For an assignment, I was tasked with evaluating the ingredients in some of the products I use regularly. The winning category of products I chose is haircare. My hair is not an easy thing to manage; think giant ball of frizz. It takes a lot of different products to tame the roaring ball of frizz that is my hair. Now I always look for hair products that are sulfate free, paraben free and phosphate free because I know these substances damage hair and can have harmful effects on health, but in doing the assignment I quickly learned that isn’t enough. In short, my hair products might be poisoning me.
In this article, I’ve focussed my analysis on just three (3) of the ingredients in the products I use regularly that are of most concern to me due to their potentially harmful effects. The products analyzed with a list of their ingredients can be found at the end of the article. I’ve included the ingredient list to try to highlight the large number of chemicals used in these products as it is something we don’t often look at. I am guilty of trying to ignore all the ingredients but knowing what I know now I can no longer do that. I’ll conclude with making specific recommendations on better hair care practices.
Before I move on I think it is important to point out that many chemicals used in personal care and cosmetic products are banned in Europe however these same banned substances are not banned in Canada or the USA. The European Union seems to care about the health of its people while the government of Canada and the USA seem to care more about the almighty dollar.
My Hair Products Are Poisoning Me
Fragrance is used to add scent and/or to mask odours. Every one of the hair products I use contain “Fragrance”. This is very disturbing because according to the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) website,
“The word “fragrance” or “parfum” on the product label represents an undisclosed mixture of various scent chemicals and ingredients used as fragrance dispersants such as diethyl phthalate. Fragrance mixes have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system.” 
The EWG has rated Fragrance at a hazardous level of 8, with 1 being the least hazardous and 10 being the most hazardous. 
According to the David Suzuki Foundation, the 3,000 chemicals are used as fragrances and fragrances are found in most personal care products. 
Because fragrances are considered trade secrets companies are not required to list the composition of fragrances and as mentioned above any of approximately 3,000 chemicals can be used to make up these fragrances.
Some of these chemicals are known to be irritants that trigger allergies, migraines, and asthmatic symptoms. What is even worse is that these fragrances can contain Phthalates, which according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, phthalates are endocrine disruptors, are linked to developmental and reproductive toxicity and can cause cancer.
The David Suzuki Foundation further states,
“Phthalate metabolites are also associated with obesity and insulin resistance in men. xiii As well, Health Canada notes evidence suggesting that exposure to phthalates may cause liver and kidney failure in young children when products containing phthalates are sucked or chewed for extended periods. xiv DEP is listed as a Priority and Toxic Pollutant under the U.S. Clean Water Act, based on evidence that it can be toxic to wildlife and the environment.”
Phthalates are banned in the European Union but they are not banned in Canada or the USA for use in cosmetic products and are still very widely used.
These chemicals (lyral, linalool, limonene, lilial, hexyl cinnamic aldehyde, eugenol, citral, cinnamic aldehyde), which are listed as ingredients in I.C.O.N India Curl Cream are all associated with the formulation of fragrances. The hazardous rating of these chemicals by the EWG range from level 5 – 7. The EWG noted concerns about these chemicals range from allergens to endocrine disruption.
Diazolidinyl Urea is used as a preservative in personal care products. The EWG has given it a hazardous rating at level 6. The International Agency for Research on Cancer lists formaldehyde as a known carcinogen (Cancer causing substance).  Diazolidinyl Urea is a formaldehyde releaser.
The David Suzuki Foundation states that research shows that formaldehyde in cosmetic products can be absorbed through the skin. According to the EWG Diazolidinyl Urea as a toxicant and allergen and also a possible cancer concern.
Use of Diazolidinyl Urea is restricted in Canada. Health Canada says Diazolidinyl Urea is safe as a cosmetic ingredient up to a maximum concentration of 0.5 percent.
Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate is used as a preservative in personal care products. The EWG website gives a hazardous rating of level 4 – 6 for this chemical. The EWG also states that there is strong evidence that Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate is a human toxicant and allergen,
“Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate…is acutely toxic by inhalation and should not be used in products that can be aerosolized or inhaled”, it is also suspected to be an environmental toxin as referenced by the Environment Canada Domestic Substance list.
The National Health Federation website had this to say about Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate.
“10) Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate: A preservative widely used in cosmetics. Has been shown to adversely affect livers in rats in feeding studies. It also affected their behavior. It was also mildly irritating in human testing. (Carbamates are used in pesticides. Carbamic acid, which is colorless and odorless, causes depression of bone marrow, degeneration of the brain, nausea and vomiting. It is moderately toxic by many routes.)”
