The last few years I have been researching food, finding out what foods are toxic, harmful, or full of preservatives (que the Dirty Dozen – 12 foods to always buy organic). Trying all kinds of workouts to find out what my body reacts best to; trying to keep as much good going into my body and keeping the “bad out”.
I thought I was doing pretty well, until I learned that although all the changes I made were positive and the effort I put in was good, I am not as toxic free as I thought. It turns out that I was putting TONS of toxins, chemicals and really harmful ingredients in to my body through the bodies largest organ, my skin.
Hormones play such a huge role in the way our skin behaves. Especially for women, our hormones are always changing. Starting your menstrual period, a slight hormone imbalance or irritation, can have such a huge impact on your complexion. There are countless articles on skipping dairy, avoiding gluten and cutting out sugars. Although all these things can be helpful, it may not be enough for everyone.
Hidden in our beauty products from shampoos to nail polish and everything in between, are thousands of ingredients that are full of toxins, harmful to the environment and have been known to be hormone disruptors. However, these “secret toxins” are largely found only in products sold in the U.S. and Canada has 600 ingredients banned, Europe has around 1,400. But the U.S only banned 30. Although there has been progress in recent years – Obama signed a bill in 2015 that does not allow the sale of products made with plastic microbeads due its harmful impact on the environment; there is still a lot of changes that need to be made.
The list of ingredients that we should avoid would be pages long, but here are a few of the most common ones found in beauty products in the U.S.
- Formaldehyde: It is found in most beauty products (and food) to preserve the products. According to the EPA it is classified as “a probable human carcinogen” and can cause asthma, neurotoxicity and developmental toxicity.
- BHA and BHT (butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene): Commonly found in lipsticks, moisturizers and diapers and contains carcinogens and hormone disruptors.
- Ethanolamines (MEA/DEA/TEA): Contains surfactants and pH adjusters that are linked to allergies, skin toxicity, hormone disruptors and inhibited fetal brain development. This ingredient is what is found in products that foam – bath bubbles, shampoos and facial cleanser. But it also can be found in mascara, foundation, fragrances and sunscreens.
- Parabens (methyl-, isobutyl-, propyl- and others): These are found in shampoos, facial cleansers, body washes, body lotions and foundation. However, these preservatives are used to prevent the growth of bacteria. They are hormone disruptors that may change the hormone mechanisms in our bodies.
- Avobenzone: This is found in most chemical sunscreens and is known to release free radicals that increase your risk of cancer.
Everyone’s skin is completely different and responds differently to stress, hormones and products.
These are just a few ingredients that are extremely common, but I suggest everyone do their own research and find what works best for them! To read a complete list of banned ingredients in other countries, check out these sources:
The good news is there are a lot of brands that are going against the norm and offering really great products with clean ingredients. These are a few that I’ve come across that are committed to changing the options available to consumers:
- ZuZu Luxe
- Silk Therapeutics
- Just the Goods
And there are sources to help you find these products! Think Dirty is an app where you can look up your products and they are rated on a “dirty scale” 0-10 (10 being the dirtiest).
They also break down each ingredient and why it its harmful. BUT the best part, they don’t leave you there to drown in the overwhelming realization that 99% of your products are harmful. They have an “Our Picks” tab that shows similar products that meet their standards. *WARNING: Some products are not on there yet, and there are some ingredients whose effects are still unknown so do your own research as well!
Healthy Living is another app that works very similarly to Think Dirty but it offers a wider range of products from sunscreens, cosmetics to food. They also have a very convenient tab “EWG Certified” (Environmental Working Group) to shorten the research process.
Now, don’t throw everything away and drop hundreds of dollars on new product; not only is that unrealistic but also wasteful. The first time I heard all this I panicked. But then I was talked back down and was advised to start small and make gradual changes. Buy one or two new products you really like. Then, as you begin to run out of your existing products, check the ingredients and make a smart and informed purchase. It can seem daunting to start all over, after all, we have been raised on brands like Maybelline, Sephora, MAC and so on. But the little effort now will will pay off in big ways later.