Our skin is our largest organ, making up roughly 15% of the average adult human’s weight.
It is the first contact we have with the outside world and it has to face many rough conditions (anyone else feeling the chapped lips and cold hands these days?).
And your skin is more than just about vanity and wrinkles. It has many important functions :
Protective barrier from external stressors such as radiation, bacteria, pollutants, chemicals and injury
Thermal regulation and toxin excretion through sweat
Production of vitamin D via sunlight
When it comes to achieving beautiful glowing skin, we have to nourish it from the inside out. This means drinking clean water, eating whole fresh foods, reducing stress, moving our bodies on a daily basis, and using non-toxic natural skincare.
Your skin is a window of what’s happening inside of the body.
Skin conditions indicate an underlying problem or imbalance in the body that needs to be addressed.
By focusing on the internal AND external, we are adopting a holistic approach that is centered around bringing the body back to balance to ultimately be able to heal itself. This is far better than spot treating a symptom because we are able to eliminate the cause, which will in turn eliminate the symptom.
So while we want to focus on adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle for healthy skin, we can’t ignore the ingredients that we are putting on our skin.
When ingesting chemicals and toxins, if our organs of elimination (such as the bowels, liver and kidneys) are overburdened or not functioning at their best (which is quite common nowadays with our increased toxic load) we can see this show up on our skin in the form of acne, psoriasis, and eczema.
And when we use toxic ingredients on our skin, they don’t just stay on our skin, 60% or more gets absorbed straight into the bloodstream, bypassing the liver. This damages our body internally and externally as the toxic chemicals can also compromise the integrity of the skin barrier.
Most skincare products nowadays contain harmful chemicals that have been linked with health concerns and deliver toxic chemicals that can even speed up aging! Quite counterproductive isn't it?
So what should you look out for?
Common ingredients to avoid in skincare products
1. Parabens Endocrine disruptor, linked to breast cancer as well as an overabundance of estrogenic activity and breast cancer.
2.Petrolatum Associated with cancer, linked with skin allergies and irritation.
3. Synthetic fragrances May trigger allergies, asthma and migraines, possible carcinogen, linked to neurotoxicity.
4. Sulfates (sodium and ammonium laureth/ lauryl sulfates) Possible human carcinogen, linked to nervous system toxicity, may interfere with human development.
5. Phthalates (dibutyl phthalate (DBP), 2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) diethyl phthalate (DEP), butyl benzyl phthalate) Suspected endocrine disruptor, linked with reproductive toxicity and liver and kidney damage in children.
6. Lead Heavy metal that poses a serious threat to the brain and nervous system.
7. Hydroquinone Linked to cancer and respiratory tract irritations.
8. Triclosan Endocrine disruptor, irritating to the skin and eyes.
9. Toluene (toluol, methylbenzene) Skin irritant, shown to affect the nervous system and linked with headaches and respiratory tract irritations.
10. BHA and BHT (butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene) Suspected carcinogens and hormone disruptors.
11. Propylene Glycol Linked to allergic reactions, functions as a penetration enhancer and can allow harmful ingredients to be absorbed more easily through the skin.
12. Artificial Dyes & Coal Tar Potentially cancer-causing and containing heavy metals that are toxic to the brain. These include colors like yellow dye #5 or red dye #4 and can also be indicated by “CI” followed by 5 numbers.
13. DEA, MEA, TEA These can react with other chemicals in cosmetics to form carcinogenic compounds called nitrosamines.
14. Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine, and quarternium-15) Known human carcinogen, may trigger allergic reactions, linked to skin and eye irritations.
15. PEG (polyethylene glycol) Possible human carcinogen, can trigger skin reactions, linked to systemic toxicity in the body.
16. Siloxanes, and most other silicones Endocrine disruptor, linked to reproductive toxicity, may decrease immune function.
Rules to follow when shopping for skincare products
When you are out shopping for beauty and body care products, there are some ways you can avoid toxins and chemicals without having to spend an hour in the beauty aisle.
Follow the steps below to make choosing skincare products easy and effective.
#1 Avoid the list of ingredients mentioned above These are some of the most toxic ingredients found in beauty products today. Though there are more, this list should definitely be at the forefront of your mind when you are shopping. Save it into your phone for a quick scan when you are out at the store. You can also use the Environmental Working Group as a great guide to verify if your product is safe or not.
#2 If you can’t pronounce it, don’t buy it If you have no idea what the ingredient is or how to pronounce it, chances are it’s not very natural or supportive to your health. Opt instead for brands that use natural ingredients - and the less, the better.
#3 Pay attention to the first 5 ingredients The first 5 ingredients make up about 80% of the product. Often times you will see preservatives, detergents and synthetic chemicals make up the primary ingredients of a product. If so, put it down. Not only are you wasting your money but you may also be doing more harm than good to your skin. Ingredients like those listed above only put more work on your body to process, and may also interfere with the skin's ability to breathe properly. Most of the time the functional ingredients that we are looking for and that are beneficial, are included in minimal amounts.
Clean beauty for skin
The best way to ensure you are using the best ingredients on your skin? Do it yourself!
Using natural ingredients to create serums, lotions, masks, creams, and scrubs has become so easy and accessible, not to mention cheaper and toxin-free!
Below are some of our favourite natural ingredients to make your own skincare products:
Tea tree oil: Tea tree oil is antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory oil commonly used to treat acne. Always dilute before applying to the skin.
Lavender oil: Lavender oil is anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and soothing, great for calming the skin from inflamed conditions like eczema, psoriasis, acne and rosacea. Works synergistically with tea tree for soothing skin conditions.
Frankincense: Frankincense is antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and immune-boosting, this oil helps treat all skin conditions and concerns. Add to your moisturizer to reduce the appearance of blemishes and rejuvenate the skin.
Argan: Argan is beneficial for all skin types and conditions, contains anti-aging properties, reduces sebum production, and improves skin elasticity. Also great for hair!
Jojoba: Jojoba is great to use as a carrier oil because it is quickly absorbed by the skin, which means it will pull other ingredients into the skin more easily as well. It also helps balance the natural oils on our skin and reduces excess sebum production.
Shea butter: Shea butter is a great moisturizer for the winter months! Shea butter comes from the Shea Tree and is rich in skin-loving vitamins, A and E. It is moisturizing and nourishing to the skin, and protects the skin from becoming too dry.
Bentonite clay: Bentonite clay is made from volcano ash and it helps to draw out toxins from the body. When combined with water and applied topically, bentonite clay works by binding to toxins and bacteria on the skin and extracting them from the pores. Use bentonite clay to calm skin irritations and clear the skin from toxins.
Raw honey: Raw unpasteurized honey has many benefits, not just internally but also when applied to the skin. Raw honey contains antibacterial and antioxidant properties, which makes it a great natural beauty alternative to help relieve breakouts and unclog pores, as well as moisturize and gently cleanse the skin. Apply a thin layer to your skin and leave on for about 10-20 minutes, then rinse thoroughly.
Natural skincare remedies
Laurence Annez is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner and Health Coach, specializing in PCOS and women's hormones. She also holds a degree in Creative Writing and has extensive experience writing on health and wellness topics. Laurence's mission is to inspire and motivate individuals to take control of their own health and reach their ultimate health goals.