10 Places Petroleum Food Dyes Hide In Your Home

Spring is the time when we get that proverbial fire lit under us to organize, rearrange, and deep clean our lives.  Too bad that I totally missed it.  I put it off until it could only be referred to as ‘Summer Shoveling’.  And now my newly uncluttered mind is meditating on ways that the average person can change the world, one shopping bag at a time.  In our family, that means avoiding petroleum food coloring (FD&C dyes) in foods, beverages, personal care items, and household products.

Why avoid dye?  Studies (and parents) have demonstrated a link between the consumption of synthetic food colorings and behavior problems, hyperactivity, aggression, hours-long tantrums, eczema, asthma, increased risk taking, violence, panic disorder, confusion, anxiety, depression, mood changes, attention deficit, learning problems, stomach ailments, swelling, and even bed-wetting. Scarier still are scientific tests linking petroleum colors with a myriad of cancers.  And they’re everywhere…in America.  Other countries have taken precautions by either banning dyes or requiring a warning label on packaging. But the baddies are hiding in other products besides just food and drink. 

Put on your Sleuth hat and see how many of these dyed products you can find in your own home (but keep that Angry Consumer hat within reach…you’re gonna need it):

1.  Medicine Cabinet – Read the labels of anything you put in your mouth and on your skin, including fiber powder, children’s liquid pain relievers and antihistamines.  Allergy medications, cough syrups, lozenges, antacids like TUMS, pink Pepto Bismol, adult and children’s vitamins, eye drops, prescription medications, and even anti-gas capsules (?) can contain petroleum dyes.  I was surprised this month to discover that a topical analgesic from a company that touts its nature-based ingredients, was tinted with yellow and blue petroleum dyes.  Colors are non-nutritive and provide no medicinal benefits. They’re (ironically) there to trick our brains into feeling good about the safety or purity of a product. Check to see if your prescription drugs contain dyes here.  You can ask your pharmacist to fill them without synthetic colors or flavors, or avoid all additives by using a compounding pharmacy near you.

2.  Sunscreen, Aloe Vera Gel, and Self Tanners – Aloe Vera gel doesn’t naturally occur in that bright green hue.  And why we need dye in lotions or sunscreens is beyond me.  Avoid self tanners that contain FD&C dyes as their colorant.  Look for organic alternatives (this goes for spray tans too – steer clear of traditional petroleum spray tans – I know from experience – and opt for organic spray tans!).

3.  Mouthwash – Again, mouth wash, which is mostly alcohol, doesn’t naturally look bright blue, green, orange, or purple.  Blue and green liquids make us think of sterile, clean, healing, fresh things. But the purple, well, it’s got unreal grape flavorings added – ya know – “for kids!”   I get that we need to encourage our children to take good care of their teeth, but if food dyes weren’t in everything marketed to those kids, perhaps we wouldn’t need as much mouth wash.  Just sayin’…

4.  Toothpaste – You and your children could be scrubbing your teeth and gums with a dozen chemicals, many of which do promote (temporary) oral health in their own ways.  Unfortunately, petroleum dyes like Blue 1, Blue 2, and Green 3 are adding no health or cleaning benefit to your regimen, and could in fact be affecting your child’s behavior and long term health.  Bring your own dye-free paste to your child’s dental check-up, so the hygienist can mix it with a dye-free polish or plain pumice to clean your child’s teeth.  Ask them for a dye-free fluoride (or non-fluoride if you like) rinse too.  And skip the temporary tattoos in the dentist goody bag – they’re full of FD&C dyes too! Bring a little reward with you just incase the goody bag is a no-go.

5.  Body Wash, Soaps and Lotions – The very potions and salves that claim to nurture our skin may actually be irritating it.  Many skincare products contain D&C dyes like Red 40 and Yellow 5, which have been linked to eczema, rashes, acne, hives, and even asthma.

