Skin care should be about giving your skin longevity and health but the truth of the matter today is that most commercial personal care and beauty products are actually full of dangerous industrial chemicals that harm us instead of beautifying us. A staggering one in eight of the 82,000 ingredients used in cosmetics and skin care products are industrial chemicals that include carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins, endocrine disruptors, plasticizers, degreasers and surfactants! The list is scarily long and the ramifications far reaching. The problem is that most of us don’t know enough about the science behind what we are putting on our skin to make an informed choice when purchasing products. This article can help you at least take 5 ingredients off the table.
Everyone has heard of these. In fact they are present in 75 – 90% of cosmetics and studies show that women are exposed to an average of 50mg per day. They are ever pervasive and occur in many a product such as makeup, moisturizers and shampoos in various forms. They are a petrochemical usually used as preservatives or fragrance ingredients. The scary thing is that as part of the fragrance recipe, they do not have to be labelled as they are considered trade secrets!
The danger of these chemicals is that they are easily absorbed by the skin and as they are absorbed from the skin, they bypass the metabolism enter the blood stream directly. They are suspected of interfering with the endocrine system. This is the hormone system of the body and it is a finely tuned process of negative feedback loops and balancing of hormone concentrations. Parabens can mimic the compound estrogen which is the primary female reproductive hormone. Not only does it disrupt the balance of estrogen in the body but potentially turning on the growth of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers. Research has even detected parabens in human breast cancer tissues raising further concerns regarding the link between cancer and cosmetics. Parabens can also interfere with male reproductive functions and it increased estrogen levels and causes an imbalance with male androgens. Studies have indicated that methyparaben applied to the skin reacts with UVB leading to accelerated skin ageing and DNA damage.
2. Synthetic Fragrances & Parfum
This prevalent chemical is widely used in many cosmetics and skin care products. The problem is that it is used in products even marked as “unscented” and this particular chemical has been known to trigger allergies and asthma. There have been links to cancer and neurotoxicity and it is harmful to the environment if it gets into the water system.
Fragrances are used to produce a pleasant scent and can comprise a mixture of ingredients. They are generally used in perfumes, colognes and deodorant but also laundry detergents, fabric softeners and other cleaning products.
Many fragrance ingredients are irritants and can trigger allergies, migraines and asthma. A survey indicated that 3 out of every 4 asthmatics listed fragrance as a trigger.
Several musk compounds pose a particular ecological concern as they persist in the environment and bio accumulate in the adipose tissue of aquatic organisms.
3. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)
This compound is present in any foaming formulation such as shampoo, cleansers, body wash and bubble bath and is harmful in many ways. It can irritate skin, eyes and respiratory tract and can even be harmful to fish and wildlife. Overexposure has been associated with eye damage, depression, breathing difficulty, diarrhoea and severe skin irritation. It stimulates the body’s inflammatory response and unfortunately it is retained in the body for some time having residual effects on the body’s organs.
Contamination of SLES with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane which are known carcinogens. Ethylene oxide has neurodegenerative effects and 1,4-dioxane is environmentally persistent.
4. Mineral Oil
Mineral oil is a component in many skincare products such as baby oil, body lotions, soap and makeup. A by-product of the petroleum industry, this ingredient tends to clog pores and thus inhibit the toxin elimination pathway of the skin. It is also known to slow down skin function and cell development, resulting in premature aging. There is potential contamination with PAHs (polycylic aromatic hydrocarbons) which are carcinogenic.
The reason this ingredient is used in the cosmetic industry is for its moisture retaining properties but in addition to its carcinogenic PAH contamination, it may affect liver function detrimentally as it cannot efficiently catabolize mineral oil. This in turn can weaken the immune system.
These side effects are especially true of poorly refined mineral oils which can induce skin and scrotal cancers with prolonged use and the US Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances classifies mineral oil as both carcinogenic and teratogenic.
Mineral oil is also associated with a laxative capability which can result in chronic diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal pain, thirst and malaise.
5. Chemical Sunscreens
One of the most popular anti-aging regimes we follow is the application of sunscreen but the problem is that detrimental reactions occur between the active and inactive ingredients and the epidermis. These reactions include inflammation, dermatological effects, allergic reactions, photogenotoxic effects and promote cancer.
Another salient fact that sunscreen does not allow the body to absorb vitamin D from sunlight, an important essential nutrient.
Ingredients in Sunscreen:
Oxybenzone – This compound penetrates the skin and causes photosensitivity with resulted photocarcinogenic effects as it increases the production of harmful free radicals which have the potential to attack DNA. It has also been shown to mimic estrogen and contribute to breast cancer. It has also been linked to eczema. The body tends to retain this compound as shown by studies that urine samples taken 5 days after oxybenzone containing sunscreen application, still had the compound in their urine. A further study by the CDC confirmed that 96.8% of human urine samples surveyed contained oxybenzone. It is recommended that children under the age of 2 do not use this product as they have not yet developed the enzymes required to break down the derivatives of oxybenzone.
Octyl methoxy cinnamate (OMC) – This is the ingredient used in sunscreens to filter UVB sunlight. The problem being that its toxicity is particularly dangerous when exposed to sunlight potentially resulting in biochemical changes causing cell mutation and cell death. It is also immunotoxis, photoallergenic, shows reproductive toxicity and has organ system toxicity.
Retinyl Palmitate – The premise of this ingredient is that Vitamin A is anti-aging through its anti-oxidant abilities; however, an FDA study has found that this particular form of Vitamin A may actually speed the development of skin lesion and tumours.
It is much safer to use natural sunscreens with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide as active ingredients.
There are a lot of dangerous chemicals out there today and many of them are found in those unsuspecting products in our wash bags. It is imperative to become informed, read product labels and choose your skincare products prudently!