Does what we use on our skin make a difference for our skin’s overall health? With growing awareness, we are realizing how much better eating more organic whole foods is for our internal bodies health: thinking the same way for our external body can dramatically help the health of your skin. Is what we are using on our skin nourishing and feeding our skin’s health or is it making it more reactive and problematic?
The skin ordinarily receives very little respect from its inhabitants but structurally it’s a marvel. One square centimeter of the skin contains 70cm of blood vessels, 55cm of nerves, 100 sweat glands, 15 oil glands, and 230 sensory receptors and about half a million cells that are constantly dying and being replaced.
Would you be enticed by a coat that is waterproof, stretchable, washable and permanent press? What about one that invisibly repairs small cuts, rips and burns and that is guaranteed to last a lifetime with reasonable care? Sound too good to be true? Well, it’s not! You already have such a coat-YOUR SKIN. Skin and its components- hair, sweat, oil glands and nails, make up a complex system called the integumentary system.
Our skin is our bodies’ largest organ
Our skin is our bodies’ largest organ- it is living, breathing, and responsive. If we start to think of our skin as an actual system of our body just like the muscular, cardiovascular or nervous system, we can start to appreciate it’s importance to our overall body’s health and well being. The integumentary system, i.e., skin, has many functions- one of the most well known is protection. The skin not only protects and covers our body, we also use its receptors to touch and feel. It regulates metabolic functions such as: vitamin D production, being a blood reservoir to other organs when the body needs more blood volume, and excretion- when ammonia, urea and uric acid are eliminated through the body as sweat.
When it comes to skin maintenance, we don’t think too much about it. However, when the skin becomes out of balance, our attention is immediately drawn to the problem and we want to correct it ASAP.
Our skin is constantly gauging what we put onto it and decides how to respond. Depending on the ingredients in our products, it can respond positively by opening up and allowing the ingredients to be absorbed more readily, or it can respond negatively by shutting itself off to the ingredients, which slows down absorption of an aggravating ingredient. When it responds negatively like this, a vicious cycle of events start to take place. Hydration levels, oil, hormones, excretion, tone & texture of the skin can become imbalanced and/or irritated, causing many different skin conditions. This cycle often develops slowly until in one’s adult years, when the skin becomes increasingly reactive and sensitive to products in general. In more extreme cases, the skin cannot tolerate much and reacts to everything.
There have been lots of ingredients banned over the years in beauty/skin care products because of the negative health side affects, i.e., products containing lead, arsenic, and mercury. Today, we simply would not use such products because we know how damaging they are to our overall health. Our skin is like a sponge- anything we apply to it (even from the clothes we wear and what we wash them in), eventually gets passed into the body via the blood stream. It initially contracts to protect itself from aggravating ingredients from entering, but cannot stay shut off constantly as it needs to breath, take in moisture, and release sweat. Over time, aggravating ingredients slowly get absorbed into the body- a machine that is not designed to eliminate synthetic toxins as effectively as organic waste. These toxins get stored in our tissues and accumulate over years and eventually can lead to serious illness.
Aggravating skin ingredients
Unfortunately, there are many aggravating ingredients in personal care and household products today that are not being regulated. Some of the most aggravating skin ingredients are:
SODIUM LAURYL OR LAURETH SULFATE- most common foaming ingredient. SLS can cause: damage to the immune system, release carcinogens, denature skin oils with serious drying effect, and penetrate to systemic tissues, i.e., heart, liver and brain.
METHYL,ETHYL,PROPYL OR BUTYL PARABEN- most widely used preservative in personal care products: can accumulates in tissues over time, mimics action of female estrogen, and is often detected in tumors. Banned in EU in certain product useage.
IMIDAZOLIDINYL UREA AND DIAZOLIDINYL UREA – most commonly used preservatives after the parabens: Primary cause of contact dermatitis. and releases formaldehyde.
2-BROMO2 NITOPROPANE 1,3 DIOL (ALSO KNOWN AS BRONOPOLL)- Preservative which can break down into formaldehyde and form nitrosamines which are carcinogenic.