Recommendations for Better Hair Care Practices
Recommendations for Avoiding Fragrance
It is best to avoid all products that have fragrance listed as an ingredient. The ingredient Fragrance is usually made up of synthetic substances. Companies have the choice of using any of approximately 3000 chemicals in their fragrance formulations and are not required to list the chemicals used in the formulation. Some of these chemicals, especially phthalates, pose serious risks to health and should be avoided.
Even if your reaction is a simple allergic response Fragrance should still be avoided because allergic responses can worsen with bioaccumulation. (Bioaccumulation is the build-up of toxic substances in your body over time from ingesting the substance by eating, absorption or inhalation)
Look for hair products that are scented naturally. These scents can be essential oils. Or, choose products that are labeled fragrance-free.
According to the website Think Before You Stink consumers should be wary of products that are labeled as unscented….
“Unscented Label: Watch out for products labeled “unscented” – they are not always fragrance-free as they may contain an artificial masking fragrance designed to cover up the smells of other ingredients. Also watch out for products labeled “natural,” “natural scent,” “natural fragrance,” or “non-toxic” – these products often still contain artificial fragrances since the use of these terms is not regulated.”
If products that contain Fragrance cannot be avoided look at where it lies on the ingredient list. In general, ingredients are listed in order of quantity used so look for products that have Fragrance listed close to end of the ingredient list. You can also look for products that are labeled “Certified Organic”, but know that in the personal care industry the term “Certified Organic” is allowed on products that have only 10% organic ingredients so you should still check the toxicity levels of all the non-organic ingredients.
Recommendations for Avoiding Diazolidinyl Urea & Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate (Preservatives)
The best thing to do is to avoid using products that contain Diazolidinyl Urea and Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate. Diazolidinyl Urea is a formaldehyde releaser which is a known carcinogen and Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate can produce acute toxic reactions and is also an environmental toxin.
Look for products that use natural preservatives instead of synthetic ones like Diazolidinyl Urea and Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate. The Mind Body Green Website recommends using products that use natural based preservatives. They recommend the following natural based preservatives:
- Neem oil
- Grapeseed extract
- Citric acid
- Alpha tocopherol (also known as vitamin E)
- Potassium sorbate
- Castor oil
(This is a very long conclusion)
Manufacturers of personal care products are subject to restrictive use of many chemical substances. Restrictions limit the amount of the chemical that can be used in a product based on evidence that shows the use of a substance above a certain amount will produce adverse responses in humans.
When you think about using a product and these restrictions you may think it is okay to use a product that has possible harmful substances because the manufacturers abide by restriction rules. Manufacturers may indeed abide by the rules but there is no limit on the number of products you use that contain these harmful substances.
It is very likely that you may be using multiple products throughout the day, or at the same time, that contain very harmful substances. Therefore, collectively you end up absorbing or inhaling over the tolerable limit that will not cause allergic reactions or even worse reactions like, developing cancers, endocrine disruption and adverse effects on reproduction and development.
It is best to avoid products with these potentially harmful substances wherever possible.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article it is important to point out that many chemicals used in personal care and cosmetic products are banned in Europe however these same banned substances are not banned in Canada or the USA. They are banned in Europe because the voices of the European people were heard. The European Union seems to care about the health of its people while the government of Canada and the USA seem to care more about the almighty dollar.
We all should give our voices to fight for our health. Fight against practices that fill the pockets of companies while only harming us in the long run.
(Update: I’ve started to research my makeup and holy cow practically all of it is toxic too. I am going to replace all of it with clean products that won’t poison me)
Great resources for information on products/chemicals
- Environmental Working Group‘s website provides ratings for many chemicals used in the products we use daily.
- Campaign for Safe Cosmetics
- The David Suzuki Foundation
- Download the Thinkdirty App to your smartphone. It’s a good app to use on the go to check if a product is not safe for you to use.
