Whether it’s a six-step AM/PM ritual or a quick splash with soap and water, most of us recognise the importance of looking after the body’s largest organ, our skin. We all yearn for clear, radiant complexions and will even go to extreme and sometimes dangerous lengths to achieve it but how many of us are clued up about exactly what lies beneath? Your skin is like a sponge, absorbing over 62% of what’s it comes into contact with. This includes everything from make up to pollution so it’s vital that we look at cosmetics as food for our skin. In the last 50 years, scientists and NGO’s have been dedicating time and money into finding out exactly what’s going into our products and therefore, into our bodies. The results are shocking. Our new motto? If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t wear it!
TOXIC BEAUTY: Ingredients to avoid
Parabens: Despite being approved by the FDA, Parabens are synthetic preservatives that are found in almost all of our beauty products including face creams, hair care and makeup. Unfortunately they are plentiful and can be very tricky to spot. Be on the lookout for some of the most common forms including Methyl, Ethyl, Propyl and Butyl Parabens when you pick up your next cleanser. Studies have shown that they are linked to health issues that can include tissue irradiation, skin and organ toxicity as well as lead to potential disease.
Phthalates: Phthalates lurk in many beauty products on the market that are heavily scented and so require a heavy amount of these solvents to make a fragrance last longer. Sure, a watermelon body wash is fun but the solvents it contains are trapped in the body forever. This can cause in the most extreme cases health issues such as hormone imbalance, neurological disorders and ironically, chronic skin inflammation.
Sulphates: Sulphates are found in all that lathers. This cheap chemical strips the skin of its natural oils, increasing the penetration of the skin’s surface and allowing further toxins easy access to our bodies. As well as being highly allergenic, sulphates penetrate major organs and become trapped in the body’s soft tissue. Luckily, these are an easy enemy to avoid with sulphate free products being widely available and easy to find.
Polyethene, Propylene, Butylene Glycol: These petroleum plastics have been deemed so toxic that direct handling requires goggles, protective clothing and burial disposal. Used in cleansers to dissolve oil and grease as well as being an effective thickening agent, these are nasties that you want to avoid putting onto your skin and into your body. Health issues related to the ingredients in high doses are organ damage, respiratory problems and skin and eye irritation.
WHY GO ORGANIC?
The findings from research into the chemicals in many beauty products can be confronting. The idea that a beauty must-have could do us more harm than good isn’t something any of us want to consider! Fortunately, the move towards organic products, natural ingredients and a healthier approach is on the rise, with many influential beauty players promoting natural alternatives to synthetic chemicals. Susan Gorman, founder of the leading distributer of luxury organic goods in the UAE, Sarum Trading, gave us her views on going green. “Natural ingredients have a more profound benefit to achieving healthy skin as they include necessary vitamins and nutrients required by our cells. Our skin processes organic product much better than chemical ingredients.” The organic approach begins at the earliest stages of production with all of the elements being farmed without the use of chemical substances. Ecological methods are used across the board with an emphasis on taking care of both the environment and our skin. This means that from the packaging to the fragrance, companies are observing the importance of both a healthy body and a clean planet.
In a business where appearance is everything, supermodels like Giselle Bundchen and Miranda Kerr have embraced the move over to the organic side. In 2010 Giselle launched ‘Sejaa’, a line of cosmetics containing all-natural ingredients, produced with renewable and non-polluting energy. Miranda Kerr is perhaps the most dedicated celebrity organics advocate of all. She became a fully qualified holistic health care practitioner in order to launch KORA Organics beauty brand in 2009 using only certified organic ingredients that are vegan, cruelty free and non-toxic. Her products focus on ingredients such as potent superfood, Tahitian Noni as well as oat flower and bamboo to ensure our skin absorbs as many vitamins as possible. The former Victoria’s Secret model puts her youthful glow and supple skin down to rosehip oil which she swears by for its rich antioxidant content and large quantity of fatty acids making it very effective against stretch marks and fine lines.