Chemicals of Concern...

In 2010, The David Suzuki Foundation published the results of a study that they conducted, a survey of chemicals in cosmetics. They looked for the so called "Dirty Dozen", a set of chemicals linked to health and environmental concerns. Of the thousands of personal care products that were surveyed, about 80% contained at least one of the chemicals of concern and more than half contained multiple such ingredients.


This is an antibacterial agent used in many products as a preservative such as cosmetics, antiperspirants, cleansers and other household products. It can be absorbed through the skin and is suspected of interfering with hormone function. It can also accumulate in the environment and is classified as toxic to our water ecosystem.


These compounds are silicone based so they are used in cosmetics, moisturizers to soften and smoothen. Some interfere with hormone function, may impair fertility and at high doses, have been linked to tumours of the uterus. They also can accumulate in the environment and are potentially toxic to aquatic organisms.


This refers to a mixture of any number of the thousands of chemicals used as fragrances in all personal care products including those that are labeled as "unscented". Many are irritants, aggravate allergies, asthma and migraines.


BHA and BHT are used as preservatives not only in food products but also cosmetics including lipsticks and moisturizers. They have been linked to a number of potential health issues including allergic reactions, reproductive and hormonal problems and even cancer.

Coal Tar Dyes

These colours are used extensively in cosmetics and hair dyes. It's a mixture of many different chemicals and comes from petroleum. The main concern with this group of substances is their potential to cause cancer. They can also be contaminated with heavy metals and aluminum which are toxic to the brain.

Dibutyl Phthalate

DEP is used mainly in nail products such as polish and can be absorbed through the skin. It can disrupt hormones, impair fertility and may, by enhancing the effects of other chemicals, cause genetic mutations. Also there is evidence to suggest that it can cause liver and kidney failure in young children when products containing DEP are sucked or chewed. Hence their ban in child care products and toys.

Sodium Laureth Sulfate

Commonly found in shampoos, shower gels and cleansers, this is what makes these products foam. It may be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane which possibly causes cancer. Once washed down the drain, it accumulates in the environment.

Formaldehyde Releasing Preservatives

This set of preservatives is used in many cosmetics. Formaldehyde itself is known to cause cancer in humans. Some may also trigger allergic reactions and be irritants to skin and eyes.

Paraben, Methylparaben, Butylparaben, Propylparaben

This group of chemicals is the most widely used preservatives in cosmetics. They are easily absorbed through the skin and are of concern regarding hormone function and reproductive health. It is also thought that they may mimic the hormone estrogen and may be related to certain tumour formation such as breast cancer.

DEA, Cocamide DEA, Lauramide DEA

Found mainly in soaps, cleansers and shampoos, these chemicals are used to make suds. Prolonged exposure to DEA is a possible carcinogen and has been linked to liver cancer and pre-cancerous changes in the skin and thyroid.


Mineral oil jelly is used to lock moisture into the skin and make hair look shiny when added to hair care products. A petroleum product, it can be contaminated with something called PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon) which is associated with cancer, skin irritation and allergies.


These chemicals are derived from petroleum and are used extensively in cream based cosmetics. They work to thicken, soften and hold moisture in these products. They may be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane which is a suspected human carcinogen. They also when applied to the skin, make it easier for other more concerning chemicals to be absorbed.