Toxic Toiletries in your make-up bag

Toxic Toiletries in your make-up bag

Chemistry Lesson

Let’s look at a few of the things you really need to know if you are going to clean up your personal care products and the toiletries in your make-up bag. The things you may wish to cut out in your cancer prevention programme.

We are not saying any of these ingredients is a direct cause of cancer. But if you are serious about preventing cancer you might like to know about the chemical performance of some of these.

First two general points: 

* Your skin is a carrier not a barrier. There was a lengthy debate about this in the pages of the Times a few years ago with prominent scientists saying that liquids on the skin could not pass any chemicals into the blood stream. Obviously they haven’t talked with makers of HRT or nicotine patches.

* The bottles you use may themselves contain plasticisers which can leach xenoestrogens (chemicals that, once inside the body, mimic the action of the sex hormone oestrogen, a known cause of cancer) especially if they have contained hot liquid or have been exposed to heat. BPA and phthalates are just two of these. 

Now here are a few things you should know about:

Soap: can contain Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS); used because, with salt, it foams. It is a known skin irritant and has been linked to problems with children’s eyes, and even cataracts. It has been linked with toxic residues in the heart, lungs, liver and brain (Journal of American Toxicology Vol 2 No, 7 1983). Of most significance is that SLS can increase the permeability of the skin by up to 40 per cent allowing more chemicals to cross into the blood stream.

Shower Gel: can contain SLS or its cousin Sodium Laureth Sulphate, which is not such an irritant but more chemically active with the other ingredients and can form compounds such as nitrosamines, which have been linked to cancer. Prolonged use has been known to cause eczema, especially with children and babies.

Shampoos: can contain SLS or more likely Sodium Laureth Sulphate. Other ingredients include methyl aldehyde (a form of formaldehyde) known carcinogen, see above. Some anti-dandruff agents, for example zinc pyrithione, are known to cause muscle weakness and wastage, spasms and nervous problems. Other ingredients include the wetting agents DEA and TEA, which can release nitrosamines as they sit on shelves, especially if the product is in a clear bottle and left in strong light.

Toothpaste: can contain SLS, but the lining of the mouth is very absorbent to chemicals already. Main ingredient is sodium fluoride, a by-product of the aluminium industry and some traces of aluminium can be found. Sodium Fluoride has been used as rat poison in concentrated form. America seems to know of this problem. There, warnings on pack state: ’As in all fluoride toothpastes, keep out of the reach of children under 6 years of age. If you accidentally swallow more than used for brushing, seek professional assistance or contact a Poison Control Centre immediately’. See the dangers of Fluoride in the article ’Safe as Houses’ click here. Other ingredients can include Triclosan perfectly harmless unless you mix it with water, when it can form dangerous dioxins.

Moisturisers: can contain propylene glycol, which in concentrated form is Industrial anti-freeze. It is used for ’skin glide’. It is a solvent and easily absorbed through the skin. In high concentrations it is a skin irritant and has been linked with fatal depression of the nervous system in babies. It is ’officially’ considered safe for use in cosmetics up to a 50 per cent concentration level. Other ingredients include ’parafidium liquidium’ (as if the Romans had this!?). Posh liquid paraffin can cause sweat rashes and inflammation of hair follicles; can be polluted with polyaromatic hydrocarbons, which have been linked to cancer.

Hair Dyes: especially dark hair dyes can contain paraphenylene diamine, which causes cancer in rats when hydrogen peroxide is present. Other ingredients include hydrogen peroxide and ammonia which is not thought to be a carcinogen but is a toxin. Cancers of the bladder, neck, head and kidney have been linked in research to these dyes.

Mouthwash: can contain up to 25 per cent alcohol. Has been linked to cancers of the mouth and has caused death when accidentally drunk by children. Can also contain Sodium Fluoride. Research from Melbourne showed direct links to mouth and throat cancer of up to 8 times normal levels if you used an alcohol based mouthwash and smoked or drank alcohol.

