“If you can’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin”
Ingredients in mainstream cosmetics have been linked to a number of health concerns and recent research has shown that over 3-6kgs of cosmetics are absorbed into our body every year. It is estimated that an average daily use of cosmetics and hygiene products leaves us exposed to over 150 different toxins.
Here is a list and summary of ingredients that have shown to produce adverse side effects on our skin and health. This list is by no means exclusive.
However, in general, a product which does not contain any of the following and is registered organic, will not contain harmful chemicals.
For further research or to guarantee the safety of a product, please visit, www.ewg.org/skindeep. This website gives a hazard rating as well as discusses research which has been carried out for each cosmetic and personal care ingredient.
Ingredients to avoid
• FD&C Pigments
• Silicones • Formaldehyde
• Mineral Oil • Phalates
• Propylene Glycol Parfum
These ingredients are responsible for the foaming action of cleaning products. By removing the sebum/sweat protective barrier from our skin, sulphates are responsible for increasing our skins permeability, leading to greater absorption of hazardous ingredients. Removing our natural barrier can also aggravates skin disease such as eczema, leading to potential infections from bacteria and fungus. For many people, sulphates give the shiny squeaky feeling of being “clean” which is actually a sign your skin's protection has been removed. From an esthetic point of view, removing the sebum form our skin and scalp leads to dry dehydrated skin and scalp, brittle hair, hair loss and increases signs of aging.
Parabens are added to cosmetics as a preservative and to prevent the growth of bacteria and fungus.
Different names for these products are: ethylparaben, butylparaben, methylparaben and propylparaben.
Once absorbed into the body, parabens act on the endocrine system and are known as hormone disrupters. They mimic the action of oestrogen and can contribute pathology linked to oestrogen dominancy syndrome.
FD + C Color Pigments Colourants
Found in hair dyes and make up. Through skin absorption or inhalation, these ingredients have been found to affect the nervous system and contribute to heavy metal toxicity.
• aluminum lakes
• carmine (because of the synthetic process used to secure the color from the insects)
• sodium copper chlorophyllin (chlorophyll)
• D&C colors (all)
• FD&C colors (all)
• iron oxides
• titanium dioxide (nano)
• zinc oxide (nano)
Silicones or cones
Many ingredients ending in the letters cone are a type of silicone. Used in cosmetics to protect the skin and hair, by leaving a layer over the surface.
Research over the effects of cones on our metabolism is mixed. Debate over the molecule size, and whether or not these molecules are small enough to be absorbed, is on going. It is known that silicones contribute to allergic reactions and can exacerbate acne. Cones, in hair products, give the “slip” effect and so give the impression of healthy shiny hair when in reality hair is extremely dehydrated and damaged, if used over a long period of time. To remove silicones, a strong cleaning agent is needed usually in the form of a sulphate. This leads to the vicious cones – sulphate cycle. It is advised that when converting to more natural oil based products, silicones are removed or greatly reduced, as they can inhibit the absorption of the beneficial oils.
Restricted in Europe, formaldehyde can be described using the following names:
• 2 bromo-‐2-‐nitropropane 1, 3-‐diol
• 5 bromo-‐5 nitro-‐1, 3-‐dioxane
• Diazolidinyl urea
• Quaternium 15
• DMDM Hydantoin
• Sodium hydroxymethyl
Used widely to preserve dead tissue, in the body, formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. Further research has shown, adverse effects on our lungs, through inhalation, increase allergies and eye irritation.
A major ingredient in infant care and baby oil, mineral oil is derived from petrochemicals. Absorbed over time into our blood stream, it can affect endocrine metabolism and cause allergies. For esthetic purposes, it coats the skin and prevents the skin from “breathing”.
Often listed as parfum or fragrance, phalates are used in cosmetics as perfume fixers, prolonging the odor of a product. Concerns over the ingredient have arisen over potential effects on a woman’s fertility and on children’s health and fetal development.
DEA (diethanolamine), MEA (monoethanolamine), TEA (triethanolamine)
Used to enhance foam production and a pH adjuster. There is restricted use in Europe. A known irritant, these products affect the stomach, liver, oesophyagus and bladder, causing inflammation.
Found naturally in green tea and chicory, used in cosmetics it is in most standard products derived from a synthetic source. It acts as a fragrance stabilizer and preservative. A known irritant to the skin, research is showing that is can be organ toxic and accumulates over time in the body.
More research is being done to the full effects of phenoxyethanol on our system.
Propylene Glycol (PG)
PG, also present in anti-freeze, is found in many liquid products acting as a penetration enhancer and prevents products from melting in heat and solidifying in cold. It has been seen to be an endocrine disruptor, immune-toxic and neurotoxic. Children are greatly affected by this product.
In anti-ageing products, the use of PG aims to hide the appearance of fine lines. Due to its deep penetration into the skin and attracting water molecules, PG causes the skin to “plump up”, giving the impression of smoother skin.
Fragrance in a product can be ambiguous. Unless the brand states the origin of the fragrance in the ingredients, I usually avoid the product. This can be unfortunate if the brand simply overlooked stating the source of the fragrance, e.g essential oils. To understand why we need to be wary of fragrance, you need to know the regulations involved. Fragrance although listed as a single ingredient on your product, can be made up of multiple different chemicals, sometimes up to 200 or more. This practice is known as the Trade Secrets Law and companies are not required to state the composition of their fragrance. These chemical combinations making up the perfume can be synthetic or natural, we just do not know. Usually, unless otherwise stated, fragrance will contain phalates. .
Aluminium has been under the spotlight in recent years for its role in cancers and use as an antiperspirant in deodorants. From a practitioner point of view, stopping the body’s natural detox and temperature regulation process will have an impact on your overall wellbeing.
Results of studies carried out on the toxic side effects of aluminum were said by some to be ambiguous. However, these studies were enough, along with public opinion for big company brands to start removing it from their products and offering alternatives. Although awareness of this ingredient has come to light in recent years and brands releasing alternative products, you will still find aluminum in use in all antiperspirants.