In our quest for good health, we are increasingly paying attention to what we put in our bodies. But what about what we put ON our bodies?
Whatever you choose to rub into your skin gets absorbed straight into your bloodstream-and the number of chemicals found on the average bathroom shelf is mindboggling. In fact, the latest statistics indicate that women put over 500 chemicals on their bodies without even realising it.
Just as some food manufacturers see no problem adding plasticizers to bread dough, some cosmetic manufacturers are happy to add a cocktail of petroleum-derived chemicals to foundations, shower gels and deodorants. You would definitely not choose to eat them, but your skin absorbs these toxins, and this puts your health in danger.
It’s time to take a long hard look at the bottles on your bathroom shelf and start detoxing them out of your life!
Chemicals on Your Bathroom Shelf
Pampering with Petrol
Most cosmetics and toiletries contain petroleum-derived substances. In order to turn petrol sludge into a peach & apricot bubble bath, petrochemicals like ethylene oxide are used. This manufacturing process produces 1,4-dioxane, a substance classified as “probably carcinogenic”, and suspected of being toxic to the nervous system and kidneys, as well as a major groundwater contaminant. Yep, it pollutes your heath and the environment. Great.
Lurking behind the pretty label, parabens masquerade as sweet-smelling toiletries. Parabens are a group of alkyl esters of p-hydroxybenzoic acid (doesn’t sound so nice does it). They’re added as preservatives because of their anti-bacterial, antimicrobial and fungicidal properties. You’ll find them everywhere, from food to pharmaceuticals to cosmetics.
Unfortunately, parabens are linked to a whole range of health concerns. They cause skin irritation and dermatitis if you are allergic. They make your skin dry-so you might be lathering on your strawberry-scented body cream only to find it makes your skin flakier.
Some parabens even react to UVB rays and speed up skin aging (sending you running to the anti-aging cream counter, only to find that many of these miracle creams contain the very same chemicals – you can’t fault the business plan!).
Worse, parabens can mimic hormones, like oestrogen. Oestrogen plays a role in the development of cancer-while some contest a direct causal link, research conducted at the University of Reading detected parabens in 99% of tissue samples from a small research group of women with breast cancer. These chemicals are so toxic, some governments have banned or heavily regulated their use.
One of these regulated parabens is triclosan, a preservative found in self-care products like toothpaste, antibacterial hand gel, and foundation. Triclosan has been linked to hormone disruption, immune problems, and birth defects, so is best avoided.
Clearly, you’ll need to look at all your toiletries closely to find out whether they need to be detoxed out of your bathroom. But don’t worry – I’m going to share with you the secrets to recognising the products that no longer belong in your bathroom, and give you some tips on replacing the junk beauty products with natural beauty aids that not only nourish your skin, but are kind to the planet.
The Bathroom Shelf Detox:
Putting it into Practice Hundreds of new chemicals are released into the market each year (most of which won’t even be tested for safety), so it’s near impossible to have a detailed list of chemicals to watch out for. Regardless, you can avoid the worst offenders by reading the labels and looking out for the following ingredients:
- Any ingredient ending in “eth” means it is produced with ethylene oxide (a petrochemical) – like myreth, oleth, laureth, ceteareth
- Butanol and any word with “butyl” – like butylparaben, butyl alcohol, buylene glycol
- Any word with “prolyl” – like propylparaben, isopropyl alcohol, propylene glycol, propyl alcohol, cocamidopropyl betaine
- Methanol and any world with “methyl” – like methylparaben, methyl alcohol, methylcellulose
- Parfum / fragrance
- Mineral oil
- Paraffin wax / petroleum jelly
- Glycerine / glycerin / glycerol
- Ethanols – like phenoxyethanol, ethanolamine, diethanolamine
- Any word with “ethyl” indicates ethanol content – like polyethylene glycol, ethylhexylglycerin, diamine-tetracetacic acid.
Once you’ve cleansed these nasties from your bathroom shelf, it’s time to replace them with natural alternatives (yay shopping, the fun part!).
A decade ago it was a challenge to find a natural shampoo, and organic make up was limited to three shades of brown. But these days you really are spoilt for choice when it comes to toxin-free toiletries: everything from soap to toothpaste to age-defying serums and hundreds of shades of nail polish. It means you don’t have to choose between your principles and your desire for longer lashes.
That said, a word of warning. You do need to read the ingredients list-don’t take the packaging as gospel. The bottle might be an eco-brown with pictures of flowers, while what lurks within is still the same chemical cocktail with a few drops of essential oils added so that the front can read “contains natural ingredients”. Don’t fall for the marketing tactics – read the label and make your own mind up.
So next time you’re in a health food store, browse the cosmetics aisle. Explore your local farmers markets or the internet for ethical hand-made beauty products. Or learn to make your own.
Because the other beautiful thing about switching to natural beauty products, other than being kinder to your body and the planet, is how easy it is to make your own spa treatments at home. Here is a super quick recipe for one of my favorite natural beauty treats-give it a try, it’s the perfect way to start your weekend with cleansed, detoxified, softer skin.
CIY Recipe: Age-defying Clay Mask
- 1 tbsp rhassoul or green clay (clay detoxifies and gently cleanses the skin)
- 1 tbsp almond oil or jojoba oil (great for moisture)
- 2 drops rose essential oil (soothing and softening) (if your skin tends to be oily, use almond oil and frankincense instead of rose oil)
- Mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl with a wooden spoon.
- Apply the mixture to your skin in gentle circular movements and leave it on for 10 to 30 minutes. Relax, read a book, catch up on your Instagram, sip a chai tea… Rinse off with warm water. Pat your fabulously soft skin dry.
Ready, Set, Detox!
You now have all the tools you need to detox your bathroom shelf. So take a look at your self-care products, ditch the ones you no longer want to put on your skin, and go shopping for with cleaner, greener beauty products. That’s right, you can be planet conscious and gorgeous!
What are your favourite clean & green beauty brands?