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Lots of you love your skin care products and while I don’t blame you, I would recommend taking a look at them to make sure they’re safe and skin-worthy. Someone recently said to me, “There’s such a big push to eat organic, why wouldn’t you also want to nourish your body from the outside in?” I couldn’t agree more. We pay a lot of attention to what we eat and where it comes from. Why aren’t we paying such close attention to the origin of the products we’re putting on our body. Are the ingredients safe? What’s the shelf life on the product? Are they organic?
There is a great organization I’ve mentioned a few times now (ok, in every blog post I’ve written, meaning I clearly like this organization) called the Environmental Working Group (EWG) which created and maintain a database called the Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. Here you can search the products you use and find out whether the ingredients in these products are actually beneficial or harmful. The EWG also regularly publishes articles and other consumer guides on topics like choosing the right sunscreen, guides to healthy cleaning, and healthy home tips. Check out their site here. As I’m researching products and talking to some of my family and friends, I start to realize that a) we really need to start paying attention to ingredients because they’re not regulated by the government and b) no matter how much money you’ve spent on your products, you still need to check the ingredients with EWG because there are harmful ones lurking in everything from the inexpensive to the (very) expensive brands. Let’s dissect a few and you’ll see what I mean.
We’ll start by looking at my mom’s skin care cream. Oil of Olay is a well known age-defying cream with sun protectant. When we decipher the ingredient list, we find out it has two ingredients that are known to be carcinogens and a chemical potentially toxic to the organ system!
Oil of Olay – about $10
Octinoxate (sunscreen) 6.0%, Zinc Oxide (sunscreen) 3.0%
Water, Glycerin, Isohexadecane, Acrylamide/Sodium Acryloyldimethyltaurate Copolymer, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Laureth -7, Cyclopentasiloxane, Peg/Ppg-20/20 Dimenthicone, Steareth- 21, Tocopheryl Acetate, Stearyl Alcohol, Sucrose Polycottonseedate, Behenyl Alcohol, Cetyl Alcohol, Fragrance, Dmdm Hydantoin, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Steareth-2, Disodium Edta, Oleth -3 Phosphate, Triethoxycaprylylsilane, Niacinamide, Panthenol, Ascorbic Acid, Zea Mays (Corn) Oil, Beta-Carotene, Yellow 5, Red 4.
The bold ingredients are known carcinogens. DMDM Hydantoin for instance is a formaldehyde releasing chemical. This ingredient, along with 6 others, are not restricted by the FDA however the EU does restrict their use in skin care products. The U.S. government and World Health Organization do however classify formaldehyde as carcinogen. It is also a potent skin sensitizer and allergen.
The italicized ingredients are ranked a 5 out of 10 in terms of organ system toxicity and considered risky to use. If it’s risky and there are alternatives, why use it? Another example of a chemical found in skin care products that falls into this category is petrolatum. Petrolatum is mineral oil jelly (i.e. petroleum jelly) used as a barrier to lock moisture in the skin. It is considered low risk as a possible carcinogen, however the EU limit the chemical usage due to it’s potential carcinogen property. If the EU doesn’t like it, I say don’t use it!
I’ve bolded and italicized ‘Fragrance’. The major concern with fragrance is that the law does not require companies to disclose exactly what ingredients make up a ‘fragrance’ as it’s considered a trade secret. Up to 3,000 fragrant ingredients could be included in skin and personal care products to add scent or to mask odors caused by other chemicals in the formula. As a result, many ingredients are lumped under the word ‘fragrance’ and may be harmful and worse, are omitted from the label. I personally stay away from fragrance at all costs.
Dollar Signs Covering Up Harmful Ingredients
Next, let’s take a look at a very well known skin care line by Chanel used by a good friend of mine. While Sublimage Essential Regenerating Cream doesn’t contain any known carcinogens, other products in the line do, and the regenerating cream does contain harmful endocrine system disruptors.
Chanel Sublimage Essential Regenerating Cream – about $400
Aqua (water), Squalane, Simmondsia Chinesis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Octyldodecanol, Glycerin, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Cetearyl Alcohol, Butylene Glycol, C13-16 Isoparaffin, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Phytosteryl Canola Glycerides, Beheneth -25, Dimethicone, Canola Oil, Camellia Kissi Seed Oil, Jojoba Esters, Ammonium Acryloydimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer, Pentylene Glycol, Cetearyl Glucoside, Phenoxyethanol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Urea, Glucosamine HCL, Methylparaben, Parfum (Fragrance), Propylparaben, Benzophenone-3, Centella Asiatica Extract, Vanilla Planifolia Fruit Oil, Xanthan Gum, Algae Extract, Faex (Yeast Extract), Propylene Glycol, Tetrasodium EDTA, Citric Acid, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Tocopherol, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Cl 15985, (Yellow 6), Cl 19140 (Yellow 5), Cl 14700 (Red 4).
The italicized ingredients above are parabens and preservatives. They affect immunotoxicity and are endocrine disruptors as well as cause many people to have allergies. The endocrine system regulates many of the body’s functions, including growth, development and maturation, as well as the way various organs operate. Parabens are deemed agents that mimic estrogen consequently they may factor in on issues relating to early pubescent development in girls (around 10 years old now versus 13 years old years ago), breast cancer and reproductive issues.
My Products Have a Shelf Life?
We talked about parabens and preservatives how they harm the body. We didn’t talk about why they were included in a lot of products. It’s straightforward: to increase the shelf life. If you’ve ever noticed an open jar symbol with a little number followed by a M (for Month) on the back of your product, that’s the Period After Opening (PAO). So a 12m in an open jar symbol indicates that the product shouldn’t be used any longer after 12 months.
Hanu oils don’t have any preservatives or parabens in them because there is no water in the ingredients. This means there is no need for a preservative to prevent mold or mildew from growing. There will be a shelf life however, so pay attention to the PAO. The PAO will indicate when the product will lose its effectiveness.
Organic Applies to Beauty Too
Organic food has been on the forefront of everyone’s minds for quite some time now, but beauty products are only starting to get the same sort of attention. The push for an organic existence is to be pesticide- and chemical-free, which some beauty products inherently aren’t. Now that you’ve done your research and gotten rid of all the harmful ingredients, it’s time to buy products that are produced organically — using plants, nuts, and seeds that were not sprayed with harmful pesticides and chemicals. Check your labels, know what you’re putting on your skin, and if you can: buy only organic products and nourish your body from the outside in.