Frequently asked Questions


Many thanks to Dr. Louisa L. Williams, author of  ‘RADICAL MEDICINE  …Profound Intervention in a Profoundly Toxic Age' for both writing the book that  helped me reverse my serious health problems and for allowing me to share her knowledge on this site. Please visit to learn more.  As noted some answers are provided by Dr. Samuel Epstein's Book,Healthy Beauty.  He is also the founder of the Coalition of Cancer Prevention.  Their mission is to educate consumers on the environmental causes of cancer.


Why the Skin?

The skin is our largest organ.  It averages one-tenth of an inch thick.  A square inch holds about 20 blood vessels, 650 sweat glands and 1000 nerve endings.  It keeps fluids in and it is also a detoxification organ that releases toxins through perspiration.  It is highly permeable and readily absorbs many things that it comes into contact with.

Eating a diet of nutrient dense, clean foods while applying toxins to your skin on a daily basis is counterproductive.  Carcinogens (chemicals that have been shown in laboratory testing of mammals to cause cancer),hormone disruptors (chemicals that imitate the effects of natural hormones produced by the body’s endocrine system), and penetration enhancers (chemicals that improve the body’s absorption of other ingredients, including toxins)in cosmetics and personal care products pose greater cancer risks than food contaminated with carcinogenic pesticides  because chemicals taken in by the mouth are absorbed by the intestines and pass into venous blood, which is then taken to the liver.  Once inside this organ, carcinogens can be detoxified to varying degrees by enzymes before they reach the rest of the body.

In contrast, chemicals absorbed through the skin, bypass the liver and enter blood circulation, and body organs, without this protection.    There is evidence that the permeability of skin to carcinogens may be greater than that of the intestines.

This is why many prescription medications are manufactured in the form of skin patches and skin creams.  There are no barriers to filter out absorption of the active ingredients.


Taken from Healthy Beauty by Dr. Samuel Epstein


What is the role of the FDA?

US consumers generally assume that if any cosmetic or personal-care product posed a danger to health, the FDA would warn us.  This faith and trust is misplaced…

With the exception of color ingredients that need to be authorized for use, it is not necessary to get FDA approval for a new cosmetic.  The FDA is not legally required to test cosmetic ingredients for safety.  It can only take action after a cosmetic has been on the market and enough evidence has accumulated over time to prove in a court of law that it is hazardous.  In the 71 year history of monitoring cosmetics, the FDA has banned or restricted only 9 personal care ingredients.  In contrast the European Union has banned 450 ingredients for use in cosmetics.  Further, as these statistics reflect, the FDA spends less than one percent of its budget on cosmetic safety surveillance.

Safety issues have fallen primarily on the industry’s self regulating panel, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR), which is billed as the organization that ‘thoroughly reviews and assesses the safety of the ingredients used in cosmetics.’

However, a 2005 environmental report revealed that the CIR, which is funded by the cosmetics industry’s trade association, has never examined 99.6% of the ingredients in cosmetics for potential health impacts. 

These lax guidelines have resulted in practically no toxicity regulations being implemented on personal care products.  The admonition ‘Buyer Beware’ is probably more fitting in the purchasing of personal care products than any other product sold in America.


Taken from Healthy Beauty by Dr. Samuel Epstein


Are there health hazards associated with using products with so many toxic chemicals on a daily basis?

Many questions remain unanswered.  No tests have been conducted to know exactly what degree of absorption occurs when chemical laden lotion is spread all over the body, or when phthalate containing  hairspray is used daily.  It is also entirely unknown if an adult’s diagnosis of cancer or a senior’s dementia is due to--or at least greatly compounded by--a lifetime of using cosmetics and personal care products.  Further, it is rarely suspected or acknowledged how much these daily toxic insults act as ‘promoting factors’ or ‘tumor accelerating’ factors’, that help to trigger cancer and other degenerative diseases when combined with other more well known environmental toxins.   

The small amount of research consumers and cosmetic companies have conducted has been primarily short-term—that is, focused on the often acute allergic reactions to cosmetics and perfumes.  These symptoms typically include skin rashes, photosensitivity, dizziness, nausea, and respiratory illnesses.

