Our skin is the largest organ of our body, so what we put on it can have a huge impact on our overall health. For a lot of us, the first thing that springs to mind when discussing skincare or beauty products is aesthetics.
We put products on our skin & in our hair to look good, & thus feel good about ourselves. However, so many of the products we are putting on our bodies contain hundreds of different chemicals which can do quite the opposite.
The negative effects of these chemicals can be immediate/visible, for example redness, irritation or breakouts, but can also slowly build up over time. Accumulation of these chemicals can contribute to hormone disruption as well as chronic & acute conditions such as asthma, reproductive disorders & cancers.
It can be difficult to know where to start with a skincare reboot, mainly because most of the ingredients on the back of the bottles are impossible to pronounce & incredibly numerous. However, there are a few to look out for which we think are real no-nos. The list below will give you somewhere to begin, & we’ve also given you some of our go-to tried & tested skincare & make up brands which we love. You can be safe in the knowledge that they are natural, effective & will make you look & smell beautiful!
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate & Sodium Laureth Sulphate are synthetic agents which allow products to foam so are most commonly found in shampoos & face/body washes. They are known skin irritants, strip the skin of its natural oils, cause dry skin, & consequently make us more prone to eczema & psoriasis. Some studies show that SLS & SLES may be accidentally contaminated with a chemical called 1,4 dioxane which has been linked to some types of cancer.
These are artificial preservatives that help products last longer & the main ones to look out for are butylparaben, methylparaben & propylparaben. Parabens are widely used in cosmetics & body care products so frequent exposure is very likely unless you make a conscious effort to limit this. The primary reason you might want to look into paraben free products is their link with hormone disruption in the body. Parabens can build up in our tissues overtime, have been shown to mimic the effect of oestrogen, & this has been linked to cancer formation & infertility.
These are a group of chemicals used to increase the softness of plastics. They do however creep into cosmetics & skincare, often under the guise of dibutyl phthalate, diethyl phthalate (DEP), & dimethyl phthalate. These are more carefully regulated in the EU than the US, but a suitable beauty product should state ‘phthalate free’ on its website. The reason why this is so important, again, is the fact that these pesky chemicals are endocrine disruptors. By mimicking hormones & interfering with the endocrine system, we start to see issues with growth regulation, metabolism, sexual development, reproduction & other bodily functions.
This is a compound used in antiperspirants, stopping the sweat ducts from releasing sweat onto the surface of the skin. Studies have shown that the aluminium found in antiperspirant deodorants may have a direct impact on breast tissue, as well as drawing links to breast cancer, Alzheimer’s & dementia. There is also the argument that the body is designed to sweat, so preventing this from occurring effectively is a major stumbling block for your body’s natural ability to remove toxins.
5. SYNTHETIC COLOUR
Yes they may make your products look appealing but the ingredients are less so. Each colour can have up to 25 different additives making up the pink, red or whatever colour your lipstick or balm is. Many artificial colours are made up of ingredients such as coal tar, petroleum or heavy metals which we don’t want to be slathering on any part of our bodies.
6. SYNTHETIC FRAGRANCE
Similar to artificial colours, it can take hundreds, if not thousands of different chemicals to build a fragrance. These won’t be listed on the back of your skincare container & if you find your skin is particularly sensitive, it is almost impossible to pinpoint which one is causing the problem. This is not to say that natural fragrances cannot cause skin sensitivities, but at least with just one or two ingredients, you know what you are putting on your skin & what you as an individual, may want to avoid. Similar to the ingredients listed above, these chemicals can accumulate in tissues over time, causing all sorts of chronic & acute health issues so it’s best to stick to ‘artificial fragrance’ free & go with products scented with pure essential oils & botanicals.
BRANDS WE LOVE
Evolve Beauty – Artisan beauty products made in small batches in Hertfordshire, England. They have a strong focus on eco-friendly beauty whilst using natural & organic ingredients.
Ren Skincare – with an impressive list of ‘free from’ ingredients, Ren really delivers on effectiveness whilst also considering beautifully clean & natural products. If you struggle with sensitive skin, this brand is worth looking into.
The Natural Deodorant Co. – these come in 5 different flavours & practically smell good enough to eat. Lovely & soothing on sensitive skin, they have a beautifully creamy consistency which melts onto your skin.
Sukin & John Masters Organics make superb shampoo & conditioner & if you want an extra boost of moisture & shine, we love
Fushi Wellbeing Really Good Hair Oil (use PHOEBE20 for 20% off Fushi).
Dr Hauschka – organic & sustainability is at the heart of this brand. Their products have fantastic medicinal properties & consumers are safe in the knowledge that with 50 plus years of experience in producing high quality cosmetics, they know what they are doing!
Ilia – it can be a bit hit & miss with organic make up but Ilia beauty have a brilliant range of tinted moisturisers, lipsticks, mascaras & more. Kjaer Weis & Inika Beauty are also well worth having a look at.
Written by Florence de Walden
Associate Nutritional Therapist