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Myth No. 14 - Finding the Dirty Dozen on skincare product labels is like finding Waldo

We avoid BPA in plastics and pesticides in food, did you know there's a "dirty dozen" hit list for skincare ingredients as well?

We know those skincare product labels are difficult to read, or even pronounce, and let's face it, who's really going to remember a long list of chemical names to compare against when shopping for skincare? Here, let us tackle a couple with you at a time, and break it down for you in layman's terms to help them stick.

1. BHA, and its cousin, BHT

Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are antioxidants found in oil-based products. You may find them in food products (especially those that undergo high temperature cooking) such as potato chips, preserved meat, cereal, baked goods, many instant foods and even wax-based food packaging. In cosmetics, they are most commonly found in lip stick, moisturizers and makeup.

Health Concerns: Studies have shown in high doses, or over long term use, it leads to adverse reproductive effects, may cause liver, thyroid and kidney problems, and is classified as a possible carcinogen. 

2. Coal Tar Dyes (look for a Color Index number "C.I. #####")

Coal tar dyes are typically used as artificial colorants in cosmetic products such as hair dyes, lip stick, and even unassuming products such as shampoos and lotions.

Health Concerns: Coal tar dyes are a known human carcinogen and they are subject to contamination with aluminium compounds or heavy metals, which are toxic to the brain and can lead to conditions such as ADHD in children.

 3. DEA and chemical terms containing DEA

Diethanolamine (DEA) contributes to the creamy or sudsy in your moisturizers, soaps, and shampoos. Find it on its own on the cosmetic product label, or as part of another chemical compound such as Cocamide DEA or Cocamide Diethanolamine.

Health Concerns: On its own, it is known to cause mild to moderate eye irritation and in high doses, or over long term use, may be carcinogenic. Combined with nitrates, which are often found in the same products containing DEAs as preservatives, they react to form nitrosodiethanolamine (NDEA), an extremely carcinogenic compound which can easily be absorbed through the skin.

4. DBP and Phthalates

Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) is what makes plastic soft and flexible and is often used in engineering PVC. Why are they on the list? Because they are also found in nail polish products to keep them from becoming brittle. Phthalates are also commonly used to add fragrance in cosmetic products (we'll get to that in a later post).

Health Concerns: DBP can be absorbed through the skin and is known to cause reproductive harm in males and females such as reduced sperm counts and birth defects and can enhance the ability for other chemicals to cause genetic mutations. Exposure to phthalates may also cause liver and kidney failure in small children who suck or chew on these products over extended periods of time.

Congratulations! You got through the first four of the dirty dozen - that's a third of the nasty chemicals you're ridding from in your family's skincare regimen! Keep up with our monthly blog and in no time, you'll be the clean skincare expert in your mommy group!

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