We know to avoid foods that have been laden with chemicals, yet we continue to lather on products that are filled with them. Maybe we think this way because food is directly ingested into our bodies, while we tend to think of skin care as external.
Our skin is the largest organ in our body. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), women use an average of 12 products a day, containing 168 different hormone altering chemicals ranging from cleansers, conditioners, hair dyes, fragrances, skin care products, scented lotions, nail polish, and makeup, to name a few.
Hormone altering chemicals are known as Endocrine Disruptors. Their effect on us may not be seen in real time. Rather, chronic use of these chemicals, found in our favorite products, build up over time and can begin to cause significant distress and abnormality in your endocrine system.
Hormone altering chemicals interfere with the way the body’s hormones work. Some act like "hormone mimics" and trick our body into thinking that they are hormones, while others block natural hormones from doing their job. They can increase or decrease the levels of hormones in our blood by affecting how they are made, broken down, or stored in our body. They can also change how sensitive our bodies are to different hormones.
Health effects attributed to endocrine disrupting compounds include a range of reproductive problems; changes in hormone levels; early puberty; brain and behavior problems; impaired immune functions; and various cancers. Each ingredient comes with its specific effect on our system. All the ones mentioned below, have been shown to have a negative impact on our system.
Let's review some of the common ingredients found in many of our everyday products.
Often labelled “fragrance” or “parfum.” They are considered a trade secret and companies are not required to disclose. They can contain upwards to 3000 chemicals and allergens.
Found in: any bath, body, skincare and home product that lists fragrance or parfum.
Can be part of the fragrance ingredients. Used to extend the smell on skin or in the air. Also used in plastics to make them more pliable.
Found in: any bath, body, skincare and home product that lists fragrance or parfum, nail polish, hair sprays ect...we also know this is found in many household and food items.
Butyl, propyl and ethyl parabens and others are preservatives used to prevent bacterial and mold growth.
Found in: most mainstream brands that use water as an ingredient. (moisturizers, face and skin cleaners, sunscreens, deodorants, shaving gels, toothpastes...)
PEG (Polyethylene glycol)
Petroleum-based compound that are often used as thickeners, solvents, softeners, and moisture-carriers. Seen in products as PEG-400, PEG-8000, ect...
Found in: many skincare, bodycare, diaper wipes, cleaners ect...
Used in many skincare and body care products as a preservative. Look for names like: quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, polyoxymethylene urea, quaternium-15, hydroxymethylglyconate and bronopol (2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1-3-diol)
Found in: shampoos and liquid baby soaps, nail polish, nail hardener, nail glue, and eyelash glue. It’s also common in many hair straighteners and more.
I have spoken a lot about this in our non-stick cookware but it is also being used in skincare products to make them more water-resistant, durable and spreadable.
Found in: foundations, long-lasting lipsticks and eye products like waterproof mascaras.
SLS (Sodium lauryl sulfate)
Used as a foaming agent. Other known ones to avoid sodium stearyl sulfate, sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES) and sodium lauryl sulfoacetate (SLSA).
Found in: most foaming products (foaming face washes, shampoo, shower gel, shaving foams, toothpaste, bubble bath...)
While the science isn't set on the impact of Aluminum in skincare, it is one I avoid. Because I test heavy metal levels in my clients - I often see this elevated and we work to lower through all exposure sources. Aluminum is a known systemic toxicant at high doses.
Found in: antiperspirants, toothpastes and lipsticks.
The FDA is working to limit cosmetics deemed to have "unsafe" levels of lead, no safe blood lead level has actually been identified.
Found in: lipsticks, eye shadows, blushes, compact powders, shampoos, and even body lotions.
BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) are synthetic antioxidants used as preservatives.
Found in: lipsticks, moisturizers, diaper creams...
EDTA (ETHYLENEDIAMINETETRAACETIC ACID)
A binding agent and preservative used to prevent the growth of bacteria, yeasts, and molds.
Found in: facial moisturizer/lotion, sunscreen, anti-aging treatment, cleanser, shampoo/conditioner, hair dye, body wash, eye cream...
Often labeled as MEA/DEA/TEA is a PH balancer and foam booster.
Found in: mascara, foundation, fragrances, hair dyes, sunscreens...
Sadly there are a handful more ingredients I would list but space is limited.
It can be overwhelming at first to know how to look for and purchase safer skincare options. I recommend using the resources below. They help take the guess work out of the overwhelm and as you learn what to look for and avoid - you will eventually be more comfortable at screening the products of the ingredients you wish to avoid.
There are many companies who now cater their product line to safer alternative!
Safer Skincare Swaps
1. Nourish Shop we share some of our favorite skincare, body care, baby care and cooking & food storage swaps in our shop.
2. EWG is a great place to check your products and search for new.
3. Thinkdirty(app) great app to scan product ingredients.
Have A Nourishing Day!
Source: saferchemicals.org/get-the-facts/toxic-chemicals, madesafe.org, Ewg.org