What is in your cream?
I used to be obsessed with makeup. And when I say obsessed, I mean really MAC-Chanel-Dior-obsessed. I never left the house without a full face of makeup, or at least heavy eye makeup. I was twenty years old, had perfect skin, and a lot of money to invest in expensive products, and plenty of free time to play with them. There were days when I was able to spend hours in front of my vanity mirror, painting my eyelids with unwearable colors, wiping it off and doing it again, watching hundreds of makeup tutorials on YouTube, and spending all my money on the most expensive makeup and skincare products. I had no other hobbies, my marriage at that time was already falling apart, so my life, time, energy, and money were completely consumed by colorful eyeshadows, sparkly powders, and vampy lipsticks. I was one of those women who say: I am not doing this for men, I am doing this for me, it makes me feel good about myself. Little did I know back then that I was tricked into this mentality by the cosmetic industry.
My first skin problems appeared around the time I started using occasional powder foundation, blush, and bronzer on my young, healthy, flawless skin (to this day I wonder why I did that to my face), but of course I never associated these dermal conditions with the amount of toxic chemicals in my precious products. So I started using heavy liquid foundation to cover my acne, and at night I slathered my poor face with creams, serums, and toners that were supposed to heal my skin. Gradually, things got worse and worse, and at 22, I looked like a teenager in the midst of puberty. At that time I was also a heavy smoker, a user of hormonal birth control, on a potato-chips-and-soda diet. I was a mess on the inside, and my skin was the uncompromising evidence of that. No acne treatment worked for me, not even the most expensive cleansers that promised dramatic results. I was washing my face multiple times a day, only to cover it with heavy makeup once again because I couldn’t stand looking at my bare face.
It was not until three years later, when I completely changed my life, that things started to improve. I quit smoking cold turkey, got divorced, and started running with my two friends from school. They both lived quite healthy lives, both were active and pretty attractive without a touch of makeup on their faces. I probably looked weird next to them, huffing and puffing through the forest in my sweatpants and running shoes, face almost ready for the fashion runway, melting foundation dripping down my neck. Just a few running sessions in, I had a breakthrough. Running made me feel good about myself. Doing something for my health made me feel extremely good about myself. And I wanted more of that feeling. I joined an online fitness community and through it I discovered a real food, Paleo based diet which I quickly adopted. I read every book, listened to every podcast episode, tried every recipe, and very soon started to realize that healthy living is not only about food.
I believe that once you start eating healthy, you naturally become more aware of other aspects of health as well. You suddenly realize that avoiding toxins and chemicals in your food is a huge step forward, but purposely letting those toxins enter your body via makeup and skincare products is a step in the opposite direction, so this path leads you nowhere. I started paying attention to everything that goes into (or onto) my body, researching and learning about harmful ingredients that are hidden in my moisturizer, reading all the labels, and very soon I did what I should have done years ago: took every item from my vanity and threw it all away. My skin suffered for two more years until my body finally found hormonal balance (I got off of birth control at that time, but it is a whole other story) and went back to its natural state. Natural skincare became my biggest passion after ten years of being on the wrong side of beauty. To this day I can name all the most popular eyeshadow shades from a certain makeup company, but unlike my 20 year old self, today I am able to also name all the harmful ingredients in them and understand what it is they do to our skin.
In the previous post about skin, I mentioned that someone who is healthy on the inside will automatically look healthy on the outside, which is very attractive to other people. Someone who is physically healthy gains a healthy mindset as a bonus, and that person understands that beauty isn’t a question of perfectly blended eyeshadow and sculpted cheekbones. Beauty is something that shines from within; it is that healthy glow that only comes with a healthy body and that includes healthy skin. We define what is beautiful, not society and media. It also has everything to do with the way we see ourselves, to what degree are we able to love ourselves with all the flaws we might think we have. Toxins and chemicals cause inflammation in the body, inflammation attacks our organs and glands, and poorly functioning organs lead to diseases of all kinds, including chronic and autoimmune conditions. Your skin issues might be the result of toxic load in your body, and this is not something you can solve with more chemicals on your skin. So why are we constantly told the opposite? Why are we still offered topical products to solve problems caused by inflammation inside of our bodies? The answer to these questions is simple, and you will probably expect it if you are a regular follower of our work: money.
