When I went to that great Herbs 101 class, the teacher also handed out a list of the super-bad personal care villains, the stuff you really want to avoid. I don't think she'd mind me sharing, so here's the list (I've linked each to more in-depth information). You can skip to the bottom for a list of healthy alternatives.
DEA, MEA, TEA: These can cause allergic reactions, irritate eyes, dry hair and skin and they're a liver and kidney carcinogen.
Petrolatum (aka mineral oil, vaseline, paraffinum, liquidum and baby oil): Causes photosensitivity, strips the natural oils from your body and hair, causes premature aging, causes acne and prevents the elimination of toxins from the body.
Imidazolidinyl urea and DMDM hydantoin: preservatives that can cause joint pain, allergies, depression, headaches, chest pain, chronic fatigue, dizziness, insomnia and asthma. They also weaken the immune system and are carcinogenic. You'll find them in body and hair care products, antiperspirants and nail polish.Alcohol or isopropyl: This is a denaturant, meaning it alters the structure of other chemicals. It causes nausea, vomiting, headaches, flushing, depression, dries skin and hair, creates cracks and fissures in the skin and encourages bacterial growth.
Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS): This is found in shampoos, conditioners, toothpaste, and body washes. It's a detergent that causes eye irritation and can cause permanent damage to the eyes, skin rashes, hair loss, flaking mouth and mouth ulcers. In combination with other ingredients it can form nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic. It easily penetrates the skin and can lodge itself in the heart, lungs, liver and brain.
Padimate-O (aka octyl dimethyl, PABA): This is found mostly in sunscreens and is a nitrosamine-forming agent.
Methyl, propyl, butyl and ethyl paraben: This is used to extend product shelf life and inhibit microbial growth. It's highly toxic. It can cause rashes and other allergic reaction and is also a gender bender- yikes! It's highly estrogenic.
Synthetic colors: Coal tar dyes are generally labeled as FDC7 or D4C followed by a number. They are very carcinogenic!
Talc: It's found in baby powders, face powders, and body powders, as well as on some contraceptives such as condoms. It is a known carcinogen and a major source of ovarian cancer when used in the genital area. It can also lodge in the lungs, causing respiratory disorders.
Fragrance: These are usually petroleum-based. They can cause headaches, dizziness,rashes, respiratory problems, vomiting, skin irritations and multiple chemical sensitivity.
Okay, whew! That was a lot of scary stuff. But don't despair, there are good products out there! Here are a few sources for products without all that yucky stuff. Once you get used to reading labels and find a few brands you can trust, it's not nearly so overwhelming to steer clear of the bad stuff.
Aubrey Organics for hair and body care.
Baby Bear Shop for baby and mama products.
LuSa Organics for clean, delicious-smelling soaps.
Vegan (casein-free) condoms (not sure if they have talc or not, but I think Durex doesn't.)Dr. Bronner
Badger Balm for healthy sunscreen