Our skin is our body’s largest organ. The prime purpose of our skin is to protect us from external toxins. In fact, because our skin is a “breathable” organ, up to 60% of what we apply topically is actually absorbed into your bloodstream. The alarming news, however, is that most of our self-care products, including skincare, cosmetics, deodorants, and haircare, contain toxic ingredients that are known endocrine-disruptors as well as carcinogens. It’s been reported that the average person in the U.S. has at least 212 chemicals in their blood and urine.
This is why it’s critical to ensure that the products we are using on our skin are made with clean ingredients. A good mantra to have when choosing self-care products is to not put something on your skin that you wouldn’t eat.
With that, here are a few of the top ingredients to look out for on labels and avoid in your skin-care products…
This is a tricky one. While synthetic fragrance itself is not inherently bad per say, the cosmetic industry in the U.S. has made shopping with transparency nearly impossible, such that brands can simply include the term “fragrance” or “perfume/parfum” within ingredient labels rather than listing the raw (and likely toxic) ingredients used to form that scent. For example, phthalates, a group of chemicals also known as endocrine disruptors, are common in proprietary fragrance. In fact, about 75% of the toxic chemicals detected in a test of 140 products came from fragrance, and were linked to chronic health issues, including cancer.
Parabens are defined as a group of chemicals widely used as artificial preservatives, primarily used to prolong shelf life and prevent the growth of bacteria. The parabens used most commonly in cosmetics are methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and ethylparaben. Recent studies have shown that parabens are able to permeate our bodily tissues. In fact, one British study found that 19 out of 20 women studied had parabens in their breast tissue. Furthermore, parabens have been shown to have the potential to act like estrogen, influencing breast cells abnormal growth, and leading to an increased risk for breast cancer.
Phthalates are a family of man-made chemical compounds used in the manufacturing of most commonly personal care products and plastics. Phthalates have been shown to cause reproductive and genital defects, as well as increase the risk of miscarriage in pregnant women. In infants and children, phthalates have been linked to premature puberty, lowered IQ, ADHD, as well as allergies.
Phthalates have been classified as an endocrine-disrupting chemical. When absorbed in the body, endocrine disruptors can decrease or increase normal hormone levels, mimic the body’s natural hormones, or alter the natural production of hormones. The consequences of exposure to endocrine disruptors appear to be different depending on age and gender. For men, endocrine disruptor exposure has been linked to testicular cancer, infertility, and a decline in semen quality. Among women, the increase in hormone-dependent cancers (like breast or ovarian) as well as endometriosis and uterine fibroids have been linked to exposure to endocrine disruptors. Furthermore, other chronic issues such as insulin resistance, hypertension, neurobehavioral development disorders, and poor thyroid function were also on the list of possible effects from exposure.
Similar to parabens, formaldehyde is used as a preservative in prolonging the shelf-life cosmetics and preventing bacterial growth. Formaldehydes, however, have also been classified as a carcinogen under conditions with high or prolonged exposure. Exposure to formaldehyde has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory rats, and studies of workers exposed to high-levels of formaldehyde revealed that it can cause rare cancers in humans as well as myeloid leukemia. Furthermore, many are allergic to formaldehyde, which can manifest via hives or other skin rashes.
Siloxanes are silicone-based compounds that are often used in cosmetics to soften skin. The EU classifies these compounds as endocrine disruptors. They’ve been shown to cause uterine tumors, fertility issues, and a specific type of siloxane called cyclopentasiloxane has even been shown to influence neurotransmitters in the nervous system. Siloxanes have also shown potential to bioaccumulate in aquatic organisms.
While every woman should try to avoid these toxic chemicals, it’s essential that women of child-bearing age truly steer clear. As such, there’s one beauty company I wanted to share with you called Matrescence, designed specifically for women who are trying to conceive, get pregnant, are breastfeeding, or even just are just health-conscious (like myself) who want a skincare routine that comes with peace of mind. The term “matrescence” means the process of becoming a mother. I had a chance to try their Rose Glow Trio, which includes the purifying cleanser, brightening essence serum, and brilliance protection soufflé, and I absolutely love them.
My skin texture has not only improved significantly already, but I feel safe using their products. If you’re interested in giving them a try, use the code “wellnstrong15” for 15% off at checkout!