Home healthy environment Dangerous Ingredients in Bath & Body Products

Dangerous Ingredients in Bath & Body Products

written by Head Health Nutter December 3, 2008

It’s winter in many places around the world, including here in Canada, and the air is so dry it sucks the moisture from every pore of my body. Besides drinking my 2 liters of water a day, I like to lube up and keep moisturized.

But have you ever read the ingredients lists on most bath and body products? I can’t even pronounce them so I have to wonder: what are these chemicals doing to my body? I came across a very helpful pamphlet at the Women’s Healthy Environment Networks (WHEN) event a few weeks ago that had this exact information.

By Tracey Tief, Certified Natural Health Practitioner, www.anarreshealth.ca.

Harmful Ingredients to watch out for:

Alkyl-phenol ethoxylades are used in cleaning products and shampoos. By mimicking estrogen in the body these are a cause of reproductive cancers and infertility in men and women. Ethoxalades contaminate water.

Benzene is carcinogenic, is not excreted readily and can interact with DNA to produce harmful mutations. It is not normally listed as an ingredient because labeling laws do not require disclosure of trace amounts!

Colours & Dyes (FD & C or D & C) are predominantly made from coal tar and as such, are carcinogenic, linked to ADD, ADHD and some to thyroid tumours, cause allergies and damage the skin.

DEA (diethanolamine) is a solvent and detergent that is carcinogenic and attacks the liver, kidneys and pancreas. It is a health risk to children and babies, linked to miscarriage and harmful to brain development.

Formaldehyde is carcinogenic and breaks down the skin’s DNA. It is released by the harmless sounding preservatives DMDM hydantoin or MDM hydantoin, which are common in lotions and soaps.

Parabens are used as preservatives in body products, and are strongly associated with breast cancer tumours.

Petrolatum, Vaseline and “Mineral” Oil are linked to breast and other cancers, and banned in the EU.

Propyl / Isopropanol / rubbing alcohol causeds mental depression, headaches and is carcinogenic. 1 ounce is a fatal dose. Used to clean new containers, it is rarely listed as an ingredient, but present in trace amounts.

Propylene Glycol carries substances directly into the blood stream, is found in brake and hydraulic fluids, anti-freeze and virtually all baby products, moist/baby wipes, makeup, moisturizers, shampoos and conditioners. Mechanics are advised by the Material Safety Data Sheets to avoid skin contact as it causes liver abnormalities and kidney damage. Can cause dermatitis and irritate the eyes and mucous membranes.

Sodium Laurel / Laureth Sulphate or SLS is a mechanical degreaser that has become the major ingredient in most shampoos and liquid soaps. It is carcinogenic, linked to cataracts, denatures proteins and changes genetic material found in cells, breaking the skin’s structure. Causes canker sores, so check your toothpaste!

Synthetic perfumes or “fragrances” cause headaches, violent coughing, vomiting, dizziness, skin irritation and rashes according to complains to the FDA. Watch out for synthetic “rose”, “jasmine” and “lily of the valley”. Synthetic fragrances are carcinogens that contribute to environmental pollution, including the Great Lakes.

Here’s a few of the harmful ingredients, their purpose and a couple of healthy alternatives:

Paraffin & petroleum are used as waxes.
Healthy Alternatives:

  • Lanette wax with NO SLS!
  • Cocopalm emulsifying wax

Animal by products are used as thickeners.
Healthy Alternatives:

  • Xanthan gum
  • Vegetable glycerine

Sodium Laurel/eth Sulphate are used as soaps.
Healthy Alternatives:

  • Betaine (from beets)
  • Cornacopa (coconut & corn)

Preservatives like formaldehyde, DMDM etc. and parabens.
Healthy Alternatives:

  • Myrrh essential oil, heliozimpt
  • Grapefruit seed extract (GSE), citric acid

So how useful did you find this information? And now that you know what ingredients to make sure your products DO NOT contain, how would you like a post that lists ingredients that heal?

With the holidays are right around the corner, healthy bath and body products make great gifts for the whole family!

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Tracey TieF January 6, 2009 at 8:17 pm

Thanks for spreading the word!

By the way, if any readers are in Toronto and would like to learn more, or try out, learn how to make and/or buy some natural alternatives to chemical moisturizers, please contact me at anarreshealth@gmail.com and come into Anarres Natural Health Clinic at College & Bathurst.

Love & RRRevolution, Tracey

Stephanie Miller January 8, 2009 at 6:26 pm

Thanks for reading and commenting, Tracy! I am VERY interested in contacting you and in making my own skin care products. Whoo Hoo!

Karen Child February 4, 2009 at 10:53 am

Very interesting post. I am all for natural alternatives.
Thanks for your post.

Holly February 3, 2010 at 8:58 pm

I’m wondering what the study was specifically behind EU banning petroleum, for hot wax baths.
Not a fan of fossil fuels myself I often find it hard to explain why these should be avoided besides the obvious extraction methods (tar sands) and energetic refining expense.

Head Health Nutter February 9, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Hey Holly,

A quick Google search revealed that research (cited in the link below) is showing the impurities of petroleum-based products may be causing cancer:


Steph @ Live Lighter.org

Tanya Fussell June 21, 2010 at 7:52 am

I love this article because it tells the truth about what’s really in those products. I know where people can get products that are free of harsh chemicals, and that is from Soul Purpose Lifestyle Company. There are other companies out there as well that have natural and organic ingredients but I personally use and offer products from the Soul Purpose line as they are fantastic. For more information just visit:


Tanya Fussell

luchai March 6, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Very educating. thanks a lot.


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