Toxicology of personal care products

We all love make-up to look beautiful, smart and highlight our personality. Various types of cosmetics or personal care products have always provided essential aid for self grooming of women, men, children and even pet animals. Cosmetics have cosmopolitan usefulness; their application is mandatory in household functions, corporate meetings and more than a fashion statement, they are used to maintain cleanliness and hygiene. Both natural and synthetic personal care products are preferred by people but synthetic ones are more in demand. Synthetic products are cocktails of various chemical ingredients and usually people are not aware of their side effects or even if they are known, ignored for their simplicity of preparation, application and marketing and for the best reason of so called immediate 'expected' effects. The side effects on health can be categorized from mild to hazardous or life threatening ill effects. Let's see toxicology of some of the common personal care products.

Antibacterial soap: Antibacterial soaps contain triclosan and/or triclocarbon as active ingredients which are also used as pesticides. The basic fact about antibacterial soaps is that they are not effective against bacteria as most of infectious bacterial species are resistant to these chemicals! The only reason for they are still being used in the manufacture of antibacterial soap is their cheapness. Triclosan function like dioxin drugs, Poly chlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and 'agent Orange'. It is teratogenic and carcinogenic. It causes testosterone and estrogen disruption. Chlorine in water reacts with triclosan to form chloroform which is potent carcinogen. After application of soap, this pesticide is readily absorbed and stored in fat tissues underneath the skin. After several uses of antibacterial soap for years, triclosan would accumulate toxic levels and damage all vital organs of the body. Some serious implications include skin infections (eczema) paralysis, hemorrhage, infertility, heart attack and coma. Effects of triclocarbon are similar to triclosan but additionally cause hypothyroidism. Other chemical ingredients of soap such as surfactant, fragrance, stabilizer and colors are equally dangerous to triclosan. They cause serious injuries to vital organs like liver, lung, heart, kidneys and immune system.

Shampoo: Shampoo is a hair care product for removal of dirt, oil and dandruff. Shampoo is a chemical formula containing soap or surfactant, conditioner, emulsifiers, antidandruff agents, fragrance and colors. Surfactant like sodium laurel sulfate (SLS) is responsible for eye irritation, occasionally cause blindness and cataract. It has penetrating properties and cause skin irritation, eczema, itching, dryness of hair, skin and other allergic reactions. SLS disposal in aquatic bodies and soil poses serious environmental concern as it resists natural degradation. Some shampoo products are advertized for their Pro V or ZPTO (Zinc Pyrithione) content. In fact, Pro V or vitamin formula of shampoo practically doesn't have beneficial effects like vitamin nourishment. Baby shampoos contain 'no more tear' formula of polyethoxylates and sodium lauroamphoacetate which counteract eye watering property of SLS. These chemicals are known to trigger allergic reactions such as fatigue, nervousness, headache, nausea, lack of concentration and endocrine disruption. Antifungal and antibacterial chemical agents of antidandruff shampoo such as coal tar, triclosan, ketoconzazole, selenium sulfide and salicylate are carcinogenic plus skin allergens. They cause eyelid dermatitis, immunotoxic reactions, depression, convulsions, depression and worst of all, they are non-biodegradable. Foam boosters, gelling and stabilizing chemicals of shampoo are alkyloamides which can easily react with nitrosoamines generated during shampooing. Their reaction products are always hazardous teratogens. Mineral oil base in shampoo is phototoxic, non-biodegradable and allergic constituent. Preservatives like imidazolidinyl urea and hydantoin release formaldehyde in presence of water which is potent carcinogen and allergen. Emulsifiers like polysorbate, color and fragrance chemicals, pH balance formula and antioxidant used in shampoo are potent skin allergens, immunotoxins and neurotoxic chemical compounds.

Body lotion: Moisturizers and sunscreen compounds are principle ingredients of body lotions. Moisturizers are petroleum products derived from crude oil. Paraben and its methyl, ethyl and propyl derivatives are used as moisturizing agents. They are recalcitrant and toxic chemicals. They coat the skin but don't allow water evaporation, instead clog the pores hindering natural process of excretion. It leads to thermal imbalance instead of true moisturizing of skin. They have been detected in large concentration in breast tumors. They are known to mimic estrogen and cause hormone imbalance. Sunscreens also have estrogenic activity and ability to accumulate in body fat after prolonged use. Except titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, sunscreens like cinnamates, salicylates, parsol, benzophenone, propylene glycol, para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) esters, anthranilates, digalloyl trioleates and arobenzone generate toxic free radicals after application. They also cause neurotoxicity, immunotoxicity and reproductive problems.

