyeliner, which turns out to be neurotoxic in humans. Do we even need to mention that this common fireworks ingredient is strongly linked to cancer? Well, blow us down (or up)!
American Crew Fiber Pliable Hair Molding Creme for Men
Gym. Tan. Laundry. Brain damage? Let us introduce you to the new “situation” in the Jersey Shore’s summer style guide. Propylene glycol, one of the main ingredients in hair gel, actually changes the structure of skin, allowing other chemicals to get under your skin. On top of that, it’s been shown to affect the brain and nervous system at high doses, and can cause less-than-manly reproductive effects at moderate doses. That’s a real situation.
Photo courtesy coryandlaura via FlickrJergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer
The social effects of spray-tan fails can be damaging enough, but the physiological effects of fake-baking ingredient Ceteareth-20 are much worse. Ceteareth-20 helps that sunset hue penetrate the skin, along with any other impurities that happen to be hanging around. Yes, the largest organ of our body, the one designed to keep stuff out, is being tricked into doing the exact opposite. What could possibly go wrong?
Hawaiian Tropic Deep Tanning Creme Lotion, SPF 2
If you’re going for a DNA-mutating deep tan anyway, why bother with SPF 2? This UV-loving lotion will enhance your tan, no doubt, but the oxybenzone in it will also up your chances of becoming a human tomato. If those odds don’t faze you, consider that oxybenzone also can interfere with cellular signaling, cause mutations, lead to cell death, and may be implicated in cardiovascular disease.
And don’t even think about taking a dip while slathered up with this junk because the ocean will not be thanking you for the extra grease.
If you would like to diagnose whether your care products are a potential minefield, we’ve gathered the following resources for your perusal.
- Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database rates all your stuff from “not toxic” to “most toxic” with every nitty-gritty detail you could every want (or not want) to know.
- Bryan Walsh at Time breaks down the latest on toxic personal care products.
- Join the ‘poo free movement (as in shampoo)
- Ask Umbra shows how unpretty makeup can be for you and the planet:
And Annie Leonard, creator of “The Story of Stuff,” unpacks what sorts of nasties could be packed into your cosmetics in her latest video: