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Toxic Beauty
Cancer causing chemicals are hiding in your hand lotion

It's early morning and the shower is hot, soothing, relaxing. Reach for the Pantene shampoo bottle and lather up; spread the fragrant soap all over your head. Then comes the conditioner; it penetrates the hair shaft and sends glossy shine all the way to the roots. Dove body wash is next, filling the bathroom with a soft, sweet almond scent. The water streams down, rinsing away all the dirt of the previous day. Step out of the shower and grab a towel. Don�t forget the Coppertone sunscreen and the Lubriderm lotion for total skin protection!

By this point, you have now exposed your body to 24 toxic chemicals. Good morning!

Most people use personal care products on a daily basis. We are on a quest to smell good, have shiny hair and moist skin. But something nasty lurks beneath the sweet perfume and bubbles. Cosmetic companies are using chemicals that are known to cause cancer and birth defects, and there are no regulations in place to control the amount of toxins that are entering our bodies. The quest for beauty may lead us to death.

Personal care products do not need approval from the FDA before reaching the shelves at your local Walgreens. A study done by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health lists 884 chemicals in use by the cosmetic industry as toxic substances. But according to the FDA, cosmetic companies are responsible for testing their own products to insure safety, and they don�t have to file data on the ingredients they use.

�We have no idea what these chemicals do when they interact in our body,� says Judi Shils of the Marin Cancer Project. �It is a toxic soup.�

This harsh mix of chemicals is something Caroline Butterworth knows about on a personal level. A bubbly, athletic woman in her late 30�s, Butterworth takes pride in being healthy. She runs on a regular basis and buys organic vegetables. She wears sunscreen every day. That is, she used to wear sunscreen every day, until it gave her a rash that spread around her mouth, cracking the skin and making it ooze. When she began to read about the possible causes of her skin problem, Butterworth quit using products with toxic chemicals.

�I know six people under the age of 40 who have cancer,� Butterworth says. �Petroleum jelly is OIL. Mineral oil is OIL. It is chemical warfare on your face.�

She now uses products made by the Neways International, which lists all its ingredients and uses natural additives whenever possible.

Only 11 percent of the 10,500 ingredients in use by cosmetic companies have gone through testing to determine possible health risks. The European Union recently put a ban on using 450 chemicals found in personal care products. The combination of certain chemicals has been found to be carcinogenic, but there have been no long-term studies done by the FDA or the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association to see what these chemicals do to our health.

Remember the baby pigs and huge toads floating in big glass jars in eighth-grade science class? Most likely the fluid preserving them was formaldehyde, which is added to deodorant and nail polish. Is your skin feeling tight and dry today because you ran out of lotion? Next time just go out to the garage and grab some antifreeze. Cosmetic manufacturers add it to many skin lotions and shaving creams, so it must have soothing qualities! The truth is no one knows how these chemicals interact after they soak into your skin.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has been working since 2001 to eliminate toxins from beauty products. They have been asking companies to remove the ingredients that were banned in Europe from American products.

Over 300 companies have signed on to the campaign, promising to get rid of controversial ingredients. L�Oreal, Revlon and Unilever are removing the chemicals that fall under the EU ban. One Bay Area company, Avalon, has made a larger commitment to consumer health. Mary Kay, Arbonne, Melaleuca, Nu Skin, Avon, will NOT sign the pact. Wonder why?

�Chemicals are insidious and dangerous,� says Morris Shriftman, vice president of Avalon. �There is a cumulative effect of products on the skin, and skin absorbs everything.�

Avalon has taken steps to remove all petroleum-based ingredients, such as parabens, from their products. They use organic ingredients whenever possible to support sustainable agriculture, and their products are free of artificial colors and fragrances.

�Cosmetics routinely contain chemicals linked to health and birth defects,� says Stacy Malkan, communications director for Health Care without Harm. �It is pretty disturbing. We are finding out that chemicals can cause health effects in low doses.  Read her website and book at

A handy website,, done by Skin Deep lets you rate your products for toxicity. It may be time to lose the Lubriderm.

Here is a list of some of the nastiest chemicals:

-Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS) is found in 90 percent of all shampoo. It penetrates the skin very easily and once inside the body, it collects in the heart, liver, lungs and brain. If SLS mixes with other chemicals, it becomes carcinogenic. Salon Selectives, Neutrogena Clean Shampoo and Clairol Herbal Essences contain SLS.

-Propylene glycol is highly toxic and causes brain, liver and kidney damage. It is found in deodorants such as Degree for Men, and hair products like L.A. Looks Gel and Dep.

-DEA, MEA and TEA are hormone disrupting chemicals, which can form cancer-causing nitrosamines. They are found in shampoo and body wash, including Flex, Pantene and Finesse Color Care. A study at the University of Illinois shows a link between �repeated skin applications and liver and kidney cancers.�

-Dibutyl phthalate is banned in Europe because it has been linked to cancer. It is most commonly found in nail polish, such as OPI, but since it is used to hold scent in a product, it sneaks into hairsprays and deodorant. Many companies do not even include it in the ingredient list, making it even harder to spot and avoid.

-Artificial colors like Blue 1 and Green 3 are carcinogenic. Colors with FD & C pigments are made from coal tar, which is also banned in Europe and studies have shown that it is carcinogenic. Dove Body Wash, Clearasil Body Wash and Dark & Lovely have these color additives.

-Formaldehyde is a preservative that damages the respiratory system, weakens the immune system and can cause cancer. OPI Nail Treatments and nail polish contain high levels of formaldehyde. And this list is just the beginning!

For products without any of the above harmful chemicals


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