Your skin is your body’s largest organ. It absorbs far more chemicals from the environment and what you put on it compared to what you ingest. We spend a great deal of time focusing on diet, but completely forget that what we put on our skin is as, if not more important. In this blog post, I’ll cover some of the main ingredients that you should avoid when purchasing beauty products.
Clear, supple, soft skin and long flowing tresses are every woman’s dream. Most of us are willing to pay as much as our budgets will stretch to realise those desires. And I can’t blame you for that because society makes it difficult to strive for anything less than perfection. I don’t support the idea and ideal of perfection but, I’ll be telling a lie if I say I don’t want to feel and look the best I can naturally.
Acne has been a struggle for me since my teenage years. I have legitimately tried at least 95% of the acne products available on the high street. Neutrogena, Garnier, Cetaphil, Clinique, Elemis, Dermalogica, Vichy, La Roche Posay, Avene and Bioderma are the few I can remember off the top of my head. I can go on, but this will end up being a brand shout out. I tried two rounds of Roaccutane in my mid-twenties, and while they worked each time, the acne came back with a vengeance once I completed the course.
Cleaning up my diet by eating more whole foods, eliminating processed foods, refined vegetable oils, and drinking more fluids have played a vital role in balancing my skin. I also attribute a significant part of the positive results I’ve experienced with my skin over the last few years to switching my skincare products to more natural/botanical ones.
We use skincare products daily, and many of us do not pay attention to what goes into them. Facial moisturisers, for example, may contain up to 20 ingredients. Two to three of them may be natural oils, and the rest will be chemicals such as silicones, waxes, emulsifiers, preservatives, colours and perfumes.
Some of these chemicals are known allergens or neurotoxins, while others are linked with cancer. It is true that many manufacturers use these chemicals within safety limits, but we tend to forget that we use these products daily and in many cases multiple times a day.
Manufacturers don’t test the long-term effects of repeated use; they only do a single test and deem these cosmetics safe. So what exactly are the long-term effects of repeated use? They don’t know, and I really can’t say for sure either, but I know based on scientific evidence that there is a risk of allergic reactions and other chronic conditions.
Here’s a list of the ingredients you should avoid in your skin and hair care products as much as possible.
DMDM hydantoin is a formaldehyde-releasing preservative commonly found in toiletries including, shampoos, conditioners, face and body washes. It is also used in moisturisers, hair relaxers, and makeup. Formaldehyde causes allergies and immunotoxicity in some individuals, and it has been weakly linked to brain cancer. DMDM Hydantoin is very common in USA-produced products and is rarer in European cosmetics.
Diethanolamine is used as a foaming agent or pH regulator in cosmetic products like shampoos, bubble baths and body washes. While there are not enough studies in humans, animals that are exposed to DEA for prolonged periods develop kidney and liver tumours. Other studies suggest that DEA on its own is not harmful, but it can combine with other chemicals in cosmetic products to form a compound (N-nitrosodiethanolamine) that is carcinogenic in humans. In Europe, manufacturers can not use DEA in concentrations above 1%, but in the US, manufacturers may use up to 25%.
Imidazaolidinyl Urea and Diazolidinyl Urea
Imidazolidinyl urea and diazolidinyl urea are formaldehyde-releasing preservatives. Similar to DMDM hydantoin, they are associated with contact dermatitis and other allergic reactions.
Propylene Glycol and PEG (Polyethylene) derivates
These compounds are used as a humectant, conditioning agent or solvents in shampoos, conditioners, soaps, deodorants, moisturisers and body washes. It can cause allergic reactions such as contact dermatitis, hives and eczema. PEG derivates may be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a known carcinogen.
Mineral oil and Petrolatum
Mineral oil and petrolatum are frequently used as emollients and conditioning agents in serums, lip balms, moisturisers, hair conditioners and skin care products. They coat the hair and skin and stop moisture getting in and out them. Instead of conditioning your hair and skin, mineral oil and petrolatum dry them out. These two ingredients are especially terrible for naturally-dry afro-textured hair.
Parabens (isopropylparaben, methylparaben, butylparaben)
Parabens are used as preservatives and antimicrobial agents in a wide variety of cosmetic products. Certain parabens act like oestrogens in the human body, and oestrogens are a well-established cause of certain cancers. The human body easily absorbs parabens and studies show that they are possible hormone (endocrine) disruptors. Hormone disruption can lead to all sorts of health consequences including obesity, cancers, thyroid disorders and infertility. While the evidence is not completely clear, avoid underarm cosmetics (deodorants, antiperspirants) that contain parabens since
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) Preservatives
BHA and BHT are used in make-up, body lotions and soaps to extend the shelf-life of products. They are known allergens and hormone disruptors. They can increase the risk of hormone-dependent cancers like breast and ovarian cancers.
Synthetic colours do exactly just that, add colour. They have no benefit or function in products. Unfortunately, many colours (apart from mineral-based varieties) are carcinogenic.
Silicones are typically used in body creams, hair creams, conditioners. They make these products easier to apply and leave your skin and hair feeling smooth. They coat your skin and hair with a film that stops moisture getting into them, causing dryness. Silicones are potential hormone disruptors.
Triclosan is an antibacterial agent that is usually found in soaps, toothpaste, facial cleansers and hand sanitisers. Triclosan is an endocrine disruptor and may contribute to antibiotic resistance.
Phthalates are solvents, often found in perfumes, nail polish and hair sprays. Phthalates are a hormone disruptor and can cause developmental and reproductive abnormalities.
Read the ingredients in your cosmetics and toiletries, how many of these ingredients can you find in them? Please comment below with your findings. You may just be surprised!