After a bit more research I have put together a list of the main chemicals that it is suggested you should try and limit your exposure to. It was surprising to find that a lot of these were quite controversial with several reports stating that one of them should not even be used in toiletries and cosmetics at all.
Aluminium Chloride Hexahydrate
This is found in deodorants and can also be listed on the ingredients as Aluminium Chlorohydrate. It is apparently used because it affects our sweat producing cells. Several websites state that it is ‘not known whether aluminium chloride hexahydrate will harm an unborn baby. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant while using this’. Considering it is suggested you avoid eating certain types of fish due to their high levels of metal I can see that this one makes sense to avoid.
This is found in hair and body products that foam, such as bubble bath, shower gel, shampoo and facial cleansers. They are apparently known to be hormone disrupting and some studies have suggested links to cancer, because of this their use is restricted in the UK. Look for diethanolamine, oleamide DEA, lauramide DEA and cocamide DEA on the ingredients list.
This is a product that makes me think of morgues but apparently it is also a compound that is formed naturally in the environment and in our bodies. We are apparently exposed to formaldehyde everyday through the air we breathe and the products we use. Products it is found in include deodorants, shampoos and nail varnish where it is used for its preservative properties. The issue appears to be that it is also a suspected human carcinogen. It has also been found to be a respiratory irritant and can damage DNA with repeated exposure. It some countries its use is banned in cosmetics. It can also be listed on the ingredients list as formalin and methyl aldehyde.
Parabens are used as a preservative in products such as moisturisers, shower gels, conditioners and facial cleansers. From what I was able to read it seems there is a large amount of controversy around parabens and whether they are harmful to us or not. Some studies have shown potential links with breast cancer due to their ability to penetrate the skin and act as oestrogen mimics. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also states that there have been no successful studies that show repeated and prolonged use of parabens is safe (despite many cosmetics brands funding studies to try and do so). Apparently parabens are used because they are cheap! On the ingredients list look out for propyl, butyl, isopropyl, isobutyl and methyl parabens.
Phthalates are described by some as a ‘truly toxic skincare ingredient’. The EPA and the US Department of Health have classified them as a ‘probable human carcinogen’. These chemicals are often found in hairspray and moisturisers and are used because they speed up the time it takes for products to penetrate the skin. Studies suggest phthalates are hormone disrupters and there have also been linked to interference with male foetus development and fertility issues.
Sodium Laureth and Lauryl Sulphate (SLES and SLS)
These are found in most shampoos, toothpastes and products that foam. They are apparently the second or third most concentrated ingredient in shampoos and facial cleansers (listed second or third on the ingredients list). They are also found in pretty much every detergent on the market – including engine de-greasers and floor cleaners. Studies have found to them to be an irritant, causing inflammation and dryness to skin cells, and in sufficient amounts to cause mutations to genetic material.
Now before you go running to bin all of your toiletries (which I must admit was one of my first thoughts until sanity resumed) I need to again repeat what I said before: “all cosmetic products are covered by strict laws which require full safety assessments. If any risks were identified then the law requires this must be indicated on the product”. I want to clarify that I am not a hysterical person who having done this research now believes all my cosmetics are out to kill me. Instead I have made the personal decision to try to avoid these chemicals because a large part of me is generally interested if a: it is even possible to do so and b: if I will notice a difference. If in doing so I improve my own health and that of my baby then that that is a great bonus!
For your reading pleasure should you desire: