I always say that it is all about the ingredients, and I recommend using products without harmful ingredients in order to reduce your daily, weekly, yearly, and lifetime body burden of chemicals with known and suspected disease implications. Since up to 60 percent of what you put on your skin reaches your bloodstream (this increases to almost 100 percent with scalp, underarm, and groin exposure), it makes sense to use cosmetics that DO NOT add to your body burden of toxic chemicals.
Over time, you should replace all harmful personal care products, but here are three cosmetics I recommend tackling first:
1. Foundation. Foundation is a good place to start, as many women cover their whole face and neck with it daily. Liquid foundations contain many harmful chemicals, including the following, found in a major drugstore brand: propylene glycol, methylparaben, and propylparaben, all of which are considered endocrine disruptors. These are important to avoid because the endocrine system regulates ALL biological processes in the body, including development of the brain and nervous system, growth and function of the reproductive system, and metabolism and blood sugar regulation, as well as the functions of the ovaries, testes, pituitary, thyroid, and adrenal glands. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN recently released a report calling endocrine disruptors a "global threat" to fertility and the environment. In 2011, another shocking study showed that methylparaben along with an endocrine disruptor widely found in food, BPA, turned healthy cells into cancer cells and rendered the breast cancer drug tamoxafin ineffective.
The same brand also contains ingredients that have the potential to be contaminated with cancer causers: PEG/PPG 10 dimethicone, PEG/PPG 18, retinyl acetate, tocopheryl acetate, laureth 7, and PEG/PPG 20 dimethicone.
Loose powders and brush-on foundations, which are applied topically, not only have the endocrine disruptors methylparaben, propylparaben, but have other ingredients of concern, too. One best seller (and many similar products) contains retinyl acetate, alumina (suspected of being neurotoxic), and other hazardous ingredients that can be inhaled. Look for products without these ingredients.
2. Lipstick. According to a recent piece by The New York Times, "Millions of women and girls apply lipstick every day. And not just once: some style-conscious users touch up their color more than 20 times a day." A recent study also found that "a wide range of brands contain as many as eight other metals, from cadmium to aluminum." Those will never appear on a label because they are contaminants of other ingredients. Besides endocrine disruptors like propylparaben, other harmful substances in typical department store and drugstore lipsticks are as tocopheryl acetate and retinyl acetate, as well as titanium dioxide, which usually exists in nanoparticle form. Nanoparticles have been shown to cross the cell barrier and drive into organs, including the brain in humans, where they can cause long-term oxidative damage. There is no way of knowing what size particles are in your product unless the manufacturer tells you.
So, what's the solution? Organic lipstick with as few harmful chemicals as possible.
3. Mascara. With toxic ingredients like these from a best-selling major brand of mascara, you can see why it is important to find an organic alternative that still delivers results: triethanolamine (which reacts with other ingredients in products to become carcinogenic nitrosodiethanolamine), propylene glycol, methylparaben, butylparaben, quaternium 15 and quaternium 22 (both of which release cancerous formaldehyde as they break down), and synthetic colorants that have been linked to organ-system toxicity.
I hope you will replace your conventional products, starting with these three, and opt for safer choices. If you combine the ingredients lists above, you can see how just a few products can contribute to your daily chemical body burden. There are seven parabens in just one single daily application of lipstick, foundation, and mascara and we ladies know we apply these more than once every day.