The Chemical Naughty List for a Highly Sensitive Person

Nina Khoo gives us an insight into what we are subjecting our bodies to on a daily basis - without even realising it.

Before Christmas I had my hair cut. At an organic hair salon.

What I loved about the experience (apart from having the best head massage) was knowing that all the products used were safe & not causing any adverse effects to my health.

I’ve always preferred the more natural beauty products. Since realising I’m Highly Sensitive & therefore have a highly responsive nervous system, I’ve recognised how crucial it is to avoid chemical-laden products. I know if there are any nasties in the products I use, my skin & body will react to them.

Nail varnishes

Did you know the average person uses 8 to 10 products a day? Toothpaste, face wash, shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, moisturiser, hand cream/shaving foam…And that’s not even including any make-up or hair products.

Each of these items can have a list of ingredients a mile long, albeit written in super-microscopic print. That’s a lot of potential toxins our bodies need to cope with each day.

It’s easy to assume that the products we buy in the shops are safe to use. Think again. Chemicals widely used years ago have now been banned. Research has shown they cause skin irritation, respiratory problems, eczema, disrupt hormones & can even cause cancer. 

Scarily some chemicals, even though banned for years, are still showing up in new-born infants, showing they’re being stored in our bodies & passed on to the next unsuspecting generation.

So, which ingredients do we need to steer clear of in order to minimise our toxic load & safeguard our unborn children?

Chemical No-Nos:

Formaldehyde (found in many products, including hair straightening products, eye-lash glue & nail varnish)

  • Low levels of formaldehyde have been found to cause irritation of the eyes, nose, throat & skin. High or prolonged exposure can cause cancer.

Oxybenzone (found in sunscreen, lipstick & nail varnish)

  • May be found listed in products as ‘Benzophenone-3’. Researchers have found a link between oxybenzone, hormone disruption & allergies. Some evidence also shows it can cause cell damage, leading to skin cancer.

Parabens (found in many products, including deodorant, moisturiser, shampoo)

  • May be found listed in products as Butylparaben, Methylparaben & Propylparaben. Parabens are believed to disrupt hormone function by mimicking oestrogen. As an excess of oestrogen can trigger an increase in breast cell division & growth of tumours, paraben use has been linked to breast cancer & issues with reproduction.

Phthalates – try saying that after your Christmas party! - (found in many products, including soap, shampoo, hairspray, nail varnish, perfume) 

  • Phthalates come in many forms: Diethyl phthalate (DEP), dibutylphthalate (DBP), dimethylphthalate (DMP), di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP). DEP is commonly used as a solvent & fixative in fragrances. Phthalates can cause endocrine disruption, developmental & reproductive toxicity & cancer. The words ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfum’ on a label generally means phthalates. Look instead for products that contain ‘no synthetic fragrance’ or ‘scented with only essential oils’ or are ‘phthalate-free’.

Triclosan (found in many products, including toothpaste, soap, shampoo, deodorant, moisturiser)

  • Triclosan & its chemical cousin Triclocarban are anti-bacterial compounds. Studies have increasingly linked both to a range of adverse health & environmental effects, ranging from skin irritation to endocrine disruption, bacterial & antibiotic resistance, to the contamination of water & its negative impact on fragile aquatic ecosystems.

Even if a product is labelled ‘hypo-allergenic’, ‘natural’ or ‘kind to the skin’, put your glasses on, squint & scan through the list! Apparently ‘green-washing’, where companies put buzz-words on their labels to appear safe & environmentally-friendly, is all the rage. Just because a product claims to be ‘natural’ doesn’t automatically mean it’s safe.

If you’d like to explore the safety of the products you use further, take a look at the Environmental Working Group website:

Although the EWG is based in America, many of the products we use in Europe are listed on their extensive database, & there’s a host of useful information on there.

Take care of what you put on your body!

To find out more about the Highly Sensitive Trait and other toxins you should be avoiding as a Highly Sensitive Person, please take a look at my website or follow me on Facebook. You can also contact me on I’m always happy to talk about all things Highly Sensitive!