Many personal care products contain harmful chemicals. Here’s what to do about it.

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While this is not an exhaustive list, here are some of the common chemicals named in recent state bans as well as those frequently flagged by researchers and consumer advocacy groups. These chemicals appear on the ingredients list of products containing them.

What is this: BHA is commonly used as a preservative in personal care products that contain oils or fats, such as lipstick, eyeliner, and moisturizer.

what the research says: Studies in rats (whose findings do not always apply to humans but may suggest areas for human research) linked BHAs to colon cancer, damage to kidney cells, and reproductive system development in males and females Is.

Several groups consider it a possible human carcinogen, including the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, the US National Toxicology Program, and the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, which compiles the state’s Proposition 65 list of harmful chemicals. Does what businesses need. Warn customers about Its relative, butylated hydroxytoluene, or BHT, is considered slightly less toxic, but has been flagged for regulation in Europe and Japan.

What is this: Coal tar is a thick brownish-black liquid. M-phenylenediamine, o-phenylenediamine and p-phenylenediamine are compounds that were originally obtained from coal tar and are now often produced synthetically. They are often found in hair dyes. The darker the dye, the more phenylenediamine it usually contains.

what the research says: Coal tar dyes can cause allergic reactions or skin irritation which can result in hair loss. Epidemiological data have also linked some coal tar dyes to an increased risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple myeloma, acute leukemia, and bladder cancer. Products containing more than trace amounts of m- and o-phenylenediamine will be banned in California and Maryland in 2025.

What is thisDEA: DEA is part of a group of chemicals that are often used as emulsifiers in products that are creamy or foamy, such as shampoos and shaving creams. Its relatives include monoethanolamine (MEA) and triethanolamine (TEA).

what the research says: These compounds often react with other preservatives in personal care products to form nitrosamines, which are chemicals that have been banned by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the U.S. Because of the potential for this reaction, DEA is prohibited in cosmetics in Europe and Canada and consumer advocates recommend avoiding other ethanolamines as well.

What is thisFormaldehyde: Formaldehyde is a strong-smelling chemical that is used to extend the shelf-life of some cosmetics, hair straighteners and nail polish. Some companies have begun to move away from the use of formaldehyde, but other preservatives that inhibit bacterial growth in water-based personal care products — such as shampoos and liquid baby soaps — can still release formaldehyde gas over time. These include DMDM ​​hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, glyoxal, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate and quaternium-15.

what the research says: Exposure to smoke to low levels of formaldehyde causes irritation to the eyes, nose and throat, while higher exposures, especially over long periods, have been linked to cancer of the nose and throat as well as other diseases in some workers such as hair stylists and manicurists. California and Maryland’s bans include formaldehyde, paraformaldehyde and quaternium-15.

What is thisFragrance formulas are considered trade secrets, meaning companies can hide any number of chemical ingredients under the umbrella term “fragrance” or “parfum.” A product’s label may say “unscented” and still have one of these words in the ingredient list because some fragrance compounds are used as dyes, solvents or stabilizers for active ingredients or to mask other undesirable odors in a product. can be done for

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