My 8-year-old daughter loves to play with makeup when playing dress up at home. When we walked past the makeup section she picked up several tm! products, a Toys “R” Us” private label brand, and asked me if I could buy them.
I had to say no.
The product pictured above, The Clear Cosmetic Case, appealed to her most as it contained a variety of nail polishes, hair and body gels, blushes, eyeshadows, and lip glosses.
The first thing I noticed on the back of the package was this BOLD warning: “FLAMMABLE – ADULT SUPERVISION REQUIRED,” followed by “AVOID CONTACT WITH EYES,” “APPLY TO NAILS ONLY. DO NOT APPLY TO SKIN,” “USE WITH ADEQUATE VENTILATION,” “NOT FOR USE IN EYE OR LIP AREA.” Yikes. I wouldn’t buy cleaning products with these warnings let alone cosmetics that my daughter would apply to her hands and face. As you can tell from the red highlights above, there are a lot of dangerous chemicals found in this tm! product, and unfortunately the entire line.
According to my colleague David Pollack, a chemist who has more than 20 years of experience developing products for some of the most recognized names in the skin care industry, personal care products are loaded with known carcinogens. In Europe, 1,100 chemicals have been banned because they’ve been found to be toxic. According to Pollock, the FDA has a list of known carcinogens that are used in self care products but are not banned because they’re considered to only be used in trace amounts.
The problem is both adults and children use countless self care products from toothpaste to shampoo, conditioner, lotions, and makeup. So “trace amounts” are hardly trace at all. According to Pollack, up to 60 percent of the products that you put on your skin are absorbed into the body. So it matters what we put both on our skin, and in this case, our child’s skin.
Here are some of the ingredients used in the Toys “R” Us tm! line of products:
Propylene Glycol is a solvent produced through a process called ethoxylation. Ethoxylation produces a byproduct called 1,4 Dioxane, which is a carcinogen. Although 1,4 Dioxane is never listed in the ingredients since it is a byproduct of ethoxylation, it is nonetheless a harmful ingredient. The same is true for polyethylene glycol (PEG). Whenever you see the words “glycol” in the ingredients, put it back on the shelf.
You may recognize the word phthalate because it’s gotten a lot of attention lately with regards to kids’ toys, although similarly names, it’s not one of the phthalates that are linked to endocrine disruption. Instead, polyethylene terephthalate is the long version of the more familiar term “PET plastic” (which is what most soda bottles are made of) and is a plasticizer that can also be hidden under the term fragrance. It is listed as safe on the Skin Deep Cosmetics Database.
One of the first things I look for in a product is the word “fragrance.” This is because all of the toxic ingredients that you’re looking to avoid can be added back into makeup and self care products hidden under the guise of the word fragrance. According to David Pollack, the FDA says that how you make a product smell is a trade secret that companies don’t have to disclose. To give you an idea, companies can use 300, or more, ingredients to create the product, but on the label you will only see them written as the word “fragrance.” This is concerning as I have a problem with companies using synthetic, toxic chemicals to make products smell better and then not disclosing what they use.
Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Butylparaben, Isobutylparaben, and Propylparaben
Parabens are used to preserve various ingredients in products from going rancid. They are known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors. This particular product contains four different types of parabens – methylparaben, ethylparaben, butylparaben, and polyparaben – which is unfortunate and unnecessary since there are many other natural preservatives that companies can use in their place that are not harmful. However, the natural preservatives are more expensive so that’s why companies, like this Toys “R” Us private label brand, don’t use them. Companies do their best to keep the retail prices low so consumers will buy them, but at the end of the day, in this case, you get what you pay for – cheap ingredients and a highly toxic product.
Research studies have linked parabens to everything from mild skin irritation to neurological and respiratory toxicity, and cancer.
These synthetic dyes are used to make the product look pretty. Many of these colorants are derived from coal tar and are possible carcinogens. Synthetic dyes are much less expensive than natural colorants, that’s why they’re often used in these low dollar makeup kits targeted toward our kids.
