YOU think you’re doing everything right; looking after your teeth, exfoliating your skin, trying not to smell. But are you? Because when headlines emerge, suggesting that some of your favourite everyday hygiene products could actually be endangering your health – or the environment – confusion abounds.

This week, reports claimed that a major toothpaste brand contains small traces of a cancer-causing chemical called Triclosan. Scary stuff – but do we really need to be concerned?

Here’s a swift sniff at some of the frightening cosmetics claims from recent times.

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THE papers are screaming panic about triclosan, but the truth is thankfully far calmer.

“Triclosan is a widely used antibacterial agent and is a constituent of many oral healthcare products,” says leading periodontologist, Professor Robin Seymour. “When used in this manner, the effect of triclosan is purely topical and very transient. While there is a risk the triclosan could be swallowed, the amount and dosage is so low that it would be difficult to quantify.”

He adds that the benefits of triclosan also need to be positioned against any risk. “There’s overwhelming evidence that regular use of triclosan-containing products improves oral health in terms of plaque control and gingivitis.

There’s also increasing evidence that good oral health can reduce the risk of a variety of lifethreatening conditions, like coronary heart disease, stroke, malignancy and also diabetic control.”

Seymour goes on to point out there’s also no evidence from human trials that triclosan increases the risk of cancer, and some research even indicates that triclosan may be an effective inhibitor of cancer cell growth.

Nail varnish

YOU might think you’re making your fingers look pretty, but a couple of years ago, a report about nail varnish showed a far uglier truth; that most leading brands contained a number of carcinogenic chemicals – formaldehyde, a hardening agent, toluene, to evenly suspend colour, and the plasticizer dibutyl phthalate, to add flexibility and sheen. Dubbed “the toxic trio”, many companies were forced to remove the chemicals, but a US investigation in 2012 revealed many products still contained them.

It might sound terrifying, and for certain people – beauticians, nail parlour workers or anyone else in constant exposure to the polish – it is a concern. But for most occasional users, experts say it’s nothing to worry about.


MANY of us remember the scare a few years ago about deodorants causing cancer. But was it founded? Do we all need to ditch the roll-on and risk going au naturel? No, is the simple answer.

The more extensive response, from Cancer Research UK, is: “Research compared breast cancer rates in women who use deodorants, antiperspirants and underarm shaving products with breast cancer rates in women who don’t. No increased risk of breast cancer was found with either deodorant or antiperspirant use, whether the products were applied within an hour of shaving or not.”

This study, of 1,500 people, matched women who’d had breast cancer, with women of similar ages and circumstances who hadn’t.

Sun cream

EARLIER this summer, a survey by Which?

revealed a number of sun creams were not doing what they said on the tin, with three major brands failing to match the SPF they claimed. A month later, another study warned that wearing even a good sun cream is not a reliable way of preventing skin cancer.

As the summer rumbles on, in a nation where rates of skin cancer are surging, these stories are alarming. So what can you do? As with most things, be sensible – do wear sun cream, but also cover yourself up with hats and clothing and keep in the shade when the sun’s at its hottest.

Microbead scrubs

THERE was a time when microbeads were all the rage in body and face scrubs, if you wanted smooth, glowing skin. But recently, the tiny plastic balls have been the subject of controversial headlines and many people are calling for them to be banned, due to their environmental impact.

Marine species have been mistaking microbeads, which have been flushed down plugholes and into the sea, for food. Microbeads absorb pesticides and flame retardants, so they’re also poisonous to marine life. Want to avoid endangering the sea and its inhabitants? Give microbeads the heave-ho.