The study of Breasts (not what you are thinking)

I came across this when I tuned in to regular NPR programming. An intriguing study by a science journalist, Florence Williams, when she decided to test her own breast milk and shipped a sample to a lab in Germany. In her new book, Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History, she started an investigation on “why breasts are getting bigger and developing earlier, why tumors seem to gravitate toward the breast, and how toxins from the environment may be affecting hormones and breast development.” A subject always interests me from health and environmental perspective. 

I found a great blog post on an extensive list of toxic ingredients in our beauty and bath products. Would love to share here with everyone. It’s great to keep it in mind when shopping.



Here is your list - The Toxic ingredients in our everyday beauty & bath products

We are all so busy, so many of us have kids and are trying to juggle family, work, money, our health and the health of our family at all the same time. We all need to be as healthy and as energetic as possible and we can no longer be wasting money on tubs of toxic chemicals just because they come in beautiful packaging. Beauty & Bath products listing any of these on the label do nothing but mess with our hormones, zap us of energy and put us at risk of cancer and disease.

(Source: Dr Mercola, EWG, The Chemical Maze)

1. Parabens - Propylparaben, Methylparaben, Butylparaben.  These are synthetic preservatives used in an estimated 13,200 cosmetic and skin care products. Studies link these with beast cancer because their hormone-disrupting qualities mimic estrogen and can disrupt our body’s endocrine system.

2. Mineral Oil, Paraffin, and Petrolatum - These petroleum products coat the skin like plastic – clogging pores and creating a build-up of toxins. They can slow cellular development, creating earlier signs of aging. They’re implicated as a suspected cause of cancer. Plus, they can disrupt hormonal activity. 

3. Sodium laurel or lauryl sulfate (SLS), also known as sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) - An engine degreaser, used to break down your skin’s moisture barrier, potentially leading to dry skin with premature aging. And because they easily penetrate your skin, they can allow other chemicals easy access. SLS combined with other chemicals may become a “nitrosamine” – a potent carcinogen.

4. Acrylamide - Found in many facial creams. Linked to mammary tumors.

5. Propylene glycol - Common cosmetic moisturizer and carrier for fragrance oils. A potential cause of dermatitis, may inhibit skin cell growth and linked to kidney and liver problems.

6. Phenol carbolic acid - Found in many lotions and skin creams. Can cause circulatory collapse, paralysis, convulsions, coma, and even death from respiratory failure.

7. Dioxane - Hidden in ingredients such as PEG, polysorbates, laureth, ethoxylated alcohols. Very common in personal care products. These chemicals are often contaminated with high concentrations of highly volatile 1,4-dioxane that’s easily absorbed through the skin. Its carcinogenicity was first reported in 1965, and later confirmed in studies including one from the National Cancer Institute in 1978.

8. Toluene - May be very poisonous!  Made from petroleum and coal tar… found in most synthetic fragrances. Chronic exposure linked to anemia, lowered blood cell count, liver or kidney damage…May affect a developing fetus.

9. Urea - Including diazolindyl urea, imidazolindyl urea. Common preservatives that release formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, that is irritating to the mucous membranes and known to cause contact dermatitis, headaches and internal bleeding.

10. Phthalates - Including di-butyl-phthalate, di-ethylhexyl-phthalate. Used as a plasticizer in everything from skincare, cosmetics, nail polish, perfume to hair products and deodorants. Known to cause damage to the liver, kidneys, lungs and reproductive system. Suspected of causing birth defects.

12. Diethanolamine (DEA) and Triethanolamine (TEA) - These chemicals can react with other ingredients in the cosmetic product to form potent carcinogenic chemicals called nitrosamines.

13. Synthetic Fragrances. “Fragrance” on an ingredient list can refer to a combination of any of the thousand separate ingredients used to make up the “fragrance”, many of which are phthalates (ie. toxic carcinogens and hormone disruptors).

14. Synthetic Colors - such as FD&C Yellow 5, FD&C Red 40. These are labeled FD&C or D&C followed by a number, they are known to cause skin irritation and sensitivity. Many are also believed to be carcinogenic.

Why organic and natural?

My friends always ask me why you care about eating and shopping for organic so much? There’s one simple logic behind my consumption choice. I vote with my money to support companies I believe in. The only way to show the market that we want more of products that are safe and good for the environment is to show there’s demands for them, so they will make more.

