Toxic Babies & the Mean 15 – Kavanaskincare

Toxic Babies & the Mean 15


When it comes to cosmetics and personal care products, the idea of 'informed consent' is a kind of misnomer, and oxymoron that asks us to consent to using something we are usually uninformed, ill informed and/ not adequately informed about. 

To decipher the long lists of ingredients on the back of the majority of personal care/ cosmetic products, and be truly informed about what exactly we are putting on our bodies, and how these ingredients- alone or in concert- can affect our skin and our health, might require a degree or three- in chemistry, botany, biology, dermatology, toxicology, physics, latin and thousands of dollars in sophisticated technology and peer-reviewed tests. (Tragically, leaving no leftovers for shoes! ;)

Most of us are too lazy to bother and just want to buy the nice smelling, vanilla skincare the nice lady is selling. Turns out, ignorance is bliss and it smells good too! This week's Kavana blog post, will set out to give you an idea of the Top 15 ('Mean 15') toxins to avoid.


Photo: Daniel Hurst Photography / Getty Images

Many others, usually women who are pregnant or have kids and those who have a loved one whose life has been affected by cancer, exhibit more concern, curiosity and consume more carefully, consenting to less exposure to toxinsReading labels and making informed purchases, becomes a priority for people in these circumstances. While the concerns of these green beauties are growing and their shopping standards and ethos are spreading, they're sadly, still not the majority.

The facts bear this out. In a survey of Canadian women's beauty products, The David Suzuki Foundation found that 80% of entered products contained at least one toxin on the 'toxic-ten'/ 'Dirty-Dozen' or the now expanded 'Mean-15' *list of harmful, toxic cosmetic ingredients to avoid (source). 

*see this list further down in this blog.


baby in utero shutterstock

Polluting our bodies knowingly is one thing, and most of us know we are doing it and though we may not necessarily consent, it is somewhat inescapable. Now imagine the notion of informed consent for babies! Polluting the bodies of unborn babies is something the healthiest of mothers cannot avoid and babies aren't given much choice in the matter.

A landmark 2004 study by the EWG (Environmental Working Group) found these MEAN-15 toxins, along with almost 300 more toxins, in the umbilical cords of 10 newborn babies. (source)

While the umbilical cord pumps 283 litres of blood on a daily basis between mother and foetus in the placenta, this lifeline that propels growth (source), is not fully shielded (by the placenta and amniotic fluid) from toxic pollutants and chemicals from the environment outside the mother's body, as once believed. (source)

Industrial chemicals, pesticides, PFOA's (fluorinated compounds) carcinogens, flame retardants and their toxic by products, are 10x more potent in their toxicity to babies developing brains and nervous systems, are linked to abnormal development, birth defects and reproductive damage, childhood disease and behavioural problems, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases in adulthood, and even an increase in the likelihood of disease in future generations. (source)

The famous Ted Talk 'THE TOXIC BABY' by Penelope Jagessar Chaffer and Dr. Tyrone Hayes, is an eye opening confirmation of these facts. Thinking about our bodies as part of, not separate from the so called natural environment 'outside of' us, is a key, eye opening takeaway. Learning about how these toxins get from the outside-in and how they can affect the reproductive development of babies in utero, is crucial, game-changing information 


Contrary to what you might think, the Human Body Burden is not that pizza you ate for lunch or the cellulite that just won't go! Nope. The inescapable pollution that permeates everyone in the world's body, including babies in the womb, with or without consent, is referred to as "the human body burden". This pollution is comprised of toxins, coming from outside sources, and also from inside the body itself. 

Pollutants or toxins, can come into the body from the outside in, via inhalation, application and ingestion. They can also come from within, as our own hormones internally fluctuate or can be affected by things like we may or may not be conscious of, such as stress, fear and grief. 

Human Body Burden Toxins in the body

The rising body burden of babies in utero, derives not only from their mother's behaviour and all that implies ie: the kinds of food, drugs, alcohol and smoking babies can be exposed to. Along with their mother's behaviour and choices, babies' defenceless, rapidly developing bodies are also made vulnerable by the way in which the womb and baby interact.

