Updated: Jun 7, 2021
In Part 1 and 2 of the How to Heal Your Skin from Within series, we discussed factors, including a healthy gut microbiome, that play a huge role in the overall health of your skin. Here, in Part 3, we will shed some light on specific chemicals you may find in your everyday household and skincare products that you will want to be aware of as well as different websites/apps you can utilize to help guide you to cleaner living.
Here Is A List of Some Chemicals to Familiarize Yourself with When Purchasing Products:
Fragrance (Parfum) - Legally hides an untold number of chemicals (“trade secret”). There are at least 3,000 chemicals used as fragrances and on labels that may simply be listed as ‘parfum’ or ‘fragrance’.
Why it's Harmful - Musk xylene and musk ketone are common chemical bases for perfume scents and have been linked to PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome), disruptions in the estrogen:progesterone balance, decreased ovarian function and infertility. Other chemicals in perfume have been linked to cancers, neurotoxicity, and skin issues including eczema. (Switching to a fragrance-free detergent is much safer for your skin).
Phthalates* - Just one of many chemicals legally hidden in the ingredient “fragrance,” are found in toys, vinyl flooring, detergents, food packaging, pharmaceuticals and IV bags as well as personal care products like perfume, nail polish, hairspray, lotions and soaps, and more.
Why it's Harmful - Linked to decreased reproductive health, breast cancer, diabetes, obesity, poor fat and carbohydrate metabolism, allergies, asthma, depressed immune system, shown to impede blood coagulation, lower testosterone, alter sexual development in children, and cause neurodevelopmental disorders (ADHD, social impairment in kids). (Campaign for Safe Cosmetics–2002 “Not Too Pretty” Report). Phthalates are perhaps the most widespread group of toxic chemicals found in our environment.
*Parabens - A group of compounds used as preservatives, derived from petroleum. They are widely used in cosmetic and other personal care products to prevent microbial growth.
Why it's Harmful - Studies have linked these endocrine disruptors, which mimic estrogen in the body and disrupt the normal function of hormone systems affecting both male and female reproductive system functioning, reproductive development, fertility, and birth outcomes. Linked to breast cancer, allergic reactions and skin rashes. Chemicals like parabens with this endocrine disruptive activity can interact with receptors for neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine which are essential for the regulation of mood, behavior and hormonal function. A 2011 study by the California Pacific Medical Center linked BPA/ methylparaben with breast cancer, and the combination blocked effectiveness of cancer drugs, like tamoxifen.
*Triclosan - Active ingredient in “antibacterial” products like hand sanitizers and soaps; registered with the government as a pesticide.
Why it's Harmful - Studies show that triclosan interferes with the body’s thyroid hormone metabolism and is an endocrine disruptor. It has also been shown to weaken muscles, including the heart. Children exposed to antibacterial compounds at an early age have an increased chance of developing allergies, asthma and eczema. A 2012 study links it to muscle weakness, including the heart muscle, and it contributes to liver and inhalation toxicity. Washing your hands thoroughly with natural soap and water is just as effective as and safer!
Petrolatum - Used in some hair products for shine, and as a moisture barrier in some lip balms, lip sticks and moisturizers.
Why it's Harmful - Petrolatum is a petroleum product that can be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which may cause cancer.
*Oxybenzone & Octinoxate - Synthetic chemical sunscreen “active” ingredients.
Why it's Harmful - Easily absorbed, and can lead to skin irritation/other adverse reactions; can generate cell-damaging free radicals when exposed to the sun. Oxybenzone is a suspected hormone disruptor (mimics, blocks, and alters hormone levels).
PEGs - Or polyethylene glycols are petroleum by-products used as cream bases, thickeners and solvents for a wide variety of personal care products.
Why it's Harmful - Contain carcinogenic contamination 1,4-dioxane which is not required to be disclosed on a label (USDA Organic products do not contain this chemical). Short term exposure may result in nausea, drowsiness, headache, and irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat. Chronic exposure may result in dermatitis, eczema, drying and cracking of skin as well as kidney and liver damage. PEGs also increase the permeability of the skin and can thus increase absorption of other, potentially harmful, constituents in a product. Propylene glycol is a related chemical that is best avoided.
SLS - Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) are used in products such as shampoos, shower gels and cleansers to create suds or foam.
Why it's Harmful - Classified as a drug in bubble baths because it eats away skin protection and causes rashes/infection, itchy scalp, dandruff, and even hair loss. SLS may also be contaminated with carcinogenic nitrosamines. A study indicated that SLS penetrated into the eyes as well as brain, heart, liver, etc., and showed long-term retention in the tissues. The study also indicated that SLS penetrated young children’s eyes and prevented them from developing properly and caused cataracts to develop in adults. (Univ. of Georgia Medical College)
Ingredients ending in “-eth” - Including ceteareth and triceteareth.
Why it's Harmful - Can carry carcinogenic contamination of 1,4-dioxane (a known carcinogen).
Retinyl palmitate - Vitamin A containing compound found in many sunscreens and moisturizers.
Why it's Harmful - In the presence of sunlight, retinyl palmitate enhances skin cancer lesions by 21% and the development of skin tumors. (FDA, 2011).
Nanoparticles - Pulverized metals like zinc and titanium used in products (not required to list on label).
Why it's Harmful - Nanoparticles have been shown to cross the cell barrier and drive into organs, including the brain.
Aluminum & metals - Active ingredient in many anti-perspirants.
