Who is looking out for us? Certainly not the manufacturing companies, who
may say such ingredients are safe. But the reality is that
testing on the long-term and combined affect of many of these chemicals
is unknown. We have to educate and protect ourselves!
Fragrance is in
so many skin care and beauty products! You dont always know what youre
getting with them because manufacturers arent required to list
the individual ingredients that make up a fragrance on the label (theyd
be giving away all their secrets, or proprietary information), but you
can bet its likely a concoction of chemicals you dont want
on your skin or in your lungs. There are thousands of chemicals that could
be combined to make fragrances. When you dont know whats
in a product, theres also a possibility that youll unknowingly
put something on your skin that will cause inflammation, andinflammation
leads to premature aging. If you want something that smells nice, look
fornatural skin care ingredients scented with essential oils instead of
that catch-all, mystery ingredient, fragrance.If you didnt
know what something was, would you eat it? If you dont know whats
in fragranceon your ingredients list, you shouldnt
be putting it on your skin or into the air you breathe, either.
Phthalates go hand in hand with fragrance, because theyre often
added to personal care products to make the scents last longer. Thats
not just for perfume and body sprays. When fragrance is added to shampoo,
conditioner, cleanser, or lotion, theres a good chance phthalates
are part of the package, and theyre not necessarily on the list
of ingredients because theyre locked under the fragranceumbrella.
Guess what else? There is very little testing done on phthalateseffects
on your health, even though theyve been shown to cause problems
with the male reproductive system in animal studies. Theyre also
associated with mimicking and blocking female hormones and early onset puberty.
Mineral oil is in facial oils, hair treatments (which could also end up
on your skin), conditioner, body moisturizers, and other treatments, so
you really have to read labels to avoid it. If youve ever slathered
your body in baby oil, which is just mineral oil with fragrance, youre
familiar with that oddly slick, yet not really moisturizing, coating you
get on your skin. It doesnt soak in completely (probably a good
thing, actually), but it just sits there and prevents the skin from doing
part of its job”detoxing. The idea behind using mineral oil is usually
to lock moisture into the skin, but it blocks your pores and makes it
more difficult to sweat toxins out of your body. Mineral oil has also
been shown to increase the risk of tumours by about 21 percent in lab
studies. Try rubbing a small amount of coconut oil on your skin instead.
Nanoparticles and Oxybenzone
Sunscreen is touted as one of the best defenses about premature aging available,
but is it always completely safe? Not really.
- Nanoparticles may sound high-tech and cool to use, but the whole idea of
nanoparticle technology is bad news for your skin and your health. Normal-sized
particles that would be harmless on your skin otherwise, sitting on top
of it (like zinc oxide in sunscreen, for example), and doing their job,
are able to penetrate your skin when nanotechnology comes into play. Once
they penetrate the skin, they can make their way into other parts of the
body, like the brain, accumulate, and contribute to cell death. The nanoparticle
of zinc oxide (remember, zinc oxide is typically deemed as a good choice
for natural sun protection!) could cause cancer, increase oxidative stress,
and damage your DNA.
- Oxybenzone may disrupt the normal functioning of the epidermis, plus it
oxidizes quickly when exposed to sunlight. In addition, it reduces the
capabilities of antioxidants, creating the perfect storm for free-radical
skin damage. Oxybenzone also acts like estrogen once its absorbed
into the body, and it could play a role in endometriosis in women and
sperm production in men.
Look for sunscreens that do not boast of nanotechnology or nanoparticles,
and choose natural sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as active
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, and Sodium Laureth
If youre using a skin care product that foams (like your cleanser
for face or body), theres a good chance it contains sodium lauryl
sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate. These ingredients are added to everything
from car washes and garage floor cleaners to facial cleansers and bubble
baths. Sodium lauryl sulfate tries to sneak by on labels that say made
from coconutto make it sound natural. Its not natural; the
SLS is a result of a
process involving coconut oil. One study says sodium lauryl sulfate has been shown
to contribute to a degenerative effect on the cell membranes because
of its protein denaturing qualities,while ammonium lauryl sulfate
has, in animals, been linked to death. Both were shown to be skin irritants.
SLES is SLS after it has gone through a process where it reacted with
ethylene oxide, which is a known human carcinogen. The reaction occurs
and the end product is added to products like body washes in order to
make the ingredients less harsh on the skin.