TM! Soft Lip Gloss
Because lip gloss is applied directly on the lips, it can be ingested, making it particularly concerning. In addition to synthetic dyes, petroleum, and parabens, this tm! product also contains:
Parfum is a synonym for fragrance and when you see it on an ingredient list, you can assume it’s all synthetic. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) reports that “95% of the ingredients used to create fragrances today are synthetic compounds derived from petroleum, including benzene derivatives, aldehydes, and many other known toxins and sensitizers.”
Paraffinum Liquidum (Mineral Oil, Parrafin)
Paraffin is a petrochemical (a byproduct of petroleum). Paraffin, a by-product of kerosene (yes, you read that right), traps toxins and excess oil on the body so that your skin can’t breathe properly, according to David Pollack. Think back to when you were at your manicurist and were asked to place your hands into warm paraffin wax to soften your hands. This is the same reason they add it to cosmetic products, like this lip gloss so your lips look shiny and moist. They’ve also been shown to have trace amounts of 1,4 Dioxane, a known carcinogen.
BHT and BHA have been known to affect the nervous system and cause behavioral problems in children. They have also been known to impair liver and kidney function. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Toxicology Program lists BHA as a possible carcinogen.
TM! COOL STREAKS HAIR COLOR
Here’s another tm! product with parabens and artificial dyes. However, the ingredient I’d like point out on here is Imidazolidinyl Urea.
According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, imidazolidinyl urea is one of the formadehyde-releasing preservatives that are known carcinogens, and can cause allergic skin reactions.
Important Points and Resources
I’d like to make you aware of a few important points:
* Like with food, companies can use different names to hide ingredients on a cosmetic/personal care product label, so I recommend visiting two excellent websites that research harmful ingredients found in these types of products:
- Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database – EWG has an extensive database of ingredients that you can look up to see how safe, or unsafe, specific ingredients are. They also have an app you can download so you can look up ingredients when you’re at the store.
- Campaign for Safe Cosmetics – This website’s mission is to enact change for the removal of toxic ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products. They have a great resource that lists the different names of ingredients. For example “urea” simply written on a label may not sound scary, but when you see it is actually another for word formaldehyde, you will see it is VERY scary.
- One of my favorite organizations when it comes to children’s health is Healthy Child, Healthy Word. In fact, I love them so much that I became a Mom Ambassador for them! If you have children, I highly recommend signing up to receive their newsletter. They empower parents to make informed decisions, they influence policy, and like us, they provide solutions for safer options.
- The Institute for Responsible Technology was founded by Jeffrey Smith in 2003 and its primary goal is to educate the public, and policy makers, about the dangers of genetically modified foods, or GMOs. I have personally met Jeffrey and respect his work. We talk a lot about GMOs on Naturally Savvy, and I’ve highlighted (in blue) the potential GM ingredients found in the toys and junk food I analyzed at Toys “R” Us. [See our infographic on the 8 Most Common GMO Foods]
* The yellow highlighted ingredients in the images on this page means there is not sufficient research on them.
* We highlighted ‘carmine’ and ‘ultramarines’ in purple to alert you that these are colors [potentially] derived from animals.
There are several safe cosmetic companies on the market that could supply Toys “R” Us with healthier options. A company I really like is Kelly Teegarden Organics. Kelly, the founder, is a cancer survivor who understands the importance of wearing chemical-free cosmetics. Her lip glosses are beautiful (I wear them all the time), she even has a few varieties for kids, like my 8-year-old daughter, to wear for dress up.
I also wear makeup from Zuii Organic. Based in Australia, Zuii Organic’s products don’t contain any petrochemicals, talc, parabens, or GMOs. They have a beautiful assortment of colors. If you know of other clean makeup brands, please list them in the comments below. I would love to learn more about the products they offer.
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