Gentlemen, did this happen to you?
You enter the store,
maybe to buy a bottle of shampoo, shower gel or facial cream,
but when you see the list of chemicals you realize that you need a Ph.D. in chemistry to understand what is it that you are buying.
Most of the chemicals you see listed in men’s cosmetics are harmless, but there are also those that are harmful. Some chemicals that are widely used in cosmetics can cause some serious side effects.
FUN FACT: Did you know that the EU bans the use of over 1.300 harmful chemicals in cosmetics?
So, gentlemen, I researched this topic in order to help YOU out.
Next time you go shopping you will know what products to avoid because YOU deserve the best.
Here are the 10 dangerous chemicals you need to watch out for next time you go shopping. This list is in no particular order.
1. Sodium laureth sulfate (SLS), sodium lauryl sulfate (SLES)
SLS/SLES is a foaming agent most often used in shampoos, shower gels, facial cleansers, and toothpaste so they lather more easily. This chemical is also used in industrial cleansers albeit in a stronger concentration.
By itself, SLS/SLES is not that harmful, at worst it is a mild irritant that can dry up sensitive skin.
The reason SLS/SLES is on this list is that during the making of SLS, it can be contaminated with variable amounts of 1,4 – dioxane (which is a possible carcinogen) and ethylene oxide (a known carcinogen which can also damage the nervous system). These two substances can be removed with a process called vacuum stripping, but it is hard for the average consumer to to tell if a certain product has gone through this process.
With all that being said SLS is the least harmful chemical on this list.
2. Parabens (methylparaben, butylparaben, propylparaben)
Parabens are the most commonly used preservative in men’s cosmetics. They stop the growth of microbes in cosmetics.
You can find them in moisturizers, hydrating creams, shampoos, facial cleansers…
Parabens can penetrate the skin very easily and can disrupt the endocrine system as they mimic estrogen. The most vulnerable categories of people are pregnant woman and young children.
In the US the regulation is lax about the use of parabens in cosmetics, but in most of the EU use of parabens is restricted and outright banned in some countries like in Denmark which bans propyl and butylparaben in children cosmetics.
While I was researching this topic I found out that there is a substitute for parabens called phenoxyethanol, which has the similar side-effects so watch out for it as well.
3. Ethanolamine compounds (MEA, DEA, TEA, and others)
This is a chemical group comprised of amino acids and alcohols which has a wide range of uses.
For instance, you can find DEA (diethanolamine) in shampoos and shower gels as a foaming agent and emulsifier. TEA (triethanolamine) is used in fragrances (which we’ll get to next) and a pH adjuster and emulsifier in lotions.
Ethanolamine compounds by themselves are mild irritants, but the danger lies in the fact that they remain on the upper layer of the skin after exposure.
When these compounds build up they can cause liver cancer, DEA is especially problematic in this regard. These compounds can react with nitrites in cosmetics to form nitrosamines – a known carcinogen.
In the US and Canada, the use of DEA in cosmetics is not yet thoroughly regulated.
In the EU the use of DEA is outright banned in cosmetics and the use of all other Ethanolamine compounds is strictly regulated.
Oh boy, where to start with this one. Perfumes, shower gels, lotions, creams, moisturizers and more, they all have fragrance listed as an ingredient.
Companies that manufacture perfumes or scents for their products can legally choose to keep the formula a trade secret, and not share the list of chemicals that are used.
The International Fragrance Association list over 3000 ingredients that are used in “fragrance”, some of them are TEA which was mentioned, formaldehyde – a known carcinogen, diethyl phthalate – which irritates the respiratory tract, chloromethane – which can damage the liver and the list goes on.
There are a lot of cosmetics manufacturers which don’t use fragrances in their products at all or use natural oils.
5. Methylisothiazolinone (MIT)
Try saying that 3 times in row.
MIT is a preservative which has wide uses in the cosmetics industry.
In men’s products, it is used in shampoos, conditioners, body washes, sunscreen, shaving cream, styling gels, etc.
Lab studies done on rats have shown that MIT in high enough concentrations caused significant body weight gain, causes damage to brain cells and eventually leads to death. American Contact Dermatitis Society named MIT as an allergen due to it sensitizing the skin from dermal exposure.
In the USA there is still no guidelines or regulation on MIT, the European Society of Contact Dermatitis recommends that MIT gets discontinued from use in cosmetics.
6. Formaldehyde and formaldehyde – releasing preservatives.
This is a colorless, strong-smelling gas which is widely used manufacturing industry and cosmetics. It can be found in shampoos, conditioners, lotions, moisturizers, facial cleanser, soap…
Since this is a big group of chemicals I will list the ones to watch out for the most: DMDM Hydantoin, Imidazolidinyl, Diazolidinyl and Polyoxymethylene urea, Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol.
The International Agency for Research on Carcinogens has deemed these chemicals as human carcinogens specifically, nasal cancer. It also can cause allergic skin reactions.
Butylated hydroxytoluene is a synthetic antioxidant used as a preservative in food and cosmetics. In men’s cosmetics, you can find it mostly in antiperspirants, deodorants, body washes and in perfumes.
In Europe, studies are still being conducted, but the data so far shows that in high enough doses this chemical can cause tumors and mimic estrogen which adversely affects reproductive health.
This is an antibacterial agent and preservative used in cosmetics. It can’t be found that often but it is used in some liquid hand soaps, body washes, shampoos, antiperspirants, and shaving creams.
Triclosan is linked to hormone disruption, immune system damage and the development of antibiotic-resistant germs.
As of 2016. this Triclosan is classified as toxic and outright banned in some products in the EU, Canada, Japan, and the USA.
This chemical is a seasonal danger.
They are a bigger risk for women but for men they can enhance the amount of pesticides we absorb through the skin and can disrupt the endocrine system.
Currently, the use of this chemical is restricted in Japan.
10. Mineral oil
This petroleum by-product is widely used in body lotions, moisturizers, lip balms, etc. Mineral oil clogs the pores and that can promote acne development. It also slows cell development which can cause premature aging of the skin.
If the mineral oil is treated right it is a mostly harmless chemical. The danger is if the mineral oil is contaminated with PAHs (Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) which are known carcinogens. If you use too many products with contaminated mineral oil it can adversely affect the liver which has to go into overdrive to break down the oil and weaken the immune system.
There are more chemical that can be dangerous, but in my opinion these 10 are the most prevalent and can cause the most harm.
I used these sites in my research, go pay them a visit if you want to educate yourself more on this topic.
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