There are several fundamental misunderstandings in the world of skincare, and they can wreak havoc with your ability to achieve the glowing, radiant and youthful skin that you so deserve and desire.
One is the misconception that what you do topically is what matters most. Healthy skin really begins on the inside.
The second has to do with the quality of your skincare products.
Let’s take a look at how you can protect your skin from both the inside and the outside.
The Problem with Skincare Products Today
One surprising survey conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that 25% of the women who participated used a whopping 15 or more products every day on their skin, which cumulatively contained more than 125 different chemicals.
There is no governing body overseeing the safety of many of the products that we put on our hair and skin and often the toxic ingredients can have the opposite effect of what you’re trying to achieve. In other words, they might very well make your skin look older instead of younger.
Why? Well, because quality truly matters when it comes to skincare. The skin is the human body’s largest organ and absorbs everything you put on it.
Any toxic chemicals and ingredients that are absorbed have a very real effect on your body’s internal ecosystem which governs your overall health. When your internal health isn’t up-to-par, this is reflected in your skin. It’s kind of a vicious cycle, but one that can be broken with the right skincare products, nutrition, and supplements to fight aging and inflammation.
Toxic skincare products inhibit your body’s detoxification processes, add stress and increase inflammation, not to mention use up more than their fair share of your body’s precious nutrient stores in order to be eliminated. Essentially, these sorts of products are a fast track to impaired autophagy and aging. Autophagy is the cleanup process that clears the waste from your cells.
We’ll get to the easy steps you can take to avoid toxins and choose skincare products that promote longevity and glowing skin, but first: the culprits.
The Top 11 Culprits Lurking in Your Skincare Products
Unfortunately, the list of toxic culprits lurking in many skincare products is long, but we felt it was important to include a comprehensive list so that you know what to look out for. Check out these eleven common ingredients that can negatively affect your health from the inside out.
Silicones are ingredients that are called by dozens of names, so these can be tricky to spot in your skincare products. They are prevalent in skincare, makeup, and hair care, but might be particularly worrisome in products that you apply all over your body and leave on the skin. They are mainly used as a smoothing agent and are less expensive for manufacturers than some healthier options.
There are a few problems with silicones. They trap debris such as dust, sweat, bacteria and dead skin in your pores. For this reason, they can also contribute to acne and other skin conditions, as being continually exposed to these sorts of irritants is likely to provoke a breakout. Many people also feel that silicones lead to dehydrated and dull skin, and can even interfere with autophagy, meaning they could lead to aging, fine lines and wrinkles, and even skin pigmentation changes.
Watch out for words ending in cones, conols, silanes and siloxanes such as cyclomethicone, dimethiconol, dimelthyl silane and siloxane, among many others.
Used as a softener in skincare products, phthalates have been shown to potentially interfere with proper hormonal balance. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to avoid this ingredient as they are increasingly used in many beauty products and fragrances, and manufacturers might not list it as an ingredient.
As always, it’s important to do your research when purchasing skincare products, and opting for a product that uses real ingredients found in nature. Also look for products that specify “no synthetic fragrance,” “scented with only essential oils” or “phthalate-free.” Take it one step further and avoid any product that comes in a plastic container that has the number “3” in the center of the recycling symbol, as these include phthalates that can leak into your product.
Mineral oil is often found in lotions, ointments, and creams and basically coats the skin in a giant layer of Saran Wrap! Their molecular size is too big to be absorbed, so it remains on the skin’s surface where it clogs pores and makes it difficult for your skin to breath.
Excellent and nourishing alternatives in skin care products include jojoba, carnauba, cocoa butter, candelilla and shea butter, as these also work beautifully to moisturize without sealing the skin in.
Petrolatum is an emollient and is approved by the FDA as a skin protectant. The most common product that you’ve all heard of is Vaseline, often used for dry and irritated skin. Unfortunately, petrolatum works similarly to mineral oil in that it clogs pours and seals the skin.
While more research is needed, this 2011 study published in The Journal of Women’s Health was enough to persuade us to avoid petroleum-based products and mineral oil judging by their findings that:
”There is strong evidence that mineral oil hydrocarbons are the greatest contaminant of the human body, amounting to approximately 1 g per person.”
Similar studies looking at petrolatum and mineral oils have also found that these ingredients are not metabolized by the body, are toxic, and absorbed directly by applying it to the skin.
Polyethylene Glycol (PEGs)
PEGs is a mixture of compounds and polymers that have been bonded together instead of an independent chemical in and of itself. In skincare, they are usually used as emollients to soften and moisturize, as emulsifiers to combine oil and water-based ingredients, and to help other ingredients to more deeply penetrate the skin.
One major problem with PEGs is that many products that use them have been found to contain potentially dangerous impurities that are linked to cancer, such as ethylene oxide. You can do some digging to make sure the manufacturer using the PEGs is responsible, but it can be difficult to know for sure. It’s also pretty widely accepted that, for those with previously sensitive skin, PEGs are often irritating.
Similarly to phthalates, parabens can also act as endocrine disrupters, wreaking havoc on the body’s hormonal system. They are largely used as a preservative to keep out bacteria, and also to soften and moisturize the skin. Several studies have found parabens to be carcinogenic (cancer-causing), and they are often found under chemical names like methylparaben, propylparaben, isoparaben or butylparaben. Always look for products that specify “paraben-free.”
Unfortunately, almost all skincare products come with artificial, chemical fragrances. Even those touting to be “natural” are often chemical-derived. These artificial fragrances are used because they are far less expensive than using 100% natural scents (such as essential oils). And most chemical-based skincare products don’t smell good on their own, so need to be covered up.
Artificial scents and fragrances in beauty products are top allergens which is why they are banned in certain public places. Common symptoms include headaches, wheezing, vomiting, diarrhea (especially in young children), asthma, contact dermatitis and reduced pulmonary function.
This one is actually classified officially as a probable human carcinogen but is still widely used in products like lotions, deodorants, hair gels, nail polish and more. This common skincare ingredient is linked to allergies, chronic fatigue, leukemia, depression, dizziness, joint pain, insomnia and more.
Be on the lookout for words like formalin, DMDM hydantoin, Diazolidinyl urea, Imidazolidinyl urea, Quaternium-15, and Hydroxymethylglycinate when deciphering ingredient lists.
The good news is that choosing organic, non-toxic products that use natural preservatives like antioxidants are much easier to come by these days, and are guaranteed to avoid toxic ingredients like formaldehyde.
Oxybenzone is commonly found in sunscreens, moisturizers and lip balms and is considered a chemical blocker. Sunscreens are typically categorized as either a mineral or chemical blocker depending on their ingredients, so opting for mineral blockers is a much safer choice, such as one that uses Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide. Oxybenzone has been associated with allergic reactions, hormone disruption, cancer, and even low birth weight in babies.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
This ingredient is pretty controversial and is widely used as a foaming agent in many beauty, skincare products, and even toothpastes. While it does cleanse, it also strips away the skin’s natural oils and moisture which are necessary for protection so can be very irritating to the skin. Look for labels that specify “SLS free” to stay on the safe side.
The Skincare Solution: Less is More
Getting back to the basics with your skincare is truly the solution you’re looking for. Forget about fillers, perfumes, estrogens and binders and begin shifting your mentality to uncomplicated and nourishing formulas that restore the body’s balance.