When it comes to skincare I’ve often been confused by the sheer amount of products, brands and actions, and thus quite rationally I tend to believe that a lot of it is unnecessary and probably a waste of money.
For instance, how does ‘anti-ageing’ cream actually work? It can’t turn a clock backwards and if it’s strong enough to set your face in stone then there is probably a whole lot of chemicals that I’d rather keep away from my face.
And then there’s the harsh realisation that majority of skincare is full of really toxic, harmful ingredients - yes, even those ones that say they’re ‘natural’ and have lots of pictures of leaves and flowers on them.
Over the past couple of months I’ve started to familiarise myself with many of the many ingredients used in skincare and cosmetics, to try and filter out the ones that are likely going to cause more harm than good.
It goes without saying that natural skincare is the way to go, but theres definitely more to the picture, including the impact each product is having on your skin and the wellbeing of the planets and animals.
This has come to be quite a long post. So here is a toppling view of what I discuss. Browse the content at your own leisure.
THE SKIN | TOXIC INGREDIENTS | DISCARDING TOXIC PRODUCTS | DIY SKINCARE | NATURAL ALTERNATIVES
I think a great place to start is by understanding the skin as an organ. Being the largest organ in the body, it is the first line of defence against environmental toxins. It’s also a super highway to the bloodstream, so anything that the skin isn’t able to block out, seeps straight into the blood. Fabulous.
There are three main layers of the skin:
Epidermis: The outer-most layer which protects the body and produces new skin cells.
Dermis: Produces sweat and body oils, Houses hair follicles, blood vessels and lymph vessels for draining toxins and many glands including the sweat and sebaceous glands which produce sebum - an oil that lubricates and waterproofs skin and hair.
Subcutaneous tissue: Connects the dermis to the body, controls body temperature and stores body fat.
A little more about Sebum: Sebum plays a super important role in keeping your skin healthy. It is a skin oil that helps keep the skin hydrated by preventing too much water loss out and also prevents too much water from coming in. It also acts as a defence against bacteria and fungal infections.
In all three layers of your skin, (and greatly impacted by sebum production), you will find bacteria and microbes that make up your skins microbiome (just like your gut!).
Your skins microbiome is vital for healthy skin, and is comprised of a diverse range of bacteria that work symbiotically to:
Kill off infection and pathogens on the skins surface
Aid in healing wounds
Reduce skin inflammation, oxidative damage & UV impact
Keep the skin youthful & hydrated.
Just like in your gut, imbalances in the skin microbiome will greatly impact the health of your skin, which could manifest as:
Acne and blemishes
Dry or flaky skin
Slow wound healing
Look after your skins microbiome by:
Ensure you’re eating lots of fibrous, whole plant-foods.
Implementing practises that allow you to unwind and destress, as stress greatly impacts the skin.
Getting skin to earth contact, by walking in nature with skin bare to the elements, diving in the ocean, breathing in fresh air etc.
Avoiding anti-bacterial products (like soap or hand-sanitiser), and products that strip the skin (like harsh cleansers) which kill off bacteria and have been shown to cause more blemish prone skin.
Now that you know a little more about your skin and its microbiome, you might be getting a better picture of the fact that your skin has an in-built regulator of skin health, so really just getting back to a more natural way of being is going to allow it to heal itself. Therefore, when selecting skincare products you want to ensure that you’re working to REGULATE your natural microbiome, rather than override it or prevent it from doing it’s job.
The Low down on Ingredients
Turn over a skincare label and most often you won’t understand a whole heap of what you’re reading, so here’s a little guide to help you discern what you want to avoid
Because the skin is a living organ, it will absorb anything applied to it, and most likely dive straight into your blood-stream. For this reason, it is super important to avoid harsh chemicals in your skincare.
Here are the top 13 ingredients to avoid.
Phthalates (DBP, DEHP, DEP)
BHA & BHT
Sulfates: Are commonly used to create ‘foaming’ effects in skin and hair care. They are known skin irritants and strip the skin of it’s natural oils, they’re also endocrine and hormone disruptors. Look to avoid the following Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfates (SLS, SLES) and ammonium lauryl/laureth sulfates (ALS,ALES)
Parabens: Used in most all hygiene and skincare products to prevent bacteria and fungal growth. Parabens are found to be hormone disrupting and DNA damaging. May be listed as the following (ISOBUTYLPARABEN, BUTYLPARABEN, METHYLPARABEN, PROPYLPARABEN)
Sodium Benzoate: A preservative ususally found at the bottom of the list in skincare toothpaste and mouthwash to keep acidic products from going rancid. Sodium Benzoate is okay on it’s own but when mixed in the same product as Ascorbic Acid (vitamin C) it becomes a carcinogen - so best to avoid.
PEG’s: Used in skincare as a thickener and cleanser with primary role to dissolve oil and grease (also used to clean ovens). Because of such PEG’s will strip the skin’s natural oils leaving it vulnerable, and also contains high amounts of heavy metals which are known to cause neurological, autoimmune and kidney issues.
Fragrances: Unless it call out that the fragrance is natural (i.e. essential oils) most fragrances are synthetic and cause a wide variety of reactions including hormone disruption, rashes, headaches, skin irritation, vomiting etc.
Phlalates: A chemical designed to adhere fragrances to the skin. They cause endocrine disruption and have been linked to liver, kidney and lung damage.
Urea: Found to release formaldehyde - a known carcinogen, is a primary cause of dermatitis and skin irritation.