6.  Razors, Shavers, and Cremes – I was shocked to read the long ingredients list on a package of those razors that have moisturizing strips built in.  Some of them have petroleum-based red dyes which can cause allergic reactions such as rashes and hives. And avoid brightly colored shave gels and cremes, too, as they can ironically irritate your skin.  Sound soothing?

7.  Cosmetics, Facial Masks, and Facial Moisturizers – I was bummed to find out that D&C dyes are in so many “mud” masks.  I have super sensitive skin which breaks out when it’s exposed to harsh chemicals.  So as it turns out, all those years and extra dollars I spent getting regular facials for my adult acne were just part of a vicious cycle.  Lesson learned.  But I need moisturizer up here in the dry Atlanta air.  So now I cleanse my face with a mixture of olive, jojoba, and castor oils with hot steam and a wash cloth. And I made a tinted moisturizer out of my mineral powder foundation, acai lotion, and jojoba oil.  It seems hard to avoid dyes in makeup, but you can use tools like this cosmetics database to look up the ingredients in thousands of products.  Or buy from chemical additive-free companies like 100% Pure Cosmetics, which avoids synthetic dyes, fragrances, and preservatives.

8.  Hand Soap and Sanitizers – Again, the only reason that colorants are added to these is to trick our brains into trusting that the product is “clean” or of high quality.  Protect your kid with something more natural but equally effective such as clear gels or citrus based hand sprays. This goes for dish soap too – opt for the clear stuff to protect both your skin and your dishes from petroleum residues.

9.  Deodorant – Now, this product’s only real job is to stop you from becoming a sweaty, stinky mess during long meetings, gym routines, and date nights.  Yet manufacturers feel the need to dye them bright teal green, yellow, and pink – evoking “fresh” images of the ocean or baby powder.  The obnoxious fake fragrances are bad enough…We do not need our arm pits to sweat blue-green.

10. Pet Food – With so many pet food and treat recalls lately, You’d think everyone knew what they were feeding their fur babies.  But honestly, I didn’t know that petroleum dyes were in pet foods and treats until last holiday season when pet “desserts” were all the rage.  (And I beg you, please do not dye your dog.)

Ready to change hats yet?  

Last month I posted some easy ways that we can all shout from the virtual rooftops – through social media, shopping tips, and simple steps to revamp your pantry (and subsequently revamping the food and personal products industries).  Learn more on the DFD Facebook fan page and post questions on the DFD Discussion Forum.  Our growing community of experienced dye-sensitive folks can help you with questions about dye-free living.  Follow @DieFoodDye on Twitter for daily facts, content, and trends. And check out my pinboards full of baddies and goodies on Pinterest.

8 Responses to “10 Places Petroleum Food Dyes Hide In Your Home”
  1. Bridget says:

    We were at a Farmer’s Market this afternoon and they had a shave ice stand with 15 people in line to get one. I took one look and was repulsed by the Trix colored “treats”. All I could think about was synthetic flavors and colors. Bleh.

  2. I was a bit surprised to learn that the clear hand soap we have sitting on every sink in the house has not one but two different FD&C colors in it. What the . . . ? It’s *clear* . . . what’s the point?

    • Indie Mama says:

      🙂 Isn’t it crazy? They think that we associate certain colors with purity, which is ironic, given all the junk they put in there. And they’re getting away with it because our FDA won’t stop them. I do believe in economic pressure, though, and I know if enough people e-mail and tweet to manufacturers asking when they’ll #DitchTheDyes, then perhaps we can make them change.

    • Lindsey says:

      Marshmallows have blue!!! Crazy…some off brands don’t, just have to read the label (it is camping season for goodness sakes!!)

  3. Stacy says:

    This website for honest brand by Jessica Alba seems to have a lot of dye free products. I haven’t bought any yet. She was on “Katie” talking about it and it seemed like a good more affordable option to some things out there. Just wanted to share the info.

  4. Parker Hills says:

    We are a group of volunteers and opening a new scheme in our community. Your site provided us with valuable information to work on. You’ve done a formidable job and our whole community will be grateful to you.

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