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6 Toxic Chemicals Hiding in your Skin Care

When it comes to our health, the focus is primarily on what we put in our bodies. But have you ever considered what you put on your body? You could be one of the healthiest eaters on the planet and have a stellar workout regime, but if your bathroom is filled with toxic products that you’re using daily, a lot of your efforts are going down the drain.

Noting that the skin is our largest organ and one of the main pathways for detoxification, why then are we choosing to lather our bodies in toxic chemicals when we wouldn’t even consider having them on our plate?

Unfortunately the beauty industry is highly unregulated, and thus, many of these toxic products can go unnoticed and even claim to be ‘natural’. Most of these synthetic chemicals are skin irritants, skin penetrators, endocrine disruptors and even carcinogenic. From skin care to shampoo, deodorant and even toothpaste, let’s take a look at some of the major toxic offenders and how you can avoid them.

+ Sulfates
They are in 90% of foaming and lathering skin and hair care products, hidden as fillers. Sulfates are frequently described on labels as “comes from” or “derived from”, making them seemingly inconspicuous. However they are known skin irritants, hormone and endocrine disruptors and suspected carcinogens and gene mutagens. Any chemical that’s a possible carcinogen or gene mutagen should be of high concern in our eyes! Look out on labels for sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), ammonium laureth sulfate (ALES), sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS).

+ Parabens
Steer clear of any product with a derivative of the word paraben, e.g. Methylparaben, propylparaben. Also known as estrogen-mimickers, the common preservative, parabens, are associated with an increased risk in breast cancer as it adds further estrogen into the body over time. Found in makeup, body washes, deodorant, facial cleansers and shampoos, Dr David Suzuki estimates that 75-90% of cosmetics contain parabens. It is often listed on product ingredients with the prefixes ethyl-, methyl-, propyl-, isopropyl-, butyl- or isobutyl. Read your labels and be on the lookout for products that say “paraben-free”.

+ Phthalates
Used to increase the flexibility and softness in plastics, phthalates are found in hundreds of products. Known to be endocrine disruptors (are we seeing a theme here yet?), the main culprits being nail polish, perfumes and hair spray. They are linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, early breast development in girls and reproductive birth defects in males and females. Stay clear!

+ Polyethylene Glycol
Polyethylene Glycol has many different uses in cosmetics and is actually the same chemical that’s used to clean your oven. Yep, you heard us right. As a ‘degreaser’, it strips the skin of its natural protective oils leaving the body susceptible to invaders. PEG is commonly contaminated with a known carcinogen called 1,4-dioxane, which has been linked to leukaemia and uterine, breast and brain cancers.

+ Synthetic Colours
Take a look at your products and notice if they say FD&C or D&C; these letters precede an artificial colour. Derived from petroleum or coal tar sources, synthetic colours are suspected to be a human carcinogen, skin irritant and even linked to ADHD in children. The European Union has in fact banned these altogether! So keep an eye out for these dangerous colour additives and go as natural as possible.

+ BPAs
Bisphenol is a chemical found in most plastics and even paper products. It has been shown to alter fat cells when it interacts with insulin, causing more fat and bigger cells. Known as “xenoestrogens”, BPAs mimic the hormone estrogen and are related to ovarian dysfunction, thyroid issues and obesity. While we don’t put plastic on our skin, the primary concern is either heat or other cosmetic ingredients leeching this chemical out of packaging and into our skin care. Look for brands who use BPA free packaging — and that goes for food packages and water bottles too!

Do yourself, your family and your health a favour and review your beauty and bathroom cabinets. Don’t be overwhelmed by the task. Start today by changing some of your most used products. We recommend taking a good look at your deodorant, body wash, shampoo and face + body moisturisers.

Taking these small initial steps can make a massive impact in your health. If you’re unsure what to buy and have never ventured from your traditional products, checkout some of the brands we love that can be found either online or at local specialty stores:

Dr Bronner, Miessence, Intelligent Nutrients, Sukin, Mekhala Living and Aesop.

For an even more extensive list, and a great resource to check if your current products are high toxic offenders, take a look at the EWG’s Skin Deep Database. The EWG has also just launched a ‘Skin Deep’ App. Now you can even check products for their chemical rating before you buy them!

EWG skin deep