If you’re reading this, you’re no doubt health conscious and try to eat well. But have you ever wondered how what you put on your skin also affects your health and wellbeing?
When we choose beauty products, we don’t often consider what’s inside the jar and the actual ingredients. I certainly didn’t until a couple of years ago – any pretty packaging, gorgeous fragrance or a promise to make my skin look flawless had me sold.
But here’s the reality – we absorb 60-70% of what we apply to our skin. Surprising? Not only is our skin our body’s largest organ, but it’s also very thin. Consider nicotine patches, ‘Deep Heat’, progesterone cream - all products designed to be absorbed via our skin into the bloodstream.
Our beauty products get absorbed the same way. It is estimated we expose ourselves to 168 chemicals each morning, just getting ready for the day. Crazy, right? From our shampoo to perfume, from handwash to lippie, toxic chemicals lurk throughout our beauty cabinets.
But don’t stress – the good news is it’s pretty simple to make the switch to healthier products (much easier than eating well if you ask me!) – you just need to know what to look out for.
Here are 10 nasties to avoid in your everyday personal care products - and some better alternatives:
1. Fragrance and perfumes – most of us know someone who suffers from headaches or skin reactions when exposed to perfume. What’s less known is that fragrance contains chemicals called phthalates that interfere with hormone function (endocrine disruptors). Phthalates have been linked to issues in reproduction, fertility, metabolism, puberty and hormone related cancers.
Better choice: Try essential oils such as these instead – dab a drop on your pulse points or add a couple of drops to a handful of your regular body moisturiser for a layered effect. If you have sensitive skin, try a patch test first or diluting in a carrier oil such as this one.
2. Foaming agents such as sodium laureth sulfate (SLS) – SLS is a petroleum derived foaming agent that lurks in everyday products such as bubble bath, soaps, body wash and shampoos. SLS is linked to skin irritation and urinary tract infections.
Better choice: Go for SLS and toxin free cleansers and washes such as these for mum or these for baby.
3. Polyethylene glycol (e.g. PEG-40, PEG-120) – PEG is another petroleum derived common skincare ingredient that attracts moisture to the skin and acts as a solvent. It is commonly found in cleanser, moisturisers and toothpastes, but unfortunately hasn’t been tested for safety by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review.
Better choice: Choose from these PEG and toxin free range of skincare products – once you’ve tried them, you’ll never go back!
4. Preservatives such as triclosan and parabens – preservatives prevent microbial growth in our products, so is not necessarily a bad thing, right? But some preservatives are better than others. Avoid products containing preservatives such as parabens and triclosan. Triclosan for example, is a common antibacterial agent added to many toothpastes, soaps and handwashes. Research shows that long-term exposure to triclosan could promote antibiotic resistance, disrupt hormones and, potentially, cause cancer in mice. There is also not enough evidence to show these products were better than ordinary soap and water, and that they could do more harm than good. Triclosan has been banned in the US however remains in Australia.
Better choice: Choose products that use food safe preservatives such as potassium sorbate, retinyl palmitate or ascorbic acid such as these.
5. Talcum powder – You may know that talcum powder can irritate the lungs and eyes, but did you know it has been linked to ovarian cancer by the Harvard School of Public Health? And that in 2017, a major talc manufacturer was sued $525 million by a US woman who developed ovarian cancer after using the talcum powder in her underwear for 40 years. This was just one of over 3000 claims against the company. Yet it remains on our supermarket shelves – crazy right? It is recommended that talcum powder be completely avoided in babies.
Better choice: Go for a talc free baby powder such as this one in the Nurture range.
6. Aluminium based deodorants – Conventional anti-perspirants use aluminium chlorohydrate to block our sweat glands. aluminium is suspected to be a neurotoxin and also interferes with our oestrogen receptors – not something we want to be absorbing! A reminder that sweating is healthy and normal! It’s also our bodies way of cooling down and releasing toxins that can accumulate in our important lymph glands and affect our immune system.
Better choice: Look for a deodorant that deals with the body odour and keeps you dry without blocking your sweat glands – such as this one.