 Longitudinal studies of chronic systemic toxicity from a lifetime of contact with these chemicals, however, are almost non-existent. 

When multiple myeloma (malignant tumor of the bone marrow) is found to be four times the rate of the general population in 58,000 cosmetologists, hairdressers and manicurists, it suggests a profound long- term impact.

These chemical compounds sold on super market and drug store shelves and found in most everyone’s home have emerged as such a major class of contaminants that they have spawned their own acronym….’PPCP’s  or Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Pollutants.


Taken from Radical Medicine by Dr. Louisa Williams


Does your skin absorb toxins?

It has now been widely accepted that all chemicals penetrate the skin to some extent and many do significantly.  In fact, currently medications to prevent seasickness, treat angina (chest pain), and deliver estrogen and other hormones (birth control) are manufactured in adhesive disks or creams that ensure dermal absorption by being placed on the skin.

Women who consider themselves holistically oriented and only buy organic whole foods, are unknowingly sabotaging themselves when they purchase their make-up at dept. stores that carry cosmetics loaded with petrochemicals.  In fact common petroleum solvents such as propelyne  glycol (also used as an anti freeze and in hydraulic brake fluid) and  xylene (More toxic than benzene and toluene, found in glues and paints) are used routinely in lotions, creams and fragrances for their very soluble nature, that is their ability to permeate through the skin.  In a recent report by the Environmental Working Group, it was found that fifty-five percent of all personal care products contain these ‘penetration enhancers’.


Taken from Radical Medicine by Dr. Louisa Williams


Is there exposure through inhalation?

Second hand or ‘sidestream’ exposure to perfumes and scented cosmetics, as with cigarette smoke, can be even more aggressive than skin applications.  Perfume or cologne molecules travel directly to the brain through the nostrils via the olfactory bulb into the ‘nose’ brain of the frontal cortex.  There they connect with the master regulating centers of the hypothalamus and the pituitary glands.  The hypothalamus regulates emotions (limbic system) and the body’s autonomic nervous system functions (temperature, food intake, digestion, thirst, urination, heart rate, respiration, etc) and the pituitary isthe primary hormonal control gland.  One study found perfume exposure caused dizziness, inability to concentrate , spaciness , mood changes, depression, sleepiness and short-term memory lapses in greater than half of the 427 subjects surveyed.

These temporary or permanent symptoms of neurological damage are all the more disturbing since a nerve cell doesn’t divide and regenerate like a liver or blood cell, nerve injury can be irreversible.  As one British –born neuro-toxicologist testified to congress,  ’As one depletes these nerve cells, it is suspected that throughout a lifetime of chemical exposure eventually the result is expressed by subtle behavioral changes, or more frank neurological  defecits’

Although cigarette smoke has become greatly regulated, individuals are still bombarded with fragrances from other people’s perfumes, colognes, scented shampoos, lotions, soaps, cosmetics and air fresheners.  Escaping toxic environments is almost impossible if one has to do any shopping.  The air in dept stores and shopping malls was found to have more chemicals than the air in auto parts and tire shops, carpet stores, rooms with air fresheners, and detergent sections of the grocery store.

Taken from Radical Medicine by Dr. Louisa Williams


What is in conventional perfume?

Conventional perfumes are always toxic.  The liver damaging, carcinogenic chemical toluene, has been found most abundantly in both auto parts stores and dept store perfume sections.  Toluene is pervasive in all perfumes, and was shown in a study conducted by the EPA to be found in every fragrance sample collected.  Additionally, the National Academy of Sciences has found that 95% of chemicals used in fragrances were synthetic compounds derived from petroleum.  The other notoriously toxic solvents used in the multi billion $ fragrance industry include acetone (dizziness, nausea, incoordination), benzaldehyde (eye irritation and possible kidneydamage ,trichloroethane (vomiting and severe eye irritation) combined with over 5000 other ‘aroma chemicals’.  These toxic ingredients are not just confined to perfumes, colognes, and aftershaves.  Fragrance is also added to many toiletries, household products, and pesticides, and it has increased 10 fold since the 1950s.

