Harmful Ingredients


Parabens are a class of chemicals widely used as preservatives in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries, in many types of formulas. These compounds, and their salts, are used primarily for their bactericidal and fungicidal properties. They can be found in shampoos, commercial moisturizers, shaving gels, personal lubricants, topical/parenteral pharmaceuticals, spray tanning solution, makeup, and toothpaste. They are also used as food additives.

Their efficacy as preservatives, in combination with their low cost, the long history of their use, and the inefficacy of natural alternatives like grapefruit seed extract (GSE), probably explains why parabens are so commonplace. Parabens are becoming increasingly controversial, however, because they have been found in extremely low concentrations in breast cancer tumors (an average of 20 nanograms/g of tissue). Parabens have also displayed the ability to weakly mimic estrogen (a hormone known to play a role in the development of breast cancer).

Common parabens are methylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben.

Parabens and other synthetic preservatives are known to cause irritations to sensitive skin. Parabens were also found to cause heart tissue problems over an extended time period. They are suspected to influence breast cancer and are known endocrine disruptors that influence the hormonal system and can affect fetal development.

All Progress in Health, Inc. products are 100% free from all parabens. We only use safe, naturally derived preservatives such as elderberry extract and gluconolactone/sodium benzoate.


Phthalates is an ingredient found in many beauty and personal care products, most notably as a carrier for fragrances. Under current FDA labeling regulations, this ingredient can often be labelled just as “Fragrance”, or “Trade Secret” although it is a major component in the composition of the product. In other products, it is listed, but as an acronym which makes it harder to identify.

Below is a list of common names for the phthalates found in personal care products:

Phthlate Name Common Usage
BzBP or Benzylbutyl Phthalate Vinyl flooring, car-care products, and personal care products DBP or di-n-butyl phthalatein nail polish and other personal care products DEP or diethyl phthalatepersonal care products, such as deodorants, perfume, cologne, candles, room sprays, plug ins, aftershave lotion, shampoo, hair gel, hand lotion.


Animal-based studies of phthalates have found that the synthetic chemicals can harm reproductive system development, and studies in humans have found that prenatal exposure or exposure through breast milk can alter hormone concentrations.

A recent study was carried out by researchers on 163 babies and toddlers in the Pacific Northwest at the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Hospital Research Institute, and was published in the journal Pediatrics. The study’s lead author, Sheela Sathyanarayana, an acting assistant professor of pediatrics, said, “We found that infant exposure to phthalates is widespread, and that exposure to personal care products applied onto the skin may be an important source.”

“This is troubling, because phthalate exposure in early childhood has been associated with altered hormone concentrations as well as increased allergies, runny nose, and eczema. Babies may be more at risk than children or adults because their reproductive, endocrine, and immune systems are still developing.”

The study recommended that parents, who want to decrease their baby’s exposure to phthalates, should limit the amount of baby care products used on the infant, and apply lotions or powders only if medically indicated.

Babies recently treated with infant personal care products such as lotion, shampoo, and powder, were more likely to have phthalates in their urine than other babies.

Researchers found that the use of baby powder, lotion, and shampoo were each strongly associated with higher phthalate levels in the urine. Babies, who were 8 months old or younger, had stronger associations between product use and phthalate concentrations, as did babies whose mothers used more infant personal care products.

Europeans, taking a ‘better safe than sorry’ approach, have banned phthalates from personal care products. This is not the case with US made products.

Progress in Health, Inc. products are phthalates free. We use only pure organic essential oils in our formulations.

All of our color cosmetics are 100% unscented (no need mask any odors or rancidity like commercial products) and we offer skin care products that are unscented as well.

Polyethylene Glycol (PEG)

Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) is commonly used in cosmetics in the form of cleansing agents, emulsifiers, skin conditioners, and surfactants.

According to a report in the International Journal of Toxicology by the cosmetic industry’s own Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) committee, impurities found in various PEG compounds include ethylene oxide; 1,4-dioxane; polycyclic aromatic compounds; and heavy metals such as lead, iron, cobalt, nickel, cadmium, and arsenic. Many of these impurities are linked to cancer. Despite this, the CIR concludes that many PEG compounds “are safe for use” in cosmetics but adds that PEG compounds should “not be used on damaged skin.”

