If you follow a skin care regimen (that’s pretty much all of us) you’ve likely heard the term ‘organic skincare’ and ‘all-natural skin care’. This exponentially upward trend in the overall concept of ‘clean beauty’ has made itself known and such a big player in the beauty industry for good reason: clean beauty is all about using natural ingredients in place of synthetic and overly processed chemicals in order to care and nourish your skin without having to expose it to chemicals that are known carcinogens, irritants, and downright toxic.
If you haven’t yet made the habit of reading the labels on your packaging, here’s a little crash course on the ingredients commonly found in commercial skincare that you’re better off avoiding, because ultimately, what we put on our skin gets absorbed into our body.
Formaldehyde is a common preservative used in conventional skincare. Used in a range of personal care such as lotion, nail polish, conditioners etc., formaldehyde is a carcinogenic preservative best avoided seeing as it’s been linked to asthma and neurotoxicity.
Fragrance is put into most skin and haircare products to make the product smell good. Although listed as a single ingredient on the label, ‘fragrance’ is actually an umbrella term for dozens and even hundreds of toxic chemicals in order to make that specific fragrance. Another reason to avoid fragrance in products is because companies aren’t required to state what exactly comprises of it.
If you flip over the label of most commercial skincare products, you’re likely to find one or more types of parabens listed in the ingredients (methylparaben, propylparaben etc). Parabens act as a preservative of a product in order to prolong the shelf life and keep the product fresh and the ingredients effective. Unfortunately, parabens are a known endocrine disruptor meaning this chemical can negatively impact your fertility, menstrual cycle, and the health of your reproductive system in general.
Phthalates are responsible for helping products, such as fragrance and lotion, stick to the skin. As a chemical known to disrupt hormonal balance and health, watch out for their shortened label on various types of skincare under the abbreviations DBP, DEP and DEHP.
Check the label on commercial skincare and haircare products that are meant to cleanse and you’ll often find sulfates as one of the first listed ingredients. You can see it listed as SLS, Sulfates, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Ammonium Laureth Sulfate, etc. Sulfates act as the lathering ingredient in skincare and haircare giving that bubbly texture. The problem with sulfates though are their link to cause skin issues such as allergies and irritation due to the harsh stripping nature of the chemical which can rob your skin and scalp of protective oils and natural bacteria.
Because sulfates are primarily a chemical used for cleansing, you can find it as well in harsher cleaning solutions such as dish soap, laundry detergent and various household cleaners. The more alarming thing about sulfates found in skin and hair care is the chemical process it undergoes to make it less harsh on the skin: a carcinogenic by product called ethoxylation, is created, and more often than not, this isn’t even listed on the label.
Are these skincare ingredients really that toxic?
Simply put, your bottle of shampoo won’t give you cancer tomorrow nor will putting on moisturizer suddenly give you asthma. The idea behind giving consumers ‘clean beauty’ alternatives is the fact that these known toxic chemicals found in conventional personal care, although present in small and ‘safe’ amounts, have an accumulative effect on the body.
This is particularly significant for women who use a wide range of beauty products. Think of an average woman’s everyday arsenal of personal products that they go through. Shampoo, conditioner, body wash, feminine wash, facial wash, toner, moisturizer, body lotion, deodorant, and makeup can expose a woman to hundreds of different toxic chemicals on a daily basis. This can slowly but surely accumulate into a significant level of toxicity with consistent and prolonged exposure to using products that contain these chemicals.
What you can do
As a consumer looking to get more into clean beauty, it’s important to educate yourself on the type of ingredients used in your selection of products. Although seemingly innocent, ignore the marketing on the front packaging of a bottle and go straight to the ingredients label to get a clearer view of what exactly you’re putting on your skin.
Secondly, choose retailers and brands that you trust to give you clean and safe personal care options. As mentioned earlier, the concept of ‘clean beauty’ has grown exponentially and finding an organic or all-natural brand is more readily available and it doesn’t mean having to sacrifice quality for safety.