Beauty really is such a double-edged, highly-unfair thing. We all want luminous, perfect skin and there are ways to get there. But what ingredients do they involve and is it worth the health risks? I decided to do some research to figure out what's inside our favourite creams, serums and cleansers to see what to avoid and what to limit our use of. If you're interested in what might give you great skin and debilitating health conditions read on...
The Ones You Should Avoid At All Costs
Parabens appear to be in absolutely everything these days - I've seen them in cleansers, sheet masks, even shampoo! These need to be right at the top of your list of things to avoid. Parabens are basically a preservative and they give your products a longer shelf life. That might be great for you bank balance but it takes a toll on your health. According to a study in 2015, parabens can speed up cancer cells. Yikes! They're also linked to breast and changes to the balance of your hormones which can seriously affect your fertility. Don't see parabens but you spot an ingredient called phenoxyethanol? It's the same thing. Put that bottle down and walk away!
Ok this one will be a little trickier as it won't be listed as an ingredient because it's actually a contaminant. But it's one you should still try and avoid at all costs because it's a known carcinogen and, like parabens, can disrupt your hormones. It's also often linked to depression, and fertility issues like pregnancy problems and birth defects. Whilst it won't be listed as an ingredient, it's still usually found in many cosmetic products like eyeliner and lipsticks. The FDA tested many eyeliners and lipsticks and found a whole heap of those kohl/kajal eyeliners contained lead and other heavy metals. Over 99% of lipsticks also contained traces of lead in quantities that aren't a direct risk but, considering the only acceptable amount of lead is zero it's one to think about.
My Favourite Paraben-Free Products
The Ones To Use Only Occasionally
You're probably thinking 'Where on earth am I going to find aluminium in my skincare?' and the answer is in quite a few places actually. It's in most body washes and deodorants, namely because it basically blocks your pores and stops you from sweating. Most deodorants simply mask the smell but aluminium stops it altogether. Whilst the amount of aluminium absorbed through your skin from your deodorant is significantly less than the average exposure you get daily from food and water, it's good to give your skin and health a break from it every now and then by using an aluminium-free deodorant and body wash on alternate days.
Don't stress if you love retinol! I promise you don't have to give it up completely!
I know I'm not the only one who absolutely loves retinol and the amazing things it can do for your skin. However it can be very dangerous for your skin when it's exposed to the sun - it actually starts breaking down your skin in the sunlight - which is why it's recommended to only be used at nighttime. So keep on keepin' on with your retinol use but only ever use it at night and give your skin a break, don't use it every night, maybe every third night.
My Favourite Aluminium-Free Deodorants
The Ones To Avoid If You Have Oily Skin
Shea butter is definitely not as bad as any of the ingredients above and it can be absolutely divine for your skin - especially after a lovely hot shower or bath. However, if you have oily skin you really should probably avoid it. Shea butter can clog your pored and could potentially even make your skin oilier which can lead to breakouts as pores can't breathe.
Vitamin E sounds delightful and it can trick you into thinking and believing that it will do wonders for your skin. The sad news is that vitamins cannot be absorbed through topical application (only through the food and nutrients we consume) and Vitamin E can have the same effect as shea butter. It's great if your skin is absolutely dying of thirst and flaking, but it can increase your oil levels if it's not reaching Sahara-levels of dehydrations. It's also been linked to irritation and even skin rashes in rare cases! The trick with Vitamin E and shea butter is to use sparingly and, unfortunately, not at all for those with skin that's prone to oiliness!