Toothpastes and mouthwash: Our teeth and gum cleaning paste is made up of toxic chemicals. Typical toothpaste formula contains fluoride, SLS, triclosan, glycerin, saccharin, paraben, calcium carbonate (chalk), hydrogen peroxide, Carboxy methyl cellulose (CMC), Polyethylene glycol (PEG), silica, strontium chloride, sorbitol, potassium nitrate, titanium oxide and least but not the last trisodium phosphate (TP). TP discourage plaque buildup but is carcinogenic; silica and chalk are abrasives but as harsh as sandpaper. They destroy enamel making tooth sensitive. Paraben is for 'feel nice' sensation but now we know its toxic effects. Glycerin is for gelling paste but responsible for dry mouth; saccharine is cancarious artificial sweetener. Addition of triclosan and SLS is as such meant for toxic effects; peroxide is meant for bleaching and whitening of teeth but it is potent carcinogen. Sorbitol and nitrate is to desensitize teeth but you should be aware that potassium nitrate is active component of bombs and gun powder! Strontium chloride, PEG and CMC are dispersants but they are immunotoxic, carcinogenic and allergens. Colorants, fragrances, flavors are carcinogens but natural oil extracts like peppermint or eucalyptus have their side effects depending upon age or sensitivity of individuals. Mouthwash liquids contain anticavity, anti-bad breath and antitartar formula. Being chemicals, they are not safe for us; accidental swallowing can cause minor to severe reactions such as vomiting, diarrohea, burning sensation, slurred speech, dizziness, numbness, erosion of gums or coma.

Lipsticks: Lead acetate in less than 1ppm concentration is present in lipstick as essential component. Lead is heavy metal, very toxic and not a part of our nutritional requirement even at lowest concentration. Litharge or lead acetate is added to lipsticks for glossy appearance. It has ability to combine with body proteins and replace important minerals like zinc, calcium, iron and potassium. It is permanently stored in bone marrow and responsible for neonatal birth defects and pregnancy problems. Tocopheryl acetate (vitamin E acetate) and retinyl palmitate (synthetic vitamin A) in lipsticks are carcinogens and toxic to pregnant women. Tocopheryl acetate induces itching, scaling, burning and blistering to sensitive skin. Other constituents like colorants (Red 36 or 22) are neurotoxic and effects of paraben have already been stated in 'Body lotion'.

Nailpolish: Principle chemical constituents of nail polish are toluene, formaldehyde, Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and ethyl/butyl acetate. Toluene gives smooth finish and prevents color chemical from separating from liquid. Toluene is neurotoxic, lung and throat toxin and toxic to reproductive system. It also causes eye and skin irritation, tiredness, confusion, weakness and occasionally hearing loss. Formaldehyde is nail hardening agent but carcinogenic and eye, skin, throat and nose irritant. DBP is required for moisturizing luster and flexible application of nailpolish. It is responsible for reproductive dysfunctions, especially decreased sperm count. Ethyl or butyl acetate is hardener and dryer but inhalation of its vapor causes damage to lung, heart, liver and kidneys.

Talcum powder: Mineral talc is principle constituent of baby, medicated and perfumed body powders. Chemically, it is magnesium silicate and functionally similar to calcium silicate and asbestos. It is moisture resistant and also used in the manufacture of chalk, crayons, paint, antacids, soap, asphalt, insulators, paper, pesticide and food industry. Like asbestos, talc is carcinogenic and skin allergen. It has been responsible for cancers of breast, ovary, lung and skin; also consistent cough, respiratory failure and eye irritation. Talcosis or granulomatous lung infection is characteristic of talc toxicity. Talc present in surgical glove powder causes skin cancer with fibrosis endophthalmitis.

Perfumes and deodorants: Toxic effects of perfumes, deodorants, room fresheners or cologne are as intense as their smell. Common ingredients are ethanol, terpene, terpenols, benzaldehyde, linalool, dimenthyl sulfate, methylene chloride, acetone, benzene, acetaldehyde, methyl benzene, styrene oxide, limonene, camphor, aluminium chlorhydrate etc. They all cause fatigue, psoriasis, muscle pain, sore throat, sinus inflammation, headache, nausea, dizziness, bloating, laryngitis, joint aches, abnormal blood pressure, coughing, itching, burning, asthma, eye irritation and gastrointestinal problems. Methyl benzene cause loss of speech, hearing and visual ability, spinal cord degeneration, anxiety and mood swings. They are one of the reasons for induction Parkinson and Alzheimer disease symptoms. Terpenol causes hypothermia, pneumonitis, tingling sensation, irritation of mucus membrane and odema. Aluminium chlorhydrate is used as antiperspirant but it is responsible for breast tumors, sweat and lymph gland swelling and aluminium toxicity.

Go natural and take care of yourself!

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