When I talk about using green and natural products, I often use the words “toxic”, “non-toxic” and “toxins”. Natural products don’t have the same toxins that are often found in chemically produced (and often mass-produced) items. But – what exactly is a “toxin”? What does it mean and what does it refer to? Well, that is exactly what I am going to try and explain today!
A toxin, at its most basic level, refers to some sort of chemical that has potentially negative health risks and could cause harm with long-term use (The Cosmetic Chemicals Guide). These toxins can harm not only the human body but also the environment on a much larger scale.
There are 3 main categories of offenders that most toxins fall into: Endocrine Disrupters, Carcinogens, and Allergens & Irritants.
Your endocrine system is made up of a number of different glands and the hormones they produce and secrete that make your body function properly in a countless number of ways. It can also be referred to as your hormonal system. An endocrine (hormone) disrupter is a chemical that interferes “with the production, release, transport, metabolism, or elimination of the body’s natural hormones” ( WomanCode ). In more simple terms, it is a chemical that disrupts the way that your body produces and receives hormones.
When your hormonal system is out of whack, it can result in an endless list of problems. This can range from infertility, thyroid and adrenal issues, PCOS, endometriosis, mental health issues, digestive issues, acne and other skin problems, hair loss – I could go on forever!
Basically, this category of toxins messes with how your body works at its very core. This means they are BAD and should be avoided at all costs – especially in products that are used often over a long-term basis (e.g., daily moisturisers, shampoos and other hair products, body lotions, etc.)
Examples of toxins in this category: Parabens, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), Triclosan, Lead, BHA & BHT
Most of you are probably already familiar with the term “carcinogen”, but it refers to a type of chemical or substance that can cause cancer. Not exactly something you want in your make-up right?
While this type of toxin is not guaranteed to cause cancer, using products that contain carcinogens on a regular, long-term basis can severely increase your risk of cancer. For that reason, these ingredients should be avoided at all costs!
Examples of toxins in this category: Coal Tar, Formaldehyde, Toluene, Lead Acetate
Allergens & Irritants
An allergen is a chemical or substance that causes an allergic reaction when used, while an irritant is something that can cause irritation, swelling, or general discomfort.
Each person can experience the effects of allergens or irritants differently, depending on their sensitivity level to a specific toxin, how or where the product is used, and/or the frequency of application.
There are, however, certain ingredients that cause these type of reactions more commonly than others. A prime example is fragrances. Especially in the last few years, we have seen a large amount of public awareness regarding fragrance sensitivities. Many schools and workplaces are now “scent-free” environments, and I have even seen ads on public transit asking riders to avoid wearing scents while on the bus!
You can also develop allergies and sensitivities over time and with an extended use of a product. So, these ingredients should be avoided for not only your own comfort and well-being, but also that of those around you!
Examples of toxins in this category: PEG Compounds, Oxybenzone, Nanoparticles, Parfum and other synthetic musks
I would say that 99% of the toxins that I refer to in my videos and blog posts fall into one of these three categories (or more! There can be overlap between them). There are some other types of toxins, but the reasons they should be avoided become more specific and difficult to group multiple together (example: Vitamin A or Retinyl is a more controversial ingredient that can affect fertility and increase sensitivity to sun exposure).
I really hope that this post provides some useful information that can help you understand the lingo used when discussing natural and green “non-toxic” products.
As always, if you have any questions please leave a comment down below!
And if you want recommendations on products that do not contain any of the ingredients listed above, be sure to check out the Beauty and Healthy Living categories listed up above in the menu bar!
See you all next Wednesday!
Please note that all of the statements expressed are based on my own research and opinions. I recommend that you conduct your own research to be an informed consumer and ensure you are comfortable with the ingredients inside the products you use.