Just as food manufacturers and the pharmaceutical industry profit from making people more and more sick, the cosmetic industry profits from making us look and feel undesirable and unattractive. Big Cosmo, as some natural beauty experts call the cosmetic industry, works hand in hand with all of the unrealistic media standards for beauty and attractiveness we face everyday in magazines, social media, and television. Girls at a very young age are convinced that they must look a certain way to be considered pretty, boys are lead to believe that only muscular macho looking men are worth women’s attention, and we all are manipulated to believe that only designer clothing and luxury personal care products can help us achieve a certain social status, and that that means happiness. When I mentioned earlier that I was doing my makeup not for other people, but for myself, that was a straight up lie. We as women do these things because, no matter how hard we try to escape these social pressures, we sometimes still feel the urge to meet those unrealistic images. If we have to put makeup on our faces in order to feel good about ourselves, something is terribly wrong with our thinking. Check out this brilliant video before we move on, please.
No matter how corrupted our mindset is when it comes to accepting our physical appearance, this needs to stop. By trying to be beautiful in the way marketing geniuses from magazines and makeup companies tell us to be, we compromise our health, both physical and mental. We run in the wrong direction, we put money in the pockets of people who purposely make us sicker and unhappier, so they can further feed on our distorted image of ourselves. But let me tell you something: you don’t need anything other than a smile on your face to be beautiful. You don’t need to compare yourself to photoshopped pictures of models, you don’t need an XXL lash effect, and you definitely don’t need to cover your natural complexion with layers of powder. Not only does it completely take away your natural, unique looks (and lets face it, a lot of money), it might be one of the most dangerous things you can do to your health.
Toxins are all around us, not just in cosmetic products. They are in the water, air, food, cleansers, perfumes, room sprays, scented candles, off gassing furniture, etc. There are more than 67,000 man-made chemicals on the planet and we are in direct contact with many of them every day. Inhalation, ingestion, and skin contact are all ways by which toxins can get into our bodies. It doesn’t matter how they get inside they create a huge mess either way. Many toxins are metabolized by the liver pretty quickly, turned into water soluble compounds and excreted via urine, but they still put a lot of pressure on our liver and kidneys (and can even overburden our organs when we are exposed to them chronically), but most toxic compounds are fat soluble and fat attracted, aka lipophilic. They bind to fat and are stored in our fat tissue. From here, it is very difficult to eliminate them. These toxins include heavy metals, petroleum, parabens, and other common chemicals that are very often used as ingredients in cosmetic products. Visceral fat tissue (fat around our organs and glands, including the heart, liver, and thyroid) and brain tissue (which is mostly fat) is exactly where these toxins accumulate and may cause permanent damage. I don’t think any one of us needs another reason to ditch toxic cosmetic products from our lives. For me, this is all the motivation I need to keep these toxic products out of my life.
But don’t despair! Not all skincare products are the same, and there are a few clean and safe brands on the market (with more springing up all the time as we vote with our money), we just need to learn how to find them. The best way to do that is simple: start reading your labels. You probably already know how important label reading is with food. With cosmetics and other drugstore products like cleansers and detergents, it might be a little bit more tricky because at first glance you probably wont recognize any of the words on the label. Don’t worry, we have you covered. We will offer you a lot of options for clean, safe, natural skincare with simple ingredients that are not only safe for the skin, but also have some great health benefits. First, lets learn to identify friend from foe. If you could only change one thing about your skincare regime, let it be avoiding these ingredients at all costs.
Aluminum is a toxic metal that likes to accumulate in the nervous system, around our most precious and fragile organ: the brain. Aluminum is abundant in nature and it is used as an ingredient in many commonly used products, including cookware, aluminum/tin foil, antiperspirant, and some vaccines. Aluminum toxicity leads to serious health problems including permanent damage of our nervous system, Alzheimer’s disease, or breast cancer. Aluminum is a key ingredient in most deodorants and antiperspirants because it is known for blocking your sweat glands ability to produce sweat. It penetrates the skin and accumulates in the tissue. Sweating is a natural form of flushing away toxins from our bodies we are supposed to sweat! Deodorant should only be there to prevent the unpleasant smell your sweat might have (though with a diet based on real whole foods, and a focus on healthy digestion and immune health, this problem takes care of itself in the process). If you don’t sweat, toxins that were supposed to leave the body stay there, and on top of that, aluminum adds to the toxic load.
