Since I started working as a Beauty Editor, it didn’t take long before the veil of marketing BS was lifted off of my eyes. Learning disgustingly shocking things about the cosmetic industry and seeing hyped up promos of harmful yet incredibly expensive products in magazines and social media, I’ve always felt a lingering sense of responsibility to help people realise what they were actually purchasing. After two years of idly standing by, seeing men and women be hoodwinked into buying the dumbest ineffective shit on the market, I am now stomping my metaphorical staff into the ground to declare, “Thou shalt not hogwash no more!”
Integrity and honesty is important to Chatty Chums. Unaffected by money a.k.a. ‘sponsored posts’, at least when I’m talking about skincare; sharing the gritty truth is simply a labour of love so that consumers (you) can make better purchase decisions for themselves as well as their children, backed by expertise’ knowledge. If you decide to maintain your off-the-shelf skincare regimen knowing that there’s a whole load of cancerous crap in it, then that’s totally up to you – your money, your skin! But it’s definitely worth making a change in your shopping habits for your children. e.g. Vaseline, baby oil, Cetaphil, etc., take that shit out of your basket babes! You’re carrying slow-travelling bullets.
Today, we’re going to be touching on eleven ingredients that you should be avoiding with the help and knowledge of Kate, owner of Skinography. My first facial with Kate blew my mind. The therapeutic powers of a God runs through Kate’s hands – she’s the master heroine of facialists and I can’t stress enough how friggin amazing she is. Facials by Kate feels like a deep tissue massage for your face and it’s eye-rolling good. If ever you’re thinking of a way to treat yo’ self slash want to make a change in your skin, all fingers point to Kate.
Masseuse techniques aren’t the only thing she’s good at. She’s also an incredible walking encyclopedia on lotions and potions with 16 years of industry experience and a serial passion for constant education. Research and development of the skin never stops in this ever-changing industry – “NEVER stop learning, that’s when you get stuck in old and stagnant habits,” she says.
So without further ado, let’s dive right into a discussion about the cosmetic industry – the good, the bad, or to be more concise, the things that can blindside us.
“The cosmetic industry is very talented at ‘covering’ over the BS and packaging it as something that we think we need. Firstly, our skin is a living organ. Ingredients like dyes and fragrances are not bioavailable for our skin and may cause a multitude of long term problems. When did we begin to need a pink, rose fragranced cream??
The marketing or some hyped ranges out there even sway me sometimes until I see what the ingredients list is and I’m like ugh, I wouldn’t use that on my feet! And yet, it’s been marketed as the next big night cream or facial scrub (something that are way over used and can actually cause massive problems).
Yes, I know they look beautiful on your bathroom counter and they smell like a dream, but what does that do for your skin health? Don’t be a sucker and fall into the marketers trap.
We have to treat our skin with respect. We can’t live a uber healthy lifestyle, go on runs, do yoga, have all the green smoothies and use ‘fast food’ type skin care. There’s the clue, it should be about the ‘care’ in skin care.
Get to know what the ‘dirty’ ingredients are and make consciencious choices when purchasing your self care tools. SO many products out there are full of ‘fillers’ like mineral oils, synthetics additives, emulsifiers, fragrances and dyes. As I’ve already said, none of these are bioavailable to the skin and can cause a build up resulting in the skin to purge and breakout.
For some reason, we still seem to think that oil is a problem in the skin, in fact it’s the most natural form of moisture that our skin makes and needs to function. Many ‘problematic skin’ ranges out there use harsh and stripping ingredients to give us the ‘squeaky clean’ feeling that most acne sufferers crave. This creates a massive problem with the skin’s natural barrier and our first line of defence, the acid mantle. When we have an impaired barrier, we end up with severe dehydration because the ‘lid’ that keeps the hydration in the our skin is lost, our skin then becomes rough and scaly in a process called ‘Impaired Enzyme Activity’ whereby the water-loving enzymes don’t work at naturally exfoliating our skin. The message is sent to the oil glands to produce MORE oil to correct the imbalance of a lack of oil – hence the term combination skin, which is in fact, not a skin type! So what do we end up with? A dehydrated, tight feeling and an over-compensating oil flow that causes blockages in our follicles and more breakouts.
