Keeping your skin healthy and beautiful is a delicate balance. You want to be cautious of what you’re putting on and in your body, since both can effect your skin and your overall health.
Our skin is our largest organ, and is permeable. That means that what we put on our skin (or what we expose our skin to) is absorbed into our body – into our bloodstream. In fact, 60% of what we put on our body (lotions, creams, oils, fragrances) enters our bloodstream. If you’re not already conscious of the ingredients you’re using on your skin, it’s time to learn more about ingredients that are safe, and those that should be avoided.
Some ingredients to avoid
While this list is in no way complete, it does address some of the more common ingredients that are considered unhealthy – known to have harmful effects, or simply irritating to the skin. And be aware that some of these ingredients build up over time; while you may not notice any reactions immediately, they could prove to have adverse effects down the line.
Parabens are very effective at preserving skin care products – so effective, that they’ve been used throughout the beauty industry since the 1950s. They are great at preventing bacterial growth, but they are considered a xeno-estrogen. Xeno-etrogens are considered estrogen disruptors, which have been linked to reproductive issues as well as breast cancer.
Fortunately, many companies are diminishing or eliminating the use of parabens in their products – but it’s still important to check ingredients lists. Remember that cosmetics do still need a preservative of some kind in order to prevent bacterial growth.
Sulfates are responsible for the foaming or sudsing action you see in most of your shampoos or cleansers. Unfortunately, sulfates have also been linked to sever skin irritation, digestive issues, eye damage, and respiratory problems. Some claims have been made that sulfates are carcinogenic, but that has not been proven conclusively.
Phthalates work to soften products like shampoos and cleansers, and studies have shown that they can have an effect on hormone levels. The problem is that phthalates may be in a product, even if not listed in the ingredients. If phthalates are used as part of a fragrance, the label may simply say “fragrance.” In order to avoid phthalates, it’s important to look for products that state they do not use phthalates, or are “phthalate free.”
Commonly labeled as Propylene Glycol and Butylene Glycol, these ingredients are a subject of much debate. In their more concentrated forms, they can be extremely toxic, and can cause brain, kidney, and liver abnormalities. However, the less concentrated forms have not exhibited the same toxicity. While cosmetics using propylene glycol may to be harmful, there is no conclusive evidence. If you are concerned, there are plenty of products which don’t use petroleum, or any petroleum derivatives.
While we’ve provided a very short list of some of the ingredients which have come under fire in the beauty industry, this is by no means a conclusive list. The important thing is to address any issues you may have (skin sensitivity, etc.) that may make you more concerned about the ingredients you use. After all, even an ingredient that is commonly known to be safe can cause a reaction in someone who’s allergic – that’s why it’s so important to be aware of what you’re putting on your skin.
It’s especially important to be vigilant during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor about ingredients that may be harmful to you and your developing fetus, and make adjustments to your beauty routine as necessary.
It’s not imperative that you go home and toss any product with an ingredient that may be considered harmful. If you have concerns – based on your research – look for something new to replace the products you’re concerned about. And make an effort to be more aware of ingredients when purchasing products in the future.
Remember, if you’ve been using a product with one or more of these ingredients, that doesn’t mean you’ve suffered any harm. It simply means these ingredients may have harmful effects. Think of it as “better safe than sorry.”