If you are considering switching to a more natural skin care regiment, I strongly suggest that natural deodorant be the first thing to go for. You will most likely find aluminum in your skincare under these nicknames: Alumina hydrate, Alumina Trihydrate, Aluminum Hydroxide Sulphate, Aluminum Oxide, Hydrate Aluminum Oxide or CI77002. All commercial deodorants including aerosol, gel, stick, and roll-on contain aluminum in some form.
We all like to smell nice. Now consider this: There are over 3,000 ingredients that are used as fragrance agents in various products. These chemicals very often irritate skin and lungs, promote acne, disrupt our hormones, and are neurotoxic. Unfortunately, most fragrance manufacturers get to keep their secret, so they never share a complete list of ingredients on their labels; they just put the word fragrance, aroma, or perfume on the bottle and are good to go. Even if your product says fragrance-free or unscented, it may still contain some of that secret blend of chemicals. Everything is scented, from deodorant to cologne, laundry detergent and softeners, cleansing products, and bath care products. Perfume is the second most important thing I always recommend to stay away from, along with antiperspirant. If, for example, you sit behind someone who is heavily spritzed with perfume on the bus, your eyes might start to water and the mucous membrane in you nose might get irritated you might even develop a migraine headache. By using a fragrance, that someone is not just causing damage to her/his own body, but also affecting other peoples health as well, on a level similar to second hand smoking! The smell might be a little more pleasant than cigarette smoke or gym socks, but the effect is not.
When you think of cosmetics, gluten is probably the last thing that comes to your mind. This is technically not a toxin, but because it is so commonly used in skincare and personal care products, it is only fair to mention it here as well. Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, oats, and rye. If you have a gluten allergy or sensitivity to this protein, you probably do the best you can to avoid it in your food. If you eat a strict gluten-free diet, yet you still struggle with some health problems related to gluten intolerance, like irritable bowel syndrome, be sure to check the labels of your shower products, as well as anything you use on your lips, hands, or near your mouth! Gluten particles can enter your bloodstream through the tiniest cut on your skin, even a pimple, scratch, or an insect bite.
If you see wheat germ or hydrolyzed wheat protein on the label, throw that stuff away immediately. Vitamin E, glycerin, tocopherol, and tocopheryl could indicate gluten, corn, or soy so proceed with caution (and contact the company to clarify). Other names for gluten hidden in cosmetics are hydrolyzed vegetable protein, avena sativa or triticum aestivum, triticum vulgare, and secale cereale. Common products that contain gluten are shampoo, body wash, toothpaste, shaving gels, hair spray, soap, facial cleansers, lip balm, and lipsticks. This list is not exhaustive though. Always read your labels.
Sodium Lauroyl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate or just SLS these are all names for a synthetic chemical that is used as a foaming agent in toothpastes, shampoos, soaps, shower gels, and home cleaners. It is responsible for those foamy, lathering bubbles (I used to be convinced that if it doesn’t lather, it doesn’t clean silly me) your shower gel or dish soap makes. SLS is known as a skin, eye, and mouth irritant and in 1980s it was even labeled as mutagenic. How it can still be used in so many products of daily use is beyond me. SLS can also cause UTIs in those who like to spend long hours soaking in a bubble bath after a long day at work. It was originally developed as a pesticide and industrial cleaner. Avoid anything that has Disodium Sulfate, Anhydrous Sodium Sulfate, Disodium Salt, Sulfuric Acid, Kemol, SLS, or SLES in it.
These chemicals are added to lotions, shampoos, and soaps but also to nail polish and toys as a softening agents. Phthalates are hormone disruptors and can cause permanent damage in the brain, developmental defects in children, and immune problems. Basically anything that is made out of soft PVC contains phthalates, unless the label specifically says it doesn’t. This is very important to remember, especially if you or your kids use plastic toys, containers, utensils, and bottles. PVC is also a common material used in cell phone cases. If your product contains DEHP (di- or Bis ethylhexyl phthalate), BzBP (benzyl butyl phthalate), DBP, DEP or DMP, get rid of it immediately.
Good old triclosan has actually been banned since September 2016 in the US, but until then it was used as an antibacterial agent in soaps, hand sanitizers, and cleansers, so chances are you still have some triclosan containing products in your home. Companies now have a year to remove this toxin from their product recipes and also take products that are already on the market out of it. Triclosan kills all the bacteria, bad and good, leaving the surface of your skin vulnerable to be attacked by harmful bacteria, and it also encourages the surviving bacteria to mutate and become resistant to antibacterial products. Anything that says Hydroxydiphenyl ether, Irgasan, Phenol, Trichlorohydroxy Diphenyl Ether or CH 3565 contains triclosan, which is also associated with hormonal disruption and should be avoided.
