Are these good for your skin?

Your cosmetics cupboard maybe full of harmful chemicals, that you didn't even know existed

By: Dr Juvita Rasquinha

Did you know that every day, an average woman applies more than 200 chemicals to her body? Products like shampoos, hairsprays, body lotions, deodorants, makeup, and even perfumes can contain some harmful chemicals. They can cause everything from skin irritation and allergic reactions to cancer and infertility.

There is lots of concerning research, but companies continue to use these dangerous toxins in their products because they are cheap and there are often no laws around them.  We have options when it comes to what we put on our faces and bodies. We have to take it upon ourselves to do our research so we can make healthy choices.

The best way to protect yourself is to become informed. Learn about what ingredients to look out for, why they are dangerous, and how to find safer alternatives. This is the absolute best way to make better choices! 

Here are five dangerous chemicals hidden in popular skincare products and how you can identify safer alternatives.

1. Parabens
Parabens are cheap preservatives used in a wide range of cosmetic products. They prevent bacteria, mold, fungus, and even parasites from growing. Almost 60% of all cosmetic products contain parabens.
There are a few major concerns with parabens:
1. Studies show that these chemicals can be absorbed through our skin and into our bloodstream where they then stay and pile up.
2. They mimic estrogen in the body and disrupt our natural hormonal balance.
3. There may be a link between paraben exposure and breast cancer.
There are many alternatives to parabens which are safe and just as effective!

Best Alternatives: Vitamin E, rosemary extract, fermented radish root, grapefruit seed extract, sodium benzoate, and antioxidant oils such as almond, avocado, and hemp seed oil.

My Advice: Keep an eye out for products that are labelled “paraben-free,” and study the ingredient list carefully, as these pesky preservatives can be listed in different ways, including “methylparaben” or “propylparaben.”

2. Phthalates
Phthalates are a group of chemicals used to make products more liquid and less dry. You can find these in products like nail polish, shampoos, creams, and moisturizers. Several studies show links to male and female reproductive defects, asthma, breast cancer, and even diabetes. The problem is the “fragrance” catch all includes phthalates, making them impossible to identify on the product label.

Best Alternatives: Avoid products with fragrance, use products in glass containers.

My Advice: Avoid products that contain fragrance and come in cheap plastic packaging. You should also shop from high-integrity beauty brands who say that they avoid using these chemicals.

3. Triclosan
Triclosan (also known as Microban) is another chemical commonly used as a preservative in skincare products. It links to many negative human health effects. Any skincare product that claims to have anti-bacterial properties likely includes this ingredient. Triclosan does a great job at killing bacteria (both good and bad bacteria). But, it also helps grow types of bacteria that resist antibiotic treatment. Triclosan can disrupt your natural hormonal balance and weaken your immune systems. It can build up in your fat cells over time and can be detected in breast milk, blood, and urine.

Best Alternatives: Essential oils such as thyme, rosemary, lavender, and citrus.

My Advise: Avoid products containing Triclosan.

4. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
This is one of the most common ingredients used in shampoos, soaps, body washers, and just about anything that creates a thick foam. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is in up to 90% of skin care products. SLES is also a concern as in some circumstances it can become contaminated with Dioxane. Dioxane is a suspected carcinogen and lasts much longer in our bodies, primarily because the liver cannot metabolize it effectively.

In addition to skin irritation, there are studies that point to residual levels of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate in the brain, lungs, liver, and heart. These levels follow the use of SLS used externally on the scalp and skin, and in the mouth as an ingredient in toothpaste. There are some findings that link the ingredient to a hormone imbalance. 

Best Alternatives: SLS-free formulations, foam-free natural products, coco-glucoside, decyl glucoside, saponified carrier oils or castile soaps (such as coconut, olive oil, and sunflower oils).

My Advice: Check your soaps for this ingredient before purchasing and don’t fret if the SLS-free product you try doesn’t produce a rich lather like your old shampoo or body wash. A lack of suds doesn’t mean it’s not doing it’s job. It simply means you’re skipping out on a harmful chemical.

5. Oxybenzone
Oxybenzone is the active ingredient in many popular sunscreens. It has been linked to skin reactions and it may even disrupt hormones. There have also been studies indicating that when oxybenzone is exposed to sunlight it can form free radicals that cause skin cell damage.

My Advice: This doesn’t mean you should skip sunscreen altogether, of course. It’s easy to avoid this chemical if you stick with mineral-based zinc or titanium oxide sunscreens.

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