TORONTO – A Canadian environmental organization is warning men about toxic ingredients in their personal grooming products.
Environmental Defence has released a report detailing the prevalence of toxins in commonly used products marketed toward men, including shaving cream, deodorant, body wash and aftershave.
To date, most of the research done on toxic chemicals in cosmetics has been geared toward women. However, the organization said the male personal care industry is growing, worth more than $690 million in Canada alone.
According to the U.S.-based Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, the average American man uses six grooming products a day, which contain over 80 different chemicals, many of which are absorbed into the skin, inhaled or ingested.
In their study, Environmental Defence tested 17 common male grooming products recommended to them by men across Canada.
They found that of the 17, four contained probable human carcinogens, five contained chemicals detrimental to reproductive health, and ten contained artificial musks, some of which have been linked to male hormone disruption.
The health issues that have been linked to these hormone-disrupting chemicals include sperm damage, obesity, prostate cancer and testicular cancer.
Health Canada requires that cosmetic products carry a list of all ingredients – with the exception of ingredients in fragrance, considered to be a “trade secret.” Fragrance mixtures may contain up to 3,000 ingredients, listed simply as “fragrance” or “parfum.”
Other exceptions to Health Canada’s labelling regulation are impurities that get into products through contamination and when a product contains phthalates – a type of endocrine-disrupting chemical used to hold the colour and scent in cosmetic products – which don’t need to be listed as an ingredient.
Also, when a product makes a health claim – such as “treats dandruff” – it is then governed under the Food and Drugs Act, which is not subject to the same labelling regulations as cosmetics.
The organization said the results from their testing were cause for concern, however unless a consumer has a specific allergy or sensitivity, immediate effects from exposure to these toxins is not likely. The problem, they said, is the long-term effect exposure to these toxins could have.
The long-term effects haven’t been studied extensively and researchers worry that these toxins, when mixed with other chemicals in our environment, could create a “chemical cocktail” where it is nearly impossible to know all of the effects it could have on humans.
The researchers also warn that these chemicals could be harmful even at extremely low doses, turning the previous wisdom that “the dose makes the poison” on its head.
In 2011, the Canadian government restricted the amount of phthalates in children’s toys and child care products. However, phthalates are still commonly found in cosmetic products such as nail polish and deodorant.  
Environmental Defence makes several recommendations to the cosmetic industry, governments and consumers, including enacting similar bans as the ones in Europe, disclosing all ingredients in a product on the label and online, and removing chemicals known, or suspected to be harmful, from products.  
To help consumers choose safer products, Environmental Defence has published a list called the “Toxic Ten,” which lists ten substances that can be found in Canadian products, many of which have been banned or restricted in European markets.
The Toxic Ten 
Triclosan: found in products labelled antibacterial. Linked to endocrine disruption, allergies, dermatitis and may have a depressant effect on the central nervous system.
Artificial musks: found in products that contain fragrance. Linked to hormone disruption, allergies, headaches, dizziness and immune system toxicity.
Parabens: found in various cosmetics and moisturizers. Linked to increased risk of breast cancer, immune system and organ toxicity, probable carcinogen.
Dibutyl Phthalates (DBP): found in nail products. A known carcinogen, linked to genital abnormalities and testicular cancer.
Petrolatum: found in various skin, lip and hair products. Linked to skin irritation and allergies. Could be contaminated with cancer-causing substances.
Formaldehyde releasing agents: found in various hair products, moisturizers and cosmetics. Linked to immune system toxicity and skin irritation. A probable carcinogen.
Sodium laureth sulphate and sodium lauryl sulphate: found in products that lather like shampoo and body wash. Linked to eye and respiratory tract irritation and is a possible carcinogen. Can also affect the brain and nervous system, cause endocrine system disruption and have reproductive effects.
Silicone chemicals: found in various hair products, moisturizers and cosmetics. Detrimental effects of the environment. Also possible carcinogen and reproductive toxin.
Coal tar derived colours: found in hard dye. Linked to certain types of cancer, dermatitis and severe facial oedema.
BHA and BHT: found in makeup, moisturizers and some fragrances. Linked to carcinogenicity, endocrine disruption, development toxicity and allergies.
For more on these substances and how to identify them on a product’s ingredient list, click here.