One of the most dramatic—and hopefully most convincing---images to help both women and men to steer clear of perfume, cologne and aftershave, is a SPECT (single photon emission computerized tomography) scan taken of a patient’s brain before and after being challenged with perfume.  After the patient inhales perfume a UCLA radiologist found that immediately on the scan as well as thirty minutes later there was diminished cerebral blood flow and inflammation of the blood vessels consistent with ‘exposure to neurotoxic substances.’

One important reason for the widespread use of these synthetic aromatics is thatthey are cheap----usually less than $10/lb.  When this price is compared to the price of natural scents like jasmine costing more than $10,000/lb, it is understandable why profit driven companies use synthetic scents.  Surprisingly, the expensive perfumes are oftenjust as guilty as the cheap ones ….in fact, when one French perfumer was asked how much the ingredients really cost in a perfume selling for $230 a bottle in a dept store, he answered ‘$4 to $6 ‘.


Taken from Radical Medicine by Dr. Louisa Williams


Why do companies continue to use obvious toxins in their personal care products?

These chemical compounds have demonstrated mild to moderate antiseptic, antibacterial, and anti fungal properties in laboratory tests, and therefore function well as preservatives in products.  Further, many of these chemicals also have strong solvent properties that help to mix the ingredients together well as well as to penetrate the skin better.  However, these benefits can never offset the greater harm toxic chemicals potentially have to one’s health.

Another reason that these chemicals are used is for profit.  They are cheaper.


Taken from Radical Medicine by Dr. Louisa Williams


Do toxic chemicals have more of an affect on fetuses,  infants, and children?

Children are at particular risk.  Their skin is significantly thinner than an adult’s  and their detoxification systems are still developing.  At birth their blood brain barrier that can block chemical access to the brain tissue is not complete.    The use of children’s personal care products has grown expansively over the past few decades.  Not coincidentally, the incidence of many   childhood cancers has increased up to 50% during the same period.  Babies are about 100 times more sensitive to carcinogens than adults.  Infants and young children have immature liver enzymes, meaning they have a limited physiological ability to detoxify carcinogens.  Also, because their cells multiply more rapidly than adult’s their bodies are more likely to develop genetic mutations that result in cancer later in adult life.

The Environmental Working Group has reported that babies are now born pre-polluted with an average of 300 industrial chemicals found in their cord blood.  They also reported that that children are exposed to an average of 61 different chemical ingredients daily, and on average 27 of these have not been found safe for children.


Taken from Healthy Beauty by Dr. Samuel Epstein


Phthalate (chemical that interferes with the actions of normal hormones also referred to as a gender bender) alert for babies:

Babies who had been recently shampooed, lotioned, or powdered with common brand-named baby products were found to have elevated levels of phthalates in their urine, according to Feb. 2008 study in the journal of Pediatrics.  The higher the number of products used on a baby, the higher the absorption of phthalates, especially among the youngest infants.


Taken from Healthy Beauty by Dr. Samuel Epstein


What should I look for on the labels?

Labels can be very misleading.  These alien and foreign chemicals known as xenobiotics that our bodies don’t recognize and therefore can’t easily detoxify are not always easy to identify.  For example the word ‘non-toxic’ on a label can’t be trusted at face value.  Rather than ‘not at all toxic’ as the word implies, it can actually mean that only ‘less than half’ of the laboratory animals exposed to the product died within 2 weeks, or that no ‘serious’ (extreme) damage occurred through eye or skin contact.  Additionally, the term ‘natural’ is not at all regulated, and can simply mean that there are some natural sounding ingredients, rather than a product that is completely clear of all artificial colors, fragrances and preservatives.  Finally, the word ’hypoallergenic’ can be placed on a label simply if some of the most common allergens have been removed.  However, the product can still contain many other allergenic ingredients including various toxic chemicals.

