How many beauty or grooming products do you use each day?  Do you really know what is in them?  Most of us probably don’t give a lot of thought to the ingredients in the cosmetics, shampoos, deodorants and other items that are part of our daily routine, but I would like to encourage you to do a little homework and find out what they contain.

We may assume that all the ingredients in these products have been thoroughly tested for their safety in human use, but I cannot stress enough the fact that nearly all of these chemicals have never been tested for their long-term effects in people, and certainly not in combination with each other.   Most of us use several products each day, including body wash/shower gels, shampoos, deodorants, make-up, toothpastes, hair color, body lotions, etc., so the number of chemicals just in our grooming rituals that we are exposed to on a daily basis can easily reach to a hundred or more.

I’d like to encourage you to start reading the labels of your products carefully and be on the lookout for the following chemicals, which carry the greatest potential risks for negative impacts on your health:

  • Propylene Glycol:  A potent neurotoxin also found in antifreeze. Has been banned in Europe
  • Aluminum:  Found in most deodorants, has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, and possibly with autism
  • Formaldehyde:  Used as a disinfectant and preservative.  Suspected carcinogen, particularly lung cancer.  Can cause asthma, headaches, eye and upper respiratory tract irritation.  Has been banned in Japan and Europe
  • Parabens:  A family of chemicals used as preservatives.  Suspected carcinogen, particularly with hormonally-driven cancers, especially breast cancer.  Have been banned in Sweden and Japan.
  • Toluene: A solvent that is linked to neurotoxicity and endocrine disruption, can be harmful to the liver and can cause asthma
  • Xylene (Xytol or dimethylbenzene): Can cause liver toxicity, and skin and respiratory tract irritation
  • Phthalates:  Potent endocrine disruptors, potentially causing endocrine cancers, can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs and reproductive system.  Avoid soft plastics as they contain high amounts of phthalates.  Has been banned in the European Union in toys, but still found in beauty/grooming products
  • Talc: Potentially linked to an increased risk of ovarian cancer and urinary tract infections
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulphate/Sodium Laureth Sulphate:  A very common additive, it has been linked to kidney and liver damage, urinary tract infections, neurotoxicity, eczema, dermatitis, and potentially to SLE (Lupus).  Has been banned in the European Union
  • -Ethanolamines (Diethanolamine, Triethanolamine, Monoethanolamine):  Emulsifers and foaming agents that become nitrosamines when absorbed in the body, and possibly carcinogenic. Also act as endocrine disruptors, and produce skin irritation.


Obviously, this list could be much longer, but I wanted to focus on some of the worst and most common hazardous chemicals widely present in standard beauty/grooming products.  I encourage you to start reading labels carefully, and try to choose the cleanest, most natural ingredients possible, and those products with the fewest ingredients overall.  Another good resource is the Skin Deep database found on the Environmental Working Group’s website,

We live in a highly toxic world surrounded by tens of thousands of chemicals, and lot of our exposure to these substances is not under our control.  But we all can make safe, healthy choices with such things as our beauty and grooming products, our household cleaning products, our food and water, and the air inside our homes. Each step you take to relieve some of the toxic burden that your body is carrying will add to your energy, health and vitality now and throughout the rest of your life.


Dr. Allen gives free lectures at the Library three to four times each year, on topics of interest from the cutting edge of integrative medicine.  If you would like to be added to our mailing list for these lectures and his other speaking engagements, please email