You Are What You… Put on Your Skin: Why Clean Skincare Matters
So you’re on the clean eating bandwagon - woo hoo! You’re doing your body a world of good by putting the highest-quality whole food organic ingredients into it. This nourishes every organ inside your body and keeps them strong and functioning properly.
Did you know that what you put on your skin matters too? Skin is your largest organ. It’s also probably the one you look at the most, so surely you want to care for it! Plus, things get quickly absorbed into your bloodstream - some experts believe this happens in under 30 seconds.
The scary part? SO many products on the market today are hiding tons of sketchy, toxic ingredients that have been shown to disrupt your endocrine system, reproductive system, and even cause cancer!
A study done in 2004 found nearly 300 chemicals in newborn baby cord blood, including those known to harm growth development or cause birth defects. 180 of these chemicals are known to cause cancer. What the mama put on her skin, made it to her baby, showing just how quickly chemicals can penetrate our skin into our bloodstream.
Not to mention, diseases such as Asthma, ADD/ADHD, Allergies and Autism all seem to be on the rise as well. It’s very difficult to single out the cause for the increase, but a lot of research shows that exposure to “environmental toxins” plays a role - chemicals in our physical environment (homes, offices, schools, etc); compounds in our medicine, food and water (pesticides, etc); as well as cleaning products, furniture, and skincare/cosmetics.
Believe it or not, the US hasn’t regulated personal care products since 1938 (!!). Since then, there have been over 12,500 chemical ingredients created for use in personal care products. Many of these skincare and cosmetic products contain carcinogens, pesticides, plasticizers, degreasers, and surfactants. Most of these chemical additives have been banned in Europe and elsewhere, and many of them haven't been tested for long-term human safety! As a matter of fact, the EU has banned over 1,300 chemicals in cosmetics, while the US has outlawed just 11.
The good news? You can reduce the levels of these harmful chemicals in your body fairly quickly by swapping your personal care products out with “cleaner” versions. A study done with 100 teenage girls found that after just 3 days of using only products free of suspected endocrine disruptors phthalates, parabens and triclosan, that levels of these chemicals in their body decreased 27-44%.
So you’re probably asking - what do I need to avoid? The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recommends avoiding these top 20 contaminants - and we’ve also put together a short list of some of the most common ones:
Parabens (Methyl-, Ethyl-, Propyl-, Butyl-, Isobutyl-): Parabens are used as a preservative in creams, ointments, lotions, deodorants and more. It’s estimated that more than 75% of all cosmetics contain parabens.
What’s the harm: Parabens are estrogen-mimicking and can disrupt the hormone balance within our bodies and cause reproductive issues..They’ve also been found in breast cancer tissue samples.
Phthalates (Dibutyl Phthalate): Phthalates are used in nail products to act as a solvent and as a plasticizer to prevent polishes from getting brittle. Phthalates are also ingredients in many fragrances found in other cosmetics.
What’s the harm: They have the ability to mimic human hormones and thus can impair fertility. They’ve also been shown to harm unborn babies and have been linked to early puberty in girls, a risk factor for later-life breast cancer.
Fragrance/parfum: There are over 3,000 chemicals that are used to make synthetic fragrances. Manufacturers by law don’t have to reveal what’s actually in their fragrances, so it could actually be a cocktail of chemicals.
What’s the harm: Many of the chemical compounds that make up these fragrances are carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, allergens, and irritants.
Sulfates (Sodium Laurate, Lauryl Sulfate, or SLS): These are commonly used as a foaming agent in soap, face wash, shampoos, dish soap, and other household cleaners.
What’s the harm: Sulfates are known to cause cancer. They can also harm the nervous system and interfere with human development.
Formaldehyde (DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine, quaternium-15, and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate): Formaldehyde is also a preservative and is often found in baby bath soap, cosmetics, nail polish, eyelash adhesive and hair dyes.
What’s the harm: It has a long list of dangerous health effects, including immune-system toxicity, respiratory issues such as asthma, neurotoxicity, and cancer
Oxybenzone (and other chemical sunscreens): Oxybenzone, octinoxate and octocrylene are all common sunscreen ingredients that are chemically-based..
What’s the harm: They are known endocrine disruptors and can affect thyroid function, as well as cause skin allergies. They’re also harmful to the environment.
*Look for mineral-based sunscreen instead!
Petroleum products (petroleum oil, mineral oil, or liquid paraffin): Petroleum products are often contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Studies show that exposure to PAHs are associated with cancer.
What’s the harm: The EU classifies petrolatum as a carcinogen and outlaws its use in cosmetics. It can also cause skin irritation and allergies.
Triclosan: This is also preservative and an anti-bacterial agent. It’s used in laundry detergent, antiperspirants and deodorants, cleansers, hand sanitizers, facial tissues, and antiseptics for wounds. Triclosan it’s classified as a pesticide.
What’s the harm: It can affect thyroid hormones (which regulate metabolism) and could disrupt normal breast development. Widespread use of triclosan is thought to also contribute to bacterial resistance to antimicrobial agents.
So you may be asking, so now what do I do?! Don’t worry - there are many inexpensive and easily found brands that are usually much better for you! Some of our favorites include:
Curious about how “toxic” a product is? You can always head over to the EWG SkinDeep database to search for a product to get a rating between 1 and 10 (1 or “EWG Verified” being the best/cleanest).
We hope this helps you figure out what you should and shouldn't be putting on that beautiful skin of yours!