Many products do not list their ingredients on the label.  Reading labels is sometimes not an option.  Some hygiene items such as soaps, deodorants, sunscreens, fluoridated toothpastes and antidandruff shampoos are classified by the FDA as over-the-counter drugs rather than cosmetics.  Even when cosmetic products do list their ingredients, trade secrets and proprietary ingredients such as ‘fragrances’ and ‘flavors’ are not required to be divulged on the label.

If the ingredients are listed, however, and label reads like a chemistry textbook, then obviously that product is toxic.  However, many manufacturers are trying to cash in on the ‘green movement’ include many natural ingredients on the label and add only one or two toxic chemicals…or as mentioned earlier include the word ‘fragrance’ which is an umbrella term to hide mixtures of many chemicals.  Many fragrance ingredients are suspected or known carcinogens and hormone disruptors.


Taken from Radical Medicine by Dr. Louisa Williams


What is the difference between chemical based and natural moisturizers?

Most commercially made skin care moisturizers and creams are oil-in-water emulsions stabilized with a cocktail of petroleum chemicals, chemical emulsifiers and chemical preservatives.  Though they feel light in application, these water -based products not only emulsify and absorb the natural protective oils from the skin surface, they leave no trace of nourishing and protective oils.  Hence, actively promoting and creating drier and drier skin.  This creates further dependency on the products.

 Natural products offer a better value because a relatively smaller amount of product is required.  This is possible due to the high penetrative quality of natural ingredients.


Do we need to use anti bacterial soaps?

In addition to whatever phthalates and parabens soaps and other cleansers may contain, there are two preservative ingredients common to antibacterial soaps and cleansers that pose particular dangers: triclosan and triclocarbon.

In humans th epreservative chemical, triclosan,  has,  been linked to allergies, asthma and eczema and in its role as an antibacterial, it has been directly linked to increasing resistance to a range of antibiotics commonly used for treating infectious disease, one potential contributor to the evolution of ‘Superbugs’, particularly one known as MRSA.

A Virginia Tech University  team of researchers reported that some toothpastes and soaps create a chloroform gas when the triclosan in these products reacts with chlorinated water.  Chloroform is known to cause liver problems, depression, and cancer if inhaled or absorbed through the skin.

Even more troubling evidence has emerged about the health impacts of  triclocarbon, which is used in bar soaps, deodorants, toothpaste and baby toys.  In contrast to most hormone disruptors, which block or decrease natural hormone effects, a study published in the journal Endocrinology showed it abnormally increases hormone effects. 

Taken from Healthy Beauty by Dr. Samuel Epstein


What is Green chemistry?

The development of non -toxic ingredients and products designed to degrade into wastes that won’t hurt humans, wildlife, and the environment.

There are two recent trends that should support attempts to bring safety to the personal care industry.  The first is the growth of ‘Green Chemistry’ a philosophy that encourages the development of chemicals and industrial processes designed to have no toxic effects.  The second is mainstream acceptance.


Taken from Healthy Beauty by Dr. Samuel Epstein


Where can I get more information?

Environmental Working Group…

Campaign for safe cosmetics…

Cancer Prevention Coalition…

Breast Cancer Action…

Breast Cancer Fund…


Is anyone impervious to toxic chemicals?

Can truly robust individuals adapt to modern super toxins such as PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), dioxin, formaldehyde and phthalates?  Based simply on the continued rising rates of cancer and other degenerative diseases, this does not appear to be the case. 

A renowned San Francisco allergist and immunologist, Alvin S. Levin, concurs:

‘Over many centuries, our bodies have miraculously evolved to tolerate or require most of the naturally occurring substances that surround us.  Yet there are many synthetic substances in our environment to which our bodies have not had sufficient time to adapt.  At the present moment we’re being exposed to concentrations of these chemicals that tax our adaptive mechanisms to their maximum.’

Although, the sheer amount of chemicals produced annually-- in the trillions of pounds-- and their frankly poisonous nature can be staggering to try to comprehend, we can mitigate these toxins and remove some of the suffering they cause.  For relatively little expenditure, wecan choose the path of knowledge and replace our toxic household and personal care products with non toxic alternatives while also reducing the likelihood of future degenerative disease.


