Natural does not mean organic, healthy, safe or good for you any more. There is a sea of unregulated beauty products, it's up to us – the savvy shoppers to figure out what are best for us. You would never want to fall into the trap of equating something that's touted as natural to have any organic ingredients (or more than one or two natural ingredients that are not man made).
These are 8 things you want to keep your eye out for. Try to avoid them they are hard to remember. An eco-friendly, healthy alternative is in the market somewhere and it will get the job done.
1. Phthalates They mess with your hormones, are rough on your endocrine system, and they're everywhere. Used as softeners for plastics, oily substances in perfumes, additives to hairsprays, lubricants and wood finishers. ***Look out especially if you're pregnant.
2. Formaldehyde Leave the formaldehyde at the morgue. This preservative is too common for comfort. It can be found in everything from toothpaste to lotion to shampoo and beyond. Besides being an irritant, it's a known carcinogen. Manufacturers will try to trick you by using synonyms: check them out here.
3. Parabens This one comes in many forms (methylparaben, propylparaben, ethylparaben, or butylparaben), parabens have been linked to breast cancer. While the FDA claims they're not dangerous at low doses. I do not like the chances considering the vast array amount of products that do contain them, the combined dose might be anything but low.
4. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate/Sodium Laureth Sulfate These foaming agents found in soaps and shampoos are skin irritants and can enter the heart, brain and liver through your skin, where they accumulate in your organs.
5. Toluene Generally found in nail polish and hair dye, Toluene is toxic to the nervous system, and breathing it in can cause dizziness and headaches. High exposures can lead to birth defects and miscarriage, so watch out if you work in a nail salon (and educate your favorite salons!). Toluene-free brands are now available keep an eye out.
6. Fragrance This is a big FDA loophole, companies hawking cosmetics are able to mask a whole slew of nasty chemicals, many of which are phthalates, under the label "fragrance."
7. Triethanolamine Though used in many "gentle" products to balance PH levels, TEA has been known to cause allergic reactions, irritations and drying out of the hair and skin. With consistent use, TEA is absorbed into the body and accumulates, where it can become toxic.
8. Hydroquinone This skin-bleacher, while banned in Japan, the EU and Australia, is unfortunately still around in the US. Hydroquinone is found in skin-lightening creams, like those that diminish age-spots. It's linked to cancer and the unsightly skin condition, ochnronosis.
Looking for local alternatives:
1. Wegmans and Giant in the Natures Marketplace section
2. Healthy Grocer
3. Ulta - but do your homework about brands. Tart, Dermatologica, Yes to Carrots, Avalon are just a few that are safe. There are many more.