Are Your Skincare Products Damaging Your Health?
In the past, it was true that women were the ones who spent the most money on skincare products, cosmetics and beauty treatments. Fast forward to today's generation of image-conscious men and you'll find the average 30-something man spends around £100 a month on moisturisers, cleansers and other grooming products. We are constantly bombarded with advertising – products that promise brighter, firmer, younger looking skin. Products which often cost the earth and are filled with chemicals we've never heard of which provide 'miracle' effects. The quest for youth and beauty will always be one that women and men strive to achieve, but have you ever stopped to think that all those products you're loading onto your skin could be doing more harm than good? As the saying goes, “Don't put anything on your skin that you wouldn't put in your mouth.”
Sometimes, it takes an allergic reaction to a seemingly 'natural' product to make you realise that there are a whole host of chemicals in every facial and body care product you use. Think about how often you use the following:
- Shower gel
- Body lotion
- Make-up remover
- Shaving gel
It's a safe bet to say that many of use these products on a daily basis, and they're filled with chemicals that are harmful to our health, as well as ingredients whose effect on our health is not yet known. One leading global skincare brand which markets itself as a 'natural' brand designed for sensitive skin, lists butylene glycol, salicylic acid and parabens amongst the myriad of chemical ingredients in their range of moisturisers and facial cleansers.
How to avoid the bad
So how do you really know which ingredients to avoid when it comes to purchasing skincare products? It can be tempting to just throw everything out, but there are some brands that are worse than others. Many people wrongly assume that anything with the words 'organic' or 'natural' on the label will be less effective and more expensive than their usual trusted brand. In this day and age, skincare has come a long way, and many organic and natural brands have spent a lot of money researching the effects of their ingredients on the skin. It only takes a few hours of research online to see that natural skincare brands are readily available; and they don't all cost the earth. Brands such as Pai Skincare, a London based brand, and Aubrey Organics, one of the most well-established natural beauty brands, take their ingredients seriously. No parabens, no chemicals and no alcohol make it into any of Pai's products – that's quite an achievement. Even better, you won't need a degree in chemistry to understand the ingredients lists on their bottles. In contrast, other brands readily available on the high street often have long lists containing dozens of ingredients with complicated chemical names. Some skincare ranges specifically designed for sensitive skin list propylparaben, methylparaben and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives in many of their products.
What dangers lurk in your skincare?
Parabens are widely used in a range of personal care products, although recently the dangers of using them have been highlighted. You'll find many health-conscious brands have worked to eliminate parabens from their products altogether. Parabens can disrupt hormones and have been found in breast tumour biopsies in similar quantities to the amounts found in personal care products. Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives can be found not only in skincare products but also in shampoos and soaps. They have been linked to cancer and allergic skin reactions and are already banned from use in toiletries and cosmetics in Sweden and Japan.
The worst offenders
Before you start thinking that there are no safe skincare ingredients to use for beautiful, glowing skin, stop right there. Natural products derived from plants, essential oils and other naturally occurring ingredients all feature in some of the best organic skincare ranges. There are ways to check if the ingredients in your existing products are toxic, although as a general rule, a long list of complex chemical names indicates a product that is very far from natural. Using websites such as EWG's Skin Deep database, which provides ingredient listings and toxicity ratings for thousands of personal care products, is a great place to start.
Make the switch
Why not make the (sometimes tough) decision to part with your favourite anti-wrinkle screen or sunscreen-containing moisturiser and switch to a more natural alternative? There are two main ways to do this; make your own skincare, which, whilst time consuming, can be a cheaper way to experiment with different natural ingredients, or purchase from a natural range. Most natural skincare brands are happy to offer samples, whether you're shopping in store or online, so always shop around before you make a commitment. Many of the chemicals found in commercially available cleansers and moisturisers could aggravate existing skin conditions; some could even cause a new skin condition, if you have an allergic reaction to the product. Eczema, rosacea, age spots and dry, flaky skin can all be exacerbated by skincare products, so if you have noticed recent changes in your skin, your skincare products could be to blame!
Remember that just because a product contains organic ingredients, doesn't mean you won't find chemical preservatives or other nasty ingredients lurking inside the bottle. Always check the ingredients before purchasing to make sure you know exactly what you're getting. It's a sad but true fact that many of us spend a lot of time thinking about what we're putting in our bodies – checking ingredient listings and calorie counts when shopping for food – but little thought as to what we are putting on our bodies. If we all spent as much time reading through the ingredients of many major skincare and cosmetics brands, it is doubtful some of those brands would still be in business. Don't be fooled by glossy advertising and beautiful, seemingly perfect models; be informed and make your own decision as to what you are happy putting on your skin.