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The Shave of Wonderby Andrea Fox
Cool to the touch, the toxic goo that is many modern shaving creams may leave you smooth--but not without cause for concern.
First, shaving gel may feel soothing, but in fact can be quite irritating to skin and eyes and contain several toxic ingredients that may lead to serious human diseases.
Isobutane, methylpropane, or trimethylmethane is often used as a shave cream propellant and is a flammable gas. While it is not directly toxic by skin application, it is an eye irritant and also poses hazards during manufacturing where large quantities are stored.
According to the Environmental Working Group, isobutene is linked to immunotoxicity in humans where there is impaired ability to fight disease. Isopentane, another petroleum-based propellant and also a solvent, can cause redness to eyes and skin as well as pain and drying. It is extremely volatile and should never be inhaled.
Triethanolamine (TEA) is a surfactant and emulsifier derived from ammonia and is very common to modern shave creams and gels. Due to high alkalinity, TEA may convert to a nitrosamine substance, which can lead to cell mutations and are linked to cancer.
Another noxious culprit, PEG 90M or Polyoxyethylen, a binder that controls a product’s viscosity, gets an 8 on Skin Deep (http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/ingredient.php?ingred06=721974) for its ability to irritate as well as poison organs.
Finally, the coloring Blue 1, which is found in many shave gels, bioaccumulates in skin and there is evidence of human neurotoxicity associated with Aluminum Lakes colors.
All of these chemicals are approved for use by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in small quantities, based on 2002 reviews by the Cosmetics Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel (http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/ingredient.php?ingred06=721974), an independent panel of pharmacologists, professors, and biochemists affiliated with prestigious universities and clinics. CIR, established in 1976, have also called public concerns about Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS, also found in foaming shave products) a “myth.”
However even in CIR’s treatise about the SLS “myth,” (http://www.cir-safety.org/staff_files/alerts.pdf) the experts state that products which contain SLS are “designed for brief, discontinuous use, following which they are thoroughly rinsed from the surface of the skin.”
One wonders about those times she performed a quick tub-side shave and rinse before throwing on some shorts and heading out the door to meet friends for lunch.
CIR further acknowledges that studies of mice epidermal layers indicate a “need for tumor-enhancing activity assays” of SLS. The panel was kind enough to ban a few handfuls of chemicals, such as chloroform and mercury. See the list of FDA prohibited cosmetic ingredients (http://www.cir-safety.org/staff_files/alerts.pdf) for further details about what the FDA has protected consumers from.
There are valid concerns about numerous ingredients in shaving and other beauty care products for their long-term effects. Fortunately, plant-based alternatives and simple natural ingredients do exist while CIR, FDA, and industry wrangle with the details. See the Green Health and Beauty Store (link) or make your own (jump link to shaving cream recipe on http://www.growandmake.com/health-beauty-recipes)