Taken from Radical Medicine by Dr. Louisa Williiams


Which chemicals are often in cosmetic and personal care products?

Because no research studies have yet been conducted on the long-term effects of using products with even low levels of known carcinogens and hormone disruptors in them, the following adverse symptoms and illnesses listed have been reported from both small and large doses of these toxic chemicals.  The reason for this is that defining a ‘large dose’ can be tricky.  For example, is it giving rats mega doses in a single study, or is it a woman using cosmetics laced with toxic chemicals daily for decades?  Unfortunately, until some longitudinal studies are conducted, no one knows.

The first list shows chemicals that are usually listed and the second list includes toxic chemicals that are rarely listed on the label.  This can be due to the fact that they are disguised under the term ‘fragrance’ and therefore don’t have to be disclosed or that the FDA considers the products they are contained in as an over the counter drug (they fight tooth-decay or dandruff), which therefore aren’t required to be revealed on the label, either.


Often seen chemicals:

Acetone:  A solvent found in finger nail polish and removers, colognes, and cosmetics.  (As well as in glues, dishwashing detergents, paints, lacquer removers and lubricating oils).  It can cause skin rashes, nail splitting and peeling, and irritation of the lungs and eyes.  In large doses it has a narcotic action and can cause drunkenness, tremors and loss of consciousness.  Acetonehas been banned in astringents by the FDA since 1992. 

Acrylates or acrylates copolymer:  Found in thickening agents, binders and fixatives and widely used in nail polish, artificial nails, blushers, mascara, eye shadows, deodorants and hair sprays.  It is considered to be a strong irritant, allergen, and in studies inhalation has been lethal to rats.


Alcohols or Aliphatic Hydrocarbons:



  • BHA or butylated hydroxyanisole-Used as a preservative and antioxidant in cosmetics.  May cause allergic contact dermatitis (skin rash) and is a suspected human carcinogen.
  • BHT or butylated hydroxytoluene-Used as a preservative and antioxidant in cosmetics.  May cause allergic contact dermatitis and is a suspected human carcinogen.  It is banned as a food additive in England.
  • Butyl Acetate-(aka acetic acid, butyl ester)-Used in perfumes, nail polish and nail polish remover.  May cause conjunctivitis (eye irritation) and acts a narcotic in high doses.
  • Butyl alcohol or butanol-Used in fats, waxes and shellac and as a clarifying agent in shampoos.  May cause mucous membrane irritation, dermatitis, headache, dizziness, drowsiness and pulmonary (lung) problems.
  •  Butyl myristate-A fatty alcohol used in nail polish and nail polish removers, lipsticks and creams.  May cause skin irritation.
  • Butylene glycol-  A humectant in hairsprays and setting lotions.  May cause transient stimulation of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), depression, vomiting, drowsiness, coma respiratory failure and convulsions.  Renal damage may proceed to kidney failure and death.



  •  Ethyl alcohol or ethanol or grain alcohol-Just like any alcohol-wine, vodka or gin-ethanol is not toxic in small amounts.  However, before it can be used in cosmetic’s legally, it must be denatured.  The acetone, turpentine, benzene and denatonium benzoate t hat are used to denature ethanol renders the resulting product unpalatable and toxic.  (Many holistic companies simply ignore this FDA ruling that is a holdover from prohibition days and utilize grain or pure ethanol in their products)
  •  Ehtyl Acetate-A solvent use in nail enamels and nail polish removers and perfumes.  May cause local skin irritation and is a central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) depressant.  Prolonged inhalation may cause kidney and liver damage.
  • Ethylene glycol-A solvent and humectant in many cosmetics.  When ingested may cause central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) depression, drowsiness and coma, vomiting , respiratoryfailure, kidney damage and death.  Adverse reproductive and developmental effects have also been reported.
  • EDC or ethylene dichloride-A wetting and penetrating ingredient in cosmetics.  May cause mucous membrane irritation, and in large doses ,breast, stomach and skin cancer.
  •  EDTA or ethylene tetraacetic acid-A sequestering agent in shampoos.  May cause skin and mucous membrane irritation, asthma, skin rashes and kidney damage.
  •   EG or polyethylene glycol-A binder, plasticizing agent, solvent, and emollient widely used in hair straighteners, baby products, pharmaceutical creams, fragrances and lipsticks.  May cause allergic reactions and ingestion of large oral doses has produced kidney and liver damage and cancer in rats.



