For a purity junkie like me, a simple trip to the store usually ends up taking a whole day. I am the queen of label reading, ensuring I’m not duped into buying a product that claims to be natural, but is really laced with synthetic chemicals. Why would people put unnatural elements in our products? The answer is simple—it’s cheap.

In cleansers, the most common ingredients are parabens and sulfates. Parabens are a toxic chemical preservative which grants shelf life, and therefore, increases a company’s profit. Parabens are currently being banned in Europe, and researched as a possible contributor to the rise in breast and other cancers. Sulfates are used as a cheap, synthetic cleansing agent that generates a lot of foam. You feel like you’re getting clean, but in reality, you’re just putting harmful chemicals on your skin.

A friend of mine recently told me she was buying more organic foods, but didn’t believe it was as important to spend extra money on organic soap and shampoo she was just going to wash off anyway. Remember, your skin is like a sponge. When you eat, the food you put into your body is filtered through your liver, reducing some of the toxic effect. Most people seem to forget that the skin is the body’s largest organ, with over one billion pores.

It absorbs anything we put on it, even if it’s only for a short time, directly into the bloodstream. So, it’s essential to take care of this magnificent organ that protects you everyday. In essence, you’re feeding your skin that product. If you wouldn't eat it, you probably shouldn't be applying it to your skin.

I have mentioned a few of the synthetic chemicals found in most products on the market. Unfortunaly, there are many more in our soaps, detergents and shampoos. The best advice I can offer to the conscious consumer, who is not a label maniac such as myself, is to make sure you buy products with the USDA organic seal.

Soap Notes. Toxic Ingredients to Avoid:
  • Propylene glycol (PG) and butylene glycol. Tests show these chemicals could cause liver and kidney damage (also used in antifreeze and hydraulic break fluid).
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). Harsh detergent and skin irritant. These chemicals absorb through the skin and settle in the liver, kidneys and eyes.
  • DEA (diethanolamine), MEA (monoethanolamine), TEA (triethanolamine). Studies have shown these can interfere with nervous system development.
  • Polyethylene glycol (PEG 4-200). A potentially carcinogenic byproduct that results from the process of bleaching paper at paper mills.
  • Triclosan. Studies have shown this chemical interferes with the immune and endocrine system. Popularly known as Agent Orange, triclosan is a derivative of systemic pesticide and herbicide.
  • Parabens (methyl, butyl, propyl, etc.). Toxic chemical used to lower the cost of production. Parabens have been found in breast cancer tumors.
  • Mineral oil. A byproduct of petroleum. Studies have suggested it slows down skin function and normal cell development, resulting in premature aging of the skin.
  • Fragrances. Synthetic fragrance chemicals with synthetic compounds derived from petroleum. Some of these carcinogenic chemicals are absorbed through the skin.