Part 1: Cancer causing cosmetics, fact or fiction?

One of the biggest fear inducing claims from the green cosmetics movement is that right beneath our noses the FDA is allowing cancer-causing ingredients to be used. Although they are included in minute quantities, eventually they build up and cause disease. Scary right? But how much truth is there behind this really? I will be discussing some of the most popular ingredients that “natural” products love to bash, but it will be up to decide if you still want to use them!

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What lies here yonder?

First up…

 Parabens…

 Many products tout themselves as not containing these, but what are they exactly? Parabens are commonly used as preservatives. Preservatives are vital ingredients in cosmetics because they keep bacteria from growing in the solution and lengthen the shelf life of products. The amount found in cosmetics is quite small usually ranging from .01 to .3%.

Parabens came under fire when in a 2004 toxicology study they were discovered in small quantities in breast cancer tumors.  The study then went on to describe parabens as having estrogen-like qualities, leading to their ability to affect breast tissue.

The fact is that although parabens have weak estrogen-like qualities, their influence are far below of our body’s own naturally occurring estrogen. Even the strongest forms of parabens have been tested, and their capacity to affect the body was still 10,000-100,000 times less than naturally occurring estrogen.  Additionally, the study was also too small, and merely correlational and did not prove parabens’ connection to cancer.

talc powder

Talc is commonly found in powder foundations and blushers

 Talc or should I say Asbestos?

Talc is an ingredient found in all kinds of base makeup, blushes, and even baby powder! It is commonly used because of its ability to mattify the skin, and lend soft texture to a product. Talc is a naturally occurring ingredient and is derived from oxygen, silicon, magnesium, and hydrogen.

Asbestos is also another naturally occurring silicate material, which can be found near where talc naturally appears. Asbestos has a completely different crystal structure from talc and is a proven carcinogen. The fear-mongering behind talc started when there were claims that tiny asbestos fibers may be located inside talc, and subsequently making its way into our cosmetics.

The FDA responded to this by seeking out talc suppliers and testing their supplies for asbestos. Research found no traces of asbestos, and confirmed that cosmetic grade talc (containing no asbestos) is not carcinogenic to humans. Several other smaller studies have been done, but results have been mixed and inconclusive.