  • Methyl alcohol, methanol, or wood alcohol: A solvent and denaturant from the distillation of wood that converts to the even more toxic formaldehyde and formic acid in the liver.  May cause headaches, vertigo, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, mild central nervous system depression, sweating, weakness delirium, blurred vision and blindness.
  • Methyl paraben or methyl p-hydroxybenzoate-A preservative widely used in cosmetics.  May cause allergic reactions,and parabens are hormone disrupting chemicals thatcan mimic estrogen.  Parabens may be listed on the label under the term ‘fragrance’.



  • Propyl alcohol or propanol-A solvent and denaturant derived from propane and used in the manufacture of cosmetics and in lotions and mouthwashes.  May cause dry or cracking skin, brown spots and premature aging of the skin, central nervous system depression, and possibly cancer.
  • Propylene glycol-A moisture carrying and skin penetration ingredient widely used in cosmetics. Also used as an anti freeze and in hydraulic brake fluid,   It is only considered ‘safe’ as a cosmetic ingredient up to a fifty percent concentration.  In fact when drums are delivered to cosmetic manufacturers, the Material Safety Data Sheet warns workers to ‘avoid skin contact’.  May cause allergic reactions, respiratory and throat irritation, liver abnormalities, blood and kidney disorders, and central nervous system depression.
  • Propylparaben-Preservative and antimicrobial used widely in cosmetics and hygiene products.  May cause contact dermatitis and parabens have been demonstrated as hormone-disrupting chemicals that can mimic estrogen.  Parabens may be listed on the label under the term ‘fragrance’.
  • Benzoic Acid:  an antifungal derived from barks and berries or from benzene and is used in many cosmetics and personal lubricants.  A mild skin irritant and may cause allergenic reactions.



  • D and C Green No. 6 or F, D and C Red or Yellow No. 6, etc.-There are approximately seventy-fiveD and C and twentyF,D and C artificial color pigments used in cosmetics.  These are coal tar dyes.  May be allergenic, irritating to the skin and eyes, asthma inducing, and are also believed to be carcinogenic.



A common preservative, disinfectant and defoamer widely used in cosmetics, nail hardeners, nail polish, soap, and hair growing products.  Vapors are intensely irritating to mucous membranes.  Ingestion may cause severe abdominal pain, internal bleeding, headaches, chronic fatigue, vertigo, coma and death; allergenic and irritating to the skin; and is a known carcinogen.  Cosmetic use has been banned in Japan and Sweeden.  The term formaldehyde may be listed on the label under the trade names Formalin or Formal, or it may not be listed on the label at all.


Fragrance or Perfume:

  These terms include both natural and synthetic aroma additives.  It can indicate the presence of up to four thousand ingredients, including parabens.  May cause headache, dizziness, rashes, skin hyperpigmentation, violent coughing and vomiting.  Many fragrance ingredients are suspected or known carcinogens and hormone disruptors.


Imidazolidinyl urea or diazolidinyl urea:

  This is the most common synthetic preservative after the parabens that is used in cosmetics.  May cause contact dermatitis, and can release formaldehyde at certain temperatures.  It is considered by some to be dangerous when used around the eyes.



A natural emulsifier the oil glands of sheep that is used in many cosmetics.  It is a common allergen and may cause skin rashes but is not a toxic chemcal.  


Mineral oil:

A lubricant, binder and protective ingredient made from petroleum chemicals also known as liquidum paraffinum, paraffin oil, paraffin jelly, paraffin wax and petrolatum. It is used in creams, hair conditioners, suntan lotions, shaving creams, and powders.  Baby oil is one hundred percent mineral oil. Mineral oil may cause allergic reactions, photosensitivity, promote acne, and premature aging by coating the skin like plastic and interfering with the skin’s ability to eliminate toxins, and it may be contaminated with PAH’s (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons).

