Check Your Cabinets! Personal Care Products and the Harmful Chemicals They Contain

Many of us use personal care products everyday such as shampoo, deodorant, makeup, soap, toothpaste, hair color and body lotions. What many of us are unaware of are the potentially dangerous ingredients these products contain. They are predominantly carcinogenic (cancer causing), neurotoxic (brain toxins) and teratogenic (toxic to reproductive organs). When applied to the body, hair and/or skin, these products (and their chemical components) are absorbed into the bloodstream and can wreak havoc inside the body. Toxins are filtered by the liver, but are stored in fat tissue. This makes it hard to eliminate when toxic overload occurs, and our bodies can absorb up to 5 pounds of chemicals a year! Use the following information to educate yourself on what is in your personal care products and remember that anything you put on your skin can be absorbed into your bloodstream.


Shampoos and Conditioners:

Avoid: Artificial fragrances, DMDM hydantoin, and polyethylene glycol. When these products are combined, they can produce formaldehyde as a by-product. Also avoid sodium lauryl or laureth sulfate and artificial colors such as FD&C Blue 1 or FD&C Red 40. Diethanolamine (DEA) should also be avoided. It gives shampoo its lather. DEA can also be found in brake fluid, degreasers and antifreeze. That’s not something you want in your hair, or in your body! It can react with other chemicals and can create a very potent carcinogen called nitrosodiethanolamine (NDEA), which is readily absorbed through the skin and has been linked with stomach, esophagus, liver and bladder cancers.

Consider using: Organic shampoos and conditioners that do not contain any of the previous ingredients. Add a few drops of peppermint essential oil to your conditioner and rinse for healthy, shiny hair. 1/2 cup of raw apple cider vinegar can be applied to hair as a final rinse once a week to reduce and remove product build-up.



Avoid: Aluminum chloride, propylene glycol, methyl and propyl paraben. Aluminum in high doses can cause neurotoxicity; and parabens (a class of chemicals widely used for preserving cosmetics, moisturizers, shaving gels, spray tanning solutions and even food) have been found in high concentrations in breast cancer tumors. It can even diminish muscle mass and increase fat storage.

Consider using: LeCrystal roll-on, Tom’s deodorant or Weleda sage deodorant. Deodorants do not typically contain the same harmful ingredients and preservatives as antiperspirants.



Avoid: Aluminum, talc, propylene glycol, D&C Red 33, FD&C Yellow 5, DEA, TEA, quaternium 15 and 2-bromo-2-nitro-propane-1,3 diol (can produce formaldehyde), and isopropyl myristate.

Consider using: Organic make-up such as Ecco Bella, Aubrey Organics and my personal favorite, Hemp Organics.


Hair Color:

Avoid: Phenylenediamine, Acid Orange 87, Solvent Brown 44, Acid Blue 168, Acid Violet 73. Black, red and brown hair dyes are the most carcinogenic.

Consider using: Henna, decoctions made with henna, chamomile, walnut and black walnut as color enhancers or Ecocolor.



Avoid: Chlorine, chloroform, diethanolamine (DEA), triethanolamine (TEA), and aerosols because of the tiny particles that are easily inhaled.

Consider using: Non-toxic cleaners or make your own by combining 2 tsp borax powder, 2 T distilled white vinegar or lemon juice, 3 drops of eucalyptus or lavender oil and 2 cups of hot water.



Avoid: Octinoxate (Octyl Methoxycinnamate), dioxybenzone , Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3), Octocrylene, Ensulizole (Phenylbenzimidazole Sulfonic Acid). These chemicals are known to cause free radical damage, premature skin aging, hormone disruption and DNA damage. For a complete list, click here.

Consider using: A sunscreen that is free of chemical fragrances, parabens and nanoparticles. Sunscreen should contain natural ingredients such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.


There are many ways to bombard our bodies with toxic chemicals. Just think of how many different products you’ve used today, and how many of them contain the above mentioned ingredients. It’s easy to overload on chemicals like parabens and aluminum because so many different companies and industries use them in their products. As often as possible, choose products that contain organic, natural ingredients and use common sense – if you can’t pronounce it, and it looks like a scientific equation – it’s probably not good for you!