There's What in My Shampoo

There’s What in My Shampoo?

By Lynn M. Costa

Paradise Center for Healthy Living

Have you ever wondered what all those ingredients are in your shampoo, soap, lotion, deodorant, toothpaste, and so on? This is not to alarm you, but unless you are very diligent about shopping, it’s quite possible that the personal-care products you use contain industrial chemicals that are known to be hazardous.

Testing for these products is not mandatory. Nearly 90 percent of the thousands of ingredients in personal-care products have not been safety tested by any publicly accountable institution.

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) website , almost all the ingredients in personal-care products can penetrate the skin and more than one-third of the products contain at least one ingredient that has been linked to cancer. Fifty percent of products on the market contain “fragrance,” which is a complex mix of chemicals, some of which are harmful to the brain and nervous system.

While the chemicals in any single product may not be of immediate concern, daily use for a period of time can be harmful to your health. An EWG study in 2004 found that in a day the average adult uses nine personal care products with a total of 126 chemical ingredients.

An example of a toxic buildup of chemicals was noted in the 2007 death of a 17-year-old female cross-country runner who had been using a sports cream containing methyl salicylate. This is a rare case, but it’s worth noting.

The good news is that there is a searchable online database, Skin Deep (, set up by the EWG to help people choose better, safer products. It is very comprehensive, easy to use, and worth the time it takes to review companies, products, and ingredients. You might be surprised to see brands such as Revlon, St. Ives, Jergens, Avon, and Clairol (to name a few) listed in the top 20 brands with high hazard ratings.

To minimize your exposure to harmful chemicals, consider these shopping tips:

•Use fewer products and avoid products with “fragrance.”

•Read labels carefully to find evidence that claims of “organic, fragrance-free, natural, or hypoallergenic” are true.

•Use milder soaps to avoid stripping away the natural oils that protect your skin.

•Buy chemical-free products from a trusted holistic health center or natural-products store.

You may find that chemical-free products may cost a little more. That’s because many of them contain organic ingredients and exclude the cheap fillers that are potentially harmful to your health.

The way I see it, we can pay a little more at the store to buy the “good stuff,” or we can pay a lot more later should health problems arise. I encourage you to take the time to inform yourself so you can make healthy choices and buy safe products.

Lynn Costa is a certified massage therapist, health educator, member of the American Massage Therapy Association,and owner of the Paradise Center for Healthy Living. She can be reached at 530-872-4325 or