FIVE SKINCARE INGREDIENTS LINKED TO CANCER – ARE THEY IN YOUR PRODUCTS?
Skincare manufacturers are fast to shout about the benefits of their products.
“Reduce the signs of ageing!”
“Hydrate dry skin!”
But have you ever stopped to consider how a product can be so potent that it can change the natural pathway of your skin cells?
While manufacturers are talking loudly about the benefits of their products, they’re not always so fast to talk about the formulating ingredients that are the essence of many so-called- miracle products.
That Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is the regulatory body responsible for fair trading for the benefit of all Australians.
Their labelling protocol for skincare products can be found here. Give this page a read and pay close attention to crucial statements such as:
…the standard does not require testing.”
What this means is that while labelling regulations do exist, consumers are essentially bound by trust to the manufacturers who take their money.
Trust that their processes are accurate.
Trust that ethics overrule their desire to make a fast dollar.
And trust that our existing products aren’t slowly but surely, making us sick.
With such loose regulations, we already know that you’ll never see ‘known carcinogen’ or ‘cancer-causing’ written on a label. Which in some cases may be a little misleading, because many ingredients used in skincare across Australia today do contain cancer-causing properties. Fact.
But if you’re not a scientist, how would you know that?
The only way you can really take control of what you put on your skin is to do your own research and make your own decisions.
The following ingredients are ingredients with proven carcinogenic links that may be found in everyday skincare products that you might have sitting on your bathroom shelf.
In a study undertaken by Reading University in the UK in 2012, it was reported that 99% of breast tumour tissue analysed contained at least one paraben, with 60% containing at least five.
Knowing that oestrogen drives the growth of breast tumours, and parabens are ‘oestrogen-mimicking‘ chemicals, the results show an almost conclusive link between parabens and breast cancer.
While it’s not concrete evidence to show that a pot of moisturiser causes tumours, and other factors must be considered, the EU has banned these harmful ingredients in skincare.
Australia has not.
While many companies are getting ethical in their ingredients and claiming to be ‘paraben-free’, many aren’t. But with the ACCC not carrying out any testing on products, believing those that don’t use parabens all comes down to trust.
Always read the labels and if you see any of the following on your ingredients list, avoid at all costs considering the strong links between cancer:
Triclosan is an anti-bacterial agent found in hand soap,
In 2016, triclosan was banned in cosmetic products in America as there is insufficient data on the safety of the chemical ingredient.
Triclosan is still found in baby products and skincare cosmetics throughout Australia and, as a known carcinogen, we will always tell you to avoid this harsh ingredient.
While it’s unlikely to be included in products at a level considered ‘dangerous’, there isn’t enough evidence to know the risks of long-term use, so we will always err on the side of caution. This is cancer after all.
Ethanolamines are a derivative of coconut oil commonly found in soaps, cleansers, shampoo and sunscreen. When mixed with specific preservatives, the reaction forms nitrosamines which carry carcinogenic potential.
Studies undertaken by the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) have determined that “coconut oil diethanolamine is possibly carcinogenic to humans”
As a result, the European Commission has banned ethanolamines in all commercial use across Europe, but it’s still likely you’ll find them in skincare across Australia.
Worse than that, because they’re a derivative of coconuts, this carcinogenic ingredient can also be labelled ‘naturally derived’.
- DEA (Diethanolamine)
- MEA (Monoethanolamine)
- TEA (Triethanolamine)
- Cocamide DEA
- Myristamide DEA
- DEA-cetyl phosphate
- DEA oleth-3 phosphate
- Lauramide DEA
- Oleamide DEA
- TEA-lauryl sulfate diethanolamine,
- linoleamide MEA
- stearamide MEA
4) Butul Hydrixytoluene (BHT) and Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)
BHT and BHA are controversial ingredients often used in acne creams. Used for their anti-oxidant properties, BHT is a synthetic ingredient primarily used as a preservative but also used as a supplement to reduce free radical damage.
BHA and BHT are a double-edged sword because they may also contain anti-cancer properties. But the debate lies on whether this is at the cost of causing cancer elsewhere in the body. BHT and BHA have been banned as skincare ingredients in Canada and the EU based on the fact that nobody really knows the long-term effects, and those countries aren’t prepared to risk the consequences.
5) Formaldehyde and formaldehyde donors
Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (FRPs) are harsh preservatives and known human carcinogens and can lead to cancer if exposure occurs at high levels.
These ingredients are still permitted in skincare in Australia with the government-owned NICNAS confirming that small amounts applied topically don’t pose a risk to humans.
Formaldehyde and FRPs are banned in some countries including Japan, however, in Australia, still permitted in small quantities despite the ACCC confirming cancer as a risk of high exposure.
According to the IARC, there is sufficient evidence in humans confirming the carcinogenicity of formaldehyde. And that’s good enough for us to stay away!
Check your labels and avoid the following ingredients:
- Dimethyl-dimethyl (DMDM) hydantoin
- Imidazolidinyl urea
- Diazolidinyl Urea
- Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate
- 2-Bromo-2-Nitropropane-1,3-diol (bronopol)
Do your research!
There are very few long-term studies on the long-term downside of exposure to known carcinogens in skincare, so the best we can do is learn about the ingredients and work backwards to make our own choices.
Some ingredients may be toxic depending on the concentration, and safe in other levels and forms. Whether it’s used topically or orally may also make a difference.
Always do your research and choose your health above all else.
Whether or not your risk of cancer will increase from cosmetic use alone remains to be seen. What deserves our concern is that over time, these harmful ingredients will build up and may pose a long-term risk. With lack of substantial evidence on the regular use of known carcinogens in cancer, do you really want to use ingredients that can be absorbed directly into your bloodstream?
The good news is that now you have a choice.
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