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Be Well Series - Harmful Chemicals - What do you have in your bathroom?

what harmful chemicals do you have hiding in your bathroom?

On one long weekend, I decided to reorganize my bathroom counter. As I was picking up bottles of lotion and cleansers and rearranging them on the shelf, I couldn’t help but notice the long names of the ingredients listed. I recalled an article I came across a few months back about harmful chemicals used in household items. Back then I thought, it couldn’t be that bad, right? After all, if the ingredients are harmful, why would people buy them? The names of these ingredients were difficult to pronounce, let alone for me to remember. So I forgot about the article after a while. This time, I was determined. I took pictures of the ingredients and looked them up. And so the weekend research began.

Taking Inventory

I took inventory of 10 different bottles randomly from my bathroom counter I shared with my husband. Here is the breakdown: 2 bottles of body washes, 1 hair spray, 1 bottle of hand soap, 4 different kinds of lotion (not all of them belonged to me!), 1 men's facial cleanser, 1 shower gel.

Start Digging

I used Environmental Working Group’s skin deep database as the primary tool for my research ( They have a comprehensive product database, so I thought I could save some time by searching for the products for their hazard ratings. Unfortunately, only 2 out of 10 items showed up. So, I took down all the ingredients (except water) from the bottles and came up with a list. Then I sorted the list by the number of times it shows up in the items.

EWG Skin Deep Ratings
EWG Data Availability Rating

The Results

From the 10 bottles, there are over 110 unique ingredients (excluding water). Out of these ingredients, 8 of them have an EWG “high concern rating” of 7 or higher (highlighted in light green below). Oh wow, I am putting harmful chemicals willingly on my body every single day!

Chemicals in personal care products result

What I learned from this

The EWG's Skin Deep Database has lots of information and data points for reference. I encourage you to browse through their web site.

Something worth pointing out from my quick research:

  • Awareness - Until now, I had no idea how many different kinds of things I use on a regular basis, let alone what is in the every day items that I use: lotion, facial cleaner, shampoo, body wash, or even make up. I wasn't aware of it, and I wasn't going to pay attention. With this little experiment, I am becoming more aware. Ignorance is not bliss. Certainly I am not going to get paranoid about every item I use. But when I buy my next lotion, you bet I will pay attention to the label.

  • Fragrance (Parfum) - 9 out of my 10 bottles contains fragrance. The word "fragrance" or "parfum" on the product label represents an undisclosed mixture of various scented chemicals and ingredients used as fragrance dispersants. Simply put, I really don't know what's in it. Do I want the largest organ of my body to absorb unknown chemicals that can seep through my entire body every day? Now that I know, NOT ANYMORE!

  • Some bottles don't even have ingredients listed - I have some body sprays at home that don't have any ingredients listed on the bottle. Same goes to the air freshener cans. Some air fresheners reference some kind of proprietary formula (it says visit their web site for details) And I bought those and spray them every where in the house to breathe in! I am not sure if the manufacturer has the information listed on their web site. Did I bother to look it up? No! Am I going to do so next time? YES!

Treble C is azendea's resident blogger. Before joining azendea, Treble C loved sniffing fragrances at department stores. She can be reached at

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