Hello fellow bloggies!
Today I wanted to talk about beauty products and what they contain; before I start, let me remind you I an no expert on the subject, I’m no chemist and what I say is what I’ve found out surfing the net. Also, I am not a doctor, what I write are not to be considered as a cure for particular skin conditions. That said, I hope you find what I know interesting and worthy of your time!!
Beauty products are something the human kind have always used to wash themselves and enhance their beauty. But, just like everything else, they have changed with time as the human race has developed: what once used to be simple soap bars made with olive oil and just a few more ingredients are now fancy liquid detergents with mile long ingredient lists and exotic scents. What used to be a simple facial scrub made with sea salt now is a concoction of microbeads and abrasive chemical agents. The ingredients derived from nature and plants were substituted with artificial ones that were much cheaper and were thought to be better.
Was this change for the better? I don’t think so 😉 But of course, people see things differently. For me, Non-natural beauty product compare to processed and pre-packaged food; cheap compared to the real deal and harmful in the long run.
So what should one do? There are thousands of pharmaceutical companies producing “greener” and “organic” beauty products caught in the new wave of natural living. But most of the time their products are only slightly better than the normal ones, and they still contain loads of chemicals. The best way the be sure of what you’re using is to learn how to read labels. Well, that and making your own products, but let’s go one step at a time, right ;)? Reading labels isn’t hard: you don’t need to be good at chemistry, but simply understand how labels are structured and which are the major classes of ingredients.
How is a label structured?
Just like in food labels, the ingredients are ordered according to weight: the first ingredient is the one that makes up the most in the product, and is, usually, water. After that you will find specific ingredients for that product: detergents will usually have cleaning agents, while lotions will have moisturizing ingredients. Lastly, you will find those ingredients that are present in small amounts, such as preservatives, coloring agents, perfume, ingredients to adjust pH levels.
Why should I switch to all natural beauty products?
You should switch for many reasons: first of all, some of the ingredients currently used aren’t safe and may cause cancer or other diseases; allergies and dermatitis, for instance. Secondly, most non-natural ingredients aren’t biodegradable, and cause a lot of pollution. Thirdly, most of the natural and organic companies are against animal testing. Lastly, you might find it to be cheaper: true, some products cost more than the generic counterparts, but a lot of beauty remedies (facial scrub, anybody?) can be made using ingredients you already have at home instead of buying something new. Plus, you might realize how we really don’t need a ton of different products: body lotion works fine for body, hands and feet, so no need for hand creams, feet creams etcetera. And remember, less is more when it comes to beauty products 😉
What advantages will I get from the switch?
Most people who switch to natural products say they see a big difference on their skin, it stays hydrated longer and it looks better. I won’t lie, I did not see that, but it might be because i’m lazy and don’t use body lotion every day :D. What I did notice is that when I used normal soaps my skin would get all itchy and bumpy after the shower, and that doesn’t happen anymore. I’ve seen a big difference in my hair too, it’s softer and smoother, and it stays cleaner for longer periods of time. Bottom line is, everyone is different so we all get something different out of it.
What ingredients should I avoid?
- Petrolatum, paraffinum liquidum, Vaseline, mineral oil: these are all derived from petroleum, are comedogenic( they clog your skin pores) and have recently been classified by the European union as cancerogenous of class II. Petroleum derivates might be contaminated by 1,4-dioxane, a potential carcinogen: on which chemicals cannot be used in beauty products, “904. Petrolatum (Cas No 8009-03-8), except if the full refining history is known and it can be shown that the substance from which it is produced is not a carcinogen” extract from the European cosmetic directives.
- All those ingredients that end with -one, -thicone, or -siloxane: these are silicones, completely synthetic and non-biodegradable. They have no active function, and form a layer over the skin or hair making them appear smooth and hydrated even when it is not. They might be bioaccumulative, but further studies are needed.
- Sodium laureth sulfate and Sodium lauryl sulfate: they are detergents that are irritant for eyes and skin, although studies have concluded they are safe as presently used (http://ijt.sagepub.com/content/2/5/1). SLS and SLES are not a direct cause of cancer, but may be contaminated once again with 1,4-dioxane.
- PEGs and PGGs: petrol derivates, might be contaminated with ethylene oxide (another carcinogen agent) and 1,4-dioxane.
- DEA, MEA, TEA, MIPA: synthetic, nitrosamines contamination concerns.
- EDTA (e.g. tetrasodium EDTA): works as a chelating agent (it forms “soluble, complex molecules with certain metal ions, inactivating the ions so that they cannot normally react with other elements or ions to produce precipitates or scale.” Wikipedia). It isn’t biodegradable and one of the biggest concerns when considering metal contamination of water and fish poisoning.
- Carbomer: symthetic and derived from petrol.
- DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, formaldehyde, methylchloroisothiaolinone, methyllisothiazolinone, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, chlorexidine: possible contamination with Formaldehyde, a carcinogenic impurity that may also be toxic and cause allergies.
- Triclosan: contamination concerns with chloroform (possible human carcinogen) and dioxins, causes irritation of skin, eyes and lungs, might be bioaccumulative and infants can be exposed to it through breast feeding. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22000243)
- Nonoxynol, poloxamer: synthetic, might cause allergies.
- C followed by an odd number, iso-trimonium, -dimonium: I haven’t found much about these, but they should be toxic for fish and non-biodegradable.
If you want to learn more about the contaminants, ingredients and also specific products Skin Deep is an excellent place to start;here are links to the major contaminants I talk about:
Another great site is Il Biodizionario, it’s an Italian site but it’s pretty easy to use even if you don’t speak italian: you can either analyze the whole INCI (ingredient list) or a single ingredient at a time. Every ingredient get’s a result: 2 greens is good, 1 green is ok, a yellow is so-so, 1 red is not good and 2 reds is bad. It’s similar to SkinDeep except it doesn’t consider only human health, so you may find some ingredients get different results.
I know most ingredients don’t have strong research behind them, or some of the ones I listed aren’t considered bad for us in the USA, but are in Europe. I’m not considering just human health: the main reason why I switched to all natural products was for the environment, I think the planet is polluted enough without me helping.
I hope you found this interesting and I look forward to hearing your opinion on this! Next time, I can show how to make some beauty product at home, if you’d like 😉