In today's world, many skincare products use selective "natural ingredient" or "natural actives" claims on their packaging; making consumers believe they are safe to use. But many products are not what they claim to be and contain ingredients which can be damaging to your skin and – even worse – to your health. While natural ingredients may be present, the fact is, many of these products still use synthetic chemicals and artificial ingredients in conjunction with natural ingredients.
Many of those ingredients are known carcinogens (cancer-causing substances) and are used by the cosmetic industry simply because they are cheap. It's important to know some of the harmful ingredients so that you as a consumer can decide for yourself what you want to put on your skin.
Studies have shown that this chemical ingredient is potentially contaminated with Ethylene Oxide and I,4-dioxane – two known cancer-causing substances. 1,4-dioxane is generated through a process called ethoxylation, in which ethylene oxide, a known breast carcinogen, is added to other chemicals to make them less harsh.
This ingredient is one of the most common emollients used in cosmetics to help bind ingredients together and keep a formula from separating. It can be found in products such as hair dye, facial moisturizer, anti-aging treatment, conditioner, cleanser, sunscreen, exfoliant, depilatory cream and acne treatment.
Natural alternatives: Xanthan Gum, Tapioca Starch
Petrolatum, commonly known as petroleum jelly, is a by-products of petroleum. Petrolatum is a soft paraffin or wax mixture to protect and prevent moisture loss of the skin. There has been recent discussion about the possible carcinogenic properties of petroleum jelly and other cosmetic and skin products containing petroleum jelly, especially with regard to breast cancer. If the petroleum jelly becomes contaminated during the manufacturing process, possible PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) and other carcinogenic agents may get into the jelly. These agents are suspected of increasing the risk of breast cancer. Although, some companies claim to only use “pharmaceutical grade petroleum jelly” and consider it safe, it still is questionable.
Natural alternatives: Vegetable Glycerin, Honey (Ed: Honey may be a natural alternative but it's NOT vegan)
While existing scientific research on Phenoxyethanol is conflicting, some experts believe it to be a toxic ingredient. The European Union classifies it as an irritant and there are various studies that demonstrate reactions at low doses. It is restricted in Japan and the European Union.
Repeated exposure to the substance over prolonged periods has been linked to contact dermatitis, worsening of eczema, reproductive toxicity and neurotoxicity. Phenoxyethanol is a synthetic preservative. It is used in many “natural” skincare products as a preservative and then promoted as "paraben-free."
Natural alternatives: Naticide (vegetable origin fragrance with broad spectrum activity against Bacteria Gram-positive, Bacteria Gram-negative, moulds and yeasts. ), Radish root
In its original form, polysorbate is a harmless sorbitol, which is a sugar alcohol. However, for its use in personal care products it is treated with with 20 parts of ethylene oxide—thus, the name “polysorbate 20”. The result is an ingredient used as an emulsifier in cosmetic creams (to help mix oil and water), lotions, cream deodorant, baby oil, sun lotion.
The problem with any ingredient that is treated with ethylene oxide is that it can then become contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a potentially dangerous by-product. In fact, 1,4-dioxane is a known animal carcinogen that penetrates readily into the skin. This ingredient has also been linked with skin allergies.
Natural alternative: Soya Lecithin
Propylene Glycol is a petroleum derivative and can be found in body wash, facial cleanser, eye liner, shampoo and anti-aging products. It is used to give smooth texture and humectant qualities to creams. Commercially it is used as anti-freeze and brake fluid. It penetrates the skin and can weaken protein and cellular structure. It causes dermatitis, kidney and liver damage and remains in your system.
Natural alternative: Vegetable Glycerin
Although it is naturally occurring in some plants and insects, it is most commonly found as a synthetic chemical in cosmetics, foods and pharmaceuticals; in products such as moisturizers, shampoos, conditioners, and sunscreens. It is used as a preservative for its anti-fungal and antimicrobial properties to extend the shelf life of beauty and cosmetic products. It is considered nontoxic, non-sensitizing and non-irritating at .05 to 1% concentrations.
Although parabens are generally considered safe when used in low percentages, however, many studies have found a link between parabens and breast cancer.
Natural alternatives: Naticide, Radish Root
It is toxic/lethal at high doses in humans. This ingredient has been linked with creating free radicals in the body, destroying mitochondrial DNA and thus adding to the body’s aging process. Readily absorbed by the skin, Sodium Benzoate’s presence in anti-aging products may, ironically, actually age you faster by damaging your DNA. It can be found in shampoos, conditioners, body wash, face and body lotions and mouthwash.
Natural alternatives: Grapefruit Seed Extract, Naticide, Radish Root
Sodium Laureth/Lauryl Sulfate
Both Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and its close relative Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) are commonly used in many soaps, shampoos face cleansers, detergents, toothpastes and other products that we expect to "foam up". Both chemicals are very effective foaming agents, chemically known as surfactants. The sodium lauryl sulfate found in our soaps is exactly the same as you would find in a car wash or even a garage, where it is used to degrease car engines.
A report published in the Journal of The American College of Toxicology in 1983 showed that concentrations as low as 0.5% could cause irritation and concentrations of 10-30% caused skin corrosion and severe irritation.
Natural alternatives: Yucca Root Extract, Soapwort
Do you know what you are putting on your skin?
Take a look at the list of ingredients on your skincare products at home, and see if you find any of the above listed ingredients. It may be time to switch to 100% natural skincare products.
Mel Driver is the owner of the 100% natural and vegan-friendly Skincare range Embalm Skincare. Mel believes in the therapeutic powers of nature and the Embalm Skincare products are filled with plant-derived nutrients to naturally preserve and rejuvenate your skin.
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