PEG compounds have been found to open the pores of the skin, enabling environmental toxins to more easily enter the body. Examples of these environmental toxins are DDT and DDE, both of which have the ability to influence the endocrine and reproductive systems.

PEG is also known to cause allergic reactions on skin with sun exposure, otherwise known as “Mallorca Acne”.

According to the Environmental Working Group, the following percentages of common toiletries contain PEG compounds and other impurities that are linked to breast cancer:

  • Mousse 90.3%
  • Hair Dye 79.5%
  • Baby Bath Wash 73.8%
  • Douche/Personal Cleanser 58.3%
  • Menopause Cream 54.5%
  • Depilatory Cream/Hair Remover 48.2%
  • Baby Lotion/Oil 46.4%
  • Anti-Itch/Rash Cream 46.3%
  • After Sun Products 45.5%
  • Lip Balm/Treatment 43.6%
  • Moisturizer 43.1%
  • Deodorant 42.7%
  • Facial Moisturizer/Treatment 42.0%
  • Shaving Products 41.3%
  • Anti-Aging Treatment 41.0%
  • Styling Product 39.6%
  • Eye Treatment 38.8%
  • Concealer 37.9%
  • Foot Odor/Cream/Treatment 37.3%
  • Conditioner 35.2%

There is absolutely no need, whatsoever, for such toxic ingredients, except for companies that put their bottom line before their customers good health.

Progress in Health, Inc. products are PEG free.


Ethoxylation is a chemical process in which ethylene oxide is added to fatty acids to make them more soluble in water. An example of this process is the ethoxylation of sodium dodecyl sulfate to form sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) , often used in shampoos and toothpastes as a foaming agent. The problem with Ethoxylation is its use of a petrochemical called Ethylene Oxide, which generates 1,4-Dioxane as a by-product “known to the State of California to cause cancer”. Additionally, it is suspected by the Californian EPA to be a kidney toxicant, neurotoxicant and respiratory toxicant, among others.

1,4-Dioxane is commonly found in many conventional shampoos, body washes, lotions and other personal care and household cleaning products but a recent study commission by the Organic Consumers Association found this substance in many popular “natural” and “organic” brands. This same study found products certified by the USDA National Organic Program and the European BDIH foundation to be FREE of 1,4-Dioxane.

A copy of the Organic Consumer Association Consumer Alert on 1,4-Dioxane can be found HERE.

In a study conducted by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, 32 out of 48 children’s skin care products tested positive for 1,4 Dioxane at levels of 0.27 to 35 ppm.


Diethanolamine (DEA)

Diethanolamine (DEA) is a common wetting agent used in shampoos, skin care and cosmetics. It creates a rich lather in shampoos and produces a nice consistency in skin care products, (at the expense of your health). On its own, it is harmless, but when combined with other ingredients in a shampoo, cream or lotion, it reacts to produce nitrosodiethanolamine (NDEA), an extremely carcinogenic compound which can easily be absorbed through the skin. It has been linked to stomach, bladder and intestinal cancers.

Avoid products with these ingredients:

  • Cocamide DEA or Cocamide Diethanolamine
  • DEA Lauryl Sulfate or Diethanolamine Lauryl Sulfate
  • Lauramide DEA or Lauramide Diethanolamine
  • Linoleamide DEA or Linoleamide Diethanolamine
  • Oleamide DEA or Oleamide Diethanolamine
  • Any product containing TEA or Triethanolamine

Skin Deep ranks this ingredient with a safety score of 8 (high hazard) and rightly so.


Some ingredients release formaldehyde, which is linked to cancer. The EPA classifies it as a possible carcinogen. The following ingredients either release or breakdown into formaldehyde:

  • bronopol (or 2-brono-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol)
  • diazolidinyl urea
  • DMDM hydantion
  • imidazolidinyl urea
  • quaternium 15

In a study conducted by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics on 28 children’s skin care products, 23 (or 82%) contained formaldehyde at levels between 54-610ppm.

