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Hidden Dangers in Personal Care Products - Apothecary

Hidden Dangers in Personal Care Products

, by Klaus Ferlow, 8 min reading time

... do you really know what the ingredients are ...?

Were you aware that the cosmetics industry in North America is big business with over $35-40 billion in sales each year? But do you really know what the ingredients are in these products? Even if listed on the product label…do you understand for example what sodium lauryl sulfate, propylene glycol, mineral oil mean? It would seem only a chemist would understand their purpose. Further the "flowery" and often misleading language of cosmetics advertising tells you very little about the actual effectiveness. It seems that a large percentage of the population is suffering adverse consequences when using cosmetic products containing many harmful chemicals and synthetic ingredients.

The purpose of this article is to offer alternative methods of caring for your hair and skin. I am actively involved in the manufacture of truly natural herbal creams, lotions, shampoos and sprays with premium quality botanical herbal extracts which are certified organic, organic, or wild-crafted without synthetics, artificial colour, scents or preservatives. I will inform you of the various chemicals by name, where they come from, and what they can do to your skin and hair. Be aware that there are over 12,000 chemicals available for use in cosmetics, according to The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health many are toxic and are dangerous to your health and well-being.

"This spells delight for the company and disaster for you!"

Large corporations in the personal-care industry are interested in the promotion and profit potential of their products, not your health. They are selling an image, not necessarily a safe and effective product. The consumer is overwhelmed by all the claims made promoting their products as "New & Improved" or "All Natural." Many of the so-called new and improved products are old formulas in flashy new packaging designed to appeal to today's consumer, and natural may refer to one small part of the ingredient list. All these claims do is increase the price, not the quality.

Companies selling personal care products hide controversial or dangerous ingredients under the label of "trade secrets". Because of intense competition in the industry, if a company believes it uses an ingredient that is relatively new to the industry or makes their product unique, it can petition in Canada the HPB (Health Protection Branch) or in the U.S. the FDA to prevent disclosure of that ingredient by granting trade secret status. This spells delight for the company and disaster for you!

Brand name cosmetics companies have developed a large profitable industry selling products that imply non-existing and impossible virtues and cures! Every cosmetic product on the market is formulated for a shelf life of over three years; therefore it contains a large amount of preservatives (usually four synthetic parabens) to prevent spoilage. These preservatives are cellular toxins; this is how they kill microbes. They penetrate the skin and have been shown to cause allergic reactions and dermatitis. Over 90% of all ingredients in commercially available cosmetic products are of synthetic origin many with associated health risks.

Thousands of people suffer from adverse effects when using cosmetic products

In North America literally, thousands of people suffer from adverse effects when using cosmetic products and most people don't associate the burning, reddening, pimples or rashes with a cosmetic product they are using. If a person does identify a problem he/she simply discontinues its use, but seldom reports it to the HPB (Health Protection Branch – Canada) or FDA (Food and Drug Administration – the USA). Moreover, some chemicals used in cosmetics may not cause signs of toxicity on the skin, but rather contain potent systemic toxins that may have serious internal complications.

A list of cosmetic chemicals that have caused adverse effects was first published for the general public in the book "Health Risks in Today's Cosmetics". This book contains the surprising results of a survey of an estimated 20,000 different off-the-shelf cosmetic products for sale in the U.S. Over 80% of the products surveyed contained one or more ingredients that have caused documented adverse reactions in humans and animals. The book advises carefully reading the ingredient label of all products, comparing them against a list of reportedly harmful ingredients or contaminants. Only if consumers do just that, will products that contain harmful substances eventually disappear from the marketplace.

"Products that your children use every day may contain ingredients that studies have linked to cancer, blindness, and even death."

As parents we put a lot of effort into protecting our children from the dangers outside, what you may not realize is the dangers in your home are just as likely to harm your children as anything outside. Products that your children use every day may contain ingredients that studies have linked to cancer, blindness, and even death. One of the most widespread of these chemicals is SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE (SLS) used as a thickener or to create a rich lather. Manufacturers primarily use it because it is inexpensive and readily available. Some products that can contain SLS are shampoo, soap, toothpaste, and lotions. SLS has been shown to irritate the skin of the face with prolonged and constant exposure and was found to cause a significantly high frequency of aphthous ulcers (canker sores).

You are probably aware that your children's toothpaste contains FLUORIDE because that's what dentists have recommended for years to prevent cavities. However, most toothpaste contains enough fluoride in four ounces to kill a small child! Why do we need fluoride anyway? In 1990 a study stated that fluoride has been shown to NOT reduce cavities and now scientists are linking fluoride to dental deformity, arthritis, allergic reactions and about 10,000 unnecessary deaths each year from cancer. Fluoride can corrode the tooth enamel and research indicates that it can lead to Crohn's disease when toothpaste is swallowed.

Some women experience rashes, eczema, and/or acne from using cosmetics loaded with synthetic ingredients. To make matters worse the same irritating ingredient is in the product they use to try to alleviate the problem but they are actually making it worse! When young women start using makeup - many really overdo it and the synthetics in the products are absorbed into their skin drying the skin and changing the pH level. This sets them up for a lifetime of problems. Certain preservatives, artificial fragrances, colours and mineral oils have been linked to itchy rashes, skin damage, and asthma-like symptoms. The origin of a significant portion of dermatological complaints can be traced back to a chemical or non-natural substance applied to the skin.

Most of us use shampoo on our hair anywhere from a weekly to daily basis. Complaints about irritation from shampoo are among the most frequent made to the HPB/FDA and to manufacturers. Complaints often include scalp irritation, hair loss, eye irritation, and severe hair damage. The vast majority of commercially available shampoos are loaded with chemicals that are hazardous to your skin and health! Scientific studies have proven that Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) damages protein formation in the eyes and retards the healing process. Kenneth Gree, PH.D., D.Sc. of the Medical College of Georgia warns that eyes affected by SLS take five times as long to heal. SLS can lead to cataract formation and eventually blindness, not only from direct eye contact but also long-term skin absorption. It is interesting to note that many varieties of shampoo designed to treat dandruff and flaky scalp conditions contain COAL TAR. However, you won't find it on the label, it is listed as FD&C or D&C colour.

Recently I checked some of the large chain and drug stores and was amazed that approximately 60-70% of the lotions, creams, shampoos and conditioners had no ingredients listing. The remaining products which did have an ingredient list contained many synthetics and chemicals.

There are alternatives available! Consumers can purchase toxin free natural herbal products. There is a wealth of information and practical knowledge available about NATURAL products which have been used for thousands of years starting with aboriginal and native peoples.


This article is based on the research from books, the internet, studies, Material Safety Data sheets (MSDS), Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),, Environmental Protection Agency *EPA), Environmental Working Group (EWG), Natural Toxicology Program, Dept. Health and Human Services,, Health Care without harm, Natural Skincare Authority,,,


Disclaimer: This information is summarized for its educational value and should not be used for the cure, diagnoses, treatment or prevention of disease, please contact your health care practitioner.


Klaus Ferlow, author, HMH, HA, innovator, lecturer, researcher, writer, founder of Ferlow Botanicals, Vancouver, B.C. and NEEM RESEARCH, Mission, B.C., board member of Health Action Network Society, member of National Health Federation, Neem Foundation, Mumbai, India, co-author of the book “7stepstodentalhealth” and author of the book “Neem – Nature's Healing Gift to Humanity.”

HMH – Honorary Master Herbalist, Dominion Herbal College

HA = Professional Herbal Advocate, Canadian Herbalist's Association of B.C.

Copyright@1999, all rights reserved


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