In the 5th month of pregnancy, babies begin to regularly swallow and breathe- building muscles essential for survival after birth. Through these actions, the lungs and gut are repeatedly filled with the same amniotic fluid that collects the babies urine. Pollutants like plasticizers and pesticides excreted in the babies urine, accumulate in this fluid and are cycled back into the babies' bodies through their mouth and nose. (source1, source 2, source 3.)

Babies also receive persistent pollutants (source) like PCB's, flame retardants and dioxins, that cling to the mother's fat (source). In the 3rd trimester, the body starts to dissolve the mother's fat, shunting it to the baby through their blood. Vulnerable babies are ill equipped to deal with these diverse exposures to myriad pollutants. (source)

Children can bear the lifelong imprints from countless molecules of industrial pollutants that find their way down the placenta, into the umbilical cord and into the baby's body. The statistics of rising chronic, severe childhood diseases in the last 45 years bear out this fact, even though scientists can still not fully explain the aetiology / causal links between exposure (to toxins) and diseases. (source) 



Sources: Yeargin-Allsopp et al. 2003, CDC 1995, Robison et al. 1995, Schecter 1999, Ananth et al. 2001, Branum and Schoendorf 2002, Swan et al. 1998, Paulozzi et al. 1997, Dunson et al. 2004, Trasande and Landrigan 2004, Jahnke et al. 2005


The most ubiquitous and harmful toxic chemicals found in cosmetics and personal care products are commonly referred to as 'The Mean 15'. Some fall into the class of chemicals known as XENO-ESTROGENS, which I mentioned briefly in the last Kavana blog post. I'll be writing more about what these are, how they mess with women's hormones and the skin specifically, and how they interact with the environment more generally, so please stay tuned!

While there are hundreds of toxins to avoid, these are the TOP 15 to look out for the most, especially if pregnant, and/ affected by an endocrine disruptive disease.

the Mean 15: A list of toxins in cosmetics to avoid at all costs!


    1. PTHALATES (Dibutyl Pthalate)
    3. PFOA'S
    4. PEG'S
    7. BHA'S & BHT'S (Butylated hydroxyanisole, Butylated Hydroxytoluene)
    13. SLES & SLS (Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate)
    15. SILOXANES 
    16. BONUS! ALUMINUM and TALC (Talcum powder) are contentious toxins that I would add to this list.

If ingredients are NOT listed or made fully available for a product on your favourite online retailer's website, chances are there's something to hide. Like a toxin that starts with the letter 'P'! It's that avoid these, or cross check this handy dandy list, when shopping.

This list is expanded in the 'What this product is formulated without' section, at the bottom of every Kavana product listing. I will also be writing more specifically about these toxins in the coming weeks.


Kavana's hormone safe, non-toxic, eco-ethical skincare is intentionally formulated without any of these "Mean 15' toxins and specifically with women's delicate and fluctuating hormones in mind. The products- from face and body care to therapeutic fragrance and lip treatments, are responsibly developed, formulated, packaged and transparently labelled- showing all the ingredients and hiding nothing.

We invite and encourage you to learn more about the ingredients for yourself, in the 'Know More' section of each product listing on the Kavana website and in our blog posts and Instagram.


If you're just beginning your journey on swapping toxic products for clean- green beauty products, a good place to start is with Kavana

Kavana Skincare

Kavana products include non-toxic, premium, plant based, hormone safe ingredients. They are sustainably packaged in frosted glass with as few plastic components as possible.  

Our Mother's Little Helpers set is safe and supportive of pregnant women, new moms and newborn babies. All three balms in the set are completely unscented, 100% non-toxic and hormone safe for mom and baby. The perfect gift for an expecting mom.

Kavana Skincare Mother's Little Helpers Skincare Set

Some of Kavana's clean beauty offerings include facial care, body care and 100% non-toxic, therapeutic fragrances and lip treatment oil.

Kavana therapeutic perfume poems- fragrance roll ons


So far, the Kavana blog has covered how the skin and scent change for women, as hormones fluctuate during the menstrual cycle as well as a guide to pregnancy safe skincare. In addition to expanding on specific toxins every Tuesday, this blog will also continue to discuss how the skin changes for women as hormones change during perimenopause, menopause and post-menopause, and how skincare can be adapted to each cycle.

I hope you'll join me if these topics interest you.

Thanks for reading!