Skin is the largest organ of our body. The last frontier against a plethora of bacteria and viruses in the air. A complex and intricate structure involved in a wide range of processes. Not a plain layer of tissue, but porous with small pores spread all over it. These pores perform many important functions with temperature regulation through sweat being the primary role. For centuries, people have tried taking care of their skins for health and cosmetic reasons. From creams to oils to ointments, the apothecaries of yesteryears provided different products for skin care. Over the years, as people started looking for instant results from cosmetic products, manufacturers turned towards chemicals. However, skin being a porous organ, absorbs everything that you apply on it. With time people realized the possible harmful effects of these chemicals and started turning towards their natural counterparts.
It takes < 26 seconds for the chemicals to reach your bloodstream!
The last couple of decades has seen a lot of herbal, natural, Ayurvedic and organic products being offered by manufacturers around the globe. However, as a consumer you must be aware of certain chemicals that are commonly used in skin care products that can be potentially harmful. Here is a look at some of them:
Before the internet community started dissuading people from using it, Paraben was used in almost all creams, lotions and moisturizers as a preservative agent.
Why to avoid it? It is known to possibly cause breast cancer, male infertility and is toxic to the environment.
2. Sodium Lauryl Sulphate [SLS]
Ever wondered where the lather from your toothpaste or shampoo comes from?
Sodium Lauryl Sulphate [SLS] along with Sodium Laureth Sulphate [SLES], is used extensively in toothpastes, soaps, shampoos, detergents, etc. as a cleaning agent. SLS, being a surfactant, creates the lather which helps cleaning.
Why to avoid it? SLS is known to cause irritation to the skin, eyes and lungs over prolonged use.
3. MEA, DEA and TEA
MEA – Mono-Ethanol-Amine DEA – Di-Ethanol-Amine TEA – Tri-Ethanol-Amine
These Ethanolamine compounds can be commonly found in soaps, creams and shampoos. Used as foaming agents and/ or emulsifiers, these compounds can be found in different variants in cosmetic products like DEA or diethanolamine, TEA or triethanolamine, cocamide MEA, cocamide DEA, lauramide DEA, linoleamide MEA, myristamide DEA, oleamide DEA, stearamide MEA, TEA-lauryl sulphate, etc.
Why to avoid it? When used with nitrosating agents, these compounds can form nitrosamines which has been listed as a possible and known carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
4. Petrolatum / Petroleum Jelly
This is a semi-solid hydrocarbon mixture obtained from petroleum and is used as a Conditioning Agent for hair and skin, moisturizer and/ or UV absorber.
Why to avoid it? Over prolonged use, it is known to cause premature ageing, aggravated acne and has also been found in breast tumors.
These are widely used in personal care products to moisturize and soften skin, to dissolve and coalesce ingredients, and to impart flexibility to nail polish after it dries, among many other uses.
Why to avoid it? Some of the known effects of Phthalates are cancer, endocrine disruption and developmental & reproductive toxicity.
Silicones perform different roles like: Waterproofing | Moisture retention | Hair protection | Smoothening of hair | Non-oily / non-sticky feeling to skincare products | Quick drying of deodorants | Keeping sunscreen on skin despite getting wet.
Why to avoid it? To keep your skin moisturized, silicone traps moisture by creating a layer on top. However, this layer can also lock dirt, bacteria, etc. leading to acne, dull skin and interfere with cell renewal.
7. Triclosan [TCS]
This is an antibacterial and antifungal agent found in many detergents, toothpastes, soaps, etc.
Why to avoid it? TCS can be harmful to the endocrine system – the internal hormone secreting system. It might also impair the immune system and cause antibiotic resistance in human.
Primarily found in shampoos and conditioners, nail polishes, eye shadows, etc. – Formaldehyde is used in many skincare products as it is known to prevent the growth of bacteria.
Why to avoid it? The International Agency for Research on Carcinogens (IARC) has deemed Formaldehyde as a carcinogen and has been linked to nasal and nasopharyngeal cancers. It might also be harmful to the immune system.
9. Propylene Glycol
It is used as a hydrating agent, avoids melting or freezing of products and helps them penetrate the skin. Propylene glycol is commonly found in most make-up products, sunscreen, moisturizers, shampoos, etc.
Why to avoid it? Even at a concentration level of 2%, Propylene glycol is known to cause dermatitis and/ or hives,
10. Artificial/ Synthetic Colors
Most skincare products use artificial or synthetic colors to make their products look different or exotic or appeal to a certain target group. These colors, usually, don’t add any value to the product except for the aesthetics.
Why to avoid it? Another ingredient that is a suspected carcinogen and is also linked to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder [ADHD] in children.
11. Artificial Fragrance
One of the best aspects of a skincare regimen is the soothing fragrance that gets left behind after you use a moisturizer or a body lotion or a night cream. It is added to make consumers feel good after using the product and not smell like a chemical concoction!
Why to avoid it? Most artificial fragrances have been associated with respiratory problems, allergies, dermatitis and in certain cases, problems with the reproductive system.
12. Sodium Phosphate
Sodium Phosphate along with Disodium Phosphate and Trisodium Phosphate is used in many skin care products as a buffering agent. Disodium phosphate also inhibits corrosion while trisodium phosphate adjust the pH levels.
Why to avoid it? There have been slight concerns raised by Cosmetic Database regarding neurotoxicity and organ toxicity at moderate to high doses.
Remember: Your skincare regime is your bank account and good product choices are good investments!