FDA has been vigilant about potentially hazardous chemical ingredients in cosmetic products, and warning consumers about the health risks of such products. Many ingredients in cosmetics have been the subject of news reports or have been topics of discussion on the internet.
Since there is laxity in enforcing many quality and safety standards, especially when the suppliers are online marketing companies, making unverifiable claims, it is useful to learn about some harmful chemicals that are found even in branded beauty or skin care products.
1.Coal Tar Dyes : Coal tar dyes are colour ingredients that were originally made from chemicals extracted from coal tar, and the distillation process was not 100% effective so harmful impurities were often left in the product.
2.Diethanolamine (DEA) and other ethanolamines : Diethanolamine (DEA) is unacceptable for use in cosmetics in Canada and many countries. This is because DEA and similar compounds like diisopropanolamine (DIPA) can form harmful nitrosamines that may be linked to cancer.
3.Formaldehyde (and Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives) : Formaldehyde is used in small amounts in hair and skin cosmetics as a preservative, to maintain the integrity of the product and prevent growth of microorganisms. It is formed endogenously in humans as a normal result of metabolism. When inhaled at high levels, however, formaldehyde is anticipated to be a human carcinogen.
4.Lead and other heavy metals :Due to health concerns, heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, cadmium, mercury and antimony are considered unsafe and should not be used as cosmetic ingredients. Yet impurities exist due to the persistent nature of these substances. Many countries have specified impurity limits in the hope that cosmetic industry will follow them.
5.Parabens :Parabens are used as preservatives in many cosmetic and personal care products, moisturizers, hair care and shaving products. These have been found to weakly mimic estrogens in animal studies, raising concern because of their link with breast cancer.
6. PEG compounds :PEG, or poly(ethylene glycol) compounds are used to make non-ionic surfactants (surfactants allow for easier spreading of cosmetics). There are hundreds of different types of PEG compounds in cosmetics. The U.S. Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel found that cosmetics containing PEGs should not be used on compromised skin (such as skin that is broken or has a rash).
7. Petrolatum : Petrolatum (mineral oil jelly) is used widely in cosmetics as a moisturizer as well as in over-the-counter drugs as a skin protectant. Cosmetic petrolatum products are made from highly refined petrolatum at pharmaceutical or cosmetic grade. Manufacturers are expected to ensure that this ingredient is not susceptible to impurities.
8. Phthalates : Phthalates are used in cosmetics as plasticizers (to keep nail polish supple), perfume solvents, fixatives and antifoam ingredients. These are considered safe only if used att the levels at which they are currently used in cosmetics.
9. Para-Phenylenediamine (PPD) : It is a coal tar dye commonly used in permanent and semi-permanent hair dyes, colours and tints. Used with oxidizing agents like hydrogen peroxide to create colourant molecules,PPD is known to be a sensitizer when used on the skin (causes allergic reactions upon repeat exposure in some people.
10. Siloxanes : Cyclomethicone and siloxanes are used in cosmetics to soften, smooth and moisten. Siloxanes are found in the vast majority of hair care and skin conditioning products. Disclosure of ingredients on product labels of cosmetics is mandatory in many countries.
11. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) : SLS is most often used as a cleansing and foaming agent in rinse-off products like shampoos, bath products, shaving creams and skin cleansers; also sometimes found in other cosmetics like creams and lotions. At high levels, SLS can cause skin or eye irritation, which is why it is important to follow label instructions on cosmetic product.
12. Triclosan : Triclosan is used in cosmetics as a preservative to prevent or slow down microbial growth and protect products from spoilage; also used in over-the-counter drugs and other consumer products, and is safe when used in cosmetics at a concentration of up to 0.03%.