Have you ever thought about how much your skin endures each day?
It’s one of the body’s largest organs, and yet most of us think very little about it. We expose it to many chemicals, contaminants, and other hazards simply by being out in the world.
As women, I think we become more aware of skin care early on. Moisturize, they tell us. And I took that to heart.
I have bottles of lotion all over my home. If I wash my hands, chances are I reach for lotion immediately after.
For years – decades – I never thought much about it. I believed everything written on those bottles of hope:
- New and improved
- Guaranteed to make you look younger
- Soft skin
- Healthy skin
On and on it went.
And then we move up to our faces. Maybe you’ve fallen into a moisturizing routine like I have where you apply lotion immediately after stepping out of the shower. I bet your morning and evening face routine is a whole lot more complicated.
We’ve been bombarded lately with lots of ads telling us those tiny lines and fine wrinkles are to be feared rather than revered. And the problem with that is as women, we believe it.
What are you really putting on your skin?
I’ve been studying the concept of healthy eating for over two decades now. Early on, I became very conscious of what I put into my body.
But it took many years for it to cross over and become a ritual for how I care for the outside of my body too.
Skin is the largest organ in your body. What you put on your skin slowly moves inside and impacts your health. It sounds logical now, but to really understand it, you have to start thinking wisely about what that means.
Maybe you eat organic fruits and vegetables to eliminate the chemicals that can harm your systems. But what if those same chemicals you avoid on the inside, or placed in something you slather on your skin every day?
It gets in, just in another way.
It’s not just moisturizers and lotions. It’s everything.
Sunscreen. Hand sanitizer. Soaps and cleaners. Fingernail polish. Perfume. Deodorant. Foundation, eyeliner, and lipstick.
Surely the companies that create all of this have thought about this … right?
The US cosmetics and personal care industry are largely self-regulated. Yep, that puts safety and regulation almost solely in the hands of people creating the products. Think they’ll find anything wrong with the ingredients they use?
That means as of today, more than 12,000 chemicals are approved for use in designing and developing personal care products. Only nine chemicals are banned.
American women use on average twelve products per day. That means at any given point in the day you could be applying chemicals that haven’t been tested, aren’t regulated, and could be doing you harm.
Apply any of this directly to your skin and it quickly moves to your bloodstream, impacting your health. And when you do it over and over and over again, every day of your life, it very quickly can become a big deal.
Things are changing. Lots of groups and organizations are starting to fight back. But it is an uphill battle – a small business fighting industry giants is going to take a lot of work.
Pay attention to what is in every single product you buy. Read the labels. Become obsessed with them. Here are a few things to watch out for:
- Parabens – these sneaky little inserts are cheap preservatives that are used frequently in cosmetics. They wreak havoc on estrogen and increase breast cancer risk.
- Fragrance – companies list fragrance often in their ingredient list. The only trouble is, that can be just about anything. They don’t have to disclose what creates it.
- Phthalates – these chemicals cause a variety of issues, from reproductive dysfunction, to asthma, diabetes, and ADHD.
- Triclosan or microban – these chemicals prevent bacteria, which on the surface seems like a good thing. Your microbiome, however, already works hard to keep the bad bacteria out of your system. By adding these chemicals to your body, it can create dangerous illnesses, and possibly even contribute to superbugs.
- Sulfur Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) – this is a common ingredient in all kinds of products, from soaps to toothpaste, to cosmetics and shampoo. It acts as a thickening agent, and is responsible for making products foam. SLS is linked to all kinds of diseases, including kidney and liver malfunction. I learned firsthand how much a body can react to SLS about fifteen years ago when I started having three, four, five canker sores in my mouth at a time, and started researching to find out why. A little obscure site linked SLS in toothpaste to canker sores. I found an SLS-free toothpaste, and they went away immediately. A few years ago, I was traveling and picked up a small tube of a familiar kind. It had SLS, and in less than a day, several canker sores appeared in my mouth. That was all the proof I needed to know to determine I’ll avoid SLS from now on.
What about most anti-aging skincare products?
Glad you asked.
Pick up an anti-aging skincare product and take a look at the ingredients. Are there additives you can barely say? What are they?
Let’s talk about some of them. How about:
Polytetrafluoroethylene often contains a contaminant known as perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA. PFOA is a toxic chemical linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, and reproductive harm.
Oh, and by the way, PTFE is the same chemical known by another name … Teflon.
Do you really want to be putting Teflon on your face?
Why would cosmetic companies do such a thing? For one reason, and one reason only: money.
Remember, skincare, cosmetics, and personal care products are still largely unregulated. That means companies that make products for the mass market can do so and use virtually any ingredients they desire. They look for the cheapest way to make a product to maximize sales and profits.
And you’re ultimately left with the problem.
Especially because women are suggested to start using anti-aging products at the age of 20!
What I use instead
As I headed into my forties, and what I now know was perimenopause, I had a lot of the classic symptoms.
- Mood swings
- Trouble sleeping
- Acne and breakouts
- Heavy periods
- Fibrous, tender breasts
I started looking for ways to solve each of them in turn, which eventually led to looking at my skin care routine.
When I found out what companies were putting into their products, I made a vow to change once and for all. But here’s the thing; you can’t rely on “natural” or “organic” in the same way you do with your food sources. Products often use these terms in their product names, even though they haven’t been through the rigorous certification process. And that means they may possibly include harmful ingredients in them.
What you should do instead is:
Look at any label before you buy – you should be able to read the label, understand the ingredients, and pay close attention to any certification promises the product makes. Do your research and only buy after you find a product you can trust.
Choose products that display the USDA Certified Organic – this is a certification program in which an independent verification company has found the product to:
- Contain at least 95 percent true organic ingredients
- The remaining 5 percent must be on the approved safe list
- Is free of synthetic additives, pesticides, fertilizers, petrochemicals, and other harmful ingredients
- Wasn’t processed using industrial solvents or irradiation
- Is free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
Companies are changing as consumers demand it. But we still have a long way to go.
What can you do?
Read the ingredients. I can’t say this enough. Head to your bathroom now and start pulling your cosmetics and personal products out. Look at the ingredients. What are they? When in doubt, throw them out. And do your due diligence to find companies that work hard to create good products.
Use sites like EWG’s Skin Deep to find products that meet safety qualifications you can depend on.
Start small and work into change. Replace your moisturizer. Then find a new proaging facial cream. Change out your toothpaste. Find a better shampoo.
Even one step at a time will lead to a healthier you.