Have you ever read the ingredients in your shampoo, conditioner, and body wash? A majority of them you may have never heard of, let alone know how to pronounce. Have you ever thought about what those mystery words mean, or what they do to your hair and skin?
There are a number of risky ingredients on the shelves but two in particular, parabens and sulfates, found in the majority of the personal care products could have you unintentionally harming yourself and the environment.
Parabens are used as a preservative, while Both are effective at accomplishing their desired effects but at what cost?
Parabens are most often used as preservatives in moisturizer, hair styling products, shaving products, and some deodorants. Studies have shown that as parabens are absorbed into our bloodstreams they can interfere with the endocrine (or hormone) system, affecting our body’s natural functions. Parabens have even been detected in human breast cancer tissues, and linked to increased skin aging and DNA damage.
What's more, after this chemical goes down the drain, it washes into our sewage system and can be released into the environment. Parabens have been found in aquatic species including but not limited to dolphins, sea otters, and polar bears. More research is required on the long-term effects of this chemical on marine life.
Common parabens to look for on your labels include Butylparaben, Propylparaben, Ethylparaben, and Methylparaben.
Sulfates are quite simply detergents (yep like used in laundry detergent) added to cleaning products like shampoo, body wash, face wash, and even toothpaste, in order to create lather and remove oils.
The problem with sulfates is less about performance, though the ingredient has been linked to minor skin and eye irritation, increased acne, brittle hair, canker sores, and bad breath, among other symptoms. No, the more troubling part is the ingredient has been identified as an environmental toxin by the Environmental Working Group.
When washed down the drain, sulfates, pollute our water and harm our fish and other aquatic animals. Sulfates also act as an endocrine disruptor that alters the normal functions of hormones leading to reproductive defects in aquatic organisms. As other organisms consume fish that have been poisoned by this chemical, they bioaccumulate up the food chain and increase in toxicity. As this process repeats, the toxicity levels rise and pose a greater threat to our ecosystem.
Common sulfates include Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, and Ammonium Laureth Sulfate.
The good news is that you don’t have to use products that contain sulfates or parabens. More and more great brands are working to provide healthier alternatives that work just as well or better than those with harmful chemicals. You can easily make the switch to paraben and sulfate free products now that you know what to look for. Consider products with healthy natural ingredients like hemp oil, coconut oil, goat milk, and essential oils. These ingredients aren’t just alternatives, they come with a variety of health benefits too. Even the smallest change is worth the effort and can be a positive impact on your health and the environment.