Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hazards of Beauty

The other day I picked a copy of DU beat and saw this article on personal products and the harmful chemicals in these products. The article was very poorly done and in the normal course I would have seen it and trashed the newspaper. I am sure if I took a survey of the campus goers about this article, not more than 5% of those who have seen the issue would remember the contents. Anyway I decided to do some more research on this...

The above mentioned article was taken from National Geographic site, 'The Dirty Dozen Chemicals in Cosmetics by Catherine Zandonella, M.P', but that's not the point... The point is that I dug deeper and randomly, picked up some shampoos lying in my own house: Head and Shoulders by P&G, Garnier by L'oreal, Fa by Schwarzkopf & Henkel and Sunsilk by Hindustan Unilever.
Here are a few of my findings:

Head and Shoulders (Procter and Gamble) anti-dandruff shampoo ocean fresh contains :
Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Cocamide MEA, Zinc Carbonate, Fragrance, PEG-7M, Methylchloroisothiazolinone/Methylisothiazolinone etc

What is PEG-7M?
PEG is an abbreviation for Poly-ethylene-glycol. And the -7M means that the molecular weight of the PEG chains is ~7000 daltons. PEG is a water-soluble polymer, or plastic, and it acts as a thickener, making the shampoo more viscous. Basically, though the PEG is soluble in water, the long chains of its molecules get tangled in each other, making the solution viscous and gloopy.
When PEG reacts with Ethylene Oxide it leads to cancer, developmental/reproductive toxicity, various allergies. There are moderate concerns also on organ system toxicity (non-reproductive). It has NOT been assessed for safety by any industry panel and therefore, can hardly be called 'completely safe'.

Next, what is Methylchloroisothiazolinone/Methylisothiazolinone?

The results from a patch testing done on a sample group showed a positive reaction (contact allergy) to Methylchloroisothiazoline/Methylisothiazolinone. The immune system reacts with its defense mechanisms with each exposure of the human skin to Methylchloroisothiazoline/ Methylisothiazolinone. This chemical mix is also used as preservative, besides being found in cosmetics, shampoos and skin care products. It also has several uses in other industries.

Sodium Laureth Sulfate or SLES
Sodium laureth sulfate, or sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES) is a detergent and surfactant found in many personal care products (soaps, shampoos, toothpaste etc.). It is an inexpensive and very effective foaming agent.
A study at the University of Georgia Medical College, indicated that SLES penetrated into the eyes as well as brain, heart, liver, etc., and showed long-term retention in the tissues.
The study also indicated that SLES penetrated young children's eyes and prevented them from developing properly and caused cataracts to develop in adults.
It may cause hair loss by attacking the follicle. It is classified as a 'drug' in bubble baths because it eats away skin protection and causes rashes and infection to occur.
It is potentially harmful to skin and hair as it cleans by corrosion and dries skin by stripping the protective lipids from the surface so that the skin cannot effectively regulate moisture.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or SLS
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is used in industrial products including engine degreasers, floor cleaners, and car wash soaps as well as in household products such as toothpastes, shampoos, shaving foams, some dissolvable aspirins, fiber therapy caplets, and bubble baths for its thickening effect and its ability to whip up a good lather.

Although SLES is somewhat less irritating than Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), it cannot be metabolised by the liver and its effects are therefore much longer-lasting.

A report published in the Journal of The American College of Toxicology in 1983 showed that concentrations as low as 0.5% could cause irritation and concentrations of 10-30% caused skin corrosion and severe irritation. National Institutes of Health "Household Products Directory" of chemical ingredients lists over 80 products that contain SLS. Some soaps have concentrations of up to 30%, which the above-mentioned ACT report called "highly irritating and dangerous".

Shampoos are among the most frequently reported products to the FDA. Reports include eye irritation, scalp irritation, tangled hair, swelling of the hands, face and arms, and split and fuzzy hair. The main cause of these problems is SLS.

So why is a dangerous chemical like SLS used in our soaps and shampoos?

The answer is simple - it is cheap. The SLS found in our soaps is exactly the same as you would find in a car wash or even a garage, where it is used to degrease car engines - what kind of beauty are we aiming for?!

In the same way as it dissolves the grease on car engines, SLS dissolves the oils on your skin, which can cause drying of the skin. It is also well documented that it denatures skin proteins, which causes not only irritation, but also allows environmental contaminants easier access to the lower, sensitive layers of the skin.

Perhaps most worryingly, SLS is also absorbed into the body from skin application. Once it has been absorbed, one of the main effects of SLS is to mimic the activity of the hormone Oestrogen. This has many health implications and may be responsible for a variety of health problems from PMS and menopausal symptoms to plumetting male fertility and increasing female cancers such as breast cancer, wherein oestrogen is an actor.

Cocamide MEA or DEA
Take the case of the suspect cancer-causing agent diethanolamine (DEA), which is used as an emulsifier and foaming agent in shampoos. The Federal National Toxicology Program (NTP) completed a study in 1998 that found an association between the topical application of diethanolamine and certain DEA-related ingredients and cancer in laboratory animals. For the DEA-related ingredients, the NTP study suggested that the carcinogenic response was linked to possible residual levels of DEA.

