Common ingredients to avoid in your skin care routine:Sometimes you are lucky. You walk into a store, and spot a perfectly organic box of makeup or skin care, which also happens to be exactly what you were searching for – right shade, right price, the right thing, period. There are no suspicious ingredients, no hints of allergens, and a sales girl with a glorious fresh face assures you that that is exactly the thing she uses all the time…
And sometimes you are desperate. Your skin is dry as a parchment, your forehead is so red, it could stop traffic, and your lashes are as good as gone. And you are miles away from that health store you trust.
What do you do then?
You search for something new. You search for something as natural as possible, trying to avoid the worst that the skin care industry has to offer.
And to help you in your search, I’ve spent the last few nights compiling the short list of the most harmful ingredients out there. It is now presented here for your enjoyment and enlightenment.
May the next addition to your bathroom sink avoid the following:
Mineral Oil, Paraffin, and Petrolatum
These are byproducts of petroleum. Yes. When they produce gasoline, the by-products of the distillation process. I’m still getting over the fact that another name for mineral oil is baby oil. As in, the baby oil most touted for “soothing gentle baby skin” is petroleum derived mineral oil!!! What’s next? “dip your baby in natural gasoline?” Are people insane?
Petroleum products block your skin – they coat it like plastic, and clog up the pores. Naturally that way your skin can’t function properly. It can’t breath properly. It builds up toxins and leads to all kinds of issues. It is also a suspect cause of cancer. Which makes sense – cells that can’t breath or function properly, are bound to die or mutate…
Chances are, if you heard of one ingredient you’d be best to avoid, it’s paraben. And you probably are having the hardest time avoiding it. Cause it is, literally, everywhere. Your odds of finding paraben-free products in a main stream cosmetics isle are almost equal to your odds of finding snow in the Sahara desert. This widely used preservative finds its way even into many so-called “natural” products. And that is despite the fact that it has been linked to cancer and is known to disrupt hormones (it mimics estrogen). Arguments about it’s safety go back and forth, ever since the first studies pointing to the danger emerged. FDA currently thinks it’s safe, until further notice… Kind of reminds me of that “smoking is perfectly safe” argument…
This precious little thing can be found in your faithful lotion and skin cream. What are its benefits? Let me quote Dr. Mercola for you: .”Can cause circulatory collapse, paralysis, convulsions, coma and even death from respiratory failure.”
Acrylamide is a known carcinogen. It made a strong impact on the media when it was found in fast food. You might be interested to know that it can also be found in your hand and face cream…
Sodium laurel or lauryl sulfate (SLS) = sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)
It’s a skin irritant. It can lead to hair loss. It breaks down the skin barrier, allowing itself to penetrate, as well as other chemicals. It’s corrosive. It may or may not be linked to cancer (depending who’s arguments are louder), but heck, no one argues it’s an irritant…
So why is it in so many of your cleansing products? Cause it’s cheap. It’s used as for car-wash, for engine degreasing, for garage floors , and… for your lovely facial cleanser and shower gel… Yup… Cause, presumably, your skin gets as dirty as that garage floor, and nothing milder could handle it…
1,4-Dioxane is a chemical “known to the State of California to cause cancer”. In fact, it’s carcinogenicity has been reported since the mid sixties. So, for a change, there is no controversy that it is harmful per se. Yet it finds its way into a myriad of common skin care products – lotions, body washes, soaps…
Dioxane has been making lots of fuss in the green blogosphere due to being spotted even in “organic” labeled products. You can check the shocking Organic Consumers Association press release here. Now, honestly, how do you go about trusting anyone after this? Remember I said in my post about organic certifications, that things aren’t always what they say? Goes to show… Now, if the “naturals” are detected to carry it, I can’t even begin to imagine what the main-streamers do…
The Organic Consumer Association recommends that To avoid 1,4-Dioxane, consumers should search ingredient lists for indications of ethoxylation including: “myreth,” “oleth,” “laureth,” “ceteareth,” any other “eth,” “PEG,” “polyethylene,” “polyethylene glycol,” “polyoxyethylene,” or “oxynol,” in ingredient names.
These words may evoke the sexiness of Chanel, or the sent of a daisy field, but they really are a cover-all words for thousands of different chemicals. A typical cosmetic can contain 50-100 chemicals in the perfume. About 2,600 chemicals are commonly used in perfume; 95% of chemicals used in perfumes and as fragrances in cosmetics are synthetic compounds derived from petroleum. Because perfumes are of low molecular weight they can easily penetrate the skin. (I got this information from here.) Realistically, companies cannot list all these ingredients on a bottle. So, you’ll probably never know the truth of what is hiding inside. Sometimes it’s better to err on a side of caution…
———The above list is by no means exhaustive or authoritative. It is merely a result of my personal search for information. And by no means do I want it to cause you a panic attack next time you are searching for a foundation.
I remember watching the movie “Aviator”. In a scene where Howard goes completely nuts cause everything seems unclean to him, (mind you, I watched the movie once, so I don’t remember all the detail…) his girlfriend comes through for him. And she says, something like this: “Nothing’s clean… But we do our best”.
So do your best. Buy as natural as possible. Try to avoid the offending ingredients. But don’t go crazy if you can’t find that one tried and true 100% certified organic bottle. Or you’ll risk offsetting the benefit of a more pure product by all that stress you put yourself through while searching.
Organic Skin Care MythsOrganic skin care and organic makeup are the fastest growing segments in the beauty industry. They seems to be popping up everywhere as everyone wants a piece of the pie. No wonder that this phenomenon has produced a whole load of mythology around what organic means when it comes to skin care. Which is why I decided to go over some of my favorite organic skin care myths. I think it’s about time that we separate them from reality.
If it says “organic” or “natural” on the package, it’s a natural or organic product
Not necessarily. Especially when it says “natural”. First of all, the term “natural” bears no legal responsibility whatsoever, so plenty of unscrupulous manufacturers put it on concoctions full of synthetics, fragrances, colors, etc. Therefore to make sure you actually get natural or organic skin care, be sure to read the ingredients on the labels. (Here is a list of most common harmful ingredients in makeup and skin care products.)
“Contains Organic Ingredients” means that it is a fully natural product
You wish. It could be a 99.9% chemical cocktail with a 0.1% of extract from something organic. So read the labels carefully. This is a very popular gimmick, especially with the big mainstream companies trying to get a piece of the “green” pie.
“Certified Organic” means the product contains only natural organic ingredients
There are many different certifications. Most only require that a certain percentage of ingredients are organic. They also vary in strictness of policing. In majority of cases it’s a voluntary honor system. However some labels carry more value, such as BDIH from Germany. That is one of the most respected organic certifications for cosmetics in the world. (Read more about organic certifications.)
Organic skin care is way more expensive
Depending on what you compare it to. You can get great organic BDIH certified Weleda creams for the same price or cheaper than many creams at the local beauty counter. Aubrey Organics makes high quality organic products that are often cheaper than the regular drug-store alternatives. Even the top of the line organic creams such as those by Dr. Hauschka are easily comparable in price to department store brands. Plus you can always make your own recipes from seasonal affordable organic ingredients. Not all organic skin care needs to be store bought. Put your “green” on, plus some imagination, and a bunch of parsley may become the organic skin care miracle of the year.
Organic skin care products are always effective
Let’s not fall into the other extreme. Just because something is organic doesn’t make it automatically good for everything. Organic carrot is organic. If I shredded it and sold it as a shampoo, it would be 100% organic, but hardly effective as a shampoo. There are good products and then there are bad products out there. Finding the product right for your specific situation is a trial and error process, just like most things in life.
Organic products do not contain allergens
If you are allergic to almonds and your new organic makeup contains 100% organic almond oil, you’ll be allergic to it. So while it contains far fewer synthetic allergens, if you have specific food allergies, always double check the ingredients.
What Is Biodynamic?I have to admit, at first when I dived into the world of organic skin care and makeup, the term “biodynamic” left me completely buffled. It was highlighted on a few sites I checked, but to the best of my knowledge it was another term from the modern scientific mumbo-jumbo marketing world created just to attract my attention.
How wrong I was. The more I researched it, the more amazed I was by how little exposure this concept has had in main-stream North America.
And guessing that there are probably readers on this site who are not all too familiar with the term as well, I am creating this biodynamic post, just so I can link to it every time that it comes up in the future.
So buckle up, and let’s dive in.
Biodynamic – what is it?
The term biodynamic refers to a type of farming/agriculture. Sometimes it is simply shorthanded as BD. The method dates back to 1924 and is one of the original approaches to organized organic farming worldwide. It was founded by Rudolf Steiner, a philosopher, who established the spiritual movement of anthroposophy. (Rudolf Steiner is such a multifaceted figure, that it is impossible to summarize him in a few sentences. Thus I must respectfully send you to Wiki, if you would like to learn more about him and his teachings.)
Originating from a spiritual view of the universe, biodynamic farming regards the farm as a living organism.
The best way to envision this living organism approach is to think of a wild forest. The forest is a system with a high degree of self-sufficiency. It doesn’t need external input to sustain itself. It’s fertilized through recycling of organic material within its own system. The intrinsic biological and genetic diversity of the forest inhabitants prevents pest species from moving in. And the water is cycled through the system efficiently.
In the same way, biodynamic farming practitioners view a farm as a closed system. Sustainability and self sufficiency is the key. Thus most seeds and fertilizers are self produced. Working by hand is essential (for the living connection between human and earth) and sowing and harvesting are matched to the rhythms of nature. Harmony with the world and other organisms, regeneration instead of degeneration, and sustainability as opposed to depletion are the values that guide biodynamic farming.
Needless to say (but I’ll mention it anyways) that biodynamic farming does not use artificial fertilizers or pesticides. Instead the fertilizing preparation are made from farm-sourced materials.
Today biodynamics is practiced in more than 50 countries worldwide.
There is also a biodynamic certifying organization, Demeter International, who also hold the trademark to the word biodynamic. Demeter certification is the oldest traditional organic certification in Europe and is regarded as the highest grade of organic farming in the world.