Are Your Beauty Products Causing You Harm?

For those of you who are regular visitors to my blog, you’ll know that I’m following a Paleo diet to help improve my health. In short, I’ve been removing harmful foods, preservatives and chemicals from my diet and also my lifestyle. I’ve written many pieces about the reasons to avoid certain things from the diet but never really touched on the beauty side of things. Mostly that’s because I have been focused on the food element of recovery and I’ve only recently got round to really scrutinising my beauty products. I’ve been using natural soaps, hair care and face cream for some time now but have only recently started to swap my usual beauty products to more natural, chemical free items. As my health’s been at its worst, I haven’t really needed to use many beauty products, but as I am stating to feel a little better and wanting to put a little more effort into my appearance, I have been slowly swapping my old products (such as body lotion, make-up, face-care and deodorant) for those that are less chemical – paraben free, natural and organic.

Why go to such lengths – might you ask? Well because everything you use in your daily life, from face creams, body washes, hair care to hand wash and even cleaning products, the chemicals in them pass through your skin and into your body! You most certainly wouldn’t use bleach or kitchen spray to have a shower in but the fact is, many beauty products are filled with chemicals just as harmful!

Rather than regurgitate what I have learnt myself about the chemicals in beauty products, I have listed a number of useful articles from other sites that will tell you everything you need to know. The general points are that if you wouldn’t put it in your mouth and eat it – then don’t put it on your skin! If you are suffering from ANY kind of health issue (especially hormone, gut or immunological related) you NEED to look at eliminating chemicals from your beauty regime. To give you an idea of why – some chemicals in beauty products can mimic the action of estradiol (one of the most important forms of oestrogen), creating an imbalance in your sex hormones; They can also have an impact on reproduction and fertility and for men can cause problems with sperm count – pretty scary huh?

If you want to find out more and get a real understanding, read through these two articles which give a much greater insight:-

Paleo Leap: Paleo and Environmental Toxins
This article tells it all, from the chemicals in beauty products to those in the environment around you. We are talking household chemicals to non-stick pans and plastic food containers! Trust me on this – chuck ‘em out!!!!!

Marks Daily Apple : 5 Chemicals in Cosmetics That You Should Avoid
This is a much shorter piece but good place to reference the chemicals to avoid. It gives you an idea of which products are likely to contain which nasties as well as other names they might be known by.

So in short what should you be avoiding?
To give you a short guide, I have listed a number of chemicals below and why they can be harmful:-

Sodium Lauryl Sulphate or Sodium Laureth; (SLS or SLES) this chemical was once used as an industrial degreaser – but is now common in bottles of shampoos and shower gels, because it acts as a lathering agent (makes things foamy). If used in large quantities it can be absorbed into the body, causing inflammation and irritation. It’s more harming the higher the concentration and the longer it’s left on the skin.

Parabens; This includes Butyl-, Erthyl- or Methyl paraben (just look for the words with ‘paraben’ as the suffix). It’s in pretty much everything – sun creams, shaving gel, moisturizers and toothpaste! These are the little blighters that contain estrogen mimicking properties and are linked to increased risk of breast cancer. The chemical can be absorbed through the skin and research has shown they can be found in biopsy samples and breast tumours!
Phthalate; (Pronounced THA-lates) these are plasticizers meaning they are mostly found in plastic products but are also commonly found in cosmetics! Found in nail polish and synthetic fragrances as a preservative, they can disrupt the endocrine system and have been linked to ADHD, breast cancer and even obesity in children! (What?? … crazy huh?)

Petrolatum; the most common form of this is product by brand ‘Vaseline’. Petrolatum comes from crude oil and in itself is classed as non-toxic, but it can be contaminated with Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) which may cause cancer. It’s also used in lipsticks, lip balms, moisturizer and hair products.

Formaldehyde – releasing preservatives; Look for DMDM hydantion, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine , quaternium-15 and sodium hydroxymethyglycinate. Used in cosmetics it is said to slowly release cancer causing formaldehyde in small amounts.

Triclosan – found in hand sanitizer gels and anti-bacterial hand washes, this controversial antibacterial agent may contribute to antibiotic resistance in bacterial strains.

