Healthy Body Care #2: Learn Label Lingo

Healthy Body Care #2: Learn Label Lingo

Natural, Hypoallergenic, Herbal, Organic,they all sound like exactly what any parent would want to apply to their child’s delicate skin, but while these terms are tempting product descriptions, don’t judge the book by its cover. Currently, there is only one clear-cut hallmark of safety and that is the USDA Certified Organic seal. This seal is the only one that has defined standards and is actually regulated.

Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of Certified Organic body care products available and those that are cost much more than most families can afford. You can still make safer choices, but you have to be a savvy consumer. Use these two label decoding tips to help you find the safest products:

1. Read the actual ingredients list. Even though marketing claims are largely unregulated, manufacturers are required to list the actual ingredients of products in order of volume. Still, reading product ingredients is like reading another language. Here are the top toxic ten to try to avoid and why:

  • Parabens:
    • Organ system toxicity
    • Reproduction and fertility
    • Birth or developmental effects
  • Phthalates:
    • Organ system toxicity
    • Endocrine system
    • Reproduction and fertility
    • Birth or developmental effects
    • Persistent and bioaccumulative
    • Brain and nervous system
    • Immune system (including sensitization and allergies)
  • DMDM Hydantoin:
    • Immune system toxicant
    • Skin toxicant
  • Fragrance: Could contain phthalates or other suspect chemicals
  • Triclosan:
    • Toxicity related to Endocrine system
    • Immune system (including sensitization and allergies)
    • Reproduction and fertility
  • Sodium Laureth/Lauryl Sulfate: Skin and Eye irritant that may be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a known carcinogen
  • Formaldehyde:
    • Birth or developmental effects
    • Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive)
    • Reproduction and fertility
  • Toluene:
    • Birth or developmental effects
    • Cancer
    • Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive)
    • Reproduction and fertility
  • Ceteareth and PEG compounds: Can contain carcinogenic contaminants
  • Anything with “glycol” or “methyl”: These are petroleum-derived ingredients whose long-term health effects are unclear.

2. Go fragrance-free. The one loop-hole in ingredients lists is “fragrance” (aka “parfum”). Fragrances of products are considered industry secrets and that single component can actually be made up of over a hundred other ingredients that do not need to be spelled out in the ingredients list. Play it safe by avoiding it. And, again, it does not matter if the label says “unscented” or “fragrance-free.” Read the ingredients to ensure that this suspect element is not present.

Worried you won’t remember what to watch for? Go to Healthy Child Healthy World to print a pocket guide to keep with you when you’re shopping.

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Christopher Gavigan

Christopher Gavigan is Chief Executive Officer of Healthy Child Healthy World. For more than a decade, he has dedicated himself to improving the lives of children and families. He holds degrees in environmental science and geography from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and has extensive graduate training in child psychology and education.

Note: This Perspectives Blog post is written by a guest blogger of DrGreene.com. The opinions expressed on this post do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Dr. Greene or DrGreene.com, and as such we are not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied. View the license for this post.

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