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7 Ingredients to Ban From Your Bathroom

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Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate (SLS) is a synthetic detergent and foaming agent connected to skin and eye irritation. It’s also linked to the byproduct 1-4 dioxane, a suspected carcinogenic contaminant produced by the ethoxylation process, used to make some ingredients less harsh. (Sodium lauryl sulfate is converted to sodium laureth sulfate, for example.) Ethoxylation is one reason why so many “gentler” products — those with a natural slant or made especially for kids — have turned up surprisingly high levels of toxins.

According to researchers at the Organic Consumers Association, who conducted tests for 1-4 dioxane on hundreds of products from 16 major brands in 2008, only 23 products were found to be free of 1-4 dioxane contamination. Many companies have quit using ethoxylated ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate to avoid 1-4 dioxane contamination as well as allergic reactions, and the standard for the Whole Foods Premium Body Care Seal doesn’t allow it. Look for “-eth” at the end of other ingredient names to detect this process.

Related: Is Your Shampoo Dangerous?

Synthetic fragrances can contain as many as 200 ingredients that manufacturers are not required to disclose. A common allergen, “fragrance” on an ingredient label is a reliable indicator that the product contains phthalates, unless it’s clearly indicated that the fragrance contains no synthetics. Higher-potency fragrances are the likeliest suspects for high concentrations of phthalates. Sophie Uliano, natural-beauty expert and author of Gorgeously Green: 8 Simple Steps to an Earth-Friendly Life (HarperCollins, 2008), points out that “fragrance-free” or “unscented” products aren’t always a dependable alternative, since manufacturers sometimes use masking fragrances in place of identifiable scents. Look for products that explicitly say “no synthetic fragrances” or “natural essential oil fragrance only,” or try to buy from companies that have signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics.

Related: The Toxic Effects of Perfume

Diethanolamine (DEA) and Triethanolamine (TEA) are emulsifiers and foaming agents typically found in shampoo and body wash. They can produce allergic reaction as well as, ironically enough, hair and skin dryness. They belong to the category of “nitrosamines” that Uliano cautions against, which studies have shown can be carcinogenic.

Related: The Dirt on “Natural” Shampoos

Diazolidinyl and Imidazolidinyl Urea are frequently used synthetic preservatives that can cause contact dermatitis and are suspected formaldehyde releasers. They appear in sunscreen, lotion, shampoo — the same places you’ll find parabens.

The number of personal-care ingredients with unknown or suspected health effects is quite long; you can find a comprehensive list at www.cosmeticsdatabase.com.

Related:
5 Recipes for Homemade Personal Care Products
15 Toxic Ingredients in Personal Care
Beauty Beware

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Megan, selected from Experience Life

Experience Life magazine is an award-winning health and fitness publication that aims to empower people to live their best, most authentic lives, and challenges the conventions of hype, gimmicks and superficiality in favor of a discerning, whole-person perspective. Visit experiencelife.com to learn more and to sign up for the Experience Life newsletter, or to subscribe to the print or digital version.

1280 comments

+ add your own
7:27AM PST on Dec 19, 2014

Thank you

11:53AM PST on Nov 15, 2014

ty

11:52AM PST on Nov 15, 2014

?

1:28AM PST on Nov 14, 2014

Heck! I'm going to have to check all mine!

12:50AM PST on Nov 3, 2014

hard to avoid these things.

7:19AM PDT on Nov 1, 2014

wow

2:36AM PDT on Oct 30, 2014

Interesting information

10:59PM PST on Nov 10, 2013

thanks for sharing

12:03PM PDT on Oct 21, 2013

sheesh...ban my bathroom!!

1:27AM PDT on Sep 25, 2013

Thank you!

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