Did you know that your skin is the largest organ in your body? While we place a lot of attention on what we eat, focusing on natural and organic food, our skin also “eats” everything that we apply on it. This is incredibly important to remember in our daily life as literally everything we use like deodorant, toothpaste, body lotion, dishwashing liquid and soaps are partially absorbed by our skin into our system.
The “Normal” Body Care Routine
When I look at the body care routine of most of my friends, it usually looks something like this - shower gels that are full of perfumes, facial cleansers with non-degradable exfoliating pearls, paraben-filled body lotions, deodorants containing aluminium, fluoride toothpastes, hair gel, hairspray, perfume, make up and so on. When you look at these products for what they really are, you are actually dousing yourself in chemicals every day. So why are these chemicals bad for us and what are the alternatives?
Top 5 Chemicals To Avoid
Paraben is one of the most common chemical culprits. Take a look at the labels on your make up, body wash, deodorant, shampoo and facial cleanser as there’s a good chance that they contain paraben. The problem with paraben is that it has estrogen-mimicking properties. Even though more research needs to be undertaken to conclude whether paraben is actually linked to breast cancer (www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/myths/antiperspirants-fact-sheet), it is probably better to err on the side of caution by going natural.
Aluminium is another common ingredient which you will find in many antiperspirants. Once again there are some studies (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16045991) which suggest that it is linked to cancer, however again this is inconclusive. Nevertheless, the reason why antiperspirants are so effective in stopping you from sweating is because aluminium forms a plug in your sweat pores. This can lead to blackheads, pimples or even cysts as your body has less pores to cool itself down. Consequently, it is a dreadful idea to spray antiperspirant all over your body like in the commercials!
“Fragrances” consist of a variety of chemicals which makes products more appealing to us. The problem with fragrances is that in some cases they have been shown to cause allergies, headaches and even asthma. Essential oils offer a natural alternative and also contain a whole host of other health benefits.
4. Micro beads
The exfoliating products that we use to scrub our skin are full of plastic micro beads which are too small for our water systems to filter out. As they are also non-degradable, they end up accumulating in our rivers and oceans causing major damage. While big companies are now taking action (http://edition.cnn.com/2013/01/07/health/microplastics-soap-unilever) to replace plastic micro beads with degradable ingredients such as jojoba pearls, a simple natural alternative would be to use semolina and soap.
Ever wondered what creates the foam when you’re brushing your teeth? Well, it’s not just friction - it’s the Sodium Laurel Sulfate (SLS) that’s in your toothpaste. Although Sodium Fluoride is supposed to strengthen your teeth and prevent cavities, while Hydrated Silica is supposed to whiten them, they both have negative side effects.
The list of chemicals doesn’t stop here though. Scarily enough, it goes on and on. If you’d like to check out what other ingredients you should avoid, here are some articles:
So What Can You Do About It?
1. Go for natural and organic products that explicitly say that they do not contain paraben, aluminium, etc. You can use this “red list” as a guide.
2. Do it yourself! There are many ways to create your own exfoliators, conditioners, make up removers, body lotions, perfumes and more. I personally use a natural soap for the body and face, coconut oil to remove make up, semolina to exfoliate the face and body, a natural toothpaste, a chemical-free shampoo and essential oils as a deodorant and perfume.
3. We often use a whole host of products to achieve the results that we are looking for. However, the key is in quality rather than quantity as using more products increases the probability that we are being exposed to harmful chemicals. Simplify your beauty routine by minimising the number of products that you use every day. In doing so, it may also help you to save some money along the way!