Progress in Health, Inc. products contain no formaldehyde.

Synthetic Colors

Synthetic color or FD&C colors are mostly derived from coal tar. Many have been banned as a food additive by the FDA for various reasons (carcinogenicity, allergy inducing, general toxicity, etc.) Gaining new attention for illnesses in children, they have been shown in clinical studies to cause various types of cancer.

A few of these colors have now been banned from cosmetic use. For instance, the FDA has already banned the new use of Red No.3, a carcinogen that may interfere with nerve transmission in the brain and cause genetic damage.

Long term studies have shown that regular lipstick wearers ingest approximately 2 ½ pounds of lipstick over 20 years. Any synthetic colors are ingested along with the lipstick.

Synthetic colors, IF listed on a product, will appear as FD&C or D&C followed by a number (example: FD&C Red No. 6). Given the various health risks associated with synthetic colors, if it appears in the ingredients of personal care (or food) products……….avoid it!

Progress in Health, Inc. products use only 100% natural colors, and are completely free of FD&C colors.

Synthetic Fragrances

Synthetic fragrances commonly used in personal care products are complex formulations containing as many as 200 ingredients. They are used in place of pure, natural, essential-oil fragrances, because they are far more affordable.

The most adverse reactions to cosmetics and toiletries are usually caused by fragrance chemicals, which are known irritants and allergens. Many of us have encountered synthetic fragrances that cause us to sneeze or give us headaches, dizziness, violent coughing, or even rash outbreaks, and other skin irritations. This is why most “hypoallergenic” products are fragrance free.

On an ingredient label, fragrances, whether synthetic or natural, are simply listed as “fragrance”, “perfume” or “parfum”, preventing us from identifying the chemical makeup, and whether these chemicals may be dangerous to our long-term health.

Progress in Health, Inc. products are 100% natural, and DO NOT CONTAIN ANY synthetic fragrances.

We use only the purest, 100% natural, pharmaceutical-grade essential oils!

Synthetic Sunscreens

Scientific studies by Switzerland’s Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology conducted in 2001 prove chemical sunscreens have detrimental consequences. Chemical compounds in sunscreens accumulate in body fats and in mother’s breast milk. These chemicals mimic estrogen and can cause hormonal changes within the body such as increasing the size of the uterus.

Additionally, synthetic sunscreens are not immediately effective, requiring a 20-30 minute delay after application before they become effective.

Progress in Health, Inc. uses, a 100% natural mineral sunblock, in cream form. This product is absolutely safe, even for children, and protects immediately against UV A, B & C rays. It does not alter the healthy functioning of internal organs and reproductive hormones.

Synthetic sunscreen chemicals to avoid:

  • 4-Methyl-Benzylidencamphor (4-MBC)
  • Oxybenzone Benzophenone-3
  • Octyl-methoyl-cinnamates (OMC)
  • Octyl-Dimethyl-Para-Amino-Benzoic Acid (OD-PABA)
  • Homosalate(HMS)


Nanoparticles are defined by the US government as particles smaller than 100 nanometers. One nanometer (1nm) is 1 billionth of a meter, and a human hair, in comparison, is 80,000nm. By making minerals this size or smaller, ingredients that, at one time were considered safe are no longer. Nanoparticles are becoming a base-norm in cosmetics, and body care products, but they’re also showing up in everything from packaging, to clothing fabrics.

The FDA has not yet made a determination on the safety of nanoparticles, hence their use in beauty products continue. The term “micronized” is often misleading, used to advertise nano-sized particles, hence it is very important to verify the size of the particles being used in your beauty products.

Progress in Health, Inc. does not use nano-sized particles and the mineral particles used in our products are larger than 100nm and oil/water soluble.

There are concerns also with TiO2 particles being inhaled and entering the blood stream. This is exactly why all Progress in Health, Inc. mineral products are only available in cream, liquid and solid forms.

