Formaldehyde… a known carcinogen also linked to asthma, neurotoxicity, and developmental toxicity.
Parabens (methyl-, isobutyl-, propyl- and others)… an endocrine (or hormone) disruptors which mimics estrogen and may play a role in triggering breast cancer.
Phthalates (DBP, DEHP, DEP and others)… disrupt the endocrine system and may cause birth defects.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate (SLS and SLES)… cause skin irritation or trigger allergies.
Synthetic flavor or fragrance… may contain any combination of 3,000+ stock chemical ingredients, including hormone disruptors and allergens.
So… What do the above chemicals have in common? They are just a few of the potentially and/or known harmful ingredients that you may find in the objects you use everyday (i.e. plastic bottles, aluminum food cans) as well as the majority of the personal care products and cosmetics that you put on our skin. This includes styling gel, shampoo, body wash, bubble bath, face cleanser, body lotion, foundation, nail polish, hairspray, creams, sunscreen and basically all types of cosmetics.
Now… why does it matter? It matters because women use approximately 12 personal care / cosmetic products a day, which can equate to over 100 different chemicals. There are also about 12,000 ingredients commonly used in personal care products, and 80% of them have NEVER been tested for safety. It matters because there has not been a significant federal law passed governing the personal care industry in the U.S. since 1938!!! Compared to the European Union and Canada, the United States is WAY behind when it comes to our health and safety. The E.U. has banned close to 1,400 chemicals from the use of personal care products because of links to cancer, hormone disruption, allergies, asthma, infertility, and other health issues. Canada has banned 600. The U.S has only banned 30. Shocking right?
As a health professional, this is where the nerd in me comes out. You see… our skin is our largest organ and it is porous. It measures a few millimeters in thickness (older people generally have thinner skin that younger people and men generally have thicker skin than women) The skin functions as a barrier protecting the body from harmful things in the outside world. Additionally, it helps to regulate the body temperature and it stores water, fat and metabolic products. It only makes sense that what we put on our skin is absorbed into our body which can affect ones health and sense of well being in a negative or positive way. If you think about it, that’s how the nicotine patch and birth control patch work. They contain chemicals which the skin absorbs, therefore altering a persons chemical balance. So what can you do to love your skin?
When you know your skin type, having a simple skincare regimen makes all the difference. The skincare regimen for your face can be as simple as four steps:
- Cleanse – Wash your face 1x – 2x a day to thoroughly remove dirt and makeup.
- Prep – Use a toner to wash away any dirt left behind after cleansing and restore the skin back to a natural pH balance. This clarifies and preps the skin for the next step.
- Treat – Apply a serum. A serum contains a concentrated dose of active ingredients the skin needs and are lightweight making them fast-absorbing.
- Protect – Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Use a cream to lock moisture into the skin.
Examples of added skincare include: exfoliating twice a week; using face oils; using masks twice a week; and using sugar scrubs.
Know your vocabulary.
As a consumer, marketing plays a big role in what products we choose to purchase. However, there are many common but misleading terms out there that you should beware of. Examples include:
- Fragrance. “Fragrance” is a trade secret and can include dozens or hundreds of chemicals that do not need to be listed individually because companies are not legally required to tell you what chemicals make up a scent.
- Source. “Source” is where the ingredient comes from. Source does not determine safety.
- Safety. “Safety” indicates the potential health impact of an ingredients. Not all natural ingredients are safe and not all synthetic ingredients are unsafe.
- Natural. Organic. Preservative-Free. Chemical-Free. Not all of a product’s ingredients may be natural or organic. Not all preservatives or chemicals are bad for you. These terms are not regulated by the FDA and may be used as a marketing tool.
- Dermatologist Approved. A “dermatologist-approved” product does not mean that it went through special testing to ensure that the ingredients are safe or that the potential long term health impact was evaluated.
Reading the ingredient list on product labels.
Having a skincare regimen is the first step. The second step (once you know your vocabulary) is making sure that you are using safe products by reading the ingredient labels. There are loopholes in the law that allows companies to use toxic ingredients (such as the ones listed above) in the products we use everyday. As the U.S. Food and Drug Administration explains on its website (https://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/Labeling/Regulations/default.htm), “The law does not require cosmetic labeling to have FDA approval before cosmetic products go on the market, and FDA does not have a list of approved or accepted claims for cosmetics.”
Do your research.
I highly recommend checking out the Environmental Working Group (EWG). The EWG uses the power of research and information to protect public health and the environment. Their Skin Deep Cosmetics Database (which you can download as the Healthy Living app), allows you to search over 73,000 products for hazardous ingredients. Products are rated from 1-10 with 1 being the safest product and 10 being the worst.
I might be a little biased… but I love Beautycounter products (which is why I became a consultant) because Beautycounter does the research for you and prohibits the use of over 1500 potentially harmful or harmful ingredients from their products. The difference in my family’s skin has been remarkable. If you are interested in learning more about Beautycounter click here.
Love Your Skin
So now when you hear the wors “take care of yourself”… don’t just think it means to eat better, exercise more, sleep more and/or pray/meditate more. Think of your skin and taking care of your skin. Demi Moore once said “I’m a big believer in that if you focus on good skincare, you really won’t need a lot of makeup” and I could not agree more.