Wearing Hundreds of Chemicals Without Knowing It

Recently, a British poll shed light on the potentially large exposure to chemicals that many women may face because of their heavy use of personal care products. The deodorant company, Bionsen, funded a survey of 2000 women that discovered the “average” British woman wears 515 chemicals on her body daily.

These chemicals come from the multiple ingredients contained in personal care products such as lipstick, perfume, deodorants, and moisturizer. The study found that most of the chemicals were present on the face or head of the women. This means that women can breathe or ingest the chemicals more easily, increasing their exposures. The usually low dose chemicals can mix on the face and perhaps create greater risks. Many of these chemicals have not yet been tested for their effects on people’s health.

What’s not surprising is that the researchers found,

“More than a third of the women who took part in the study were unaware of the key ingredients in their toiletries, with only nine percent aware of most of the ingredients in the cosmetics they put on each day.”

My appalled friend Vicky, who has worked in cosmetics marketing, says that some American women are likely to wear even more chemicals because of their pattern of product use. To my surprise, she said that men, too, are increasingly covered with chemicals because they’re being targeted by the personal care industry as a valuable new market. I likely wear many chemicals on my body since I use deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo, and moisturizing lotion for my dry hands. Some of my male friends use many more products.

Since I joined GoodGuide, I’ve switched to safer products, which will hopefully help reduce my risks. But as companies add even more “functions” to their products, they’re adding more and more complicated ingredients. That’s why companies should provide full details on what they use in their products – and give consumers the choice of buying simple, safer products instead.

About Dara O'Rourke

Associate Professor at UC Berkeley and Co-Founder of GoodGuide.
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8 Responses to Wearing Hundreds of Chemicals Without Knowing It

  1. lynn27 says:

    Did you measure those chemicals the same way you measure antimony?

  2. ron says:

    You did’nt mention how much antimony make up has in it. If you report huge numbers maybe you can get some free airtime.

  3. The reason why a lot of people keep on using these products is because of the misleading advertisement. Knowing that it is effective they don’t bother to check whether the key ingredients of the products they are using are safe or not.

  4. Kevin says:

    Awesome site, keep up the good work!

  5. MRochell says:

    Thank you very much for this article. I too have just recently learned about the effects of some of the ingredients in personal care products, and was quite shocked that even so called ‘natural’ and organic products can have ingredients which can cause skin rashes and even more serious problems. It is quite enlightening to read the ingredients lists! A very helpful resource for anyone who wants to evaluate the ingredients in your products is the Cosmetics Database (www.cosmeticsdatabase.com) which is maintained by the Environmental Working group. You can look up specific ingredients to see what effect they may have, as well as specific brands of products.

  6. Christina B says:

    Another thing to do besides switch to safer products is to chelate your body through food. Chelation is where your body is rid of harmful toxic metals. There are prescription drugs that can perform this task however, I use garlic and cilantro in my cooking.
    This was actually found while doing a heart study. After lunch one day, the urine test of one particular participant was contaminated with heavy metals. He had a Vietnamese soup that contained a lot of cilantro and thus the new study began.

  7. M'lou Arnett says:

    This message is so important. Thanks for helping to get it out. I’m developing my own line of personal care products that are every bit as effective as the leading products but are free from any potentially harmful chemicals. It can be done (it’s been hard) and if we all continue to vote with our wallets, the product offerings in every category will change. Thanks for this and all the other good info you pass along.

  8. du hoc uc says:

    This message is so important. Thanks for helping to get it out. I’m developing my own line of personal care products that are every bit as effective as the leading products but are free from any potentially harmful chemicals.

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