What you put on your body is just as important as what you take in, because your skin absorbs everything your slather on, including toxins. If you are concerned about your food and make it a point to eat clean and organic all the time, then you would definitely want to do the same with the skin care products that you use.
Unfortunately, many commercially available products contain hundreds, if not thousands of chemicals. And with the cosmetic and skin care industry being highly unregulated, we often end up putting on synthetic chemicals that penetrate and irritate the skin, disrupt our endocrine systems and even (gasp) increase our risk of cancer.
Skin Care Toxins To Avoid
That said, it is important to make conscious choices when looking for skin care products and be mindful of the bad ingredients that we come across daily. Here is a list of some of the most common “bad” ingredients that you put on your skin, what they do to you and why it makes sense that you avoid them.
1. Parabens: Parabens are widely used preservatives that inhibit the growth of microbial organisms and extend product shelf life. Unfortunately, they do more than just that. Parabens (remember the four prefixes methyl, propyl, butyl and ethyl-parabens) also cause allergic skin reactions. Studies also show that they are associated with a higher risk of breast cancer.
2. SLS/SLES and ALS/ALES: Surfactants like sodium laurel sulphate (SLS), sodium laureth sulphate (SLES), ammonium lauryl sulphate (ALS) and ammonium laureth sulphate (SLES) are surfactants that give shampoo, body wash and other cleansing products to clean and produce foam. These ingredients are often derived from petroleum and can cause skin and eye irritation, rashes and other similar allergic reactions.
3. BHA and BHT: Butylated hydroxyanisole and Butylated hydroxytoluene are synthetically made antioxidants which are used to preserve moisturizers, lipsticks and other products containing oils and fats. These ingredients are known to induce allergic reactions in the skin and interfere with hormone function. They have also been connected with tumour growth.
4. Petroleum based moisturizers: Moisturizers like petrolatum, mineral oil, paraffin and dimethicone are used in lotions and other moisturizing products, mainly because they are really inexpensive. Unfortunately, they coat skin like plastic and clog the pores, causing problems and hampering with the skin’s own ability to moisturize itself. These ingredients also slowdown skin cell development and turnover, cause dryness and acne and speed up skin aging.
5. Triclosan: The obsession with the fight against microbes has led to the development of cleansing products that contain anti-bacterial ingredients like triclosan. This ingredient is present in soaps, body washes, hand sanitizers and lotions and is known to cause reproductive and endocrinal malfunctions.
6. DEA: Diethanolamine or DEA is used as a foaming agent and emulsifier, but can cause problems like hair dryness, eye irritation and allergic reactions of the skin and hair.
7. Phthalates: Phthalates are mainly found in fragrances and nail polish, and has been related to liver injuries and cancer.
8. Synthetic Colours: They make skin care products look pretty and appealing, but many of these synthetic colours are really dangerous and bad for the skin. The most dangerous ones are coal-tar dyes, which are listed as 4-MMPD or CI followed by a number, but you should also avoid those which are labelled as D&C and FD&C follower by a number. Hair dye colours like P-phenylenediamine is also toxic. Also note: darker hair dyes have higher concentration of this ingredient.
9. Phenol: Phenol or carbolic acid is a compound used for everything from hydraulic fluid to snack food, and skin lotion as well. Derived from petroleum, it is a toxin through and through, no matter what grade or strength it is used and is corrosive to the skin, eyes, lungs and nervous system. A report from the US Department of Health and Human services state that it can affect the kidneys as well.
10. Formaldehyde: Formaldehyde may remind you of high school biology, as it is a strong smelling gas that is mixed with water and used as a preservative. However, its use goes beyond preserving frogs, as it is also found in different kinds of body lotion, cleansers, shampoos and conditioners, sunscreen, nail polish and makeup. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and is damaging to the respiratory system
11. Heavy Metals: Heavy metals like aluminium are found is many deodorants and anti-perspirants. Lead is another metal that is often a cause for alarm, and has even been banned from household paints and gasoline, but may be present in most lipsticks. Many types of mascara contain mercury, too!
12. 1,4-Dioxane: A petrochemical that occurs as a by-product during the manufacturing process, 1,4-dioxane is found in foaming products like shampoo, bath gels and laundry detergents but is hardly listed as an ingredient. This chemical is known to be a carcinogenic contaminant. Because it is not listed, you can’t find 1,4-dioxane in most of the ingredient list, but there are other ingredients like ethoxylated alcohol, laureth, PEG, polysorbates which are all dioxanes as well.
What You Can Do
With this list, most of you may be worried about or greatly concerned about the cosmetics and skin care products that you use on a daily basis, and that concern is very understandable. That does not mean that you should stop using all kinds of skin care products altogether. Many products contain very minute amounts of these chemicals, and can be harmful when used in huge amounts. Still, it is definitely better to be safe than sorry, especially when it involves your health and that of your family.
What you can do as a consumer is to first educate yourself about these chemicals (and others similar to them), so that you will know what to avoid and what other options you may have. The next time you go shopping, be sure to read the labels so you will know which ones to skip and which alternatives to pick. Or, you can end up making your own like this natural skin care products like this DIY natural perfume recipe.
Fortunately, there are numerous products in the market that contain alternative ingredients which are natural and safer to use, so you don’t have to worry about what you put on your and your family’s skin.