We all know that eating a fresh, local, organic diet is beneficial to our health but what about caring for our skin, the body’s first line of defense? It is crucial in our day and age to be educated as a consumer. Being further and further disconnected from the primary source of where our food and skincare products come from, it is important to at least understand what is in these products.
This is something the cosmetic industry purposefully does not make easy to understand for the consumer. Have you ever tried reading the back of a shampoo bottle? What are all of those unpronounceable ingredients anyway? It seems to me, worse the product formulation is, the harder the ingredient label is to read.
When it comes to skincare, we trust blindly that the cosmetic industry has done its homework to produce a safe product to put onto our skin- the body’s largest organ. Unfortunately, my dear readers, this is not the case. We are generally exposed to over 100,000 chemicals of which only 5% have been properly tested for their impact on long-term human health. Medical researchers have a growing concern about the long-term negative effect from small dose exposure of questionable chemicals that humans absorb topically over a long period of time. If you have been using generic shampoos, conditioners, creams, lotions, sunscreens, body wash, cleansers, toners, make-up removers, make-up, and deodorants (to name a few)… as you already know, you have been exposed to small doses of toxic chemicals for decades already. What’s alarming is that about 90% of cosmetic ingredients have never been analyzed for health impacts. What’s scarier is that many of the toxins found in skincare products are accompanied by penetration enhancers. Think about it… PENETRATION ENHANCERS! These are chemicals helping your skin absorb more toxins!!! If you are in a hot shower or a warm bath, your skin’s pores will open and these chemicals get an extra kick straight into your bloodstream. “Scientists are finding plastic components called phthalates in urine (Adibi et al. 2008), parabens and antibacterial agents such as Triclosan in breast-tumor tissue (Darbre 2006), as well as the hormone-disrupting fragrant component xylene in human breast milk (Reiner et al. 2007).” – Julie Gabriel,The Green Beauty Guide, 2008.
On top of this toxic cosmetic disaster, the consumer is also being tricked into buying so-called ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ products which really aren’t what they are advertised to be. This is called greenwashing. It is a concept used by the cosmetic industry to display an environmentally responsible public image by advertising irrelevant eco or green claims. Furthermore, they will practice ‘angel dusting’ by adding an insignificant amount of organic or natural product to their formula. For example, a shampoo can contain parabens, sodium Laureth Sulfate, phthalates, and other toxic nasties will be advertised “ORGANIC ARGAN OIL” on the front of the bottle but will only contain 0.2% of it in its total formula. I know some of this information may be disheartening at first but this post is not aimed to scare or discourage, my intention is to inspire you to take a look at the products you are in contact with daily and to read their labels with an analytical or shrewd manner.
Here are some common chemicals to avoid while buying your next skincare product:
• Parabens (traces of paraben have been found repeatedly in breast tumor tissue)
• Propylene/polyethylene glycol (linked with skin, liver and kidney damage)
• Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate (known to have caused skin/eye irritation, organ toxicity, possible reproductive mutation, and cancer)
• Synthetic chemical fragrances (linked with asthma, migraines, rashes, depression)
• Phthalates (can cause hormonal disharmony and reproductive birth defects)
As a general rule, I avoid buying products that contain ‘eth’ in their name, such as myreth, sodium laureth sulfate, polymethyl glycol, oleth because they test positive for 1,4-Dioxane aka ‘the silent killer’. Ingredients containing ‘eth’ are names given to hide the use of 1,4-Dioxane; a byproduct of cancer-causing petrochemical ethylene oxide. “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considered it a probable human carcinogen, having indisputably proven its tumor-promoting activity during animal tests (Stickey et al. 2003).” – Julie Gabriel, The Green Beauty Guide, 2008. So why are companies using these products in their skincare formulations again? Right… it’s a cheap alternative to provide mildness to very harsh ingredients found in their formulas… It’s diabolical if you ask me.
Hey! There’s hope!
Choosing a natural or organic skincare routine has never been easier. Thousands of beautiful products are readily available in health food stores, holistic groceries, farmers markets and online. If you are thinking of incorporating more natural skincare products into your beauty regime, remember that less is more. Your skin does not need a day cream, night cream, oily T-zone cream, crow’s feet cream, etc. Skin simply needs quality products that will enhance its natural functions. If you have been using generic skincare products, you may notice a difference after 3-4 weeks of using all natural products. During that first month, your skin and hair may experience a period of detoxification. Afterward, you might notice less breakouts, a brighter complexion or your hair might start curling (even though it’s never curled before).
After all, your skin is what you feed it. If you enjoy to DIY -you already have many ingredients to start a beautiful natural self-care regime right in your kitchen! Ingredients such as organic teas, spices, fruits (bananas, papayas, lemons, avocados), coconut milk, eggs, oils (olive, grapeseed or almond), cacao powder, sugar, salt, yogurt, honey and ginger (to name a few) are all amazing ingredients to play around with. You can create facial masks, body scrubs, body oils or moisturizing hair wraps without breaking the bank and without harming the environment.
Simplifying your skincare routine doesn’t have to happen overnight. The next time you run out of a certain product, ask yourself whether you can ditch that product altogether or replace it with a high-quality multipurpose product that can act as a few different products in one. For example, if you’re using a day cream, night cream, and brightening eye serum as well as other facial products, consider trying an antioxidant facial oil that is high is fatty acids, quick absorbing and has youth preserving properties rather than using 3-4 different products.
Simple plant-based skincare routines are more than plenty to keep your skin feeling youthful, nourished and glowing. Your skin will truly thank you. ☺
Photos and Text: Raphaëlle Gagnon
Raphaelle Gagnon, is the owner of a mobile off-grid skincare company called Boreal Folk apothecary specializing in natural wild harvested skincare products. She is a modern day nomad, van dweller, traveler, fermenter, wildcrafter, forager, skincare formulator, herbalist - always looking to spend more time among wild plants deep in the Canadian wilderness. With her wild and free ways, she is challenging the conventional way of life as well as redefining new ways of doing business.