Preservatives in personal care products are very contentious subject these days. There are more than 5,000 chemicals used in the manufacture of fragrances, cosmetic, household and according to a report from National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, some 900 were identified as toxic.

Dr. Samuel Epstein, chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition and emeritus Professor at the University of Illinois, School of Public Health at Chicago warns women of the harmful chemicals that may cause an unreasonable cancer risk to them to use household products, cosmetics, prescription drugs and toiletries.

One of the most common ingredient and toxic compound in personal care products is diethanolamine (DEA) or triethanolamine (TEA) used by metal workers as a surfactant or detergent. It reacts with nitrite preservatives (found in cosmetic and toiletries, preserved meats such as bacon and ham) to form a potent carcinogen nitrosodiethanolamine (NDELA) well recognized by Federal agencies and institutions and World Health Organization. DEA is found in over 600 home and personal care products formulated into shampoo, hair conditioners, cleansers, cosmetics and lotions. DEA was found to induce liver and kidney cancer.

DEA is not excreted easily from the body and accumulates in the fatty tissues of the brain, liver, kidneys and spleen with repeated exposures. This leads to mounting tissue and nerve damage.

The most common harmful ingredients are:

Alcohol – increase risk of oral tongue and throat cancer. Mostly used in mouthwashes.

Aluminum – is a skin irritant, linked to nerve damage brain disorders, namely Alzheimer’s. mostly use in deodorants.

DEA/TEA – foam boosting surfactant emulsifier and dyeing aid, potential carcinogen. Mostly found in shampoos, conditioners, bubble bath, shaving gels, shower gels and cosmetics.

Propylene Glycol (antifreeze solvent) –shown to case dermatitis, kidney and liver abnormalities in animal studies. Inhibits skin cell growth. Found in deodorants, cosmetics, shavings gels, conditioners, shampoo, and toothpaste, face cream.

Sodium Lauryl Sulphate – engine degreaser- may cause inflammation to the skin, may damage children’s teeth, contain endocrine disrupters, mimics estrogens, cause hair loss, builds up heart, liver, lungs and brain, cause cataracts, mouth ulcers. Found in shampoo, toothpaste, mouthwash, hand creams, cleansers.

Toluene – hazardous waste and an endocrine disrupter, potential cancer-causing agent, may cause birth defects. Found in cosmetics, nail polish and fragrances.

Talc – linked to ovarian cancer. Similar chemically to asbestos, a known cancer causing substance found in body and baby powder, feminine products and cosmetics.

Diazo-lidinyl urea – a pesticide derived from alcohol. Used as a cosmetic preservative.

Methyl-paraben – a preservative and germ fighter. Often cause allergic reactions.

Propyl-paraben – a popular preservative to kill bacteria and fungi. Often causes skin problem.

            Most of Aromatherapy products contains essential oils are antibacterial or antifungal to some degree and safe to use.

The following are just some of the effects of specific essential oils on the skin

– Penetrate to the dermal layer of skin, where new cells are developing

– Stimulate and regenerate; produce healthy skin cell quickly following sun damage, burns, wrinkles, or healing wounds

– Reduce bacterial and fungal infections, acne, and other related skin problems

– Soothe delicate, sensitive, and inflamed skin

– Regulate sebaceous secretions, balancing over – or underactive skin

– Promote the release and removal of metabolic waste products

– Contain plant “hormones” that help balance and alleviate hormone-related skin problem

– Exert a positive influence on the mental and emotional state, thus alleviating stress-related skin problem.



Antczak, Stephen & Gina “Cosmetics Unmasked”,

Synova Derma-Allergy Research Group.