We’ve been hearing more and more that there are toxic ingredients in our skincare products, but how bad is it?
Many people assume that just because products are on the market, they must be safe. That’s not necessarily the case, according to David Andrews of the Environmental Working Group. “The American government surprisingly doesn’t require health studies or pre-market testing of the chemicals in personal care products” (EWG). On top of that, it’s hard to tell which ingredients are really ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ because truth-in-marketing rules for food don’t apply in the cosmetics world.
In his book Toxic Beauty, Samuel Epstein, MD, states it’s actually safer to consume your products than to put them on your skin. This is because a percentage goes straight to your bloodstream, whereas when they are swallowed they have to go through your liver first. Yikes!
So what are some of the real risks of these common ingredients?
One common ingredient, phthalates, are present in many cosmetics and shampoos. Two recent studies conducted concluded that exposure to them may result in hormone disruption. In one study, 1-year old boys in the high phthalates group showed signs of impaired production of testosterone, the male sex hormone. Shockingly, phthalates are very common in baby care products.
Another common problem ingredient is parabens. These artificial preservatives are carcinogenic and are also known to disrupt normal hormonal functioning in the body.
So how do you find out if your products are safe to use? When there is so little attention to regulation or safety precautions taken, how can we feel truly informed about our purchases?
This is the place where we circle back to the Environmental Working Group. Besides putting out great tools like the Dirty Dozen list, they also provide a whole database devoted to rating the safety of beauty and skincare products. The Skindeep Database is available to rate not the safety of not only products but also individual ingredients so you can do your homework.
Alternately, you can use all natural (edible) products for your skincare regime. I can vouch for this, as I have never had clear skin until I started using oils for cleansing. This goes against everything you’ve ever been told, I know. I was skeptical. Oils actually help to balance out the oil levels in your skin so you can be less shiny, they are extremely moisturizing (dry skin leads to further clogged pores and acne) and they are usually very inexpensive, comparatively speaking. My oil of choice is jojoba oil, but any good quality cooking oil will do, taking care to make sure it is not overly refined and organic and/or extra virgin where possible (that way you know there are not harsh chemicals used in the refining process). As always, please skip the vegetable oils (canola, corn, sunflower, safflower, etc.). You do not want them on or in your body. Here is a great guide from Positive Health Wellness, if you want to fine-tune your oil-pulling recipe for your specific skin type or learn more about why it works so well!
Did you know that you can also make your own makeup? If you’re game to give it a try, check out Wellness Mama for some great recipes for makeup that are food-based. Yummm.
And now I turn to you- how do your skincare products rate? What is your best tip for avoiding the ‘junk’ in so many makeup and skincare products? I’d love to hear in the comments below!