New Baby Checklist
Body Care Ingredients to Avoid

 This article is written by Motherlove Herbal Company.

Copyright © 2004, Motherlove® Herbal Company.   All rights reserved.

Note that bold, green words are links to more information.

It is prudent to remember that anything you put on your skin during pregnancy can potentially reach the fetus. When it comes to the delicate skin of your baby, it is even more important to use only those products that are gentle and nurturing.

The FDA has banned just nine chemicals from cosmetics compared to the European Union which has banned more than 1000. A product that is labeled as being "natural" may be mixed up with synthetic dyes or fragrances. Many expensive products are full of the same ingredients and harsh chemicals as the less expensive brands. And, many "common" synthetic ingredients are now being linked to conditions such as allergies, asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome, testicular abnormalities, decreased sperm counts, and breast cancer.

Shopping "natural" or "organic" is no guarantee that your products are free of dangerous chemicals. 1,4-Dioxane is often present in the leading "natural" and "organic" branded products. The use of the cancer-causing petrochemical Ethylene Oxide generates 1,4-Dioxane as a by-product, which is suspected as a kidney toxicant, neurotoxicant and respiratory toxicant.

Make sure you check the packaging of all your products. Toxic plastic #3 by its other name, PVC (polyvinyl chloride) or vinyl is considered by many experts to be the most dangerous, carcinogenic plastic. Another controversial chemical is bisphenol A (BPA) used in #7 polycarbonate bottles found in hard plastic such as baby bottles. These chemicals leach into the products that they contain. For more information on all the plastic packaging codes see Smart Plastics Guide.

Motherlove uses pure ingredients and safe, recyclable packaging for our products. We are proud of the fact that our products have expiration dates. You know that they are free of "shelf life" preservatives and any artificial ingredients. You expect that from "real food". You should expect that from your body care, as well.

Below is a list of the some of the most prevalent ingredients found in "natural" body care products and their effects on the human body.

  1. Ceteareth-6 — The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) panel has placed a warning on this ingredient that it be excluded from products used on injured or damaged skin.

  2. Coal Tar — in 1993, the FDA issued a warning to consumers about coal tar being a possible cancer risk. Coal tar appears in many hair dyes and strong dandruff and psoriasis shampoos, but the FDA failed to ban it even though studies have linked it to cancer in lab animals. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that 71 hair-dye products contained ingredients derived from coal tar.

  3. Diethanolamine (DEA) or Triethanolamine (TEA) — These chemicals are often used as wetting agents, pH adjusters, as well as with many fatty acids to convert acid to salt (stearate), which then becomes the base for a cleanser. TEA causes allergic reactions including eye problems, hair and skin dryness. Both DEA and TEA are highly susceptible to contamination with nitrosamines, known to be potent carcinogens.

  4. Imidazolidinyl Urea and Diazolidinyl Urea — The most commonly used preservatives after parabens, these are well established as a primary cause of contact dermatitis (American Academy of Dermatology). They release high amounts of formaldehyde. Two trade names for these chemicals are Germall II and Germall 115. Neither of the Germall chemicals have good anti-fungal properties, so they must be combined with other preservatives. Germall 115 releases formaldehyde at just over 10°.

  5. Mineral Oil — A petroleum derivative that is found in many moisturizers and causes severe allergic reactions.

  6. Parabens — Methyl, Propyl, Butyl, and Ethyl — Widely used as cosmetic preservatives and antimicrobials, even though they are known to be toxic and a leading cause of contact dermatitis. In addition, methyl paraben combines benzoic acid with the methyl group of chemicals, which are highly toxic. These can appear on labels as p-hydroxybenzoate (or PHB) esters. Some studies have shown that parabens mimic estrogen in rodents. The chemicals also have been shown to stimulate growth of human breast-cancer cells in the lab. A University of Reading study, published in the January 2004 Journal of Applied Toxicology, found that 18 of 20 breast tumors studied contained significant concentrations of parabens.

  7. Petrolatum — This is a very cheap jelly made from mineral oil that causes such skin problems as photosensitivity and interference with the body's own natural moisturizing mechanism, which leads to dry skin and chapping. Oddly enough, this product often creates the very conditions it claims to alleviate!

  8. Phthalates — generally covered by the general term "fragrance," and readily absorbed by our fingernails, skin and lungs. In July 2005, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported finding the metabolized forms of dibutyl phthalates, used in nail polish and synthetic fragrance, in every person tested in their national "body burden" study. Phthalates can lead to liver cancer and birth defects in lab animals. A study published in May 2005 from the University of Minnesota, Environmental Health Perspectives, found a connection between phthalates and genital abnormalities in baby boys.

  9. Propylene Glycol — Ideally this ingredient is made up of a vegetable glycerin mixed with grain alcohol, both of which are natural. Usually however, it is a synthetic petrochemical mix used as a humectant, or substance that promotes moisture retention. In its synthetic form, it is known to cause allergic reactions, clogged pores, and blemishes.

  10. PVP/VA Copolymer — This is a petroleum-derived chemical used primarily in hairsprays and other cosmetics. Since the particles may contribute to foreign bodies in the lungs of sensitive persons, it is considered toxic.

  11. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate — A synthetic substance primarily used in shampoos for its detergent and foam-building abilities. It can cause eye irritations, skin rashes, hair loss, dry skin and allergic reactions. It is frequently disguised in pseudo-natural cosmetics with the parenthetic explanation that it "comes from coconut." In a 1983 report on the safety of sodium lauryl sulfate, The Journal of the American College of Toxicology concluded that "studies have indicated that sodium lauryl sulfate enters and maintains residual levels in the heart, lungs and the brain from skin contact."

  12. Stearalkonium Chloride — This chemical was developed by the fabric industry as a softener, and it is cheaper and easier to use in hair conditioning formulas than proteins or herbal components. It can cause allergic reactions.

  13. Synthetic Colors — Synthetic colors are used to make cosmetics "pretty" and, along with hair dyes, should be avoided as they are believed to be cancer-causing agents. They appear on labels as FD&C or D&C, followed by a color and a number; e.g., FD&C Red No. 6 / D&C Green No. 6.

  14. Synthetic Fragrances — Synthetic fragrances can contain as many as 200 ingredients. There is often no way of knowing what these chemicals are since the label simply states "Fragrance", and these items do not have to list their chemical constituents. Potential problems caused by these chemicals are headaches, dizziness, rashes, hyperpigmentation, coughing, and vomiting.

More information:

  • Skin Deep, Environmental Working Group, searchable database with safety ratings for body care product ingredients www.ewg.org.

  • Taking Personal Care, Personal Care Products thegreenguide.com.

  • The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics safecosmetics.org.

  • Breast Cancer Action's thinkbeforeyoupink.

  • From "Safe, Not Sorry, Hair: The Case for Nontoxic Shampoos, Conditioners and Colors thegreenguide.com.

  • Drop Dead Gorgeous: Protecting Yourself from the Hidden Dangers of Cosmetics, Kim Erickson, Contemporary Books, 2002.

  • What's in Your Cosmetics? A Complete Consumer's Guide to Natural and Synthetic Ingredients, Aubrey Hampton, Organica Press, 1995.

  • Not-So-Natural Ingredients, Health Products Business, January 2004.

  • Having Faith, An Ecologists Journey to Motherhood, Sandra Steingraber, The Berkeley Press, September 2001. This book "looks at the environmental hazards that now threaten pregnant and breastfeeding women, and examines the effects these toxins can have on a child."

  • Toxic Beauty Dawn Mellowship, Gaia Books Ltd., 2009