Did you know that the skin is your biggest organ?
We tend to think that our skin is just a barrier against harmful things entering our bodies, and that’s true. But our skin serves many other functions, such as preventing moisture loss, protecting us from UV rays, regulating our temperature, and allowing us to feel sensations. The skin is more than a barrier. In fact, it is quite permeable. The pores of our skin lead directly to our circulatory system, and molecules of whatever we put on our skin cross into the bloodstream easily and quickly.
Now think about this. The average woman uses at least 12 beauty products every day. These 12 products can have over 160 ingredients in them that get absorbed into the body. The ingredients in beauty and skincare products are not regulated (yes you read that right!). The products we apply to our skin, hair, nails and teeth can affect our health, just the same as the quality of the food we eat affects our health.
Many of the ingredients in mainstream beauty care products contain xenoestrogens. These are molecules that mimic our own natural estrogens. They compete for estrogen receptors and have a stronger estrogenic effect, leading to estrogen dominance. Symptoms of estrogen dominance include irregular or painful periods, weight gain, mood swings, headaches, low libido, anxiety, depression and food cravings.
Other ingredients are just plain toxic. Many of these ingredients have been linked to health issues such as allergies, eczema, cancer, hormone disruptions and reproductive problems. If detoxification pathways are overburdened or aren’t clearing these toxins well, the body protects itself by storing the toxins in fat. Carrying a toxic burden is one reason why it can be hard to lose weight, and one reason why we recommend a cleanse twice a year.
These are all excellent reasons to choose beauty care products carefully. This can feel daunting when looking at the long list of ingredients in these products. Yet there are resources to help you choose wisely.
Beauty Care – Reading the Labels
It’s a good idea to read the ingredients of your beauty care products, just like you read ingredient labels for your food products. Here are some tips about these labels:
- The first 5 ingredients have the highest concentration in the product and give you the most exposure.
- Read all the way to the bottom. Red flag ingredients can be found anywhere in the ingredient list.
- Fragrance and perfume can be a blend of 10-100 synthetic chemicals, many of which are xenoestrogens. Companies’ fragrance formulas are protected under federal law’s classification of trade secrets and therefore companies are not required to disclose the ingredients.
- Artificial colors and dyes can be contaminated with heavy metals and petrolatum. These can cause skin irritations and breakouts.
“Clean” Product Labeling
With a clean beauty movement happening, companies are using some different terminology on their labels. Here is some terminology you may see and what they mean:
- Cruelty free – not tested on animals, but that doesn’t guarantee the ingredients are safe and clean.
- Vegan – plant based and doesn’t contain anything derived from animals. It may not be free of pesticides.
- Natural – the ingredients are found in nature, but that doesn’t mean they are safe and clean.
- Organic – not treated with pesticides, herbicides or growth hormones, though not all ingredients in the product are necessarily organic.
- Green Beauty – made using plant-based ingredients and meet specific eco-friendly sustainability standards.
The Dirty Dozen of Skin Care
You may have heard of the Dirty Dozen produce list, but did you know there is a Dirty Dozen beauty care list too? These should be avoided.
- BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) – Used to extend shelf life and are likely hormone disruptors. These are found in lipsticks, moisturizers, diaper creams, and other cosmetics.
- Ethanolamines (MEA/DEA/TEA) – Surfactants and pH adjuster linked to allergies and hormone disruption. These are found in creamy and foaming products such as moisturizer, shampoo, hair dyes, mascara, foundation, fragrances and sunscreens.
- Coal tar dyes – A byproduct of coal processing that is a known carcinogen. Look for P-Phenyl-enediamine in hair dyes & shampoos.
- Phthalates (DBP, DEHP, DEP and others) – Phthalates disrupt the -endocrine system. They are found in synthetic fragrance, nail polish and hairspray.
- Formaldehyde – Used as a preservative in cosmetics and linked to asthma and neurotoxicity. It is found in shampoo, other hair products, moisturizers, body wash and bubble bath.
- Parabens – Preservatives that appear in a wide array of products including moisturizers and makeup. They are linked to cancer and endocrine disruption.
- Synthetic Fragrances and Perfumes – These are widely used in nearly every type of personal care product. In addition, some products marketed as “unscented” or “fragrance-free” may contain fragrance along with a masking agent. They are found in all types of cosmetics as well as numerous other consumer products, including laundry and cleaning products.
- PEG compounds – PEGs are used in cosmetics as thickeners, solvents, softeners, and moisture-carriers. They are found in creams, sunscreen, shampoo, conditioners, moisturizers and deodorants.
- Petrolatum – A petroleum product that can be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs in petrolatum can cause skin irritation and allergies. This is found in hair products, lip products and skin care products.
- Oxybenzone – Sunscreen agent and ultraviolet light absorber linked to irritation, sensitivities, allergies, cellular damage and possible hormone disruption. It is found in chemical sunscreen and moisturizers.
- Sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate (SLS and SLES) – these are surfactants that can cause skin irritation or trigger allergies. They are found in shampoo, body wash, bubble bath and cleaning products.
- Triclosan – Triclosan is used as a preservative and an antibacterial agent. It is an endocrine disruptor and can cause skin sensitivity. It is found in antiperspirants, deodorants, cleansers, liquid soap, soap bars, toothpaste and hand sanitizer.
Clean Beauty Care Resources
Certain groups, such as the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep and Cosmetics Info, have created resources for you to see how your own beauty products measure up. You can enter brands of products you’re using, or do further research on the safety of ingredients in your products. Be sure to look beyond the rating so you understand the reasons behind the rating, and remember that not all brands are represented.
We have put together a list of our favorite clean and safe products to help you get started with changing to safe products. Here are some tips for starting to make changes:
- Start with replacing the products that you are running out of or that you use over your whole body, like lotion.
- Visit the EWG Skin Deep Database to get information about the current products you are using. Start replacing the ones with the highest numbers.
- Look at the brand’s website and stores to see if you can sample the product first before you purchase the full size. For example, Sephora often does trial samples of clean products so you can try multiple mascaras to see which one you like the best.
- This process doesn’t have to be completed overnight. It takes some time to replace products. You can wait until you run out of your current products, so you don’t waste what you’ve bought.
Every change toward a cleaner, less toxic lifestyle makes a difference in your health. Make one change at a time and you’ll be living a green lifestyle in no time.
At Radiance Functional Medicine, we believe that food is medicine. We hope that you will allow us to help you heal your gut, balance your hormones, or find a way of eating that helps you thrive! Schedule an appointment to get started. Whether you are looking for a Nutritionist or Functional Medicine Doctor in Denver or your local area, we see patients in person and virtually. Call our office at 303.333.1668 to schedule your Initial Nutrition Consultation.
Reference: THE DIRTY DOZEN: 12 Harmful Ingredients To Avoid In Your Cosmetics And Skincare by Tasty Yummies.