Do you obsessively check the nutrition labels on food? Brilliant. Now, what about your skincare?
Cosmetics are a fairly unregulated industry, and all kinds of toxic ingredients can creep into products. If you’re following a standard skincare routine – say, face wash, serum, moisturiser and eye cream – you may be applying a chemical cocktail to your skin without even knowing it. And what’s worse, your skin absorbs up to 60 per cent of what you put on it, meaning those ingredients get a fast pass into your bloodstream. No, thank you!
You’re already great at monitoring what you put into your body; now, let’s talk about what to avoid putting onto it.
Harmful ingredients in skincare
Found in facial cleansers and tanning products, parabens are preservatives that prevent bacteria forming so that products have a longer shelf life. That’s not all they do – parabens have been shown to cause skin rashes and disrupt the delicate endocrine (hormonal) system by mimicking oestrogen. They’ve been linked to increased breast cancer and decreased sperm count in men, too. Yet they’re widely used! Many parabens are banned overseas (Europe and Asia are front-runners), but there are no limits in Australia. Look for products that boast being “paraben-free” – because that’s something to be proud of.
This is the trickiest one, mostly because the law is too easy-breezy on what companies have to reveal. Basically, ‘fragrance’ can include any number of ingredients, and there’s no need to list them separately on the label. Synthetic fragrance is a huge allergen, and scented blends may cause hormonal issues, dermatitis, allergies, headaches and sensitivity to the sun. Go fragrance-free where possible, and keep a close eye on creamy products like moisturisers.
This group of chemicals often finds its way into sprays and moisturisers. Phthalates are known endocrine disrupters, and linked to early puberty in girls and reduced fertility in males. They can also affect the thyroid. Yep, they’re that nasty. Luckily, some phthalates are banned in Oz, but the problem is, they often come under the ‘fragrance’ umbrella so they’re not always spelled out on labels.
Sodium lauryl/laureth sulphate (SLS).
Do you own any conventional skincare products that foam up, like face wash? Chances are, they contain SLSs – cheap surfactants that irritate the skin, eyes and even the lungs. If that wasn’t scary enough, they also have the ability to interact with other chemicals to form a carcinogen called nitrosamines – something you definitely don’t want anywhere near your skin. For those with blemish-prone skin, SLSs are often found in acne treatments too, so just be wary of that.
Used as an antiseptic and disinfectant in treatments for dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis and acne, resorcinol can do more harm than good. Along with irritating skin, it can also impact the thyroid when used over a long period of time. The takeaway tip here? Choose gentle products over harsh ones.
A good scrub is super satisfying, but those tiny beads in face and lip exfoliators often contain polyethylene. The synthetic chemical easily penetrates the skin, and can cause irritation – especially if you have sensitive skin.
Also known as petroleum jelly (the ‘petrol’ part is a red flag in itself!), this is a type of mineral oil that the skin doesn’t want or need. It’s cheap and used in products that claim to soften or soothe skin, but it can interfere with the skin’s natural moisturising mechanisms and actually dry it out.
How to avoid toxic skincare ingredients
Our bodies just weren’t designed to deal with these kinds of synthetic chemicals. But here’s the good news: you can control your exposure to these nasties by opting for all-natural products.
There are some amazing brands on the market, and one of our faves is Tailor Skincare. The New Zealand-based company creates natural skincare that works, with the help of high-quality, locally-sourced ingredients.
Our top pick is the Tailor Skincare Cleansing Oil. Packed with hazelnut oil, coconut oil and vitamin E, it leaves skin feeling clean, clear, fresh and balanced – because that is what life is about.
Do you check the labels on skincare? What natural skincare products are you keen to try?