Why it's Harmful - This bio-accumulative neurotoxin stores in fat cells and accumulates, destroying nerve tissue.
DEAs - Including diethanolomine (DEA), cocamide DEA, lauramide DEA.
Why it's Harmful - A study suggests that prenatal exposure may have detrimental effects on brain development. Reacts with other ingredients to become nitrosodiethanolamine, a known carcinogen.
Formaldehyde releasers - Including DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, quaternium-15.
Why it's Harmful - Can cause allergic reactions in the eyes, nose, throat and skin, joint pain, headaches, immune dysfunction, dermatitis and can lead to asthma. It may also cause menstrual disorders in women. Research studies suggest that exposure to formaldehyde may increase the risk of various forms of cancer as well.
Synthetic color/dyes - A mixture of many chemicals; made from coal tar, a derivative of petroleum.
Why it's Harmful - Coal tar is a known carcinogen. Aluminum compounds and heavy metals found in many dyes are toxic to the brain.
*Glycol - A synthetic petrochemical mix known to cause allergic and toxic reactions.
Why it's Harmful - Linked to cancer, developmental/reproductive issues, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, and liver and kidney damage.
Mineral oil - A common ingredient that coats skin like plastic wrap.
Why it's Harmful - Derived from petroleum; may be contaminated with cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Aggravates acne and negatively impacts skin function, causing premature aging. Disrupts the skin’s natural immune barrier, inhibiting its ability to breathe, absorb moisture and nutrition, and release toxins.
Talc - Belongs to asbestos family
Why it's Harmful - Linked to ovarian cancer; dangerous to inhale.
*Siloxanes - Cyclomethicone and ingredients ending in “siloxane” (ex. cyclopentasiloxane)
Why it's Harmful - Toxic, persistent, and have the potential to bio-accumulate. The EU classifies some as endocrine disruptors and possible reproductive toxicants that may impair fertility. Research shows some to cause uterine tumors and harm to the immune system.
*Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)/Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) - Preservatives found in many cosmetics and personal care products, BHT and BHA slow down the rate at which product ingredients change in color.
Why it's Harmful - Immune system toxicant; endocrine disruptor; probable human carcinogen; animal studies show brain, liver, neurotoxin, reproductive and respiratory toxicant. It is not uncommon for people to experience atopic dermatitis or eczema due to these ingredients.
Isobutane - A propellant often used in hair spray, gel, mousse, and shaving cream.
Why it's Harmful - May contain carcinogenic contaminant 1,3-butadiene.
Methylisothiazolinone (M1) and other “isothiazolinones” - Powerful biocide “preservatives” used to kill off microorganisms, giving products a longer shelf life.
Why it's Harmful - A recent study found these chemicals may be linked to nerve damage. Researchers also recently found these chemicals damage brain cells in animal studies – stating, “a brief exposure (10 minutes) to methylisothiazolinone, a widely used industrial and household biocide, is highly toxic to cultured neurons.” Although used in leave-on products, methylisothiazolinone is known to be sensitizing when used in leave-on products. In fact, the American Contact Dermatitis Society named methylisothiazolinone its Allergen of the Year in 2013.
Acrylamide - Can polymerize to form polyacrylamide. Polyacrylamide is used in many cosmetics like cleansers and moisturizers, self-tanning products, makeup, hair care, and nail polish.
Why it's Harmful - High levels of acrylamide can elevate risk of cancer and cause neurological damage.
Xylenes - (dimethylbenzenes) are solvents found not only in common products such as paints, lacquers, pesticides, cleaning fluids, fuel and exhaust fumes, but also in perfumes and insect repellents.
Why it's Harmful - Xylenes are oxidized in the liver and bound to glycine before eliminated in urine. High exposures to xylene create an increase in oxidative stress, causing symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and central nervous system depression.
*IMPORTANT NOTE ON ENDOCRINE DISRUPTORS: All of the ingredients listed above with an * are among the worst endocrine disruptors. The endocrine system regulates ALL biological processes in the body, including: development of the brain and nervous system, growth and function of the reproduction system, metabolism and blood sugar levels, ovaries, testes, pituitary, thyroid and the adrenal glands.
Check out these websites and/or apps to support your research on your own home and personal care products:
EWG Healthy Living
My Personal Recommendations:
- I truly believe in Pure Haven. This company offers skincare and household products that are organic and 100% toxin-free. We love them so much that we now offer them through our Purely Rooted Nutrition and Wellness online store.
- I always recommend products from GSL Organics to my clients dealing with skin conditions like eczema (especially their After Shower Moisturizer). Candy Pack is an aromatherapist and the owner of GSL Organics, whom I have had the pleasure of working with in the past. I truly respect her dedication to producing clean skincare products.
- If you are looking for a Holistic Esthetician, I do recommend Amy Mutnan at AM Skincare. She is currently holding virtual as well as in person appointments depending on where you live.
- Lastly, check out Purely Rooted Nutrition and Wellness’ online store through Wellevate for household, skin and personal care products you can trust (including cosmetics, sun care, bath and body care, etc.)
GPL-TOX profile. (n.d.). Retrieved March 11, 2021, from https://gpldirect-international.com/products/gpl-tox-profile
Ewg/Environmental Working Group. (n.d.). Retrieved March 11, 2021, from https://www.ewg.org/
Ingredients to be Avoided. Pure Haven. (2015). https://purehaven.com/ingredients-to-avoid/.