I wrote here about the food products that were banned in Europe but allowed in the US, so I suppose it’s no surprise that the same is true for cosmetics.

Here’s a list of ten nasty chemicals found in cosmetics in the U.S., but which have been banned in Europe. Note that this list is far from exhaustive… there are over a thousand such chemicals!

  1. Parabens: this is usually a suffix, so look for any word that ends in this.  These are used as preservatives, but are associated with endocrine (hormonal) cancers.  Specifically they have been linked with breast cancer.
  2. Acetamide: Used as a foaming agent and skin conditioner, this is a suspected carcinogen and a skin irritant, as well as toxic to multiple organs.
  3. Lead: Frequently found in lipstick, lead concentrates in the bones. When bone begins to break down at an older age, or after menopause for women, symptoms can arise or worsen.  In children, lead has been linked with learning and developmental disabilities including lower IQ, and ADD.  In general it is associated with other neurological problems such as depression and anxiety, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s Disease.  It can also cause high blood pressure, often poorly or unresponsive to medication.
  4. Phthalates: these are in plastics – the softer the plastic, the more phthalates are in there.  They are also endocrine disruptors, associated with endocrine cancers, and can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs, and reproductive system.
  5. Formaldehyde (aka formalin, formal and methyl aldehyde): used as a disinfectant and preservative, it’s a suspected carcinogen (especially linked with lung cancer).  Exposure in high doses can cause asthma, headaches, eye irritation and upper respiratory irritation (I can attest to this firsthand from anatomy lab).
  6. Nickel: Yet another heavy metal, nickel is one of the major contact allergens.
  7. Octinoxate: used as a chemical sunscreen, blocking the sun’s rays, this has been linked in some studies with endocrine and nervous system disruption. Better to choose zinc- or titanium-based sunscreens whenever possible.
  8. Methyl cellusolve: used as a solvent in some creams and serums, this is a neurotoxin and may cause DNA mutations.
  9. Butylated hydroxanisole (BHA): used as a preservative, this has been linked with cancer in rats, mice, and hamsters (so, for good reason, it’s a suspected carcinogen in humans).  Its cousin, Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) may be linked with cancer as well.  Often these two are used with Propyl Gallate, a preservative of fats as well, also a suspected carcinogen. BHA may also induce allergic reactions and hyperactivity in some sensitive patients.
  10. Quaternium-15: also a preservative, this is a suspected carcinogen and a known allergen/irritant.

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