Chemicals in men’s grooming products linked with cancer, obesity

Jordana Divon
·Contributing Writer

Every week it seems as though there's a new study detailing how everything we eat, drink, or inhale is colluding to make us ill and this week is no exception.

This week, a Toronto-based organization called Environmental Defence has released a Movember-timed report that targets men, and specifically, some of the grooming products they're likely to employ come December 1 to shave off that mo'stache.

The report claims certain chemicals found in the shaving creams, deodorants, body washes and shampoos in men's products have been linked to a list of serious health issues ranging from sperm damage to cancer to birth defects.

These chemicals, they say, are not listed on the products' ingredients list.

Also see: Extreme beauty procedures sending more women to ER

"People tend to think of this as a women's issue, but we wanted to raise awareness that guy's products also need to be looked at," Maggie MacDonald, Environmental Defence's program manager, tells CTV's Canada AM.

"Consumers can protect themselves, but only if they are educated and aware."

Researchers tested 17 common products and said they found 1,4-Dioxane, a known carcinogen, in some and phthalates — a chemical that's been linked to male reproductive health issues — in others.

In fact, phthalates, often used to make fragrances for body care products, have recently been banned in Denmark, while the article notes that the federal government in Canada has clamped down on the use of six different phthalates in children's products.

MacDonald tells the news network that immediate reactions won't be visible unless someone is extremely sensitive, but that the toxins build up in the body over time.

The organization has published their report along with a Toxic Ten list of chemicals to avoid while perusing the drugstore aisles. In addition to the phthalates and the 1,4-Dioxane these no-nos include parabens, Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA), a chemical used in preservatives, and Sodium Laureth Sulfate, which the reports lists as a skin irritant.

And they've also put out a shortlist of the most egregious offenders in the personal product zone. Those products include:

  • L'Oreal Preference Ultimate Black Hair Dye (five ingredients of concern, including 1,4-Dioxane).

  • Pert Plus 2-in-1 Shampoo and Conditioner for medium hair (four ingredients of concern, including 1,4-Dioxane and phthalates).

  • Gillette Foamy Regular Shave Foam (four ingredients of concern, including artificial musks and sodium lauryl sulfate).

  • Calvin Klein "Obsession" Aftershave (four ingredients of concern, including phthalates and artificial musks).

  • Old Spice High Endurance Deodorant/Pure Sport (three ingredients of concern, including phthalates and artificial musks).

  • Speed Stick Stain Guard Deodorant/Fresh (three ingredients of concern, including artificial musk).

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The organization has a long track record of publishing studies that detail the danger in our everyday products.

In 2008, their landmark research on the bisphenol A (BPA) found in baby bottles got the substance banned in Canada, while their Just Beautiful campaign, launched two years ago, takes a hardline stance against the chemicals used in all beauty products.

However, their work has not escaped the attention of critics, some of whom accuse the Canadian non-profit of harbouring an agenda beyond environmental concern.

Until Health Canada makes a decision whether or not to include these new findings on their Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist, however, here's their most recently updated version of chemicals to avoid.