To understand better how toxic chemicals are everywhere, I saw this 3 part video on youtube from Environmental Working Group that explains it really well. It’s worth 10 mins of your time to at least watch the first part.

GOOD Design Hackathon entry – Think Dirty

As I babbled all over linkedin and twitter, I went on a very impulsive trip to enter a competition. It’s unplanned and very last minute. But I enjoyed every min of it. The Design Hackathon is organized by GOOD magazine. It’s my favourite magazine which covers design, technology and social innovations. I have been a fan for years since it’s 1st issue in 2005. So here’s my entry. The brief is dead-simple. In 48 hours, think about how to use the world as interface, and help NYorkers to be better citizens. I chose the cause close to heart, that is, safe personal products. I am still hoping this will be my reality some day. 
Attn: iOS/Android devs if you stumbled upon and would like to partner - give me a shout out.

Do you like chewing gums? Read on if you do.

So as an organic/health nerd, I obsess about non-GMO and organic food. I avoid hormone cows, I buy organic veggies, I use shampoo with no paraben, I chew regular gums. Guess which doesn’t belong? Regular gums. Why? Aspartame. 

I heard of aspartame. But what exactly is it? I thought I knew they are in diet soda which I don’t drink. But who knew they are in 80% of chewing gums! I am sure most people know the side effects of aspartame including cancer link, headache, if you have migraine, look again what you chew. But somehow the link of chewing a piece of substance will cause harm is still a new concept for me. Afterall we just want fresh breath… not poison. 

Because of this refreshing new perspective, I was in search of aspartame-free gums and you asked what’s in aspartame-free gums? They use non manmade sweetner xylitol hasn’t been implicated in any cancer causing studies. 

I found 2 options:

pur gum.

I found these in Whole Foods and personally tried it. It’s not as long lasting, but hey, you are chewing poison so… it’s worth it. It’s $1.79 at Whole Foods and $1.49 at smaller store.

Glee gums

This gum claims to be all-natural, no preservatives and no aspartame. And its gum base is made from all natural ingredients. Gum base is the indigestible part of the gum that gives it a chewy texture. It is the part of the gum that you discard after chewing. Most gum base is made of entirely synthetic materials. Glee Gum is the only gum made in North America with a gum base that contains chicle (natural latex of the Manilkara zapota, known as the sapodilla tree) and a mix of natural and synthetic materials. The exact formula is (unfortunately!) confidential. It is safe to chew, but, like all chewing gum, we don’t recommend that you swallow!

The packaging is not as nice (I notice things as a designer ^_^) and I haven’t tried it.

Further readings:

F.D.A. Panel to Consider Warnings for Artificial Food Colorings, March 29th,


Non-Toxic Nail Polishes - do they exist?

Every women love mani-pedi. The trick is how to enjoy this ultimate treat without getting toxics in your body? Most nail salons use 2 of the most popular brands: OPI and Essie.
Here’s the result of a simple search in Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database

Essie nail color polish, plumberry
(rating: 6/10 - 10 being most toxic) 

OPI Nail Lacquer, Yes I Can-Can
(rating: 4/10 - 10 being most toxic)

Both choices are not the safest, and that’s almost ALL nail salons use. I was looking for other alternatives, and through some magazine I read about Butter London

According to its about us page it said it’s “3 free”, which means 3 Free (non-toxic) nail lacquers and revolutionary waterless nail services. butter LONDON products are formulated without the use of the harmful ingredients like Formaldehyde, Toluene, DBP or Parabens”.

Out of curiosity, I went to Skin Deep database and did a quick check, this is what I found:

butter LONDON 3 Free Nail Lacquer, Come to Bed Red
(rating 6/10, 10 being most toxic) 

It doesn’t contain the 3 ingredients as claims. But the top 2 most toxic ingredients are equally bad for you.

So what can we do!? I was looking around and found these non-toxic alternatives. 

Rated by EWG Skin Deep


Honeybee Garden 

Not rated by EWG Skin Deep

Scotch Naturals

I personally tried this nail polish. It’s completely odorless. The packaging looks great. It’s quick dry. It’s doesn’t like your nails are not breathing. I personally feel it’s a nice break for my nails. 


Further readings:

If you tried any non-toxic ones and have a product review to share, email or tweet me!