Looking good is big business. And for good reason. We all want to look and feel our best. Making up our faces is a creative outlet that all people can be involved in. Caring for our skin is sensual and nourishing to our body, our self esteem, even our spirit. Let’s face it, people have always cared for, adorned and painted the skin and hair, but never before has adornment cost so much, health-wise, environment-wise and pocket-wise.
The Turning Point
A New York makeup artist telling me that I ‘needed’ the foundation he uses on Charlize Theron, was the start of some seriously bad skin for me. I started researching to find out which products were causing my dermatitis, but was shocked to find that many of the products I used not only contained known skin irritants, but also carcinogens, teratogens and mutagens. My journey began. I ended up with clear skin and a new career culminating in the Clean Life - Modern Eco Living consultancy. Here’s just a taste of what I’ve found along the way.
Looking at what’s in some of the highly regarded, expensive and super synthetic facial masks on the market, it’s not pretty!
Here is a sample:
Propylene Glycol - This humectant is usually a petrochemical mix and has been known to cause allergic reactions, hives and eczema. It provides texture and stability and is also found in brake fluid and anti-freeze.
Diazolidinyl Urea - A synthetic chemical known to release formaldehyde, which is listed by the WHO as a probable carcinogen.
Methyl/Propyl/Ethyl and Butyl Paraben - Used as preservatives to extend shelf life. Parabens can trigger skin irritation and allergic reactions. They can disrupt the endocrine system through oestrogen mimicking properties. Some studies have linked paraben exposure to breast cancer.
FD & C Yellow and Blue - FD & C and D & C colours should be avoided. Derived from petroleum coal tars, these colours have been linked to asthma, headaches, nausea, fatigue, nervousness and lack of concentration. Coal tars are confirmed human carcinogens and skin irritants.
884 of the chemicals used in personal care products and cosmetics are known to be ‘toxic substances’. Although some chemicals can appear harmless in small doses, chronic exposure (ie; using these products on most days) may have detrimental effects due to the storage of chemicals in the body’s fatty tissues.
Parabens (alkyl -p-hydroxybenzoates) are used as preservatives in most moisturisers. The combination of parabens and UV light may also cause premature skin aging. Look out for butyl, ethyl, methyl, propyl paraben in your products.
Propylene Glycol, usually derived from petroleum is an animal carcinogen and teratogen (causing birth defects) and can also cause skin irritation, eczema and contact dermatitis.
One leading brand of moisturiser (which I used for years) was found to have acrylamide, triethanolamine (TEA) (which can form carcinogenic nitrosamines) and Teflon!
Far cry from traditional flower waters and essential oils, a typical perfume today is a cocktail of synthetic chemicals, mostly derived from petroleum. Many of these chemicals have adverse health effects.
There are hundreds of ingredients used in perfumes, here are just a few;
- Benzene derivatives
These ingredients have been shown to;
- Cause cancer
- Cause birth defects
- Cause central nervous system disorders
- Irritate asthma and allergies
Other symptoms are sore throat, runny nose, sinus congestion, nausea, lethargy, mood swings, dizziness, shortness of breath, wheezing and muscle pain.
We absorb these nasties through inhalation and the skin and many of the synthetic compounds in perfumes are now found in breast milk.
Check out your own Perfume and read more about the risks associated with cosmetic ingredients on the SKIN DEEP website.
I was a huge perfume fan until I learnt just how nasty they really are. Perfume companies spend billions of dollars advertising to make us feel that we need these poisions. The good news is, there are heaps of natural alternatives based on pure essential oils, which smell divine and are usually cheaper too.
I’m rarely found without a chemical free lip balm nearby. As a chocolate addict (dark and organic of course) I find chocolate, vanilla or aniseed flavoured versions not only make her lips irresistible, they also kill those choci cravings without the love handles.
The majority of conventional lip balms and chap sticks contain crude oil derived base products. Vaseline (petroleum jelly), petroleum, paraffin or mineral oil are all made from Crude Oil. Some studies have suggested these may be carcinogenic and are noted as human teratogens (causing foetal developmental defects) due to the presence of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
Ever wondered why you need to reapply your lip balm so often? Petroleum based lip balms may make your lips soft and shiny on the surface, deep down they are drying them out, encouraging continual use.
My Dad always hated it when I would use nail polish as a youngster - claiming that the smell was so toxic it permeated the entire house. Now many years later I agree.
It is reported that most brands of conventional nail polish contain toluene and formaldehyde. Many still contain Dibutyl Phthalate, despite this synthetic chemical being banned from all cosmetic products in the European Union in 2004.
Toluene: Toluene is a human reproductive and developmental toxin. It may affect the nervous system with symptoms like tiredness, confusion, weakness, drunken-type actions, and memory loss. It is thought to cause liver damage and skin irritation. In high levels it may affect the kidneys. Toluene has been linked to birth defects in laboratory animals.
Formaldehyde: Formaldehyde is a human carcinogen. The immediate effects of inhaling the fumes are watery eyes, headache, burning in the throat, and labored breathing.
Dibutyl Phthalate: Used to soften plastic, phthalates are known to disrupt the endocrine system due to their ability to mimic oestrogen. Studies have linked phthalates to early puberty in girls and low sperm counts in men.
Acetone: A solvent used in nail polish remover, can cause nose, throat and eye irritation, headaches, confusion, nausea, vomiting and in cases of heavy exposure, unconsciousness.
Ethyl methacrylate: Used in artificial nails this synthetic chemical can cause eye and skin irritation, vapours may cause dizziness and/or suffocation.
It Makes Me Blush
Here are just some of the ingredients used in conventional blush products;
Methyl, ethyl, propyl and butyl paraben - These frequently used preservatives have been shown to mimic oestrogen and have been linked in some studies to hormone dependent diseases, including breast cancer. More research needs to be done in this area.
Imidazolidinyl Urea - Used as a preservative, causes dermatitis and may release formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is listed as a carcinogen and is a suspected trigger of chemical sensitivity.
D & C Red 6,7,27, 34 and FD & C Yellow 5,6 - The majority of dyes used in cosmetics are derived from coal tar and are human carcinogens and skin irritants. Precipitating soluble colours with aluminium is another source of colour (lakes) and is thought to be neurotoxic.
Propylene Glycol - There are several types of propylene glycol. The most common, is a solvent and humectant that can penetrate the outermost layer of skin cells and carry other (possibly dangerous) ingredients deeper into the skin. Some forms of propylene glycol are also thought to be skin irritants and immune, neurological and respiratory toxicants.
The majority of blush products also contain synthetic fragrances, which often contain endocrine (hormone) disrupting phthalates and petroleum in the form of mineral oil or paraffin, which have been linked with cancer due to the presence of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
The Good News
About the Author...
A long held appreciation for all things natural has culminated in CleanLife for this self confessed do-gooder. Gina believes that by living a CleanLife we can all improve our personal health, that of our environment and assist in improving the health and quality of life of our poorer neighbours. Gina's degree in the health sciences provides the perfect background for critical analysis of the latest research into current chemical intake and the impact it has on our health and our environment.