Skincare Toxins: How To Avoid Them
Updated: May 12
Why should you care about toxins in skin care?
Skin is the largest organ of the body. One of its functions is to act as a physical barrier to the environment, managing the passage in and out of substances such as water and electrolytes, protecting against ultraviolet radiation, toxic agents and microorganisms. Your skin is porous which means that substances can penetrate through the superficial layers of the skin and into the bloodstream. Substances that you apply to your skin, therefore, can affect both your health and sense of well-being, either negatively or positively.
The beauty and cosmetics industry uses thousands of chemicals, mineral oils, mineral emulsifiers, artificial colours, perfumes and preservatives. Many of these substances are highly toxic and can be absorbed quickly through the skin causing significant health problems such as skin rashes, headaches, respiratory problems and premature ageing.
How to avoid toxins
Firstly, start to read product labels. The only way to be sure you’re avoiding toxic ingredients is to know exactly what’s in the products you choose. Don’t be swayed by lovely packaging, marketing claims, gorgeous fragrances or images. Learn what to avoid and make sure what you’re buying doesn’t contain anything toxic. The only thing that matters is the list of ingredients because that’s what you’re applying to your skin. A list of common ingredients to check for is included at the end of this article.
Secondly, choose products which not only avoid the nasties but also contain ingredients which will have a positive effect on your skin, physical health and well-being. It’s important not only to remove the bad, but also to introduce the good.
Find a trustworthy brand and stick to it. At Beauty Studio 21 we recommend Tropic products because every single product, every single ingredient, is safe. With over 100 products spanning skincare, hair care, body care and make up, there’s everything you need for your daily beauty needs. Every product in Tropic’s multi award-winning range lists off ingredients in plain English and ensures products are always free from parabens, SLS, unsustainable palm oil, formaldehydes, phthalates, alcohol/ethanol, methylisothiazolinone, mineral oils, petroleum, gluten, lanolin, talc, triclosan, beeswax/honey, harsh preservatives, toxic chemicals and microbeads.
All Tropic products use fresh, premium natural ingredients like nourishing seed butters, juicy fruit extracts and aromatic essential oils. All their ingredients are sustainably sourced and each formulation is supercharged with innovative ingredients such as bio-retinol and plant ceramides.
What’s more, in an industry that often overlooks animal welfare and the environment, Tropic promises never to test on animals or use derivatives that cause them distress. They stand with Cruelty Free International, The Vegan Society and PETA as a 100% cruelty-free brand, now and always.
Ingredients to avoid
At the end of this article there is a list of specific substances to start looking out for, but first a little more information on a few commonly used toxic ingredients. You may have heard of some of these already but not know exactly why you should be avoiding them.
Parabens are a preservative used within the beauty industry to prolong the shelf life of products. Parabens prevent the growth of bacteria, thus allowing cosmetics and skincare products to survive for months, or even years, on retail shelves or in bathroom cabinets.
The most commonly used parabens to look out for are to look out for are butylparaben, methylparaben and propylparaben.
A British study in 2004 found traces of five parabens in the breast tissue of 95% of women studied which identified that parabens are able to penetrate the skin and remain within tissue. Studies have since proven that they can mimic oestrogen and thus disrupt hormone function. Too much oestrogen can trigger an increase in breast cell division and growth of tumours. This is why parabens have been linked to reproductive issues and breast cancer.
What’s more, parabens also have a negative impact on the environment. Scientific studies report parabens found in marine mammals and it is believed they have come from products used by humans, disposed of via the sewage system and subsequently discharged into the environment.
2. Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS)
Sodium lauryl sulphate is an emulsifier (stabiliser) and is a commonly used detergent found in many mainstream personal hygiene products such as shampoos, skin cleansers, toothpastes, mouthwashes, body wash and hand washes. It’s the ingredient that gives these products their foamy, bubbly consistency.
However, SLS can strip away the skin’s natural oils resulting in dry skin, irritation and reactions. It is known to cause skin reactions such as irritant contact dermatitis or inflammation causing inflammatory reactions such as itchy skin, eczema and dermatitis. Furthermore, SLS can penetrate the skin so continuous use may make the skin more vulnerable to the absorption of other foreign irritants.
Triclosan is an ingredient commonly found in many products including body washes, soaps, toothpaste, cosmetics and deodorants. It is an antimicrobial agent which can penetrate through the skin and is a suspected endocrine disruptor (ie. affects hormone function). Furthermore, studies have shown that it could be causing antibiotic resistance, fuelling the spread of superbugs.
4. Sunscreen chemicals
Sunscreen is a unique product. You have to apply a thick layer over large areas of the body and reapply frequently. Ingredients in sunscreen commonly include penetration enhancers (ingredients that help the product adhere to the skin). As a result, chemicals within sunscreen are quickly absorbed into the body and can be measured in blood, breast milk and urine samples.
Active ingredients in sunscreens can be either mineral or chemical, each using a different mechanism to protect the skin. Most commonly used sunscreens contain chemical filters, typically a combination of oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. Laboratory studies indicate that some chemical UV filters can mimic hormones and sunscreen-related skin allergies are widely reported.
Mineral sunscreens such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are better in terms of safety (as long as they are not coated with inert chemicals to reduce photoactivity).
Our top 10 ingredients to avoid
Parabens (ethyl, butyl, methyl, propyl)
Phthalates (dibutyl, diethyl, dimethyl)
Toluene (benzene, phenylmethane, methylbenzene)
Artificial /Synthetic Colours
Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS)/Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES)
Chemical Sunscreens (benzophenone, PABA, avobenzone, homosalte, exthoxycinnmate)
It's never too late to start paying attention to what you are putting onto and into your body, and you'll reap the benefits both long and short term.
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