A lot of us are starting to go greener and healthier when it comes to household products including the cosmetic products that we use. It is your job as the consumer to read the labels on the products and find the best product for you by being educated on the health effects of certain chemicals. Below you will find the 10 chemicals you do not want to see in your cosmetic products.

1. IMIDAZOLIDNYL UREA AND DIAZOLIDINYL UREA - These are commonly used preservatives after the parabens and are toxic chemicals. The American Academy of Dermatology has established them as a primary cause of contact dermatitis. Trade names for these chemicals are Germall II and Germall 115. Neither of the Germall chemicals have good antifungal properties, so they must be combined with other preservatives. In low temperatures Germall 115 releases formaldehyde.

2. METHYL, PROPYL, BUTYL AND ETHYL PARABEN are used as inhibitors of microbial growth and to extend shelf life of products. They are widely used even though they are known to be toxic and have caused many allergic reactions and skin rashes. Methyl paraben combines benzoic acid with the methyl group of chemicals and is highly toxic.

3. PETROLATUM - commonly seen in some lip products, with the promise to protect our lips from sunburn, chapping and so forth. The reason that it is found in products is because it is cheap. Petrolatum is a mineral oil jelly, which can reduce and/or interfere with the body's own natural moisturizing mechanism, leading to dry skin and chapping. What that means is we are using a product that creates the very conditions it claims to alleviate.

4. PROPYLENE GLYCOL - Ideally this is a vegetable glycerin mixed with grain alcohol, both of which are natural. Unfortunately this is not usually the case. Usually it is a synthetic petrochemical mix used as a humectant. A humectant is a substance used primarily in foods and cosmetic products to help retain moisture and it has been known to cause allergic and toxic reactions.

5. PVP/VA COPOLYMER - A petroleum-derived chemical used in hairsprays, wavesets and other cosmetics. It can be considered toxic, since particles may contribute to foreign bodies in the lungs of sensitive persons.

6. SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE - This synthetic substance is used in shampoos for its detergent and foam-building abilities. It causes eye irritation, skin rashes, hair loss, dandruff and allergic reactions. It is frequently disguised in pseudo-natural cosmetics with the parenthetic explanation "comes from coconut."

7. STEARALKONIUM CHLORIDE - A chemical used in hair conditioners and creams. It causes allergic reactions and is toxic to us. Stearalkonium chloride was developed by the fabric industry as a fabric softener, and is a lot cheaper and easier to use in hair conditioning formulas than proteins or herbals.

8. SYNTHETIC COLORS - The synthetic colors used to supposedly make a cosmetic "pretty" should be avoided at all costs, along with hair dyes. They will be labeled as FD&C or D&C, followed by a color and a number. Example: FD&C Red No. 6, D&C Green No. 6. Synthetic colors are believed to be cancer-causing agents. If a cosmetic contains them, don't use it.

9. SYNTHETIC FRAGRANCES - The synthetic fragrances used in cosmetics can have upwards of 200 ingredients. There is no way to know what the chemicals are, since on the label, it will simply say "fragrance." Some of the problems caused by these chemicals are headaches, dizziness, rash, hyperpigmentation, violent coughing, vomiting, skin irritation and more.

10. TRIETHANOLAMINE (TEA) - Often used in cosmetics to adjust the pH, and used with many fatty acids to convert acid to salt (stearate), which then becomes a base for a cleanser. TEA causes allergic reactions including eye problems, dryness of hair and skin and with extended use can be toxic.

Look for natural ingredients in the products you by. Do not use cosmetics that are artificially colored. Is the shampoo bright green or blue? If it is colored, it is very likely it contains a coal tar color. Does the product contain synthetic fragrances? Don't buy it. You may find that some of your allergy problems will suddenly disappear when you no longer use cosmetics formulated with petrochemicals and other synthetics. Read the labels on the products; do not just trust it because it says natural, organic or you buy it at a "natural health store." These unsafe chemicals are going on your body and therefore will be in your body. Next week we will have a list of products that are healthier and safer alternatives, so check back!

Anita M. Larrow, ND