People are constantly exposed to various toxins. These toxins come from highly processed foods and environmental pollution, as well as personal care products. Soaps, shampoos, mouthwashes, toothpaste, moisturizers, nail polish, sunscreens and deodorants are examples of personal care products that are often laden with toxins. When you spritz, lather or breathe in these products, the toxins they contain can enter your body and may even accumulate in various organs or tissues.
In the United States, the average person is exposed to more than a hundred different chemicals from the many personal care products they use every day.  Given the frequency with which most people use personal care products, this is particularly worrying. Worse, many of these toxic chemicals are untested and remain largely unregulated. Sometimes, even known cancer-causing or endocrine-disrupting chemicals end up in everyday products.
Product labels can also be misleading and often leave even the most informed consumers in the dark about the safety of a product. Moreover, regulations put in place by authorities, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), do little to stop harmful ingredients from making their way into personal care products.  Hence, consumers need to be more wary of the products they use for the sake of their health.
Here are five harmful ingredients that could be hiding in the store-bought personal care products you use every day: 
Phthalates are chemicals typically used to make plastics more durable, which is why they are also called plasticizers.  Phthalates are present in hundreds of everyday products, including soaps, shampoos and air fresheners. They are also used in vinyl flooring and medical devices. In fact, phthalates are so ubiquitous that they are often referred to as “everywhere chemicals.”  More than 470 million pounds of phthalates are produced in, or imported to, the U.S. each year. 
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people can also breathe phthalate particles in the air. Young children are particularly at risk of exposure to phthalate particles because they crawl around, touch many things and frequently put their hands in their mouths. In 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a report entitled, “America's Children and the Environment,” which drew from studies on phthalate exposure among children. According to the report, exposure to phthalates is associated with neurodevelopmental problems in children. Some studies even found that children with high levels of phthalate metabolites in their urine are more inattentive and hyperactive than those with low levels.
In adults, phthalate exposure has been linked to reproductive health problems. Phthalates are said to affect the reproductive system by disrupting the balance of reproductive hormones, such as the female sex hormone, estrogen, and the male sex hormone, testosterone. 
Phthalates do not appear to accumulate in bodily tissues and are quickly excreted in the urine. However, they are routinely detected in the body, indicating exposure on a daily basis.
Parabens are chemicals that are typically used as preservatives in personal care products. Some of the most commonly used parabens are methylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben. Manufacturers often use more than one paraben in a single product. Parabens are also often used in combination with other chemical preservatives.  According to the CDC, people can be exposed to parabens through touching products that contain them, such as moisturizers, lotions and shaving creams.
Parabens can negatively affect female reproductive health by mimicking the female sex hormone, estrogen. Parabens bind to estrogen receptors on cells, causing an abnormal rise in estrogen levels. This can increase breast cell division and cause the growth of tumors. As such, elevated estrogen levels are a major risk factor for ovarian cancer, breast cancer and endometrial cancer. Elevated estrogen levels may also put women at high risk of blood clots and stroke. 
Parabens can also cause harm to males by decreasing sperm production and reducing testosterone levels.  Additionally, parabens can interfere with fetal development and irritate the skin. Unlike phthalates, however, parabens can accumulate in fat tissues over time. Experts have detected parabens in infants and children, as well as in pregnant women. This suggests that exposure to parabens begins in early childhood and continues through adulthood.
Triclosan is a chemical with antibacterial properties. It was originally created for use in hospital settings. But because of triclosan’s antibacterial properties, manufacturers began adding it to all kinds of consumer products, including antibacterial soaps, dishwashing liquids, facial cleansers, deodorants, hand sanitizers and lotions. 
Triclosan is a known endocrine disruptor and can accumulate in fatty tissues. In a study published in the journal Toxicological Sciences, researchers found that triclosan affects estrogen levels and suppresses healthy thyroid hormone production in female rats.  Thyroid hormones affect virtually every cell and organ in your body. They help in energy production, support healthy immune function and help you maintain healthy skin and hair.  Low thyroid hormone levels can lead to a slew of health problems, including fatigue, weakness and frequent muscle aches and cramps.
In another study published in Toxicological Sciences, researchers found that triclosan exposure can also affect thyroid hormone concentrations in male rats.  In addition, triclosan can promote the growth of liver tumors and substantially accelerates the development of hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common type of primary liver cancer. 
Since 2016, the FDA has banned the use of triclosan in over-the-counter antibacterial hand and body washes. However, triclosan is still added to personal care products that are not washed off after use, such as deodorants and lotions.  Triclosan is also widely used in anti-acne washes and acne treatments because of its antibacterial properties.
Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable, strong-smelling chemical typically used as a disinfectant. It also functions as a preservative in shampoos, nail polish, deodorants, toothpaste, cleaning products, hair sprays, cosmetics and baby products. Exposure to formaldehyde can occur when products containing it release formaldehyde gas or vapor into the air. 
Formaldehyde is normally present at low levels in both indoor and outdoor air. Breathing in small amounts of formaldehyde can irritate the eyes, nose and throat. On the other hand, breathing in high amounts of formaldehyde can cause wheezing and shortness of breath, as well as changes in lung function. Formaldehyde exposure can also cause skin rashes.
Over time, high exposure to formaldehyde can lead to cancer. Several studies conducted back in the 1980s showed that exposure to formaldehyde can cause nasal cancer in rats. This raises the possibility of it being a human carcinogen. The emergence of studies linking formaldehyde exposure to cancer eventually led to the EPA classifying it as a probable human carcinogen in 1987. Meanwhile, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen.
Unfortunately, despite the well-documented potential of formaldehyde to cause cancer, it remains a commonly used ingredient in fabric softeners, dishwashing liquids and cosmetics.
Coal tar dyes
Coal tar dyes are coloring agents made by combining aromatic hydrocarbons obtained via the distillation of bituminous coal, such as xylene and benzene.  Exposure to xylene can not only irritate the eyes, nose and throat, but it can also cause headaches, dizziness, confusion and, in high doses, death. Benzene, on the other hand, can impair cell function. For example, it can cause bone marrow cells to not produce enough red blood cells.  
Each coal tar dye can contain dozens, if not hundreds, of different chemicals. Since these chemicals are all lumped into one ingredient, there is no way of knowing which ones are in the dye. Therefore, some coal tar dyes may be safer or more harmful than others. Nonetheless, coal tar dyes are still widely used in cosmetics, shampoos and hair dyes.
Coal tar itself is recognized as a human carcinogen. In a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers found that women who used hair dyes over extended periods had an increased risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system. 
P-phenylenediamine, a coal tar dye used in many hair dyes, has also been linked to tumor development in laboratory tests conducted by the National Cancer Institute. 
Where to get personal care products that don’t contain harmful ingredients
The best way to reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals like phthalates and parabens is to avoid using personal care products that list them as ingredients. You can start by reading product labels so you know what exactly is in your products. Unfortunately, this isn’t always a reliable method of ensuring that a product is absolutely free of harmful ingredients.
Because of a law that has not been updated since 1938, the FDA has little power to regulate the ingredients in personal care products. This is mainly why even known offenders like triclosan are still legally permissible in many product formulations. Companies are also allowed to label their products as “organic” or “natural” based on their own interpretations of these terms. They can even hide harmful ingredients in their formulations by listing them simply as “fragrance.”
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