Opinion: There should be fewer harmful chemicals in self-care products

Of the 82,000 ingredients used to create personal care products, one in eight are pesticides, hormone disruptors, reproductive toxins, and carcinogens. Are you okay with your shampoo, sunscreen, lotions, and other products you use daily containing so many dangerous chemicals? The amount of toxic chemicals in everyday self-care products needs to be reduced, or better, eliminated. 

What we put on our skin affects our health more than the majority of people realize.

— Guest Writer Adelae Barkley

What we put on our skin affects our health more than the majority of people realize. Everything you put on your skin is absorbed and passed into the bloodstream, including the toxic ingredients in products you use everyday. Parabens, which are used to preserve personal care products, can disrupt hormones, cause reproductive issues, increase the risk of cancer, and cause skin irritation. Numerous scents found in everyday products are made solely from chemicals. 

Fragrance, an “ingredient” in countless personal care products, is actually a blend of unrevealed chemicals unique to each product that commonly include acetone, toluene, phenol, limonene, and benzyl acetate. Not only do chemicals in our products have an impact on our health, they also have a major effect on the environment. 

Various parabens, if washed down the drain, can bleach coral reefs, penetrate waterways, and cause reproductive issues in underwater life. Olivia Young writes that various parabens have “been detected not just in fish and aquatic organisms but also in polar bears, dolphins, sea otters, bears, and birds like bald eagles and albatrosses that eat the fish.” Chemicals are a health hazard to both our bodies and the environment. 

[T]hese short-term solutions have long-term effects caused by the harsh chemicals.

— Guest Writer Adelae Barkley

Chemical-laden products have a number of advantages over safe products. These products tend to be the easy option for most people because they are cheaper and more available than clean and safe products. Chemicals are used to preserve products and act as plasticizers making them last longer. Customers are drawn to chemical products because of their appealing scent or their effectiveness. Finally, chemical based products may work quicker or solve a problem more effectively. However, these short-term solutions have long-term effects caused by the harsh chemicals. 

To reduce chemicals in personal care products, the public can push for reforms to eliminate chemical usage. For one thing, companies can be more transparent about their ingredients. Companies are allowed to list “Fragrance”, and call it a trade secret, instead of listing individual chemicals. If a company had to list every ingredient used, they might think twice about what they put in their products. A company that is completely transparent will share “where they source their ingredients, how they find and harvest the plants, and what the entire process looks like—from the leaf, all the way to the moment the box lands on my doorstep” (Hyman). An additional step towards making products safer would be to pass more laws that restrict the use of certain chemicals in these products. Some states are already moving in that direction. One example is the California Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act, which will be effective on January 1, 2025.

The self-care products that we use everyday are full of chemicals that cause more problems than they solve. In addition to having a negative effect on our health, these toxic chemicals have detrimental effects on the environment. It is not worth sacrificing our health for nice scents and preservatives. Instead, we should work towards making companies more transparent about the ingredients in their products and restricting the use of dangerous chemicals.

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