When it comes to cosmetics, we slather up to 168 different chemicals on our skin every day.
This, despite increasing evidence linking some of these chemicals to problems like obesity, allergies, and infertility, and to diseases like cancer and heart disease.
Ultimately, our personal care regime should add to our sense of wellbeing, not compromise it. By choosing what products we use carefully, and by incorporating elements of ritual into our skincare and makeup routines, we can not only look good, but feel good too.
If we want to care for our skin as well as our looks, there’s a number of steps we can take to protect ourselves.
- Be careful when it comes to ‘traditional’ cosmetics. Most cosmetics are full of synthetic chemicals. Up to 11,000 different chemicals are used to make personal care products, and of those, only 11% have ever been properly tested for safety!28 With links increasingly being made between some of these chemicals and a variety of illnesses and degenerative conditions, it is almost impossible to know whether the lotion or spray you’re putting on your skin is safe or not.
- Buy natural and organic personal care products instead. Organic products are free of synthetic chemicals. They contain purely natural ingredients, with the occasional addition of a tiny number of synthetic ingredients that have been rigorously tested for safety. Better still, they contain a host of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals which can help replenish and nurture your skin.
- Make sure the product is certified. Because natural and organic skincare has become so popular, a number of companies have jumped on the bandwagon and adopted marketing techniques designed to convince us that their product is made from natural sources. Unfortunately, this is often not true. Just because a product has a natural sounding name, or contains a natural ingredient, it doesn’t mean it is wholly natural and good for you. In the absence of government regulation to stop this unscrupulous practice, the only way to be sure you’re getting what you want is to look for products that are certified organic or as made from organic.
- Don’t forget your makeup! Organic skincare is hugely popular these days, with its benefits widely understood. The same can’t be said for makeup, and yet most women (and an increasing number of men) apply it every day. Unfortunately, much of this makeup is no less toxic than conventional skincare. It’s known, for example, that a woman will ingest an average of 2 kilograms of lipstick in her lifetime. This is troubling, given that most commercial lipsticks include ingredients – like methylparabens and propylprabens and retinyl palmitate – that you would never dream of putting anywhere near your mouth, if you were offered them individually. To avoid chemicals like these, it’s strongly recommended that you look for natural and organic alternatives to conventional makeup options.
- Keep healthy! A good diet and exercise will do wonders for your skin. They’ll not only keep you healthy on the inside, but looking good on the outside too.
- Choose your sunscreen wisely. Applying sunscreen has become second nature to almost all of us. Trouble is, we’ve become so intent on avoiding sun damage that we haven’t really stopped to question what’s in the sunscreen we’re applying to our skin. The answer, in most cases, is nothing good. Many conventional sunscreens include chemicals like benzophenone and PABA which are known endocrine disruptors and which have been linked to cancer.29 They are also designed to absorb easily, meaning they quickly get into our bloodstream, where they can have toxic effects. It’s strongly recommended that you seek out natural sunscreen alternatives instead.
- Most deodorants stink! The widespread expectation that we should smell nice is doing us harm. These days, most of us use antiperspirants to stop us from sweating, which is a wholly natural process and an important way we get rid of toxic build-up. Unfortunately, almost every antiperspirant contains either aluminium chlorohydrate or aluminium zirconium. These ingredients are designed to plug the sweat ducts, meaning that toxins we need to eliminate are trapped under the skin, where they get into our blood system and are selectively absorbed by the liver, kidney, brain, cartilage and bone marrow. Current research indicates that this is very bad for us, and – whilst definitive evidence does not yet exist – antiperspirants are now being linked with Alzheimer’s Disease and breast cancer.30 As an alternative, we can use a natural deodorant, like a good quality crystal deodorant. These are free from chemical nasties, leave no sticky residue on the skin, and they neutralize the bacteria we produce when we sweat, thus preventing odour from happening.
- Think supercritical. Although organic cosmetics are undoubtedly a better choice than conventional cosmetics, they’re not all born equal. One reason for this is the quality and variety of ingredients used, whilst it can also help to consider how the various oils and nutrients derived from these ingredients have been extracted. Whilst most extraction methods rely on chemical solvents or alcohol, there’s a new, revolutionary extraction technique that some companies are turning to, called supercritical extraction. The magic of supercritical extraction is that it captures the maximum nutritional and beauty benefits of the whole plant – literally thousands of important compounds – and not just isolated chemical constituents. Not only that, but supercritical extracts per weight of herbs are between 100–250 times more concentrated, as well as being ultimately more pure and ‘whole’, than traditional herbal extracts used in most skincare today. If you get the chance, take the time to look around for products that use supercritical extracts. Your skin will love you for it!
Here’s something that might surprise you. Your vegan makeup? It’s likely no good for you.
Right now, vegan beauty is trendy: a rising, powerful market segment that promises riches for those who can tap into it. Sadly, this has led to unscrupulous behavior. You see, whilst vegan claims might guarantee that a product is cruelty free, it doesn’t mean that the product is good either for you or the environment, as so many manufacturers claim.
That’s because a lot of vegan makeup, in particular, is made almost entirely from synthetic chemicals; nasty toxins manufactured in a lab and – because they’re entirely man-made – marketed as vegan. But does that mean they’re 100% safe? Good for you? Good for the planet? No, no, and no. Many of the chemicals used in cosmetics, and promoted as vegan, won’t break down easily, if at all. When you wash them off your face, you wash them into the environment, where they accumulate, exposed to the very animals that most of us want to protect. And as for what they’re doing to your skin? Well, you be the judge. Sadly, when it comes to beauty products, vegan claims often amount to another form of greenwashing. The good news is, once we understand this, we can take action. We can start to learn about the ingredients in the products we use, we can take advantage of apps like ‘Think Dirty’, and we can look for truly natural vegan products that are certified organic. Do this, and we’ll be doing ourselves, the environment, and – ultimately – the whole vegan movement, a favor.