Methylisothiazolinone (MIT)

Methylisothiazolinone (MIT) is becoming increasingly popular as a preservative to replace parabens. Even some products claiming to be “certified organic” use this preservative, as certain percentages of non-organic material is allowed by the USDA.

In lab studies, the bacteria-killing agent was shown to restrict the growth of immature rat nerve cells. Studies on live animals are still needed to confirm the findings. Researchers say the early test tube evidence suggests that prolonged exposure to MIT, or exposure to the chemical at high concentrations, could damage the nervous system.

“The biggest potential concern, says lead researcher Elias Aizenman, PhD, of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, is for the fetuses of pregnant women exposed to high doses of MIT.”

Read more about MIT in the CBS article Shampoo Preservative Concerns.


CHECK THE FACTS STRAIGHT FROM FDA: Lipstick and Lead: Questions and Answers (with a lead comparison chart on the most common, commercial brands).

Think of the fact that some women wear lipstick, 24-7-365! Over the course of a lifetime, that’s a whole lot of lipstick (and lead) to swallow! Four pounds according to Glamour Magazine, six pounds according to urban lore, and nine pounds according to the consumer advocacy group, Environment Working Group (EWG).

According to a study released by Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a division of EWG, more than 60% of the 33 famous brands studied contained lead, with levels ranging up to 0.65 parts per million. All the regular names you’ve known and used. Lead is a known neurotoxin that has been linked to brain damage and miscarriages, among other things. No lipstick ingredient labels list lead.

The Food and Drug Administration does not limit lead in cosmetics, like it does in candy. In fact, one third of the lipstick brands exceed the FDA limit for lead in candy: 0.1 parts per million. The levels ranged from 0.03 – 0.65 ppm. Very small amounts mind you, but lead levels build up in the body over time.

But it’s not just lead – parabens, synthetic colors (derived from coal-tar), synthetic fragrances, phthalates, and BHA are all questionable ingredients in many lipsticks, with side-effects that range from skin irritations to being suspected carcinogens.

No, you don’t have to swear off lipsticks forever – just pay attention to what you buy. Just as with food, look at the ingredient labels and stick with products that use certified organic ingredients and are certified natural.

Progress in Health, Inc. lip & cheek colors consist of all natural ingredients such as organic essential oils, candelilla wax, jojoba oil, and natural minerals such as mica and iron oxides.

Mineral Oil & Petroleum Jelly (Petrolatum)

VEGAN’S TAKE NOTE. Mineral oils listed as petrolatum (petroleum jelly), or C-18 derivatives are frequently used in personal care products such as lipsticks, lubricants, baby lotions, oils, and diaper rash creams. They commonly contain contaminants that studies have linked to cancer. UCLA studies links “high levels of exposure to mineral oils to increased mortality and incidence of lung cancer, … melanoma” Source: PubMed.com

Mineral oils are also known to clog pores, forming a barrier preventing skin from breathing, and eliminating toxins. Repeated use can even set off skin conditions such as acne and dermatitis.

Petroleum Jelly, or Petrolatum, is a semisolid compound derived from hydrocarbon. It can block the skin’s ability to moisturize itself, leading to chapped and dry skin, which are often conditions the product claims to alleviate. While Petrolatum on its own is not too harmful, it is often cheaply produced, where impurities and contaminants are not a concern. Frequently, Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons(PAH) are found, which have been linked in studies to breast cancer.

Petrolatum has been banned by the EU from use in cosmetics unless the source can be proven and the product shown to be pure. It is listed as a possible human carcinogen.

Progress in Health, Inc. ONLY uses botanical based oils!

Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS)

Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) is found in most shampoos and toothpastes. It is a known skin irritant and is absorbed through the skin and retained in the heart, liver and brain for long periods of time. It can cause damage to the eyes, even when absorbed through the skin. Exposure can lead to coughing, headaches, nausea and vomiting. It is an ingredient of great concern for scientists, especially when children are exposed to it.

