When you put something on, you need to be positive that it’s good for you, and not just chemical waste pulled out of a poisoned stream downriver from a nuclear power plant. Hopefully we aren’t faced with such a black and white situation like that on a daily basis, but it’s good to start teaching ourselves what to look for.
What are the ingredients that we should look out for within skincare products?
Skincare is a great example of the importance of ingredient transparency, given that they’re used so intimately on our body. After all, our skin is our largest organ, and while it may appear relatively impermeable it’s actually structured a little like a fishing net, but one with really tiny holes. This structure allows certain-sized substances to move in and out of the body – just think of the way a nicotine patch works, moving chemicals from the outside-in.
While it would be fair to assume that ingredients in skincare would only be of benefit to our skin, certain chemicals can be irritating and disruptive to our skin’s delicate surface; as well as being damaging to the environment given that we wash some products, like facial cleansers, down the drain. Not all chemicals, whether man-made or naturally derived, are equal, nor ultimately beneficial. Instead, many are cheap, easy to source and fill the gaps on ingredient lists.
New Zealand grassroots company ecostore, who have recently launched their first skincare line SKIN by ecostore, are brilliant, and renowned, at abiding by the rule of using “no nasty chemicals” in their products. The foundation of their practice is a precautionary approach when it comes to selecting ingredients. If there’s ever any doubt around the safety of an ingredient, whether for our health or the health of the environment, it simply won’t be used. They’re vocal about this, with a willingness to educate and raise awareness to their customers as to why their products are different and why ingredients should matter.
When a company ensures this kind of ingredient transparency, it allows consumers to make informed decisions about the products they’re using on their bodies. While you can scrutinize the ingredients in products to the degree you’d like, ideally it’s great for all of us to become a little more aware. Here’s a few questionable ingredients to red flag:
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate: a great example of how plant-based doesn’t always equate to ‘better’. You know the squeaky clean feeling you get after using a facial cleanser? That may be the work of this chemical, a cleaning agent that’s often added to make products foam. A main issue with Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is that it can strips the skin of its natural oils, which otherwise help to protect and balance, and can be highly irritating for some individuals.
- Mineral oil: a common ingredient in skincare, often used in moisturisers, skin oils or lip treatments, mostly because it’s cheap and works well as a filler ingredient. It’s difficult for the skin to absorb, and while it may sit on the surface and seal in moisture, it ultimately clogs pores, through preventing the skin from breathing. Ideally we want ingredients to enhance our skin’s natural function, rather than an attempt to override it.
- Parabens: widely-used as a preservative in skincare products, which means they help prevent the growth of bacteria, mold and yeast, extending a product’s shelf-life. However, parabens have been shown to have the ability to mimic the hormone oestrogen, which may contribute to hormonal imbalances within the body.
- Dimethicone: a type of silicone that’s very popular to use in personal care products as it provides a smooth application, leaving fine-lines filled, with skin appearing smoother. Similar to the properties of mineral oil, it also sits on top of the skin, sealing in moisture, however sebum, bacteria, and debris are likely to get trapped, leading to clogged skin. From an environmental perspective it’s very slow to biograde.
- Fragrance: an easy world to hide questionable chemicals behind. Fragrances aren’t always bad, however when the term fragrance is just stated, often done to protect a companies secret formula, this doesn’t explicitly indicate what cocktail of chemicals have been used in the creation of this scent. If you’ve got any questions over what has been used in the fragrance of a product, it’s best to contact the company.
If you’re interested in trying some beauty products that are as good for you as they are for the world, check out skin by ecostore.