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PVC or polyvinyl chloride: 

Has moisture resistant properties and is used on cosmetics, nail enamels and creams, as well as in plumbing fixtures and raincoats.  PVC causes cancerous tumors when injected into rats.


PVP or polyvinylpyrrolidone:

  and emollient and softener in shampoos, hairsprays, rouges and creams.  Ingestion may cause gas and fecal impaction or damage to lungs and kidney.  Strong circumstantial evidence indicates that foreign bodies in the lungs may be caused by theuse of hairspray.  Also causes tumors in rats.



  A compressed gas that is used to express the contents in shaving cream and cosmetic preparations.  Since chlorogluorocarbons were banned due to their depletion of the ozone layer, butane, propane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide are now utilized.  May cause heart problems, birth defects, lung cancer, nausea, dizziness, lung damage and disorders.


Quaternium 7,15,31,60,etc:

Used as a preservative, surfactant, and germicide in many cosmetics including after-shaves, shampoos, anti perspirants, hair color, hand creams and mouthwashes.  May irritate the eyes, skin and mucous membranes, and ingestion can be fatal.  Can also break down into nitrosamine compounds that can cause cancer.  Benzalkonium chloride, one of the most popular of these quaternium compounds, may cause muscular para;ysis, low blood pressure, and central nervous system depression and weakness.

Salicyclicacid or methyl salicylate:

A natural occurring substance that is prepared synthetically for use as a preservative and antimicrobrial in skin softeners, deodorants, dandruff preparations, face masks, hair dye removers, suntan lotions and creams.  Absorption of large amounts may cause vomiting, abdominal pain, respiratory disturbances, mental disturbances and skin rashes.  It is also used in making aspirin, topical acne drug creams, and in some ‘anti-aging’ beta or alpha-hydroxide products.


Sodium Benzoate:

A preservative and antiseptic used in eye creams, vanishing creams and toothpastes.  May cause allergenic reactions.


Sodium lauryl (or laurel, or laureth)sulfate or ammonium laureth sulfate:

A detergent (foaming agent), surfactant and emulsifier derived from the reaction of sulfuric acid on coconut or other oils found in ninety percent of all shampoos and bubble baths; also found in toothpastes, hand lotions and cream depilatories.  It is a known skin irritant and with prolonged skin contact concentrations it should not exceed one percent of the ingredients.  Also may cause eye irritation, gum disease, tooth and hair loss, diarrhea, central nervous system depression, and death.  Can also break down into nitrosamine chemicals tha can cause cancer.


Talc and Talcum powder:

Used for that ‘slippery sensation’ felt in baby and adult powders, eye shadows, dry blush, masks, cake foundations and creams.  Is a possible lung irritant and carcinogen.  Talc based powders have been linked to ovarian cancer, related to genital and sanitary napkin use of talcum powder.  Also, has caused coughing, vomiting and pneumonia from prolonged inhalation in babies.


Triethanolamine or TEA:

A dispersing agent and detergent (foaming agent) in lotions, shaving creams, soaps and shampoos. In prolonged skin contact concentrations should not exceed five percent.  May cause allergenic reactions and eye and skin irritations.  TEA, as well as DEA or diethanloamine, and MEA or monoethanolamine, can break down into carcinogenic nitrosamines and be absorbed through the skin. These chemicals are restricted in Europe due to their link with an increased incidence of liver and kidney cancer.




Aromatic Hydrocarbons:

Benzene (and its derivatives naphthalene, aniline, phenol and hydroquinone)—a solvent from coal and petroleum used in nail polish remover, and in the manufacture of many cosmetics, personal lubricants, dyes, waxes, oils and detergents.  Benzene is a powerful bone-marrow poison (aplastic anemia), and cases of leukemia have been linked to it since 1897.  It was banned as a household solvent, and safety standards for cosmetic manufacturing workershave been set at ten parts per million duringan eight hour work day.  ( We inhale benzene primarily through car exhaust and cigarette smoke.)  May cause nausea, vomiting, fatigue, skin and mucous membrane irritation, and narcotic behavior including lightheadedness, disorientation, loss of consciousness and coma. Benzene exposure has been linked with leukemia, aplastic anemia, and uterine and breast cancer.