7. Lipsticks that contain lead – a survey of 33 lipsticks discovered that 20 had lead within them 3,8. Lead is toxic to pregnant women as can affect foetal brain development and has been linked to learning difficulties, hyperactivity, reduced IQ, sleep disturbances and increased aggression in children.
Better choice: Choose lippies that get their colour from food or plant pigments such as these ones. If in doubt, contact the manufacturer as lead is not listed on the ingredients label, as it is considered an ‘incidental ingredient’ as it is contained in the colour pigments used (usually metal or mineral pigments).
8. Some sunscreens – a 2017 study of 880 sunscreen brands found that 73% had either safety concerns or offered inadequate protection.
Better choice: Go for sunscreens that use a physical blocker such as titanium or zinc oxide and are nanoparticle free. This best selling sunscreen is one of my all time favourite skincare products – non-sticky, smells fabulous, non-toxic, easy to apply, perfect for face and body, and the whole family.
9. Mineral oil (paraffin, petrolatum) – mineral oil is commonly used as it is inexpensive (petroleum derived) and reduces moisture loss. Unfortunately, it offers no benefit for the skin and clogs the pores.
Better choice: Try this range of amazing moisturisers which nourish and moisturise your skin with active botanicals and nutrients rather than mineral oil.
10. Head lice treatment (containing lindane) Many conventional head lice treatments contain lindane – an ingredient which is highly toxic to the nervous system, and is linked to seizures, dizziness and some deaths.
Better choice: Try adding a couple of drops of tea tree oil to your regular shampoo, or combing your regular conditioner through the hair using a nit comb. Otherwise, there’s always Google for natural head lice treatments!
Feel overwhelmed? Here’s a tip. Start with just one product. The one that’s about to run out. Or the one you use most often. Replace it with an organic version that you’re happy with. Then move on to the next. Whether you choose to phase out the old products gradually or start from scratch, any shift towards more natural beauty is a win for your health and wellbeing!
Not sure whether organic beauty will get you results or work for you? These fabulous sample discovery packs are a great value way to test the products – and you’ll never go back to regular products when you discover how amazing they are for your skin!
Bottom line? What you put on your skin matters. Know what’s in your skincare and beauty products! Either read labels, go for ingredients you recognise (and can pronounce!) or choose certified organic products such as the ones you’ll find here. Need something specific or have a question – drop me a line.
Share with a health-conscious friend and spread the message of organic beauty! And check out my video version of this blog here.
Andrews, K & Bullen, J. Endocrine disrupting chemicals: is your home making you sick? ABC News, May 2017.
Statham, B & Schneider, L. 2012. The Chemical Maze: Bookshelf Companion. Your guide to food additives and cosmetic ingredients. 2nd edition.
Bijlsma, N. 2010. Healthy Home, Healthy Family: Is where you live affecting your health? Joshua Books, Queensland, Australia.
Chettle, N. Antibacterial soap in spotlight as companies clamber to remove ineffective chemicals after US ban. ABC News. November 2016.
Cramer, D. Vitonis A. Terry K, Welch W. Titus L. The association between talc use and ovarian cancer: a retrospective case-control study in two US States. Epidemiology. May 2016; 27(3): 334-346.
Fisk, M & Bross T. J&J Loses $110 Million verdict over talc cancer-link claim. Bloomberg News. May 2017.
Perl, DP & Brody, AR. 1980. Alzheimer’s disease: x-ray spectrometric evidence of aluminium accumulation in neurofibrillary tangle bearing neurons, Science, vol. 208, pp. 297-299.
Bray, K. Are your cosmetics killing you? Choice. March 9, 2016. Available at https://www.choice.com.au/health-and-body/beauty-and-personal-care/skin-care-and-cosmetics/articles/chemicals-in-cosmetics
Environmental Working Group. 2017. The trouble with ingredients in sunscreens. Accessed June 12 2017 http://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/report/the-trouble-with-sunscreen-chemicals/
US Food and Drug Administration. Safety of topical Lindane Products for the treatment of scabies and lice. (Online). Accessed June 12 2017: www.fda.gov/drugs/drugsafety/postmarketdrugsafetyinformationforpatientsandproviders/ucm110845.htm