The Wellness Corner

What's in Your Cosmetics?

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The cosmetic industry is a multibillion dollar industry, but do they have your health in mind when they manufacture lipstick, eye shadow, deodorant, or shampoo? Take a look at the ingredient list on the products you use. Do you understand what they are?

You may not be surprised to see a list with chemical names. Many cosmetics, skin care and hair care products use chemicals in their ingredients. Many of these chemicals are derived from petrochemicals (which are chemical products made from the raw materials of petroleum or other hydrocarbons) along with other synthetic substances.

Using petrochemicals on the skin may not be the healthiest choice. There is still controversy about whether all petrochemicals are carcinogenic (cancer causing) or not, however, many of these chemicals might cause an allergic reaction or even worse, could potentially cause cancer. There’s nothing natural about petrochemicals. But when you read the ingredient “”from coconut oil”, you may think it is all natural. What you may not realize is that synthetic chemicals are used to extract the little bit of coconut oil in the product.

Let’s discuss some of the ingredients you put on your face and hair. The following chemical names cocamide DEA, sodium lauryl sulfate, triethanolamine and TEA lauryl sulfate are from coconut oil. But synthetic chemicals are used to extract any “real coconut oil”. The synthetic chemicals and the resultant substances are carcinogenic.

Examples of the petrochemicals used are: Polyethylene Glycol (PEG), Propylene Glycol (PG). PEG is also, potentially cancer-producing and can alter and reduce the skin’s natural moisture factor. It thickens products and is used in cleansers to dissolve oil and grease. PG penetrates the skin and can weaken protein and cellular structure. This substance should be avoided by pregnant women because it can potentially cause brain, liver, and kidneys abnormalities in the fetus.

Other toxic substances are Silicone derived emollients. Silicone products are occlusive; they coat the skin and trapping anything beneath it. It does not allow the skin to breath. Names of silicone substances are Dimethicone, dimethicone copolyol, and cyclomethicone.

Phtalates act as endocrine disruptors and affect the reproductive system and hormonal levels in both women and men. Phtalates are “plasticizers” that add flexibility to products. Most common phthalates used in cosmetics include dibutyl phthalates (DBP), diethyl phthalate (DEP), and dimethy phthalate (DMP).

Parabens are preservatives. They make it almost impossible for microorganisms to live in and on cosmetics, extending the shel-lives of many products. Examples of parabens are: Methylparaben, propylparaben, ethylparaben, buylparaben, and benylparaben. These substances can be present in breast tumors.

There are more natural substances that can be used in shampoos, deodorants, and cosmetics. For a list of products that contain more natural healthier substances or to find out more about the products you are using, go to:

Here are a few websites that sell natural cosmtetics. and www.

Skin is porous and highly permeable, which means substances on the skin can easily enter the body and affect the lymph system and organs. What we put on our skin affects our health just as much as what we put in our mouths. We can be more conscious about what we apply on our faces and hair by just reading the labels of the products.

**Gila B. Varis is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist in the state of California. She maintains a practice in Los Angeles. **