What's in those beauty products? New health movement aims to bring awareness to toxic chemicals

From shampoo to sunscreen, we all use products to look and feel better. But could some ingredients actually be making the problem worse?

“Definitely make sure there are no parabens, no sulfates, mineral oils, that’s a good place to at least start,” said Melissa Lenberg, a makeup artist and owner of Citrine Natural Beauty Bar in the Biltmore Fashion Park.

Lenberg says toxic chemicals linked to cancer, hair loss, and even reproductive harm are common side effects of commonly-used chemicals.

“This is everything you use on your body. This is your deodorant, your toothpaste, your hair products,” said Lenberg. “Formaldehyde is a poison; it’s what we use to embalm bodies. But it’s also what they use to give products their shelf life.”

New, free apps like “Think Dirty” and websites from the Environmental Working Group aim to educate consumers about the ingredients in everyday products. Just scan the barcode or type in the brand name to find out the potential risks of a certain product.

According to the Campaign for Safe Products , some of the big ingredients to watch out for include:

Mercury - found in some eye drops, ointment and deodorants

Lead acetate - found in some hair dyes and cleanser

Formaldehyde and toluene - found in nail products

Coal tar - found in dandruff shampoos, anti-itch creams and hair dyes

Placenta - found in some hair relaxers, moisturizers and toners

Phthalates - found in some nail polish, fragrances and hair spray

Lenberg has been researching health and beauty products for nearly a decade. She suggests using products that are all-natural, like jojoba and coconut oils. A good rule – if you can’t pronounce it, it’s probably not good for you.

“We love to feel pretty, but we also want to be healthy and safe too,” said Lenberg.

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