We often think of our skin as being a protective layer that keeps out toxins and other substances that are bad for us. In actuality, it acts more like a filter, keeping some things out but allowing others to permeate through the skin and into the bloodstream. While this means we can apply certain medicines to our skin to effectively address health issues, it also means we could be absorbing toxins from personal care products without even realizing it.

Think of everything you apply to your skin: soaps, lotions, cleansers, aftershave, makeup, sunscreen, topical medications, and toothpaste to name but a few. Any and all of the ingredients in these products has the potential to be absorbed through your skin and into your body. The scary thing is that skincare products and the ingredients in them are not regulated by the FDA, which means that it is up to companies to regulate what goes into these products themselves.

Four of the most horrifying ingredients found in skincare products include:

  • Triclosan is found in antibacterial soaps, deodorants, and toothpaste, this chemical is known to interfere with thyroid and reproductive hormones. Research is also showing that triclosan may contribute to making bacteria antibiotic-resistant. Scary!
  • Parabens are used liberally in items like shampoo, makeup, deodorant and body washes to to help prevent yeast, mold and bacteria from growing in cosmetic products. Seems like a reasonable idea, right? Unfortunately, parabens have been linked over and over again with hormonal imbalances, early puberty in females, and a  shocking increase in a woman’s risk of breast cancer. This ingredient goes by a number of names, like methylparaben, butylparaben, isobutylparaben, and isopropylparaben.
  • Phthalate is a common ingredient used to help make plastics more flexible and soft. Like parabens, they are also linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. Research has also show they may cause reproductive birth defects in both genders and early breast development in girls. Keep an eye out for dibutyl phthalate (most common nail polish), diethyl phthalate (found in lotions and perfumes), and dimethyl phthalate (used in hair spray).
  • Synthetic/chemical fragrances are the number one cause of allergic reactions to beauty products. While they appear as a single item on ingredient lists, such fragrances can actually contain dozens or even hundreds of ingredients. You will commonly find this ingredient listed as Perfume, Parfume or Fragrance.

A great source for checking ingredients is the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database.  You may just be shocked at what you will find.  Simply put the name of the product you would like to know about or the name of the ingredients you see on your skincare products. 

You might also consider rethinking your definition of “clean.” Your “pits and bits” (underarms & privates) obviously need some gentle soap from time to time, but studies are showing that the rest of the body can thrive with a gentler approach to being “clean.” Ditch the hand sanitizer, play in the dirt, and try cleaning – not sterilizing – your skin.

>> For more on the most common toxic ingredients found in skin care products, check out this blog post from last November.

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