Do you read the labels on your lotions? Do you pick out a particular shampoo or face wash after reading the ingredients? Most of us purchase the items that we saw in an ad, or that our parents used, or that happened to be on sale. Reading the ingredient list tends to be a challenge even if we do take the time to give it a try. The words seem to have 20 syllables, and most are completely unknown to us.
I am in the process of working with some local business women and men to create an ebook about health green living, and skin care is my portion of the book. Here’s an excerpt from that upcoming ebook that lists out three (of the many) ingredients we want to avoid in products we apply to our skin. There are certainly more (I don’t address parabens in this post, but I will soon!), but this is a start.
First, mineral oil and petrolatum are by-products of distilling crude oil and are a type of occlusive oil (meaning that they form an impenetrable barrier). Mineral oil is difficult to absorb and clogs the pores, which slows toxin elimination through the skin. Per positivehealth.com, “Mineral oil pulls moisture away from the basal cells where cells are newly formed. This in turn slows down the cell renewal rate that breaks down the collagen and elastin and then begins to destroy the connective tissue” resulting in premature aging of the skin.
At the very simplest level, the occlusive nature of mineral oil, when applied all over your body, can cause you to perspire more as the skin can’t breathe as well as it needs to, and can cause your cosmetics, sunscreens, or lotions to wear off much more quickly since they cannot soak in.
Second, artificial fragrances: According to the American Academy of Dermatology, in the U.S., “fragrance allergy is the number one cause of cosmetic contact dermatitis [which is] skin inflammation [such as redness, irritation, breakouts] that occurs when the skin’s surface comes in contact with a substance originating outside the body. Studies suggest that there is a trend of increasing sensitization to fragrances worldwide. In addition, studies of contact dermatitis resulting from product exposure, list fragrance as among the top five causative agents.” When a product lists “fragrance” as an ingredient, it’s time to be very careful. If the fragrance is natural (coming from an extract of fruits, trees, plants, etc.) you are unlikely to have a problem unless you have an allergy to that particular natural ingredient. Without knowing what the “fragrance” includes, however, it might be best to avoid the product.
Closely related are Phthalates, which are chemicals commonly found in scented products. Per the Environmental Working Group, a Swedish study found phthalates “in 80% of [toiletry] products tested. Women ages 20 to 40 appeared to receive the highest exposures, up to 20 times greater than the average person, and in some cases above the accepted safety standard. The European Commission is now proposing a ban on the use in cosmetics of two of the most potent forms of phthalates amid fears that they are responsible for decreased fertility, reproductive defects and genital abnormalities.” Look for ‘-phthalate’ as the suffix of a word in ingredient lists.
When you take a look at your labels, see what you find! Coming soon, I’ll detail more ingredients to look out for such as parabens and animal by-products. I’ve already shared a post on sodium lauryl sulfate here as well. Let me know what you find on your labels and let me know what questions you have!