Sodium Laureth Sulphate(SLES) is a milder version of SLS with an added ether-chain, and is regularly found in cleansers and shampoos. It is added to thicken and give a richer, creamier consistency. It can cause skin irritation, and should be kept away from children.

Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate(ALS) is also commonly used in shampoos and cleansers. It can irritate eyes, skin and lungs but is much milder and safer than SLS.

Sodium Lauryl Sulphoacetate(SLSA) sounds very similar to Sodium Lauryl Sulphate, and its very easy for one to draw the conclusion that its equally bad for the body. In fact that is not the case – the two are very different. Sodium Lauryl Sulphoacetate is a very mild foaming agent and has a Hazard Ranking of 1 (low hazard) in the Skin Deep database. It is derived from coconut and palm oils and creates a rich lather that can easily be rinsed away. Its molecular size is considerably larger than SLS – it is too large to penetrate the skin, unlike the much smaller SLS molecular that does penetrate the skin and lead to skin irritations and other problems.

All of the above are anionic surfactants (or wetting agents) which are used to lower the surface tension of water.

Genetically Modified Ingredients

Genetically modified organisms are frequently plants (but more increasingly livestock as well) that have been modified by scientists working for large corporations to engineer new traits into existing vegetable/& er…animal. Wikipedia provides a wealth of information on the topic of GMO food. This US PIRG (the national lobbying office of the state Public Interest Research Groups) report provides extensive data on the GMO issues.

GMO crops pose a great risk of largely unexplored threats to human health and the environment. For instance BT Corn is a GM corn from Monsanto that has inserted into its DNA a special trait from the bacillus thuringiensis bacteria that produces a powerful insecticide which kills a common corn pest: the corn borer. However, farmers have reported that the borer has grown resistant, while the plant is continues to kill additional insects such as the Monarch Butterfly and the Lacewing. Meanwhile, contaminated corn exposes humans to this modified DNA.

In the EU, GM maize (or corn for animal consumption) was approved in 1998. Since then, no new GM crops have been approved, despite complaints from the US and rulings by the World Trade Organization. Other GM plants are only allowed in Europe on university study fields under very strict supervision that strictly prevents any pollen drifting. In Europe, Norway, Austria, Germany, UK, Spain, Italy, Greece, France, Luxembourg, and Portugal have bans on GM crops. However, due to the presence of GM maize in Europe, the possibility of contaminated corn exists.

Organic farmers in the US are often finding that their crops are testing positive for GMO cross-contamination. The source of the problem comes from the cross-pollination of organic crops with GMO crops in neighboring farms, the presence of GMO seed in bags of “organic” seed, greed – misrepresentation of GMO products as organic for higher prices, and other factors. “According to the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, in 2004, 45 percent of corn, 85 percent of soybeans and 76 percent of cotton being grown in the United States were GMOs.”

According to an article from the Dow Jones, the USDA is wanting to “to cement into law its authority to do nothing when unapproved biotech material is discovered in crops”. This is the same USDA that certifies skin care products with the Certified Organic seal.

According to the article, “Dow AgroSciences in February 2008 reported discovering traces of an unapproved biotech material in three lines of corn seeds. The USDA said the unapproved biotech seed was planted on about 53,000 acres of U.S. farm land in 2007.” There have been number a class action lawsuit claiming damages for crops for human use being contaminated by gmo crops: StarLink Corn ProductsPonto vs Aventis Crop Science.

There is currently no requirements to test for GMO in organic crops, and in end products. According to Matthew Dillon, director of advocacy for the Organic Seed Alliance, “GMOs are an ‘excluded method’ in an organic program. It could threaten the farmer’s certification to ‘knowingly’ plant seed with GMO presence.”

The list of GM crops available is quite large:

  • Soybeans
  • Corn
  • Cotton
  • Hawaiian Papaya
  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Rapeseed
  • Sugar cane
  • Sugar beet
  • Sweet corn
  • Rice

Progress in Health, Inc. makes every effort to use only certified, organic, non-GMO rice, and corn starch, as well as sugar beets, which is what our vegan-friendly, lactic-acid is derived from.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *