The human skin wraps and protects our bodies. It comprises a living, dynamic tissue system. It has the extraordinary ability to absorb applied products, partially or completely, into the bloodstream. In fact, up to 60% of the products we use on our skin are absorbed and deposited into the circulatory system. For instance, the average woman absorbs 30 pounds of the ingredients contained in moisturizers over sixty years.
These new understandings of how the skin functions reveal concerns about the possible long term effects due to the amalgamation of chemicals used in cosmetics, often termed the “chemical cocktail effect”. Several chemicals which are used in common, popular cosmetics are known irritants and carcinogens. Concern stems from the knowledge that most of these ingredients are derived synthetically or from petroleum. Avoiding these substances serve to decrease overall exposure to harmful or irritating cosmetic ingredients.
Ingredients to Avoid
|Forms Found in Cosmetics and Possible Negative Side Effects|
Thought to contribute to Alzheimer’s Disease.
Found in almost all antiperspirants.
|Artificial colours||FD&C, derived from coal tar.For example, Azo dyes are a risk to asthmatics, eczema sufferers and people sensitive to aspirin.
Causes hyperactivity in children, severe headaches, blurred vision and itchy/watery eyes and nose
|DEA, MEA, TEA||Causes allergic reactions, irritating to eyes and dries out hair and skin|
Can contain up to 200 undeclared substances (Fairley, 2001).
Cosmetics do not stay on the surface of the skin without penetrating to some degree. Lipstick wearers, for example, consume 1.5 to 4 tubes in a lifetime. If one considers the ingredients being internalized by the body, absorbing plant oils and waxes, mineral pigments or essential oils is a healthier alternative than absorbing petroleum by-products and synthetic chemicals.
Natural cosmetic products and make-up are safer, healthier alternatives especially when these products are composed of all natural ingredients. A natural product is described as one that contains mostly or completely naturally derived ingredients. It also indicates that the product is free from, or contains minute amounts of artificial chemical additives. Caution is required when products claim to be natural. For instance, they may contain small amounts of plant extracts, but the bulk of the product is petroleum based and loaded with fragrances. Instead, consider switching to completely natural products, which perform to the same standard as their non-natural counterparts.
Switching to all-natural cosmetic products and make-up can help you to avoid feeding your skin harmful chemicals. Many skin problems, such as acne, contact dermatitis, irritations and allergies may disappear once petroleum or synthetic ingredients are removed from your skin care regimen. Using fully natural products can contribute to healthy skin and a healthy body in the long term.
Sales of organic personal care items reached $350 million in 2007, increasing 24 percent from 2005. Sales among the top three natural personal care brands — Burt’s Bees, Jason Natural Cosmetics and Tom’s of Maine — brought in $155 million alone.
If You Wouldn’t Eat it, Don’t Put it on Your Body!!!
Would you take a taste of your mascara or shaving cream? Probably not. However, if you do happen to eat these chemicals, your digestive system can produce specific enzymes to break down these toxins and excrete them … something that doesn’t readily occur when you absorb them through your skin.
In general, you need to seek out personal care products that are so pure you could actually eat them. Coconut oil is a great example here, as it makes a great moisturizer that you can also eat. Olive oil is another one that you can use to deep condition your hair.
The controversy surrounding cosmetics safety is a big one. Lots of potentially dangerous chemicals have been found in products like soap, deodorant and shampoo. Some carry warnings, some have been banned, some have been abandoned and some still show up in lots of products on the shelves. As a result, demand for natural cosmetics has exploded. It’s increasing five times faster than demand for conventional cosmetics, up 12.5 percent in 2008 and expected to rise even more in 2009. Marketing companies believe it has more to do with safety concerns than with environmental ones.
The biggest difference between, say, a natural deodorant and a regular deodorant is the preservatives. Regular deodorants use chemical preservatives, some of which are possibly dangerous. Triclosan and parabens, for instance, are both loosely associated with cancer and endocrine-system disruptions. Other products, like nail polish and hairspray, contain phthalates, which can interfere with endocrine processes and potentially affect reproductive systems. Truly natural or organic cosmetics shouldn’t contain any of these ingredients.
One area in which natural cosmetics most likely excel is in eco-friendliness — but only if they carry a reliable organic label. An USDA-labeled organic cosmetic is probably made in a more eco-friendly manner than a conventional cosmetic.
Cosmetic Labels: Is “Natural” Natural?
Cosmetics labeling isn’t as tightly regulated as food labeling. It’s perfectly legal for a company to label its shampoo “botanical” if it has synthetic aloe fragrance added. The smell of aloe, after all, is “botanical.” Other labels like “nature-inspired” and “natural” don’t actually mean anything concrete, either. Some “natural” products do contain natural ingredients; others don’t. “Natural” isn’t a legally binding designation.
The more reliable designation is “organic,” and particularly “USDA Organic.” There are several different organic certification organizations in the United States, but they apply different standards, and it’s often unclear how reliable some of them are.
There are plenty of cosmetics brands that are truly natural. You just have to do some research to find out who is reliable and who isn’t!
Blog contributed by Akanksha Khurana, Under-graduate, New Delhi
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