The Chemical Cocktail of Skin Care

Remember the scene in Goldfinger when the Bond girl is covered in gold paint and dies because her skin suffocates? While it is doubtful whether anyone would regularly practise anything so obviously wacky (not to mention expensive!) the outcome itself is not as crazy as it sounds. We tend to forget that the skin is the largest organ of the body,and every day we apply a chemical cocktail of substances in ignorant bliss, unaware that up to 60% of anything applied topically can be absorbed into our bodies. As the average woman uses up to 14 different skincare and cosmetic products each day, this calculates to a massive two kilograms of different chemicals each year seeping into our systems. So why does this matter? With many of the synthetic ingredients used in everyday skin care being potentially toxic to humans, you may like to reconsider some of the following:

Petrochemical derived ingredients (such as mineral oil) are extensively used in skin care as they help prevent water loss. While this may seem beneficial, they actually prevent the skin from breathing by forming an occlusive barrier, disrupting the skins normal functioning.

Parabens (a common preservative) have demonstrated oestrogen mimicking activity which disrupts the body’s normal hormonal balance. In addition, parabens have also been shown to cause abnormalities in cell reproduction, an issue also associated with cancerous cells.

Sodium Laurel Sulphate (SLS) (a foaming agent) used in toothpaste, shampoo and foaming cleansers. Numerous trials showed that SLS can increase transdermal water loss causing the skin to become dehydrated and cause skin irritation.

Phthalates are a group of synthetic chemicals that are used in the production of various substances such as plastics, beauty products and artificial fragrances. Phthalates can interfere with reproductive tissues in both men and women leading to issues such as infertility and birth defects. Specifically it targets the testes in men and breast tissue in women.

Parfum and synthetic fragrances are the most common cause of adverse skin reactions.

Propylene glycol is implicated in contact dermatitis, kidney damage and liver abnormalities. It also damages cell membranes causing rashes, dry skin and surface damage.

Finding safe and natural products can often be confusing – the term “natural” is somewhat misleading with regard to use in cosmetics. In Australia manufacturers can add 5% of a natural ingredient to a synthetic product and call it natural.

Ultimately, what you use on your skin is an individual choice, and issues such as skincare goals, sensitivities or allergies, and personal values need to be taken into consideration. If you do choose to avoid ingredients such as those above the best way to do so is by reading product labels and making an informed decision. But if reading packages is not your style, it’s usually safe to say that organic ingredients are best – think Bond girl, but in the buff rather than bronzed.

Glowing skin, fewer wrinkles, no blemishes, fuller lips, and of course the benefits that come automatically from all this such as a hot guy at your side and the envying glances of every woman in the room. And amazingly, all easily achievable with the latest miracle cream! It’s easy to believe what the skincare giants promise, but do you know what you are actually slathering onto your skin?

Remember the scene in Goldfinger when the Bond girl is covered in gold paint and dies because her skin suffocates? While it is doubtful whether anyone would regularly practise anything so obviously wacky (not to mention expensive!) the outcome itself is not as crazy as it sounds. We tend to forget that the skin is the largest organ of the body,and every day we apply a chemical cocktail of substances in ignorant bliss, unaware that up to 60% of anything applied topically can be absorbed into our bodies. As the average woman uses up to 14 different skincare and cosmetic products each day, this calculates to a massive two kilograms of different chemicals each year seeping into our systems. So why does this matter? With many of the synthetic ingredients used in everyday skin care being potentially toxic to humans, you may like to reconsider some of the following:

Petrochemical derived ingredients (such as mineral oil) are extensively used in skin care as they help prevent water loss. While this may seem beneficial, they actually prevent the skin from breathing by forming an occlusive barrier, disrupting the skins normal functioning.

Parabens (a common preservative) have demonstrated oestrogen mimicking activity which disrupts the body’s normal hormonal balance. In addition, parabens have also been shown to cause abnormalities in cell reproduction, an issue also associated with cancerous cells.

Sodium Laurel Sulphate (SLS) (a foaming agent) used in toothpaste, shampoo and foaming cleansers. Numerous trials showed that SLS can increase transdermal water loss causing the skin to become dehydrated and cause skin irritation.

Phthalates are a group of synthetic chemicals that are used in the production of various substances such as plastics, beauty products and artificial fragrances. Phthalates can interfere with reproductive tissues in both men and women leading to issues such as infertility and birth defects. Specifically it targets the testes in men and breast tissue in women.

Parfum and synthetic fragrances are the most common cause of adverse skin reactions.

Propylene glycol is implicated in contact dermatitis, kidney damage and liver abnormalities. It also damages cell membranes causing rashes, dry skin and surface damage.

Finding safe and natural products can often be confusing – the term “natural” is somewhat misleading with regard to use in cosmetics. In Australia manufacturers can add 5% of a natural ingredient to a synthetic product and call it natural.

Ultimately, what you use on your skin is an individual choice, and issues such as skincare goals, sensitivities or allergies, and personal values need to be taken into consideration. If you do choose to avoid ingredients such as those above the best way to do so is by reading product labels and making an informed decision. But if reading packages is not your style, it’s usually safe to say that organic ingredients are best – think Bond girl, but in the buff rather than bronzed.