Harmful Ingredients to Avoid
There are so many different ingredients out there in the market place. It’s so hard for consumers to know what is healthy and good, and what is not. In this post, I would like to outline a few key elements that will help enable you, as a savvy shopper, to decipher what products are safe for your body externally.
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Why it is important to understand the function of the skin-
Your skin is your body’s largest absorbing, excreting, breathing organ. The skin acts as a barrier to the outside world. It protects the internal organs from environmental pollutants and toxins. The skin also gives sensations to touch. Touch sends a message to the brain if something is pleasurable or as a defense mechanism (such as a hot stove). Touch is a great healer; it reduces the stress hormone cortisol and increases the feel-good chemical known as oxytocin. Skin also regulates the body temperature by sweat gland and hair follicles that help to disperse heat- in effect cooling the body. Sweat also helps to release toxins that are stored in the body. Skin keeps all the organs packed in nicely and acts as a third kidney by excreting excess salts and unwanted chemicals. Lastly, the skin selectively absorbs topical products through the hair follicles and sebaceous glands. Think of the birth control patch or the nicotine patch, it is absorbed through the skin.
Philosophy of what it should mean to be organic
Organic is such a loose term these days. Many companies claim to be organic, but anything from the earth can be touted as organic. It’s what happens after it comes out of the earth that matters. Often time’s companies will put all natural or organic on the label, and have really horrible ingredients that resemble nothing organic at all. Having the organic seal is almost a necessity these days. It’s like Terressential motto, “If it ain’t got the seal, it ain’t the real deal!” It rings so true with so many products on the market that claim to be organic.
Organic should mean that synthetic chemicals are not even an issue, or should even be worked with when making products that are for the body. Your body is not made of synthetic material! So thinking that by putting creams or lotions that contain synthetic ingredients on it is a really bad idea. Certain companies understand this philosophy seem to have much better integrity, better skin, and healthier products. Nadine Artemis of Living Libations makes a great point, she says “there are so many chemicals out there, but I don’t even work with any of them, so I don’t really know them by name or what they do, because I choose not to use them.” I really think that should be a mantra for all skincare companies! Don’t worry about what all of the synthetic stuff does, and its side effects, choose to put natural, healthy ingredients on your body.
So many companies choose to use fillers in their products- that have no conclusive evidence of what they do- and they are making you pay top dollar for cheap junky fillers. It’s a phenomenon called “Green Washing” big companies try to get on the all-natural bandwagon, and then they sneak in a few fillers here and there.
Permeability of Different Products on the Skin
There are many arguments that I’ve read over the past few years, stating that the skin absorbs hardly anything to everything. So what conclusive evidence is out there? Well pretty much nothing. I tend to be a purist, and usually avoid anything that I don’t want to eat to be put on my skin. Realizing that your skin breathes, would you ever open up your lungs and slather on toxic lotions? I don’t think you would. The skin is thicker and it protects us, but we have to protect it by what we put on the skin. When rashes appear from topical dermatitis (topical rash) then it is best to use the most basic oils that are available. Most rashes are internal issues, trying to escape from the body. So looking to methods to cleanse the body internally will be the best bet, topical oils should just be a secondary aid to that.
If the body can absorb chemicals that release hormones in the birth control patch, and there is also a nicotine patch, it just shows me that so many things can be absorbed into the skin. Even if it’s a small percentage, and companies hardly use any of it, those small toxic ingredients build up in the body. Therefore, I am of the opinion that everything is absorbed into the skin and goes into the blood stream. Lotion doesn’t just evaporate into the air.
Also, another thing to realize is that people can be supremely allergic to natural substances, but can overcome those through the years. It helps to do enzyme therapy, and not using synthetic counterparts of those things that they are allergic to.
Which Ingredients should be completely avoided
Here is a list that of ingredients that you should NEVER use. Realize that this list may change in a few years, or even a few days! Getting educated about which ingredients to avoid will be the most advantageous. One thing that may help is that anytime you see a number, it’s usually a bad ingredient. I just limited this list to ingredients, but not what they actually are. For example, Panthenol is Synthetic Vitamin B. And it makes the hair super waxy (thanks Pantene Pro-V), and it basically is a coats the pores, and we want our pores to breathe!
Aluminum or Ammonium
Boric Acid (TOXIC)
Carbomer (any number)
Ceteareth (any number)
D&C Red 30
Dioxane (Cancer Causing)
Emulsifying Wax (any)
Ethylene Glycol (Anti-Freeze)
Fragrance (unless it is listed out as essential oils)
PEG’s Polyethylene Glycol
Phenoxyethanol or Phenonip
Polysorbate- anything- contaminated with 1,4 Dioxane
Propyl & Butyl
Quaternium (any number- it all has formaldehyde)
Red 30 Lake
Retinyl Palmitate (may cause tumors in the sunlight)
Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate
Sodium Myreth Sulfate 1,4
Talc (in Mineral Makeup)
Urea (Diazolidinyl or Imidazolidinyl- It is sheep’s urine- sometimes companies make it synthetic as well- counteract with an essential oil)
Ingredients that have conflicting data:
Glycerine- Some companies like it, others despise it.
Japanese Honeysuckle Extract. – Bubble and Bee doesn’t like it, and Hugo- from Hugo Naturals told me that he did a huge study and it had no estrogenic effects.
Grapefruit Seed Extracts (GSE) – Some companies use it as a preservative. Others claim it is really toxic and should be avoided in any skincare.
Castor Oil- I would definitely recommend to get organic castor oil, as most of it is genetically modified.
Helpful resources and websites:
Environmental Working Group(EWG) (a good starting source-, but keep in mind is people inputting the data) – http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/
Bubble and Bee (really good, but focuses a lot on estrogenic effects) – http://chemicaloftheday.squarespace.com
Fig + Sage – http://figandsage.blogspot.com/
Saffron Rouge – http://www.saffronrouge.com/
Organic Consumers Association – a little outdated, and EWG may be a little more current.