Parabens are a widely used preservatives that prevent the growth of bacteria, mould and yeast in cosmetic products. Sounds good, right? Not so fast, they do more than that. Parabens possess oestrogen-mimicking properties that are associated with increased risk of breast cancer. These chemicals are absorbed through the skin and have been identified in biopsy samples from breast tumors. They can be found in makeup, body washes, deodorants, shampoos and facial cleansers. You can also find them in food and pharmaceutical products.
If you take a look at your product label and notice FD&C or D&C, they represent artificial colors. F — representing food and D&C representing drug and cosmetics. These letters precede a color and number (e.g., D&C Red 27 or FD&C blue 1). These synthetic colors are derived from petroleum or coal tar sources. Synthetic colors are suspected to be a human carcinogen, a skin irritant and are linked to ADHD in children. The European Classification and Labeling considers it a human carcinogen and the European Union has banned it.
THE NUMBER 1 SKIN SENSITISER!! This particular category is pretty scary, because what does “fragrance” mean anyway? This term was created to protect a company’s “secret formula.” But as the consumer, you could be putting on a concoction that contains tons of chemicals that are hazardous to your health. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Skin Deep Database, fragrance mixes have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system. It can be found in many products such as perfume, cologne, conditioner, shampoo, body wash and moisturizers. I know it may be hard to hear but even essential oils are classed as fragrance. Oils like lavender, citrus and tea tree oil are well known photo sensitisers, and may cause sun sensitivity which results in pigmentation. Tea tree oil causes post inflammatory her pigmentation, which means that by applying TT oil, it may cause pigmentation after that nasty spot has gone. So be careful! Just think about ALL the TTO ranges out there! It’s a minefield, honestly!
“I use my moisturiser daily but my skin still feels dry!” Or “I feel I need to re-apply my moisturiser twice a day because my skin always feels dry!” Or have you used up all of your moisturiser in half the time you should? If so, these are indications of the “washout effect” of emulsifiers and how they can exacerbate fast dehydration and lipid dryness.
When youth emulsifiers come into contact with water when you cleanse, it strips our own oil and causes a ‘washout effect’ on the skin and strips the precious oils when need for our skin healthy functioning.
Emulsifiers have been found to be higher irritants than fragrance or preservatives because they are proving to cause a modification of the skin’s natural barrier. Despite this, their use is largely unregulated and is considered an easy and inexpensive way of combining the oil and water phases of an emulsion. Note that cost is the prime reason for this.
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) / Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)
This surfactant can be found in more than 90% of personal care and cleaning products (think foaming products). SLS’s are known to be skin, lung, and eye irritants. A major concern about SLS is its potential to interact and combine with other chemicals to form nitrosamines, a carcinogen. These combinations can lead to a host of other issues like kidney and respiratory damage. They can be found in shampoo, body wash/cleanser, mascara and acne treatment.
Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (FRP’s) preservatives are used in many cosmetic products to help prevent bacteria growth. This chemical was deemed as a human carcinogen by The International Agency for Research on Carcinogens (IARC) and has been linked to occupational related cancers: nasal and nasopharyngeal. It is known to cause allergic skin reactions and it may also be harmful to the immune system. It can be found in nail polish, body washes, conditioners, shampoos, cleansers, eye shadows, nail polish treatments.
A group of chemicals used in hundreds of products to increase the flexibility and softness of plastics. The main phthalates in cosmetics and personal care products are dibutyl phthalate in nail polish, diethyl phthalate in perfumes and lotions, and dimethyl phthalate in hair spray. They are known to be endocrine disruptors and have been linked to increased risk of breast cancer, early breast development in girls, and reproductive birth defects in males and females. Unfortunately, it is not disclosed on every product as it’s added to fragrances (remember the “secret formula” not listed), a major loophole in the law. They can be found in deodorants, perfumes/colognes, hair sprays and moisturizers.