Products & Ingredient Listing
I.C.O.N. India Curl Cream
Ingredients: Water, VP/Dmapa acrylates copolymer, polyquaternium-37, cetearyl alchohol, moringa oleifera seed oil, organic argan oil, hydrolyzed quinoa, ethylhexyl stearate, ethylhexyl isononoate, coco-carprylate/caprate, camellia oleifera leaf (green tea) extract, polysorbate-60, propylene glycol dicaprylate/dicaprate, ppg-1 trideceth-6, fragrance, phenoxyethanol, ethlhexylglycerin, panthenol (pro-vitamin B5), citric acid, helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed extract, lyral, linalool, limonene, lilial, hexyl cinnamic aldehyde, eugenol, citral, cinnamic aldehyde, benzyl benzoate, benzyl alcohol.
Deva Curl Styling Cream
Ingredients: Water (Aqua, Eau), Cetearyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Behentrimonium Chloride, Tapioca Starch, PPG-3 Benzyl Ether Myristate, Laureth-4, Ethyl Macadamiate, Cetrimonium Chloride, Ethyl Macadamate , Hydrolyzed Jojoba Protein, Panthenol, Melissa Officinalis Extract, Humulus Lupulus (Hops) Extract, Cymbopogon Schoenanthus Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Extract, Achillea Millefolium Extract, Lauryldimonium Hydroxypropyl Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Lauryldimonium Hydroxypropyl Hydrolyzed Wheat Starch, Propylene Glycol, Ceteareth-20, Disodium EDTA, Aminomethyl Propanol, Diazolidinyl Urea, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Fragrance (Parfum).
SarynaKey Pure African Shea Oil
Ingredients: Cyclopentasiloxane & Dimethicone, Cyclomethicone, linum Usitatissimum (linseed Oil), Simmondsia Chinesus (Jojoba Seed Oil), Fragrance, Vitis Vinifera (Grape Seed Oil), Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose Oil), Argania Spinosa Kernal Oil, Dacus Carota (Carrot Oil), Tocopheryl Acetate (Vit E), Hydrolyzed Keratin.
Marc Anthony True Professional Hydrating Coconut Oil & Shea Butter Shampoo
Ingredients: Water, Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Cocamide MEA, Glycerin, Divinyldimethicone/Dimethicone Copolymer, C12-C13 Pareth-3, C12-C13 Pareth-23, Amodimethicone, Cetrimonium Chloride, Trideceth-12, Glycol Stearate, Polyquaternium-55, Cocos Nucifera Oil (Coconut), Butyrospermum Parkii Butter (Shea), Bambusa Vulgaris Extract, Sodium Chloride, Tocopheryl Acetate, Panthenol, Hydrolyzed Keratin, Polyquaternium-10, Vitis Vinifera Seed Oil (Grape), Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Fragrance, Sodium PCA, Sodium Lactate, Arginine, Aspartic Acid, PCA, Glycine, Alanine, Serine, Valine, Proline, Threonine, Isoleucine, Histidine, Phenylalanine, Citric Acid, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Biotin, Caramel
Marc Anthony True Professional Hydrating Coconut Oil & Shea Butter Conditioner
Ingredients: Water, Cetrimonium Chloride, Cetyl Alcohol, Cetyl Esters, Stearyl Alcohol, Amodimethicone, Trideceth-12, Dimethicone, Cyclopentasiloxane, Behentrimonium Chloride, Cocos Nucifera Oil (Coconut), Butyrospermum Parkii Butter (Shea), Bambusa Vulgaris Extract, Vitis Vinifera Seed Oil (Grape), Propylene Glycol, Fragrance, Panthenol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Hydrolyzed Keratin, Sodium PCA, Sodium Lactate, Arginine, Aspartic Acid, PCA, Glycine, Alanine, Serine, Valine, Proline, Threonine, Isoleucine, Histidine, Phenylalanine, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Disodium EDTA, Biotin, Caramel
NB* All ingredients listed above were found on the actual products. Manufacturers of these products may have updated ingredients.
 https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/702512/FRAGRANCE/#. March 15, 2017
 https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/702512/FRAGRANCE/#. March 15, 2017
 Environmental Working Group, “Lyral”, https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/703649/LYRAL/, “Linalool”, https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/703568/LINALOOL/, “Limonene”, https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/702113/LIMONENE/, “Lilial”, https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/700872/LILIAL/, “hexyl cinnamic aldehyde“, https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/702841/HEXYL_CINNAMAL/, “Eugenol”, https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/702373/EUGENOL/, ‘Citral”, https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/701383/CITRAL/, “cinnamic aldehyde”, https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/701362/CINNAMAL/, March 15, 2017
 http://thinkbeforeyoustink.com/howtogofragrancefree.html, March 15, 2017
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