Good chemicals that just sound a bit iffy!
I came across an article in natural health magazine and it pointed out these three compounds that can be found in your beauty products and although they sound like they might be bad – they aren’t!

Methlysulfonylmethane; ‘MSM’ for short Is a special biological sulphur found in plants, soils, fruit, veggies, meats, milk and eggs. It can help to clear the skin and help with joint pain (yay!)

Hyaluronic Acid; A type of carbohydrate made up of simple sugars, it occurs naturally in our bodies. It binds to water, helping to lubricate our skin, muscles and eyes.

P-Anisic Acid; Also known as draconic acid its derived from the anise plant and has antiseptic properties.

Now you have an idea of what these nasty little blighters can do to your body, all you need to do is look for products without them. The best way to do this is to start by finding a shop or brand that makes products using more natural ingredients. Below I have listed a few websites / products to help you on your way…

Love Lula
This is an online shop that selects the world’s finest natural and organic beauty products, and they put everything through a rigorous selection process. This includes hand picking and testing products, ensuring ingredients are ethically sourced, are natural and organic and are using the highest possible grade of ingredients. All of their brands contain NO Parabens, NO SLS’s and NO animal testing. They have a vast range of products and brands an also have a blog that you can view/sign up to find out more about their work. I have recently sourced a number of beauty products from this site and have just signed up to their monthly beauty. (For more on beauty box companies, take a look Beauty Boxes)

Read the Label
Always check out what’s available to you locally because you may have a great brand / local company right on your door step! For example on a recent trip out, my husband came across a small stall on a London market selling natural soaps (where he bought me 5 soaps for £10 – Bargain!) They are a small local business and had all the literature/ information to show what ingredients they used in their products. Their mission is ‘to create a range of attractive and beneficial products’ that are ‘made naturally without any unnecessary or synthetic ingredients’. If you’re local you can find them on Camden Market, London otherwise check them out online at Read the Label. I still have soap left over and have been using them both as a body and face wash.

Black Chicken
Black chicken is an Australian company that use all natural ingredients in their products. They have some great information on their website including an ‘Ingredients to avoid’ list which you can see here. I have yet to try any of their products but have come across them through the Paleo community and have heard great things (especially about their deodorant). You can order their items by finding where they are sold locally to you. Check out ‘black chicken’ and select stockists (where you can specify what county you are in). Or for those in the UK you can order from Beauty Works West who stocks their products for home delivery.

‘Yes to’
‘Yes to’ is a range of products made with 95% natural ingredients with NO SLS, Phthalate or parabens. Their range consists of carrot, tomato, grapefruit, cucumber and blueberry – each group is aimed at targeting different skin types (e.g. ‘Yes to Carrots’ is good for normal to dry skin, whereas ‘Yes to Cucumber’ is hypoallergenic and suitable for sensitive skin.) As well as promoting natural ingredients, they also have a scheme called the Seed Fund where they ‘give back’ to communities to inspire young children – you can find out more about it here. You can buy all of the ‘Yes to’ range by going to their website and searching for a local stockist, or you can find them on Beauty bay, Love Lula and in some local Boots stores. I have tried (and love) their ‘yes to carrots’ body wash and ‘yes to grapefruit’ CC cream.

FunkySoap
My all-time favourite is Funky soap – It’s a small London-based company that uses old-fashioned methods to hand make all their products. They use ALL (100%) natural ingredients, are SLS /SLES and paraben free and their palm oil is from a sustainable certified source. Many of their products are suitable for vegetarians and vegans, but some do contain buttermilk or cream (all products show ingredients lists). I started using their soaps about 15 months ago and have tried about different 8 varieties. I am especially a big fan of their shampoo bars and swear by them (super beautiful glossy hair). They have recently set up a new website where you can buy directly or you can find them on amazon and eBay. Their new website has a wider range of products including natural soap for dogs!.

Homemade
If you really wanted to take things one step further, you could always buy the natural ingredients yourself and make your own beauty products. If you were interested in doing this, I would suggest you take a look at the Wellness Mama website because she has a whole load of recipes.

I hope that this article has been helpful to you and if there is anything you would like to add, know of any brands that would be worth giving a mention or just want to give your opinion – please leave your comments below.

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