Tricolson is widely used antimicrobial chemical that’s a known endocrine disruptor — especially thyroid and reproductive hormones, and a skin irritant. Studies raise concerns that triclosan contributes to making bacteria antibiotic-resistant. There also wasn’t enough supporting evidence that washing with antibacterial soaps containing triclosan provides any benefit over washing with regular soap and water. Tricolson can be found in toothpastes, antibacterial soaps and deodorants.
A petrochemical derived from petroleum or coal tar sources. You may see it on labels listed as benzene, toluol, phenylmethane, methylbenzene. Toluene is a potent solvent able to dissolve paint and paint thinner. It can affect your respiratory system, cause nausea and irritate your skin. Expecting mothers should avoid exposure to toluene vapors as it may cause developmental damage in the fetus. Toluene has also been linked to immune system toxicity. It can be found in nail polish, nail treatments and hair color/bleaching products.
Found in soaps, shampoos, lotions, shaving creams, paraffin and waxes as well as numerous cosmetics, it’s scary to think how many times a day we are exposed to these chemicals. Already restricted in Europe due to known carcinogenic effects, ethanolamines are used freely in the United States. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported an increased incidence of both skin lesions and liver and kidney tumors in mice from repeated skin applications of DEA-based detergents (although they did not find the same increase when applied to rats). They also report testicular degeneration and reduced sperm motility and sperm count in animal studies, through oral exposure to diethanolamine.
Look out for these chemicals under names like DEA (diethanolamine), MEA (Monoethanolamine) and TEA (triethanolamine) amongst others.
DMDM (dimethyl-dimethyl) Hydantion
This white crystalline solid is used as a preservative in shampoos, conditioners, skin products, moisturizers, nail and eyelash glues and other cosmetics. There are concerns that this chemical releases formaldehyde which may cause joint pain, allergies, depression, headaches, chest pains, chronic fatigue and dizziness. It’s also thought to cause irritation to the skin, eyes and lungs.
DMDM is even restricted for use in cosmetics in Japan and Sweden but is used freely in other parts of the world.
FD&C Color Pigments
These synthetic colors are made from coal tar and contain heavy metal salts that deposit toxins into the skin, causing skin sensitivity and irritation. Animal studies have shown almost all of them to be carcinogenic. The acronym stands for ‘Food, Drug, and Cosmetics’, and you will also find D&C (Drug and Cosmetics) labels. In recent years, the FDA has banned a number of these colours, but several are still legal. Interestingly, five of the still-legal colours in the USA have been linked to both ADHD in schoolchildren and cancer in European studies. Look out for them in shampoos, toothpastes, body washes, baby products, deodorants, lotions, creams, and more. They’ll usually be listed as a colour followed by a number e.g. FD&C Red 40.
This one seems harmless enough doesn’t it? ‘Mineral’ sounds pretty healthy right?
Well, the mineral oil used in our cosmetics is actually derived from petroleum and is found in baby oil and Vaseline (which are actually purely mineral oil) amongst other products. It’s hugely debated within the cosmetics industry whether this oil is safe to use or not. While many say it is perfectly safe, other sources say it coats the skin, clogs pores and interferes with the skin’s ability to eliminate toxins. These actions all increase the risk of acne and other skin conditions. There is also evidence to suggest that cosmetics are a source of mineral oil contamination in women with researchers even stating that mineral oil hydrocarbons are the greatest contaminant of the human body.
After all, there are plenty of oils out there that actually provide nutrients and benefits to your skin, which mineral oil certainly does not.
Holy F**k! We’re all being duped! Do you have any tips on how to recognize if a particular ingredient is harmful?
There is a great app called ‘Think Dirty’ I would recommend everyone have this on their phone and use it to check future purchases.