A solvent used in the manufacture of cosmetics and added directly to such cosmetics as liquid eye liners and perfumes.  (Most common exposure is through ‘to go’ Styrofoam cups and plastic food wrap.)  May cause eye and mucous membrane irritation, neurotoxic effects in the central(memory, dysfunction, headache, dizziness) and peripheral (incoordination, motor dysfunction, nerve damage in hands and feet) nervous systems, loss of consciousness and death.



A solvent used innail polish, nail hardeners, dyes, perfumes and cosmetics (and in glues, markers, paints and inks).  May cause symptoms of neurotoxicity including ataxia (muscular incoordination), tremors, hearing loss, dizziness, vertigo, emotional instability and delusions; liver and kidney damage; anemia; and can harm developing fetuses.



Solvent in the manufacture of some cosmetic ingredients ( and cleaners, air fresheners, glues, marking pens and paints) More toxic than benzene and toluene, xylene can have carcinogenic and neurotoxic effects, and cause reproductive abnormalities and death through respiratory or cardiac arrest.



See under previous list.


Methylene chloride:

A solvent found in perfumes, nail enamels, cleansing creams, after shave lotion and some shampoos.  May cause cancer, liver and kidney damage, central nervous system disorders (delusions, hallucinations, tremor), headaches, insomnia, unconsciousness and death.  In 1988 it was determined to be safe in cosmetics only for brief use by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Board.


Nano particles:

a minute atom sized penetration enhancer. Found in anti wrinkle creams, sun protection products and moisturizers.   Currently toxicologists do not even have the technology to measure all the ways in which nanoparticles escape into the environment, much less measure all of their effects once inside the human body.  European consumers have reacted with alarm because there has now been evidence to demonstrate that nanoparticles pose serious and irreversible health hazards.



A family of plasticizers and solvents used in perfume, deodorants, nail polish, hair spray, hair gels and cosmetics.  Are known hormone disruptors and implicated in causing low sperm counts and infertility, as well as sexual abnormalities and deformities.  Many are known carcinogens.


Taken from Radical Medicine by Dr. Louisa Williams


What ingredient is usuallyin conventional anti-aging products or cosmeceuticals?

Anti -aging skin products are known as cosmeceuticals, as they overlap the distinction between cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.  The term ‘cosmeceutical’, applied to anti –wrinkle and anti-aging creams, was first adopted by the cosmetics industry in 1984.  It was developed as a way to avoid subjecting the industry’s claims to the authority of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  The idea was to create a new category of products that did more than just improve the appearance of the skin, yet do somewhat less than pharmaceutical drugs.

Nano particles areconsidered a dangerous chemical in cosmeceuticals, particularly anti wrinkle creams(also widely used in sunscreens).    Nano particles are penetration enhancers that are about 1/100,000 of the thickness of a piece of paper and far smaller than the smallest blood vessels.  They are able to penetrate human skin more rapidly and deeply than was ever before possible.   By reducing the size of ingredients to the ultra-microscopic scale, they penetrate readily and deeply through the skin into the blood and organs all over the body.

Research on animals suggests that nanoparticles can even evade some of the body’s natural defense systems and accumulate in the brain, cells, blood and nerves.  Studies show there is potential for such materials to reach the lungs and cause inflammation; to move from the lungs to other organs; to have biological toxicity; to move from within the skin to the lymphatic system; and possibly move across cell membranes.

There are no labeling requirements for nano--particle ingredients in the US.  If a manufacturer uses the term ‘ultra-fine’ or ‘micro- fine’ in connection with specific chemical ingredients that usually means nano-particles are being used.


Taken from Healthy Beauty by Dr. Samuel Epstein