When news came out about the cancer-causing potential of DEA, many shampoo manufacturers looked at their labels and realized their products contained DEA or cocamide DEA, both chemicals being cited in the NTP study as cancer-causing.
So what did they do? And why did they do it?
Apparently more for marketing reasons than consumer health, many manufacturers then decided to eliminate cocamide DEA and in its place, use substitute ingredients like lauramide DEA. The manufacturers soon learned that this chemical was also found to be cancer-causing by the same federal program. Consumer outcry and pressure led to its removal from some, but not all, shampoo products. Nevertheless, instead of simply keeping DEA derivatives out of their products, many shampoo manufacturers went on to a chemical not yet tested by the NTP but one that still contains DEA.
If you look at many of the shampoo products today, you will see they list cocamide MEA on their labels. Of cocamide MEA, the FDA says it is one "of the most commonly used ingredients that may contain DEA". So though not tested, it can nevertheless be considered a chemical of concern.

Commonly Used Ingredients That May Contain DEA
With the exception of color additives and a few prohibited ingredients, cosmetics and personal care products are among the least-regulated consumer products today. A cosmetic manufacturer may use almost any raw material as a cosmetic ingredient. The following are some of the most commonly used ingredients that may contain DEA:
Cocamide DEA
Cocamide MEA
DEA-Cetyl Phosphate
DEA Oleth-3 Phosphate
Lauramide DEA
Linoleamide MEA
Myristamide DEA
Oleamide DEA
Stearamide MEA
TEA-Lauryl Sulfate

Garnier Fructis Fortifying Cream Conditioner for Normal Hair (L'oreal) contains: PEG 180, Lauryl Methicone copolyol, parfum(c16663/1), trideceth-12, methylparaben, nacnamide sacharum ...
(the rest of the ingredients are written in a fontsize that is completely unreadeable) etc

PEG 180
Causes cancer, endocrine disruption, irritation and developmental/reproductive toxicity

Causes possible liver effects and skin irritation.


The EPA is very concerned about the antimicrobial preservatives called parabens (alkyl-p-hydroxybenzoates). Parabens are ubiquitous -- found in cosmetics, skin creams, sunscreen lotions, shampoos -- even pet food. The EPA states that all parabens -- methyl, propyl, butyl -- have been proven to have endocrine-disrupting effects. They are particularly concerned about the hormone-disrupting effects of nonoxynol (nonyl phenol) found in hair colorings, shampoos, and spermicides, and sunscreen chemicals such as benzophenone [oxybenzone] and methoxycinnamate. It is very disturbing to learn that many of these chemicals can even be found in personal care products that claim to be "natural" and "organic."
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also recently reported that they have found synthetic hormone-disrupting chemicals in shampoo, preservatives, hair coloring agents, sunscreens, fragrances and pharmaceuticals.

Over the past decade, the United States has been urgently investigating the effects of low levels of synthetic personal care product chemicals found in our water -- lakes, rivers, oceans. Scientists around the world have now linked these chemicals from personal care products to a growing global health crisis, causing life-threatening and costly metabolic and neurological disorders.

Fa crème bodywash yoghurt (schwarzkopf & henkel) contains : SLES, CAPB, Lauryl Glucoside etc

Genetic studies talk of familiar risk of brain and prostate cancer

Sunsilk thick and long shampoo (Hindustan unilever) contains : SLES, Fragrance, Dimethicone etc

Fragrance or Pthalates
While the Cosmetic Toiletry and Fragrance Association said the "use of phthalates in cosmetics and personal care products is supported by an extensive body of scientific research and data that confirms safety," the chief of endocrinology at Northwestern University, Andrea Dunaif, said the findings present "strong evidence in humans that this endocrine-disrupting chemical is associated with changes in boys".

Phthalates may be :
Dibutyl phthalate (DBP)
Diethyl phthalate (DEP)
Butylbenzyl phthalate (BBP)

Animal studies on certain phthalates have shown the chemicals may cause a variety of problems, including reproductive and developmental harm, organ damage, immune suppression, endocrine disruption and cancer.

The major concern is that, as these chemicals are so ubiquitous in our environment, no one knows for sure what the long-term exposure, even in small doses, may be doing to humans, and particularly developing infants.

Studies, including one conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and published in Environmental Health Perspectives, found that people have higher levels of certain phthalates in their systems than was previously thought. Humans can be exposed not only through ingestion and inhalation, but also by direct injection and skin contact.

Dimethicone is another name for polydimethylsiloxane and is used to impart a soft velvety feel to hair or skin products. It is also used as an emulsifier for "water-in-oil" emulsions.
Severe allergic reactions (rash; hives; difficulty breathing; tightness in the chest; swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue); severe or persistent itching, burning, or stinging; skin irritation; worsening dryness

MORAL : Beauty comes with a price. the question is are we willing to pay the price? You decide.

Note: the above is without malice or ill-will to any particular company or brand. I had only these at my house so I have used them for this bit of education!

all information quoted is from various websites and viewers can do more research.


Radha Beteille said...

Hi Abhay,
Your research into the various ingredients that go into products by so called reputed chains is indeed enlightening. One generally assumes that if you go to a reputed place to buy a shampoo or a face cream, that product will be safe to use. But I suppose big brands are notorious in that regard because they are more likely to sneak in a hazardous ingredient than some smaller indigenous brands...I am beginning to think going herbal like in good old days where beauty products were home-grown is the best way to go...

**SUPER PRINCESS** said...

Sir now what do I use to wash my head. You have scared me to death completely...lol...Well its a very very well researched article...

Apeksha said...

Thank you sir. This information has been a complete eye opener!! I vow never to use these shampoos again as I am not willing to pay such a heavy price especially when there are alternatives available.

shivabizconn said...

hi. you provide nice infornation.S.P Chemicals Pvt.Lmd is a renowned manufacturer, exporter and suppliers of Zinc carbonate.

Amy Duncan said...

in reply to
Sir now what do I use to wash my head. http://www.livingonadime.com/homemade-shampoo-recipe/