Quick question: What is your body’s biggest organ?
If you answered “liver”, you’d be wrong. Although it might be your biggest internal organ, the human body’s biggest organ by far is the skin, weighing in at around 8 pounds and covering roughly 20 square feet depending on how big you are. It protects you from microbes, helps to regulate your body temperature, and lets you enjoy the sense of touch.
This brings me to another question: Why don’t people care for and protect their skin the same way they look out for their other organs?
I find that many of the same people who exercise regularly for heart health and go out of their way to track down organic versions of everything they eat don’t have a clue what is lurking in their lotions, creams and deodorants.
You probably wouldn’t dream of eating something that is a known liver toxin, so why would you put toxins on your skin?
I’m sure you don’t bathe in mercury, but there’s a good chance that some of the products you use every day without giving it a second thought are actually damaging your body.
Think about it: anything you apply to your skin can potentially make its way into your bloodstream, where it can then reach all your other organs. When you put on creams or lotions, you leave them there to sink in – and what happens next could ruin your health.
Top 6 dangerous skincare ingredients
What toxins are lurking in many of today’s most popular skincare products? Here’s a look at six of the biggest offenders.
Parabens are at the top of my list for a good reason: they’re used widely and are pretty awful for your body. Found in all sorts of water-based products ranging from body washes and hair care products to sunscreen and facial cleansers, this category of chemicals has already been restricted in places like Denmark on account of its toxicity.
These ingredients mimic estrogen in the body and have been linked to fetal development and fertility problems as well as a higher risk of breast cancer.
Not far behind parabens are phthalates, another toxic group of cosmetic ingredients. These are used as plasticizers to make products more adherent and flexible, which is why you’ll find them in substances like hair spray, nail polish, lipstick and perfume.
Deemed probable carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the National Toxicology Program, they are endocrine disruptors that can also negatively impact fertility and fetal development. They’ve been banned in the EU but are still used in the U.S., and some manufacturers have found a loophole that means they don’t have to include them in their ingredients list.
If you’ve got a product that boasts antibacterial properties, there’s a good chance it contains triclosan. Although this chemical is quite good at killing bacteria, it might be a little too good in the sense that it also kills off beneficial bacteria.
It’s also a hormone and thyroid disruptor that can weaken your immune system. Moreover, the widespread use of this chemical could allow superbugs that are resistant to antibiotics to proliferate.
Hydroquinone can be found in moisturizers, cleansers, and skin lighteners, and it’s often used in facial products on account of its ability to reduce dark blemishes.
This chemical has been linked to organ toxicity, respiratory tract irritation, and cancer. It has already been banned in the European Union.
Oxybenzone is the active ingredient in many popular sunscreens, despite the fact that it has been linked to low birth weight in babies, hormone disruption, allergies and skin irritation.
To give you an idea of just how widespread it is, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found it is present in the urine of a remarkable 97 percent of Americans.
6. Artificial colors and fragrances
Artificial colorants derived from petroleum contain carcinogens and can spur allergic reactions, skin irritation and acne. Fragrances are also highly irritating to the lungs and skin.
Found in shampoos, body washes, facial cleansers and perfumes, these ingredients can be very problematic to sensitive individuals.
The worst part of all this?
All these ingredients are completely unnecessary, and people are taking on risks that could so easily be avoided!
Many natural ingredients work just as well, if not better, as these dangerous chemicals, and they do it without compromising your health.
Top 6 safe and effective skincare ingredients
Here’s a look at six of the safest skincare ingredients you can find.
Coconut oil is everywhere these days, and even if you’re not cooking with it, you should definitely be using it on your skin. This highly saturated oil is rich in medium-chain fatty acids, which is what makes it so adept at moisturizing. Studies have shown that coconut oil led to significant improvements in skin hydration and works just as well as mineral oil without the potential toxicity. On top of that, it has been shown to help treat eczema and reduce its severity.
That’s probably not surprising considering it is an oil, after all. But did you know that it can actually kill the dangerous microorganisms that can cause skin infections, such as acne, athlete’s foot, and cellulitis? That’s right: applying coconut oil directly to your skin can prevent these microorganisms from growing thanks to its content of lauric acid.
2. Extra virgin olive oil
Olive oil is a skincare all-star, preventing premature aging thanks to its high antioxidant content. It contains beneficial fat-soluble vitamins like D, A, and E, which has been shown to treat psoriasis and eczema. It also enhances your skin’s elasticity and helps it to regenerate.
When using olive oil for your skin, steer clear of the lower-quality varieties and stick to the organic, extra-virgin type.
Beeswax, which comes from honeybees, is incredibly good for your body and skin. It’s recommended for a variety of skin conditions, including eczema, stretch marks, diaper rash, dry lips and psoriasis. It’s known for its ability to moisturize and repair chapped, rough or dry skin, and mixing it with other ingredients like coconut oil only amplifies its effects.
In addition, its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties make it suited to treat acne. Unlike many other moisturizing ingredients, it won’t clog pores and is unlikely to cause allergic reactions.
4. Shea butter
Shea butter comes from a tree that is native to central Africa. It’s made by crushing the nuts of the tree by hand and roasting it slowly into a butter. Why go to so much effort? Shea butter helps boost your production of collagen and has other anti-aging properties, and it’s very good at treating problems like cracked skin, sunburn and windburn because it penetrates deep into the skin.
It also has anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties that make it suited to fighting off yeast and addressing diaper rash in babies. Best of all, it’s recognized as safe by the FDA.
5. Lavender oil
Lavender oil’s pleasing fragrance is only part of the story. This essential oil that comes from – you guessed it – the lavender plant boasts some amazing skin benefits. For starters, it can kill bacteria to prevent and treat acne breakouts. It can also unclog pores and reduce inflammation.
Even if you’re blessed with a clear complexion, this oil has something to offer you. It’s great at providing relief from dry skin and eczema, and its antifungal properties mean it can even keep eczema at bay. Its antioxidant content, meanwhile, can fight the free radicals that can cause fine lines and wrinkles to form.
As if that weren’t convincing enough, there’s also its ability to help speed up wound healing and treat inflammation in burns. It’s great for repelling insects, which is why you’ll find it in some commercial mosquito repellents. It can also help stop the bites you do get from itching and prevent them from becoming infected.
6. Peppermint oil
Another essential oil that should be in your skincare arsenal is peppermint. Used for health and beauty purposes for thousands of years, it can relieve muscle aches, itchy skin, and headaches, among other issues, when applied topically.
Like all essential oils, it’s highly concentrated, so it’s best to use it diluted in a carrier oil like coconut or olive oil.
Unfortunately, when you head to your local supermarket, drugstore, or even high-end cosmetics counter, you’re going to find a lot of the ingredients in our list of toxins, even if they are combined with some of the healthier ones I’ve mentioned.
Given the potential for everything you apply to your skin to make its way into your bloodstream, I simply can’t overemphasize the importance of choosing the right skincare products in a market full of toxins.
I know that’s easier said than done, and people shouldn’t need a chemistry degree just so they can decipher product labels.
Thankfully, there’s a much simpler answer here: When you stick to skincare lines that use all-natural, organic ingredients, you can help your skin without putting your health in jeopardy.