Ever wondered which chemicals can actually absorb into your skin and get into your bloodstream? Here are nine which can, and either affect your health positively or negatively. Let’s start with the chemicals to avoid.
Chemicals That Harm Your Skin
1. Formaldehyde and Formaldehyde-Releasing Preservatives
Formaldehyde is a toxic, colorless, strong-smelling gas which is added to personal care products and can also be released from preservatives in them. It has been shown to cause cancer; skin irritation; burning sensations in the eyes, nose and throat; coughing; nausea and wheezing.
Formaldehyde and the preservatives can also be found in:
- Nail polish
- Shampoos and liquid baby soaps
- Nail glue
- Eyelash glue
- Hair gel
- Hair-smoothing products
- Baby shampoo
- Body soap
- Body wash
- Color cosmetics
The use of formaldehyde in cosmetics and toiletries is banned in Japan and Sweden, and it’s restricted in personal care products in the EU. There are concentration restrictions in Canada, but none in the U.S. Funny, huh? Not really.
Look for and avoid formaldehyde, quaternium-15, dimethyl-dimethyl (DMDM) hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (bromopol).
2. Ethanolamine Compounds (MEA, DEA, TEA)
Ethanolamines are added to a lot of cosmetics and personal care products, and have been linked to liver tumors. DEA was recently found in 98 shampoos, soaps and other personal care products sold by major US retailers, by the Center for Environmental Health.
Ethanolamines are also found in:
- Hair conditioners and dyes
- Shaving creams
- Paraffin and waxes
- Pharmaceutical ointments
- Eyeliners, mascara, eye shadows, blush, foundations and makeup bases
Ethanolamines are prohibited in cosmetics due to concerns about the formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines by the European Commission.
What should you look for and avoid? DEA, TEA and MEA.
This chemical has been found in as many as 22% of 25,000 cosmetic products, but you won’t have seen it on any labels! It doesn’t get marked on ingredient labels, because it’s a contaminant created when common ingredients are mixed together. It’s found in products that create suds: shampoo, liquid soap, bubble bath; as well as hair relaxers, and has been linked to cancer.
Pregnant women, infants and teenagers are the most vulnerable to this chemical, which is banned for use in cosmetics in Canada. To protect yourself from 1,4-dioxane, look for products that have been certified under the USDA National Organic Program and those that contain sodium laureth sulfate, PEG compounds, clauses xynot, ceteareth and oleth.
4. Benzophenone and Related Compounds
Benzophenone is used in products like moisturizers, foundation, baby sunscreens, lip balm, nail polish, shampoo and conditioner. They have sadly been linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, developmental and reproductive toxicity, organ system toxicity.
Benzophenone, benzopenone-2, benzophenone-3, benzophenone-4 and benzophenone-5 are all restricted in cosmetics in the US, and oxybenzone is restricted in cosmetics at up to 10% concentration in the European Union.
To protect your health, look for and avoid all of the above benzophenones, as well as sunscreens that rely on non-nonoized zinc oxide or titanium dioxide
Although you might hear the word chemical and associate it with a poison or synthetic compound, there are plenty of natural chemicals hanging around on our planet that are perfectly beneficial to your health and skin.
The exact definition, a chemical is: “a distinct compound or substance, especial one which has been artificially prepared or purified.” So water, table sugar and citric acid are all natural chemicals!
Chemicals That Benefit The Skin
- Aloe Vera
While you might not class aloe vera as a chemical, aloe vera gel actually contains various plant chemicals, including two hormones: auxin and gibberellins. These hormones are wonderful skin chemicals that help in wound healing and have a potent anti-inflammatory action. Aloe vera also contains polyphenols, which help to inhibit the growth of the bacteria that can cause infections and inflammation. Studies have also shown that the compound in aloe improve facial wrinkles and elasticity.
- Coconut Oil’s Medium-Chain Fatty Acids
There are three fatty acid compounds in coconut oil that are beneficial for your skin: lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid. Lauric acid has anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-protozoa properties. It can be helpful for destroying lipid-coated viruses, such as herpes. Capric acid, is antimicrobial, too. Caprylic acid is antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory, fighting candida, skin infections and acne. Medium-chain fatty acids permeate cell membranes easily, and when applied to the skin, they keep it smooth to the touch, retaining the moisture content of the skin. Taking coconut oil internally also benefits the skin, as the fats deposit under the skin and give it an even tone, reducing the appearance of large pores.
To benefit from this wonderful oil, look for organic products that contain cold-pressed coconut oil. Ann Marie Gianni uses coconut oil in her Aloe Herb Cleanser.
- Hyaluronic Acid
Though it sounds like a chemical you wouldn’t want to put on your skin, hyaluronic acid is produced by the body naturally and helps retain collagen, increase moisture and provide elasticity and flexibility.
In studies, it has been shown to be a key molecule in skin aging, treating wrinkles, improving hydration and increasing elasticity. It is also thought to be beneficial for treating cold sores and providing sunburn relief.
To benefit from hyaluronic acid’s properties, look for skincare products fortified with high-quality hyaluronic acid, such as Ann Marie Gianni’s Anti-Aging Serum
- Herb Infused Oils
If you thought aromatic herbs and essential oils were added to skincare products for their scent, you’d be right. But herbs and essential oils contain extremely complex natural compounds that go wild in your body and on your skin, and can heal a variety of skin complaints.
One of the top essential oils for your skin is rose. Rose is especially soothing for dry and aging skin, and has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory compounds which can help conditions like psoriasis and dermatitis. One study even found inhaling rose essential oil inhibited water loss in skin.
Ashwagandha is not a common herb you might find in your skincare products, but quality products like those by Ann Marie Gianni contain it.
Ashwagandha fights the signs of aging, heals wounds, soothes rough and dry skin and stimulates collagen production.
To improve your skin using these natural substances, look for organic herb infused oils that include cutting-edge superfoods, and high-quality essential oils and extracts.