a glossary of everyday bodycare ingredients

Glossary of chemicals in everyday home and bodycare

Many ingredients commonly found in mass produced bodycare are derived from petroleum. Most of these ingredients were introduced during WWII and since the 1960’s have become the most common ingredient in personal care products. Today, consumers expect high performance cleaning with a long shelf life. Most products without preservatives last a year at the most; whereas, synthetic preservatives create a shelf life of over two years.  When compared with the effectiveness and cost of many of these ingredients, the “perceived health risks” are considered low according to industry and government research. New methods for deriving similar compounds from plants have helped level the playing field, as has the increased demand for new plants and oils that can provide similar results naturally. The skin is the bodies largest organ and what we put on it not only affects the skin but also the entire body. Most of the chemicals discussed below have a molecular weight that is low enough that means they can pass through the skin directly into the bloodstream.
The following glossary is organised by the various components of common mass produced bodycare.  This list is meant to inform not alarm.  By understanding each of these components you can make your own decision on which ones are of concern to you and how you would like to change your behaviour as a result.
This category of substance is most important because a large proportion of a bottle of everyday bodycare is made up of these ingredients.
Sodium Laurel Sulphate (SLS), Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES), Aluminium Laurel Sulphate (ALS), Aluminium Laureth Sulphate (ALES)
Used in almost any kind of industrial cleaning agent and as a detergent, surfactant and foaming agent, these ingredients are a major ingredient in cosmetics, hair conditioners, toothpastes and about 90% of shampoos.  These ingredients are extremely strong and cause both irritation and excessive skin dryness as they strip more oils than are necessary from the skin. They may cause potentially carcinogenic formations of nitrates and dioxins to form in shampoos and cleansers by reacting with other product ingredients.  They also cause excessive eye irritation and can effect the development of eyesight in small children. Because the molecular weight of these ingredients is low they pass into the bloodstream and accumulate in the liver and kidney.
Triethanolamine (TEA), Monoethanolamine (MEA), Diethanolamine (DEA)
also known as  Cocamide DEA, DEA-Cetyl phosphate, DEA Oleth-3 phosphate, Stearamide MEA, Cocamide MEA, Lauramide DEA, Linoleamide MEA, Oleamide DEA, TEA-Laurel Sulphate.
These chemicals are emulsifiers and foaming agents, widely used in cosmetics and skin care. They are eye and skin irritants. DEA is easily absorbed through the skin and accumulates in body organs including the brain. Animal tests show that some of them cause damage to the liver, kidney, brain, spinal cord, bone marrow and skin. Contact with the eyes can cause impaired vision.  DEA, when in the presence of nitrate preservatives and contaminants, can form the nitrosamine NDELA (nitrosodiethanolamine). In several blanket surveys NDELA has been widely found in mass produced bodycare products.  The concentration of harmful nitrates in these products is as much as 50% – 100% higher than in nitrate-processed bacon.
Methyl/Propyl /Butyl/Ethyl Parabens
Preservatives that inhibit microbial growth to extend shelf life of product. May cause allergic reactions, skin rashes and kill the intestinal flora so vital to the cleanliness of the intestines. They may damage health by inhibiting the vital action of natural enzymes in your cells. Recent research suggests parabens could act as a foreign hormone-like substance and cause a host of problems, including cancer.
Synthetic Colours
Artificial colours labelled “FD and C” followed by a colour are coal-tar derivatives and not plant-based. FD and C Red No. 6 and Green No. 6 are suspected of causing cancer. Is synthetic colour really necessary in our bodycare products?
Synthetic Fragrances
These may contain hundreds of chemicals. There is no way to know what they are as the label simply says ‘Fragrance’. Some of the problems caused by these chemicals are headaches, dizziness, rashes, violent coughing, vomiting and skin irritation. Fragrances draw from up to 5000 hydrocarbons. Some hydrocarbons are formaldehyde, styrene, toluene and phenol. Hydrocarbons can cause depression, exhaustion, anxiety, dizziness, headaches, trouble thinking clearly, diminished blood flow and brain damage.  There are plenty of wonderful totally natural fragrances on the market that have positive effects on mind, body and soul and are infinitely more pleasurable and effective than their synthetic cousins.
Petrolatum, PVP/ VA Copolymer
This is commonly used in lip balms, hand and skin care products to form a COMPLETELY UNNATURAL moisture barrier. Petrolatum clogs skin, keeping it from taking in oxygen and releasing toxins.  Petrolatum encourages acne and blocked pores and effectively stops the skin from breathing, slowing down normal cell development which in turn can age skin. Can cause sun sensitivity and chapping, (which are the very problems it is supposed to prevent).  Petrolatum is completely unnecessary given the number of beautiful, natural oils and butters available that can achieve a better result in harmony with your body and its skin.
Propylene Glycol (PG)
This is a strong skin irritant. A cosmetic form of mineral oil found in automatic brake and hydraulic fluid and industrial antifreeze. In skin care products PG works as a humectant to retain the moisture content of the skin or cosmetic product by preventing the escape of moisture or water – again against the natural functioning of the skin. Material Safety Data (MSDS) warn users to avoid skin contact with PG as it can cause liver abnormalities and kidney damage. May be harmful by inhalation, ingestion or skin absorption. Other effects may be gastro-intestinal disturbances, nausea, headache and vomiting
Stearalkonium Chloride
Used in hair conditioners and creams. Causes allergic reactions. Was developed by the fabric industry as a fabric softener. It is very cheap, so manufacturers use it instead of proteins.
Skin Irritant. Has been linked to Alzheimer’s Disease. Commonly found in anti-perspirants which are called anti-perspirant because they keep you from doing something rather important and natural for your bodies ability to balance itself – SWEAT. There is now evidence to suggest a link between breast cancer and the use of anti-perspirants.
Isopropyl Alcohol
Has been implicated in mouth, tongue and throat cancers. Produced by the fermentation of yeasts and carbohydrates. Alcohol may cause body tissues to be more vulnerable to carcinogens. Symptoms include flushing, dizziness, depression, nausea, headaches and coma.
Used as a preservative, germicide and fungicide. It is found in cosmetics and personal care products because other ingredients release formaldehyde when they break down. Highly suspected as a powerful carcinogenic and mutagenic; damages and inhibits repair of DNA. Banned in Sweden and Japan.
Quaternium -15
This is a formaldehyde donor. It is used as a preservative and anti-microbial and is also a severe cause of dermatitis.
a number of studies have shown this to be a carcinogen especially when applied regularly to the genital area
The latest rage in the arsenal of antibacterial chemicals. Triclosan is included in deodorants, cosmetics, lotions, creams, and toothpastes. It is registered as a pesticide. Triclosan is a chlorophenol; a class of chemicals suspected of causing cancer in humans. Externally it can cause skin irritations. It is stored in the body fat and can accumulate to toxic levels, damaging the liver, kidneys and lungs.
This information was compiled from internet research and discussions with scientists and other specialists in the field of natural body care. We believe this information is correct and that these substances are harmful to humans and to water and should be reduced or eliminated from our bodies and from the water table. 
As there are many “sides” to “scientific” research and many views on what can and cannot be proven in this domain you will find people who will have differing opinions on the above allegations. Our suggestion is that you use your intuition and make your own decision on whether you wish to put these things in your body, your family’s bodies and the earth’s body, especially if other alternatives exist.