FORMALDEHYDE- Not listed on labels but released by the following preservatives:
* 2-bromo-2nitropropane-1,3-diol* Diazolidinyl urea* DMDM hydration* Imidazolidinyl urea* Quaternium 15. Known carcinogen and neurotoxin- skin, eye and respiratory irritant which can cause insomnia, coughing, headaches, skin rash, nose bleeds and nausea.
COCAMIDE DEA- Foaming agent . It can disrupt hormone balance, cause yeast infections, contact dermatitis and dandruff. It also is linked to cancer-causing nitrates and nitrosamines. Note that all of the following may contain DEA: * Cocamide MEA* DEA-Cetyl Phosphate* DEA Oleth-3 Phosphate* Lauramide DEA* Linoleamide MEA* Myristamide DEA* Oleamide DEA* Stearamide MEA* TEA-Lauryl Sulfate* Triethanolamine
PHTHALATES- Not listed on labels but can be present in many artificial colors and fragrances- A possible hormone disrupter for both sexes and associated with diminished fertility and genital birth defects.It may have links to cancer.
TRIETHANOLAMINE (TEA)- Often used to adjust the pH, can cause allergic reactions. It can be a severe eye irritant and is drying to the skin. It reacts with nitrites to form carcinogenic nitrosamines.
PETROLEUM BI-PRODUCTS (MINERAL OIL, PETROLATUM)- Inexpensive oil substitute. It reduces the skin?s ability to eliminate toxins, interferes with the body?s natural moisturizing system, and passes through liver & sequesters fat soluble vitamins.It is known to be acne-causing and increases photosensitivity – promotes sun damage.
PROPYLENE AND ETHYLENE & POLYETHYLENE GLYCOL- Solvents, also a kind of alcohol. It can cause allergies, dermatitis, and is drying to the skin. Reports have shown that it can cause kidney and liver damage and possible cancer links.
ISOPROPYL, ETHYL, CETYL OR SD 40 ALCOHOLS- Solvents which are severely drying to the skin. They change Ph balance, accelerate aging, and can cause headaches, flushing, dizziness, depression.
ARTIFICIAL COLORS – (FD&C COLORS)- Made from coal tar and petroleum. They often contain impurities like lead acetate, which are toxic to the nervous system. They are often allergens, irritants and carcinogens.
ARTIFICIAL FRAGRANCES- Made from coal tar and petroleum. These can involve as many as 600 separate chemicals, some of which are carcinogenic (such as methylene chloride). They may contain or release formaldehyde, and can cause allergies, skin irritation, headaches and nausea. Xylene, is hormone-disrupting and can trigger asthma attacks.
TRICLOSAN- An antimicrobial agent used in many hand washes. It is registered as a pesticide with EPA, a hormone-disrupting agent. It produces chloroform when mixed with chlorinated water and interferes with reproductive and sexual functions.Irritant for eyes, skin, and or lungs
TALC- The most common ingredient in baby bath & dusting powders. It is a very common skin irritant and has depending on the type of talc used been linked to cancer.
There are alot of healthier food-based preservatives that are being used more in personal health care products that are not irritating to the skin and do not have the same toxicity level to human tissue such as: xantham gum (fermented glucose), lemon or citric acid, potassium sorbate (salt from sorbic acid), and glycine (derivative from soybeans). Synthetic preservatives are not meant to benefit skin health- their function is to act as a stabilizer and increase shelf life on average for three years.
If you are not sure what an ingredient is and the affect it will have on your skin & body, ask the person you buy your products from. If they don’t know, do some research. You have the right to know what ingredients are in your products, what the source is and what is the function/purpose of the ingredient in the product you use.
Healthy skin is compromised of many different important elements: hydration, diet, stress, exercise, sun exposure, and genetics all play a very important role- not just product ingredients alone. Some of these factors we may not have too much control over. What we use on our skin is a choice we make every day and the accumulative affect over years can help our body & skin be healthy, vibrant and glowing.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Just like our food intake- if we start slowly replacing our personal care products with more whole, organically made ingredients, with a minimum amount of preservatives, this positively affects our skin’s health in the long run. If you would not eat it, then why would you put it on your skin?