Petroleums: Also known as Paraffin or Mineral oils, these products create a barrier on the skin, and thus impair its ability to breathe and perform natural functions to stay healthy. They’re also likely carcinogens and can’t be metabolised by the body, so once applied they stay stored in the bodies fat cells indefinity.
Formaldehyde: A known carcinogen. Enough said.
Hydroquinone: Used as a skin bleacher (yum, sounds great) that inhibits melanin production is linked to cancer, organ toxicity and skin irritation
Propolyne Glycol: Causes skin irritation and allergies, and if enough is absorbed will cause serious damage to the health of the liver, heart and nervous system.
BHA & BHT: Used to preserve the life of products but are also likely hormone disruptors, carcinogens and cause organ damage.
Triclosan: Found in anti-bacterial products, it strips the skin of natural microbes and is hormone and endocrine disrupting.
Now go have fun pulling apart your bathroom cupboard.
Discarding Toxic Products
But in all seriousness, unless you're pedantic about these sorts of things you will likely find a fair few products that contain one or several of these ingredients. Before you go throwing away full products, use your own discernment to decide which ones you should discard straight away. If you love a product, but it has one or two of these ingredients in mind, maybe finish it off to save waste & then opt for a more natural replacement (continue reading).
When you go to throw out these products, you'll likely find that majority of these products can't be recycled in your general household recycling bin but they may be able to be recycled with the council or with the company itself.
2. Check what your local council will and won't take when it comes to cosmetics and skincare containers.
Make your own Skincare
The kindest to your skin and the planet are those products you can make yourself. And when you think about it, we're natural creatures who find the most healing when we're in nature, so it just makes sense.
Hydrating Floral Mist:
A super simple, multi-purpose mist that you can use as a toner, skin hydrator, makeup setting spray. It's exactly the same as the floral or botanical mists that most brands sell, except without the toxins and preservatives and with more antioxidants and less waste.
To make it easy, pick between Rose or Lavender or blend the two!.
Rose: Great for inflamed, dry or sensitive skin
Lavender: Best for oily, or acne prone skin
Other options: Mint leaves, Chamomile, Orange Blossom, Thyme, Jasmine flowers etc.
- 1/2 cup of petals of your choice.
- 1 + 1/2 cups of water
Place both into a saucepan, and heat until just about boiling and then reduce to the lowest temperature setting. Heat until the petals have lost their colour. Allow to cool completely.
Strain the liquid through a cheese cloth or sieve, ensuring you keep out all the petals.
Place into a spray bottle (preferably a dark one to preserve the life) and store in a cool, dark place.
All in 1 Face & Body Oil
Use an organic oil as a cleanser, makeup remover, face moisturiser, body oil & hair oil. Using luscious organic oils for cleansing, moisturising is very common in Ayurveda and really nourishing for the body.
We're mislead to believe that using oils, particularly on oily skin, will cause break outs and promote oiliness however an organic, cold pressed oil is one of the gentlest, most balancing products that you can feed your skin.
To create an all in 1 oil that suits you, refer to the below table for the best recipe to heal and rebalance the specific needs of your skin:
Dry, Sensitive Skin:
Choice of Oils: Argan, Jojoba, Avocado
Choice of Essential Oils: Rose, Jasmine, Cedarwood, Geranium, Blood Orange, Sandalwood, Chamomile
Choice of Oils: Macadamia, Carrot Seed, Jojoba
Choice of Essential Oils: Chamomile, Lavender, Frankincense, Neroli, Geranium
Choice of Oils: Argan, Jojoba, Sea Buckthorn
Choice of Essential Oils: Orange, Lemon, Lime, Bergamot, Geranium, Cypress
Scarred / Stretch Marks / Damaged Skin:
Choice of Oils: Rose Hip, Carrot Seed, Sea Buckthorn, Hazelnut
Choice of Essential Oils: Neroli, Mandarin, Geranium, Calendula, Sage, Myrrh
What to Consider when Purchasing?
Ingredient List: Make sure the product doesn’t contain any of the aforementioned nasty ingredients.
Certified Organic: They’re better for the planet as they involve less spray and better for you as they’re absorbed straight into your blood-stream.
Australian Owned & Made: Support local business and less travel miles.
Cruelty Free: I was under the perception that animal testing was very rare, but sadly a lot of the big cosmetic brands still do it, which is really upsetting. So if you're buying more 'conventional' products - think supermarket, chemist and department store brands keep a look out. See below for brands that still test:
Recyclable/ Recycled Packaging: With the recycling industry stagnating, sending the products back to the company to recycle in a closed loop system is ideal. However this is far and few between at the moment.
BONUS: An Environmental & Social Commitment - Good companies will give back to the planet by investing in charities, offsetting their carbon, powering facilities with solar power doing tree planting projects etc.
Big Brands that Still Test on Animals:
Maybelline. - Clinique
Bobbi Brown. - Nars
Clarins - Benefit
Elizabeth Arden. - OPI
L'Ôreal - MAC
Lancome - Rimmel London
Revlon - Chanel
Giorgio Armani - Yves Saint Laurent
Sephora Collection - Dior
Shiseido - Guerlain
Some Natural Alternatives
Here are a list of some of the best brands I've come across either in personal use or through understanding their ethics & values.
As Simple As
Lewin & Riley
Woop we made it! Thanks for listening! I hope you got a little something out of this article and hopefully you feel a little more confident when you next go to use or purchase new skincare.
Just as a parting word, you're all absolutely beautiful as you are and no skincare can override a beautiful personality (cliché but true). Live & breathe with nature, be kind and don't worry too much! The rest will take care of itself.
Thanks for being you.