Diethanolamine, Cocamide DEA, Coco Amides, Coconut Diethanolamide, Cocoyl Diethanolamide, Coconut Fatty Acid Diethanolamide and N,N-BIS (2-Hydroxyethyl) Coco Amides are all names for an ingredient that is chemically modified from coconut oil. Some products will proudly say that they only contain coconut oil, but very often it is this highly processed, chemically altered toxin that has nothing to do with beneficial fat from coconut. It is a foaming agent and pH adjuster. It reacts with other ingredients and is highly carcinogenic. Soaps, cleansers, shampoos, cleaners, and laundry detergents with DEA should leave your home without a question.
This common ingredient is actually a form of anti-freeze. It is used in brake and hydraulic fluids in cars, in paints, and many products of daily use including shampoos, conditioners, deodorants, liquid foundations, lipsticks, baby wipes, sunscreen lotions, and moisturizers. Propylene glycol works as a penetration enhancer, which means it expands the permeability and increases absorption of our skin! It is also a neurotoxin that should never be used by pregnant women because it can affect the neurological system of the baby in the early stages of development. Do you see words like Dihydroxypropane, Methylethyl Glycol, Propanediol, Alpha-Propyleneglycol, Dowfrost, Methylethylene Glycol on the label? Throw that thing away.
Any word that has paraben in it (methylparaben, isobutylparaben, and more) falls into this category. Parabens are basically preservatives, extending the shelf life of many cosmetic products. You might think that you want that cream to last a long time because it was so expensive, but we have to remember that rotting, spoiling, and decaying is a natural thing it is a sign of food not being safe to consume anymore. If something doesn’t have an expiration date, it is not a natural product. If your herbal serum says all natural, and lasts two years, then it is not really that natural. Parabens are also hormone disruptors they mimic estrogen in the body and lead to serious hormonal imbalances and immune issues.
Parabens are linked with early puberty in girls, breast cancer, reproductive issues (for both men and women), and skin aging. There are natural parabens in some foods and they have the same estrogenic effect. Synthetic parabens in cosmetics make these issues even worse, because unlike the natural ones, our bodies cant metabolize them. Parabens are the most common preservatives in many products of daily use, so if you want to avoid them, read your labels carefully.
Talcum powder (or just talc) is used in most powder based makeup products, baby powder, and even female hygiene products with an added absorbent. It helps products to stick on the skin and last longer, and it absorbs oils your skin naturally produces (to nourish and protect itself) to create that shine free effect you want from your finishing powder. Talc occurs in nature as magnesium silicate. It is very finely milled, so when you load your powder brush with it and run it over your face, you probably breath in more of it than you realize. For this reason, talc is considered an airway irritant and can cause respiratory problems, including asthma, lung disorders, and lung cancer. Another issue with talc is the fact that in nature, it is often found very close to asbestos, which is a known carcinogen. Talc based products being contaminated with asbestos is a common concern that should not be taken lightly.
This list of the most common toxic ingredients is not exhaustive, of course. Your favorite product may contain way more than we just covered. If you are not sure about any of the ingredients on your product labels, check out this website and type the ingredient into the search box. Do we encourage you to take a day off, collect all your products, and spend all day long searching for safe products to replace them with? Well YES, we do The doses of toxins we have to deal with every day are already very high, you don’t want to feed that burden even more. You deserve to know what is in your cream.
Skincare products are something everyone uses every day. Some of us reapply deodorant or perfume multiple times a day, women tend to fix their lipstick after every meal, and every use of antibacterial gel exposes your hands to chemicals, as well as dangerous bacteria! Some studies show that the average woman puts more than 500 different chemicals onto her body every day, including around 50 mg of parabens! Don’t take this lightly, it is not just a lipgloss, it is a serious problem for the modern world that is obsessed with physical perfection that is impossible to achieve anyway. You don’t have to be perfect, but you should always strive for the healthiest option you can find for yourself and your family. Lowering the toxic burden on your body is an important step that doesn’t require much effort (well, at least not after the initial switch over), and in the long run will even save you a lot of money. Step one get rid of the nasty stuff! Step two find your natural, toxin-free, safe options! We will share our favorite options as well as fun and easy DIYs in the next posts!