The range of cosmetics on the seemingly endless shelves of the drugstores is tempting. But dangerous ingredients are hidden in many cosmetic products. We introduce you to the most common ingredients and the dangers they pose to the body and environment
Table of contents
– Aluminum chlorides: Carcinogenic salts – Microplastics (polyethylene): Invisible danger – Fragrances: Good-smelling allergens – Nanoparticles: Unresearched danger – Paraffins: Cosmetics from petroleum – Surfactants: Access for pollutants – Light protection filters: Hormone bombs on the skin
Aluminum chlorides: Carcinogenic salts
In cosmetic products, aluminum salts (aluminum chloride) are used primarily as antiperspirant agents. Aluminum salts are found particularly frequently in deodorants and thus close the pores and inhibit perspiration. But the dangerous aluminum compounds are not only found in deodorants, but also in toothpaste and lipsticks.
Aluminum is repeatedly linked to the development of Alzheimer's disease and breast cancer, and is considered to damage the nerves and irritate the skin. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) considers an intake of 1 milligram of aluminum per kilogram of body weight per week to be tolerable. This corresponds to a daily dose of about 8.6 micrograms per day for a 60 kilogram adult.
The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) has evaluated the estimated aluminum intake from antiperspirants. In the results, the extent of aluminum chlorides in cosmetics becomes clear: even with a single daily use of aluminum-containing antiperspirants, aluminum levels are above the EFSA weekly tolerable intake level.
There is one piece of good news, however: You can easily identify aluminum on the packaging! It is considered"
Aluminum Silicate" or"Aluminum chlorohydrate" labeled. okotest also tested 21 aluminum-free deodorants. The test report published on its website.
Microplastics (polyethylene): Invisible danger
Some cosmetics manufacturers use small plastic particles, so-called microplastics, in cosmetic products such as peelings, creams or shampoos and hairsprays. In most cases, the plastic is hidden behind designations such as Polyethylene, nylon-6 or Polyacrylate (see table below).
For consumers, it is almost impossible to find out whether and in what form microplastics are contained in the cosmetic product, as there are no labels. The BUND is therefore opposed to the use of microplastics. Other plastic forms in cosmetic products made from.
The most common plastics in cosmetics:
TipThe shopping guide "Microplastics – the invisible danger" The BUND provides information on which cosmetic products contain microplastics. The guide is updated regularly. GREENPEACE lists common plastics in cosmetics-. Body care products in its checklist "Remove plastic makeup". This makes it easy to see if your cosmetic products contain microplastics.
Fragrances: Good-smelling allergens
Sure, everyone likes to smell – the cosmetics industry knows that, too. That is why almost all cosmetic products such as shower gels or shampoos contain various fragrances. Mostly quite harmless as "perfume" or "Aroma declared, contain quite a few allergenic additives such as hazardous Musk compounds (Civet/Zibet). These are difficult to degrade in the environment. Accumulate in the body.
Fragrances from musk or Ambergris are also of animal origin and can also trigger allergies. In addition, carcinogenic effects have been observed in animal studies. Mutagenic properties found. The German Allergy-. Asthma association e.V.V. (DAAB) has identified 26 natural and synthetic fragrances, based on research by the European Union Scientific Advisory Committee (SCCNFP), seven of which are considered potent allergens, meaning they can cause allergic reactions such as itching or swelling. These include Citral, Farnesol and Linalool.
For some fragrances, it is amed that they can also be absorbed through the skin and thus be distributed throughout the body. Another study conducted for the Federal Environment Agency found that there are at least half a million fragrance allergy sufferers in Germany.
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According to the European Cosmetics Regulation, allergenic fragrances must be indicated on cosmetics if they exceed the specified concentrations. However, cosmetics manufacturers often remain below the declarable limit or replace these substances with other fragrances that they do not have to declare separately, but which may trigger allergies.
Nanoparticles: Unexplored danger
So-called nanoparticles, tiny particles that are over a thousand times thinner than the diameter of a human hair, have been used in cosmetics such as toothpaste, lipstick or sunscreen. The pigments Titanium oxide and Zinc oxide for example, are used in the production of suntan lotion and form a film on the skin to reflect sunlight.
This all sounds positive at first, but nanoparticles in cosmetics are controversial. Their effect on humans and the environment has not yet been adequately researched, and there are not yet many conclusive studies. It is completely unclear how tiny nanoparticles, used in cosmetic products, affect our health.
In creams and lotions, kerosenes, hydrocarbons from petroleum production, are used to soften the consistency and increase shine
Studies by the Federal Environment Agency on nanoparticles also point to a possible carcinogenic effect of some nanomaterials such as Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) or titanium dioxide (TiO2), which are to be taken quite seriously.
So far, manufacturers do not have to label products that contain nanoparticles. So consumers don't find out which cosmetics contain the tiny nanoparticles. This is why BUND is campaigning for a ban on the use of synthetic nanoparticles until their effects on humans and the environment have been clarified.
Kerosenes: cosmetics made from petroleum
For decades Kerosenes used in conventional skin care products such as creams or lotions as consistency enhancers. In cosmetics, they are used for their film-forming and water-repellent properties; kerosenes also promote shine on the skin, making them popular ingredients in lipsticks. Furthermore, they protect the skin from moisture loss.
Kerosenes are hydrocarbons derived from petroleum. However, petroleum extraction is not only harmful to the environment, but the substance is also toxic.
In 2015, for example, Stiftung Warentest found carcinogenic substances in cosmetic products containing mineral oil. The most commonly used hydrocarbons within cosmetics are kerosene oil (paraffinum liquidum) and petrolatum (petrolatum).
Surfactants: Access for pollutants
Surfactants can be found everywhere, from bath additives and hair setting agents to shampoos, toothpaste and mouth sprays. Surfactants are washing-active substances, which are also known as emulsifiers when used in cosmetics. In shampoos, for example, surfactants are used to increase the solubility in water of particles of grease and dirt that adhere to the body.
Surfactants used in the cosmetics industry include linear alkylbenzene sulfonates, alkyl polyglycosides, esterquats and fatty alcohol ethoxylates. Conventional cosmetic products also often use the surfactants Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and PEG derivatives, to foam even more. However, their washing power then becomes so strong that they remove more sebum from the skin than is healthy.
This results in a wash-out effect: the skin loses its natural protective function and becomes more permeable to pollutants. This means that cosmetic products containing surfactants may be allergenic. In addition, PEG derivatives are often made from carcinogenic petroleum derivatives.
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Light protection filters: hormone bombs on the skin
Many cosmetics such as suntan lotions, face creams and lip balms contain UV filters to protect us from the sun's rays and prevent the risk of skin cancer.
Unfortunately, synthetic UV filters also have their downsides, for example the harmful substances Bezophenone. These ingredients are hormonally active, irritating to the skin and eyes, allergenic and suspected of being carcinogenic. In the worst cases it can even cause nerve damage. lead to changes in the genetic makeup.
Benzophenones successfully prevent sunburn, but unfortunately are not without side effects. Chemical light protection filters do not remain on the skin surface, but penetrate into the body. The result is fertility problems, obesity or ulcers of the liver and kidneys. As early as 1998, oko-Test was the first to detect residues of synthetic light protection filters in breast milk.
Contact with the skin can also create new molecular compounds that cause allergies and attack the skin's enzymes. As early as 2001, the Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Zurich presented a study showing that synthetic light protection filters can act in a similar way to the female hormone estrogen.
Finding these substances in the list of ingredients of cosmetics requires close reading: Their names are sometimes long and complicated. We have compiled the most common synthetic UV filters in a table for you.