Your skin absorbs more than 75% of the skincare products you use. If you apply lotion on your skin, anything and everything in the lotion can get absorbed right into your bloodstream. The ingredients will circulate throughout your body many times before they are filtered out by the liver, IF they are filtered out. All those ingredients you can’t pronounce – keep reading to learn why the ingredients you put on your skin may be hindering your fat loss and athletic performance, or even poisoning you.
Do you know about the chemicals in a typical lotion ingredients list:
These chemicals can act as:
- Hormone disruptors – Disrupting hormone signaling or balance
- Carcinogens – Causing cancer or contributing to tumor growth
- Neurotoxins – Altering brain functions or killing neuronal cells
- Obesogens – Hindering weight loss or aiding weight gain
In the United States, skincare or cosmetic products, except for those with therapeutic purposes, such as steroid creams or topical medications, are not regulated by the FDA. Although the FDA may provide suggested guidelines for certain chemical ingredients, each manufacturer is responsible for its own products. In contrast, some European countries regulate cosmetic ingredients and even ban the use of certain chemical ingredients.
Aren’t these ingredients tested?
Yes, but… Results from toxicology studies have been mixed, or inconclusive, so we have no direct proof that many of the chemicals in our skincare products are harmless, or harmful. Consider Parabens, a xenoestrogen, or estrogen replacement. This chemical requires 100,000 times the concentration of estrogen to have a similar effect as estrogen. Although many skin care products have doses of 0.4% paraben, the parabens in these products are unlikely to be harmful. However, parabens are found in breast cancer samples, and are known to exhibit estrogenic activities and potential cancer-causing effects in breast cancers (reference).
One product, in a small amount, is unlikely to be harmful and shouldn’t be much of a concern. However, we are exposed to hundreds of chemicals in our skincare products, every day: soap, shampoo, hair products, face creams, eye creams, deodorants, cosmetics, etc. A 2004 survey by the Environmental Working Group found that an average adult uses 9 personal care products, with a total of 126 unique ingredients, everyday. Another survey by Bionsen, UK, indicated that an average British woman is exposed to 515 different chemicals each day. These chemical exposures may contribute to the rise of hormone imbalances, cancers, degenerative diseases, and obesity.
Because we are exposed to hundreds of chemicals every day, we must consider the long term cumulative toxicity, as well as potential harmful effects of combining ingredients. Unfortunately, most studies are done in the short term, on single chemicals. Many articles related to skin care ingredients suggest that cumulative effects of ingredients need to be studied. However, specific studies or review articles with data supporting cumulative effects of chemical ingredients are extremely limited. Further complicating the matter is that much of the data available, from short-term, single chemical studies, is conflicting. Therefore, many researchers, manufacturers and regulators believe that chemicals in skin care products are safe because no conclusive harmful results are available. Personally, until more data is available, I choose to avoid conventional products containing chemical ingredients.
What to avoid putting on your skin?
- Hormone disruptors such as parabens, which may come in the form of methylparaben, propylparaben, benzylparaben, butylparabens, and pthalates. They interfere with hormone metabolism, especially estrogen and can contribute to estrogen dominance or obesity.
- Petroleum or petroleum derivatives, including petrolatum, mineral oils and baby oils. These are common skin irritants.
- Perfume/Fragrance, which may contain thousands of proprietary ingredients. Scented products can contain toxins, especially in the U.S., because manufacturers are not required to disclose the ingredients of the perfume or fragrance.
- Propylene glycol. This ingredient may increase cell permeability, allowing other toxic ingredients to be absorbed more easily. It is also known to be toxic to some human cells in vitro (test tube).
- Formaldehyde-emitting agents, such as phenoxyethanol and DMDM allantoin. Formaldehyde is a chemical used to preserve dead bodies and is a carcinogen.
- Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS), Sodium Dedocyl Sulfate (SDS), and Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate (SLES). These are strong skin irritants and carcinogens.
- Antibacterial ingredients such as triclosan and benzalkonium chloride. These chemicals can disrupt the normal skin flora and may contribute to creating superbugs that are resistant to germicides. In addition, Triclosan is a hormone disruptor.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of toxic skin care ingredients. As a general rule, it is better to use non-toxic skincare products with no chemicals – if you can’t pronounce it, do you want it on your skin? Consider bodycare and cosmetic products from responsible companies that don’t use harmful ingredients, such as Dr. Bronner’s Soap, Derma-E, Seventh-Generation, Bio-Vert, and Green Beaver. These products can be purchased from your local health food stores, or online at Amazon, Thrive Market, and Whiterabbitbeauty.com. However, if you are in doubt, you should check www.ewg.org/skindeep for toxicity levels, products that contain chemicals, and studies that demonstrate the toxicity of the chemicals.
For additional information on non-toxic products and DIY options, check out my ebook. Please leave a comment below indicating your favorite non-toxic products or “where to buy” websites.