Shaving Cream: can contain DEHA. This can be a contaminant of plastic packaging. In animal experiments it causes tumours and can be a skin irritant.

Baby Wipes: often contain propylene glycol.

Talc: powder is the cousin of asbestos. Warning on some products says clearly, ’Do not use near baby’s nose or mouth’. It has been linked to breathing problems but, even in large quantities, there’s no link to lung cancer. However there were fears that long term genital use might be linked with some ovarian cancers but recent research has not confirmed this.

Lipsticks: few even say what they contain. They used to use colouring compounds like lead, titanium, zinc and aluminium but we are assured that this is no longer the case in popular brands. However a 2012 report by the FDA on 400 common brands showed 380 with lead levels higher than deemed safe for candy bars. Lipsticks can contain isopropyl alcohol, which can cause DNA damage; and propylene glycol. Applying lipstick twice a day will mean you ingest 22 kgs in a lifetime according to US research, but 2 lbs according to WEN in the UK. No comment.

Eye Shadow, face powder: now what was the warning on a baby powder bottle? Believe it or not but Finish researchers found arsenic in some makes of eye shadows. The colourings can be based on titanium oxide, which does have links to cancer risk
Nail polish: can contain xylene and toluene which are skin irritants and can cause liver and nerve damage. Toluene is also a powerful endocrine disrupter and oestrogen mimic. Many also contain formaldehyde. The problem is that your nails are actually porous and the skin behind them is very absorbent, so this is like having ten or twenty little toxic patches on your body, if you are not careful.

Nail varnish remover: gives off strong and potentially irritating vapours. One US report said that girls working in nail parlours in the USA had higher levels of brain tumours, although this might not be connected at all.

Sun cream: may prevent cancer, or it may even make matters worse. Some contain titanium oxide, propylene glycol, PABA, cinnamates and benzophenones. Retinyl palmitate and oxybenzone have both been the subject of concern at the FDA in America. Research from Sweden and Switzerland has shown potentially harmful ingredients in the urine several days later. After all, you do rub it in to make it disappear. And several of the common ingredients are oestrogen mimics. Sweden has banned PABA. Personally, I never use them. One driver in melanoma is localised oestrogen.

Parfum: is a funny word that means perfume; and here your troubles really start. Nowhere does any company have to say what is in it, and it could contain any of about 50 chemicals. Some of these are definitely toxic, endocrine disrupters acting like synthetic oestrogen in the body. In one study covered in icon, women who used perfume or perfumed products on their skin during pregnancy and then produced male offspring, saw 11 per cent of these with genital problems (size etc). The reason was assigned to a chemical called DEHP in the blood stream. This has even been linked to testicular cancer. Keep all perfumes and perfumed products off your skin.

Parabens: widely used as a preservative in many cosmetics and toiletries. This is also a powerful oestrogen mimic.

You may also like to read our article: The Dangers of Xenoestrogens


US research shows that American women have blood streams containing 40 per cent more of these toxins than their men. But we’re going to catch up.

Now girls. Wash your face with SLS to ensure more goodies get into your blood streams, apply the propylene glycol, then the titanium oxide, and finally a smidgen of arsenic. All with parfum and parabens. That’s how you do it.

Is it any wonder Cancer Research reported that oestrogen levels in women were rising a couple of years ago? Well you can always take one piece of their advice to combat this: Have more babies and breast feed them longer! Fat is a wonderful toxin and many of these toxic chemicals will dissolve in it  so feeding baby with fatty breast milk will quickly get rid of lots of them for you.


Go Toxin-free. Just don’t buy the potentially harmful ingredients. EuroMP’s have already debated a list of over 1000 potentially harmful ingredients that you can buy today in your high street.

If you are thinking of going ’Toxin-free’, why not visit the Chris Woollams 4 Health Natural Selection store, for one of the largest and widest range of Toxin-free products from different manufacturers.



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