While the FDA does say that this ingredient hasnt been shown to
cause problems in humans, the site does admit that it has been linked
to hormone disruption in animals. Its used as an antimicrobial
in body washes and soaps, but the EWG points out that triclosan and triclocarbon
are actually pesticides, too. Why put pesticides on your body when youre
trying so hard to keep them out of your diet?
Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)
These are popular in anti-aging skin care products (serums, treatments,
and even moisturizers) because they exfoliate, soften, and cleanse the
skin while reducing the appearance of fine lines and smoothing out the
skin tone. However, theyve also been shown to increase UV sensitivity,
so they could potentially backfire with long-term, daytime use (or at
least daytime use without a good, natural sunscreen). Youll often
see AHAs listed as glycolic acid or lactic acid.
Parabens (isopropylparaben, isobutylparaben, butylparaben, etc) can be
found in cosmetics, moisturizing creams, sunscreens, and more, whether
youre shopping in the drugstore or a high-end department store.
Theyre used as preservatives in skin care products. Methyl paraben
has been shown to potentially cause skin damage when exposed to sunlight.
Unless youre only using your paraben-containing products at night
(probably not, as parabens are everywhere), theres a good chance
you could actually be aging your skin with your skin care regimen. One
study showed that methyl parabens combined with UV exposure increased
oxidative stress and cell death, not exactly what youre aiming
for when you slather a product on your face to make it look better! Aside
from the aging factor, parabens have been linked to endocrine disruption
and breast cancer.
Benzoyl peroxide, a common ingredient in acne treatments, can be phototoxic
when exposed to UVB rays.
Beta-Hydroxy Acid (Salicylic Acid)
Salicylic acid exfoliates skin and can improve its texture and color. It
also helps with acne. Many skin care products contain salicylic acid.
Some are available over-the-counter and others require a doctor’s
prescription. Studies have shown that salicylic acid is less irritating
than skin care products containing alpha-hydroxy acids but has similar
results in improving skin texture and color.
Warning: People who are allergic to salycylates (found in aspirin) should not use
products containing salicylic acid. Salicylic acid can be absorbed into
the bloodstream and may cause an allergic reaction or contactdermatitis.
Pregnant or nursing women should not use products containing salicylic acid.
Skin care products containing hydroquinone are often called bleaching creams
or lightening agents. These skin care products are used to lighten hyperpigmentation,
such as age spots and dark spots related to pregnancy or hormone therapy
(also called melasma). Some over-the-counter skin care products contain
hydroquinone. Your doctor can also prescribe a product with a higher concentration
of hydroquinone if your skin doesn’t respond to over-the-counter treatments.
If you are allergic to hydroquinones, you can use products containing
kojic acid instead. Pregnant women cannot use hydroquinone.
Kojic acid is a more recent remedy for treating pigment problems and age
spots. First developed in 1989, kojic acid has a similar effect as hydroquinone.
Kojic acid is made from a fungus, and studies have shown that it is effective
at lightening skin.
Retinol is made from vitamin A, and it’s in many non-prescription skin
care products. Retinol’s stronger counterpart is tretinoin, which
is the active ingredient in Retin-A and Renova, available by prescription
only. If your skin is too sensitive to use Retin-A, retinol is an alternative,
although the effects are less impressive. Retinol may improve mottled
pigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles, skin texture, and skin tone and
color. You may also hear about retinyl palmitate. This is in the same
family as retinol, but if the skin care product you choose contains retinyl
palmitate, you will need to use more of this product than one that contains
retinol to get the same effect. Pregnant women or nursing mothers cannot
Vitamin C helps to minimize fine lines, scars, and wrinkles. It’s the
only antioxidant that is proven to boost production of collagen, which
is a key part of skin’s structure. Be choosy when selecting a vitamin
C product. Vitamin C in its most commonly found forms is highly unstable
when exposed to oxygen, making it useless. Choose one in a tube or a pump.
Also, many topical vitamin C preparations do not penetrate the skin enough
to make a difference. If you are considering using a topical vitamin C
preparation, ask your dermatologist which product will be the most effective for you.
Skin care products containing hyaluronic acid are often used with vitamin
C products to assist in effective penetration. Hyaluronic acid occurs
naturally (and quite abundantly) in people and animals and is found in
young skin, other tissues, and joint fluid. Hyaluronic acid is part of
the body’s connective tissues, and is known to cushion and lubricate.
Aging destroys hyaluronic acid. Diet and smoking can also affect your
body’s level of hyaluronic acid over time. Skin care products with
hyaluronic acid are most frequently used to treat wrinkled skin although
they don’t replace anything the body has naturally lost. These are
very effective moisturizers.