The Journey Begins: Part 1

Happy Wednesday, everyone! This is Part 1of my series on toxins. I’m breaking down what toxins are, where they’re found, and the scary things they can do to our bodies and health. Let’s dive right in!

According to the Environmental Working Group, the average person uses about 9 cosmetic products a day. 9?! I use 16 products before I even leave my house in the morning. Beauty products are filled with toxins. Have you ever used a product before that burned and thought “Yes! It must be working if it’s burning my skin off. Goodbye pimples!” … Yeah, me too. It’s the same feeling when you use bleach and have to cover your nose and mouth because it burns so bad, but at least it’s “effective” and “feels clean.”

Well it shouldn’t have to be like that for us to feel good about the products we use.

We know that things we put “in” our bodies, like food and water, are absorbed into our bloodstream and have a direct effect on our health. But did you know that anything we put ON our skin, scalp, nails, or any other surface of our body is absorbed into our bloodstream, too? Shampoo, conditioner, face wash, moisturizers, shaving creams, body wash, nail polish, sunscreen, makeup.. the list goes on. Any chemical or toxin in a product is being absorbed into your body.

So what is a “toxin?” According to my reliable source, a toxin is defined as:

A poisonous substance, especially a protein, that is produced by living cells or organisms and is capable of causing disease when introduced into the body tissues but is often also capable of inducing neutralizing antibodies or antitoxins.”


Let’s break it down and talk about what these “toxic” chemicals are, where they’re found, and unfortunately, what they can do to our bodies [side note: I only picked a few of these chemicals because they’re the most common.. there are so many more!]:

  • phthalates: a suspected carcinogen that is linked to various cancers, such as breast, kidney, and lung. It’s a hormone disruptor that can cause birth defects and impair fertility. It’s sometimes added to “fragrance” so you may not even see it on the label. Found in: pretty much everything — perfume, make-up, fragrances, nail polish, hairspray, lotion, and water bottles. also incredibly hard to remember how to spell and pronounce.
  • parabens: endocrine disruptors that can interfere with fertility and are associated with increased risk of breast cancer. They mimic estrogen and have been found in breast tumor tissue. Found in: also everything. 75-90% of our products contain parabens because they’re cheap and extend shelf life of products. Found in: shampoo, body wash, face cleanser, body lotion, foundation.
  • 1,4-dioxane/polyethylene glycol: another likely carcinogen (sensing a theme here?). Mice that drank water with this toxin developed liver and nose cancer. Found in: sunscreen, shampoo, creams, sunless tanners, dyes.
  • formaldehyde: the name alone sounds like something you’d be poisoned with. You know it’s good for you when they use it to embalm people! It’s a KNOWN carcinogen associated with all types of cancers and can cause immune system toxicity, liver problems, and allergic reactions. Wow, sounds like a winner. Found in: shampoos, conditioners, bath products, nail polish, deodorant, lotion, Keratin hair treatments, and hair dye.
  • Coal tar: just like the tar in your driveway! It’s a known carcinogen that was shown to cause cancerous tumors when injected under animal’s skin. Found in: shampoo, hair dye, mouthwash, toothpaste.
  • parfum/perfume (aka fragrance): a nice concotion of chemicals that can cause allergic reaction, skin irritation and hormone disruption and contains ingredients that are considered neurotoxins. Found in: also everything.. perfume, make-up, deodorant, hair dye, face wash, lotion, shampoo, conditioner, ah the list goes on..  I mean what beauty product doesn’t smell good?
  • sodium laureth sulfate or sodium lauryl sulfate: hormone disruptors and skin and scalp irritants. found in more than 90% of products (they’re legitimately in everything that foams and cuts through oil), specifically shampoo, soap, body wash, face wash, mascara, conditioners, and exfoliants.
  • triclosan: linked with thryoid dysfunction, reproductive abnormalities and skin cancer. Found in toothpastes, hand soap, body wash
  • toluene: toxic chemical linked to birth defects. It’s toxic to your immune system and can make you high or nauseous from inhaling it (think *nail salons*). found in (you guessed it!): nail polish

But here’s the scary part:

The government does not require long-term safety studies or pre-market testing for most of the ingredients in these products. A cosmetic manufacturer may use almost any raw material as a cosmetic ingredient and market the product without an approval from FDA.” The FDA does no systematic reviews of safety, instead authorizing the cosmetics industry to self-police ingredient safety through its Cosmetics Ingredient Review panel. Over its 36 years, the industry panel has rejected only 11 ingredients as unsafe in cosmetics. By contrast, the European Union has taken action on hundreds of chemicals in cosmetics.The law governing the ingredients allowed in personal care products is the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act, which is only two pages long and has not been updated since 1938.” (Environmental Working Group website). 

Phew. That was overwhelming. Don’t worry. That’s as much science as I’ll probably ever throw at you here.

But how is it possible that 1400 products are banned in Europe but only 11 in the United States? Last time I checked, we all had the same human body and cells. 

Here’s the thing: education is power. I’m not an expert and I certainly can’t even pronounce half the ingredients I’ve come across with my research. But after just reading these facts alone about these toxic chemicals, I realized I had enough. It’s not the government’s job to keep me healthy and safe.. it’s MY job.

So.. are you ready to swap out your toxic beauty products with me? You’re probably feeling one of two things right now: 1) Eh.. whatever. It can’t be THAT bad for me or 2) I’m running to my bathroom now with a trash bag to throw out everything bad I own. I experienced scenario 2.

So, what do you do? In Part 2 of this series next week, I am going to tell you how I began this process of rating my current products, ditching the toxic ones, and finding new, safer products. It is NOT something that happened overnight. It is a process. Please don’t throw out everything you own! You will find that it’s a much easier transition if you do it slowly. I have so many affordable, easy, life-saving hacks to save you time and help you find the best products out there. I can’t wait to get started!!


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Environmental Working Group
Beauty Counter’s Never List
Safe Cosmetics Campaign
Book: No More Dirty Looks: The Truth About Your Beauty Products and the Ultimate Guide to Safe and Clean Cosmetics by Siobhan O’Connor and Alexandra Spunt


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