Just like checking your food labels for nasty additives, we should be equally concerned with what’s on our skincare ingredient list. Our skin is our largest organ and because of its porous nature, it absorbs roughly 60-70% of whatever we put on it. This could be naturally hydrating oils or dangerous chemicals that will dry the skin, burden our liver and kidneys, and even cause disruption to our hormone balance. However most skincare brands, with the exception of certain brands like Vanessa Megan, don’t make it easy for you to read or identify dangerous ingredients.
Here are our top 5 offenders for you to watch out for:
This term is a catch-all for various artificial fragrances to make the product have a specific scent. Unfortunately, these are highly irritating for the skin and can trigger redness, dryness, itchiness or even a full allergic response or asthma attack. These are completely unnecessary to achieve nice smelling products and it’s something to always check for.
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)
This sulfate additive helps with foaming and is found is many shampoos, soaps and facial cleansers. It is also an irritant for our lungs, eyes, skin and lungs as well as toxic for marine life. If that’s not enough to ditch products containing SLS, it can interact with other chemicals to form known carcinogens and the California Environmental Protection Agency has identified SLS as a possible developmental toxin.
Parabens are frequently added to increase the shelf-life of a product as this is a cheap preservative. This additive has been shown to mimic estrogen in the body and may therefore increase the risk of breast cancer and reproductive problems. It is not yet clear how strong the effects may be but it’s best to steer clear of them. Many products now have ‘paraben free’ labels but it’s always worth checking the label for any words ending in ‘paraben’.
Just like parabens, phalates also cause hormone disruption by blocking testosterone in the body. For men this causes decreased fertility, prostate problems and an unbalanced estrogen to testosterone ratio meaning symptoms like weight gain, breast tissue development, and reduced muscle mass may occur. Additionally, it can be dangerous for children, causing damage to liver and kidneys systems.
Triclosan is a potent antibacterial substance that was first registered as a pesticide in 1969. Today it can be found in many toothpastes, sanitizers, deodorants, hand soaps and mouthwash. Not all health effects have been proven in human models yet but highly potential effects include hormone disruption, irritation of the skin and eyes, muscle weakness, increased risk of allergies and break-down to cancerous compounds. Moreover, it is extremely harmful for the environment and overuse of antibiotic products contributes to the growth of antibiotic-resistance, which the WHO classifies as a serious global threat to health.
Sad to say, this doesn’t nearly cover all the toxic ingredients found in skincare, cosmetics and cleaning products. However, it can often be extremely confusing to discern safe substances, like tocopheryl acetate which is simply vitamin E, from toxic ones. We hope our list will help you make more informed choices for what products you allow on (and ultimately in) your body.
By Rachel Erwin, Health Coach