What if you drank your facial cleanser? I am by no means advocating that you rummage through your bathroom and start downing your skin care products over ice, however, what you do every day when you lather on lotion or serums does affect you internally, not entirely unlike the way the food and drink you consume affects you.
Did you know that 60% of what you put on your skin gets absorbed into your blood stream?
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI1), while there might be some chemicals that are too large to enter the blood stream, many are small enough to penetrate. What you put on your skin does not just remain on the surface. It gets absorbed and either helps you or harms you.
Think about nicotine patches and birth control patches — they are designed to be placed on the surface of the skin and deliver chemicals that are absorbed by the skin into the blood stream to have the intended effect. Just like you consume food through eating, you “consume” any chemicals in personal care products through your skin.
Here’s the scary part. The FDA does not, I repeat, does NOT, currently test or approve cosmetic products. As a result, many contain toxic ingredients that have been known to have negative health consequences – things like hormone disruption, cancer and severe allergic reactions.
Since there isn’t much federal oversight, it's up to those of us to do our own due diligence to make sure that we protect ourselves and our families and buy products with ingredients that are beneficial and healthy for our skin.
We are all on this journey to making more sustainable, healthy and ethical (SHE) choices together. Kudos for SHE choices!
Seeking perfection can be overwhelming and paralyzing however, so I want to make it easy for you. I would like to arm you with some practical tools you can use to begin making steps towards choosing healthier skin care products.
There are two things to consider as you make the shift to healthier skin care. The first is what level of exposure you have to personal care products every day and the second is which chemicals have the potential to harm you the most.
By exposure I mean what products do you use the most often and which ones cover the largest surface area of your skin for the longest period of time. For example a hand wash that you use to clean only your hands and then quickly wash off constitutes less exposure than a body lotion that you apply all over your body and leave on for the entire day.
It's more effective to begin by focusing on making shifts in products you’re exposed to at higher levels. Identify lotions, moisturizers and serums that you use on your face and body every day that remain on the skin for long periods of time and consider replacing those with healthier options.
Once you identify which products you would like to replace, the second focus is to identify the most harmful chemicals to stay away from.
HERE ARE MY TOP FIVE TO AVOID:
Parabens are preservatives found in many personal care products. They include methylparaben propylparaben and ethylparaben among others. Studies have shown that parabens mimic estrogen and can act as potential hormone (endocrine) system disruptors. This is bad news for women! Estrogen exposure has been linked to breast cancer development and progression. While there is disagreement about whether the levels of Parabens found in skin care products are enough to cause cancer, I recommend that you error on the side of caution and avoid these altogether.
2. SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE (SLS)
Sodium Lauryl Sufate is a surfactant used in thousands of cosmetics products. It's the ingredient that makes many of them foam. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) 2SLS has shown links to irritation of the skin and eyes, organ and reproductive toxicity and possible mutations and cancer.
The state of California and other authoritative bodies has classified phthalates such as dibutyl phthalate (DBP) as a reproductive and developmental toxicant, and the European Union has banned the use of this ingredient in cosmetics and personal care products. Phthalates are sometimes not listed on the label but may be hidden in ingredients like “fragrances,” so it’s important to look for products that explicitly say they do not contain Phthalates.
4. DIETHANOLAMINE (DEA)
DEA is another ingredient used in personal care products to provide lather. The World Health Organization has found it to show evidence of carcinogenicity (cancer).
Fragrance may seem like an odd ingredient to include in my list of harmful ingredients. I am specifically referring to synthetic fragrances here or “fragrance” ingredients that are not listed as natural. The term fragrance can be used to mask a combination of toxic chemicals, some including the ones I've listed above.
No guide is complete with only a list of don’ts. Let's get to the fun part of safe and effective ingredients and SHE choices for skin care.
DO USE PRODUCTS WITH THE FOLLOWING:
Essential oils & ingredients derived from natural sources
Wild-crafted ingredients – these are ingredients that have been grown in the wild without human intervention
Organic ingredients – these are ingredients that have been certified organic by the USDA
I hope you feel empowered and excited to begin a journey of wholesome personal care and skin care. If you've already begun the journey, I hope you feel inspired to kick the SHE shifts up a notch.
What has been your perception or experience with natural skin care? We’d love to know!