Are Your Cosmetics Hazardous to Your Health?

I recently bought the Coppertone SPF 50 Oil-Free Sunscreen Lotion from a local Target out of the whim. It is not one specifically for the face, but I use it for my body, neck and face – and I love it. It is oil-free, waterproof and long lasting. It does not feel dry or greasy and most importantly, does not break me out. The sunscreen costs only a few dollars, but to me is worth gold.

That got me thinking: Why is something “worth gold” sold for so little when there are many expensive, high-end sunscreens selling well? Surely there is something wrong with mine. I began to investigate the ingredients: The particular bottle I bought was paraben-free (though not all Coppertone sunscreens are).

I decided to dwell deeper and look up all of the ingredients on ewg.org. If you are unfamiliar with EWG’s Skin Deep, it is a cosmetics database that lists the health risks, toxicity, and safety of many common cosmetics ingredients.

EWG’s Hazard Score Key

Looking through the database, I noticed that my particular sunscreen lotion is listed with an overall rating of 4, which would make it fall under moderate hazard. (To put things in perspective, Aussie Shampoo also has a rating of 4.) The most hazard of ingredients listed is oxybenzone, which scores a 7 on the EWG hazard scale. Benzyl alcohol and triethanolamine respectively scored 6 and 5, which the rest of the ingredients scoring from 0-4.

As it seems, there is nothing especially wrong with my lotion. The most dangerous ingredient turns out to be the sunscreen itself. Accumulation of what seems like innate chemicals can lead to serious health issues – but that is a risk we take to avoid sun damage, aging and cancer.

Ingredients: Homosalate, Oxybenzone, Octisalate, Octocrylene, Avobenzone, Water, Styrene Acrylates Copolymer, Propylene Glycol, Neopentyl Glycol Diheptanoate, Bis Stearyl Ethylenediamine, Stearyl Hydrogenated Dimer Dilionleate Copolymer, Benzyl Alcohol, Acrylates/C10 30 Alkyl Acrylate, Crosspolymer, Oleth 3, Tocopherol (Natural Vitamin E), Triethanolamine, Chlorphenesin, Disodium EDTA

In the end, I am still a fan of my Coppertone SPF 50 Oil-Free Sunscreen Lotion. It isn’t obviously more toxic than the food I eat or lifestyle I live. Looking through the cosmetics database though, there seems to be a lot of sunscreen lotions that are less hazardous because they contain physical sunscreen such as titanium dioxide instead of chemical sunscreens. (Read about physical vs. chemical sunscreens.) I will try some of them after I am through with my Coppertone.

I hate looking up ingredients and studying their toxicity. It is troublesome and possibly unnecessary as many ingredients can’t be avoided entirely. But it is scary that there are too many toxins to avoid. Most chemicals pose some threat or another – and that is only based on small studies of some ingredients. Can you imagine the dangers brewing behind the chemicals we have not had time or resources to thoroughly research?

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Discussion Board: 11 new comments

  • Anonymous,

    This is not Wikipedia – which is where the [citation needed] attribution comes from. Anyway, if you have read the post at all, you will know that it is about my exploration of my own cosmetics safety: particularly my sunscreen. I briefly discussed commonly avoided ingredients – and more importantly, introduced EWG to readers who might be interested in their database.

    I am no science expert, but I do work in a chemical lab and am gaining a Chemistry degree as well as ACS certification. All of that is irrelevant to this discussion of course, because this is not a science paper. I do not discuss the harms of the ingredients on a molecular level or dissect the mechanisms of the chemicals.

    Please try to read before you comment – although I appreciate the courtesy of you leaving a comment even when you do not have the time to read.

    I am also looking for guest writers if you would like to contribute with a more scientific point of view. Feel free to send me an email.

    Reply
  • beaut

    Are Your Cosmetics Hazardous to Your Health? is such an exciting discussion topic!