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Wait!! - Don’t put THAT on your skin!!

Surely - in this day and age - a major cosmetic and skin care manufacturer wouldn’t be allowed to put anything harmful into a product we all put on our skin?  Right?  WRONG!!

Everyday, millions of products are shipped to thousands of retailers around the globe that contain chemicals that are scientifically proven to be harmful to humans.  Just because the FDA has not yet taken action to remove these products doesn’t mean they are safe to use.

What’s a Mom to Do?

How do we navigate the hundreds of products on the shelves? What about the numerous “natural” claims by manufacturers, does that mean its “OK”? What about the long list of ingredients found on the back of packages?  Which ingredients are really harmful, and which ones are OK?  Ultimately, the choice of skin care and how aggressively a Mom wants to pursue the “natural” route is a personal one, however there are a number of facts and rules of thumb to consider when choosing a product to place on your skin:

1. Fact: FDA approval does not necessarily mean that a product is safe and risk-free (translation – just because the product is on the shelf of your favorite retailer does not mean its safe and good for you)

2. Fact: There is currently no industry-wide agreed upon definition of natural” skin care, and, more importantly, there is no sanctioning body with the authority to enforce any definition (translation – don’t believe that if the product says, “natural” its safe and good for you)

3. Rule of Thumb: Skip the marketing hype and look at the ingredients; that is what you are putting on your skin (not the commercial or the logo!)

4. Fact: Skin is porous – this means that anything you apply to the skin can potentially enter your bloodstream (do you really want “THAT” in your bloodstream?)

5. Rule of Thumb: Generally the first five to six ingredients listed in any skincare product are the ones that are really effective – the long list of other ingredients are generally things like fillers, preservatives, colors, scents, and stuff to make if feel smooth or sound trendy, but after the seventh ingredient it won’t have much impact! (Translation – pay attention to the first few ingredients in a product, and avoid products with a long list of chemicals that only a scientist could pronounce)

Ingredients Really Matter

If ingredients really matter, which ones really work? And which ones should a Mom avoid?  The first question is a complicated one, and really depends upon what your skin care needs are and to what degree you want to pursue natural options (note that natural does not mean not-effective, in fact it is often the natural ingredients that can make the most positive impact).  Thankfully, the second question – which ingredients are harmful – is not too difficult to answer.  There is a growing body of readily available research on harmful skin care ingredients, AND you might be surprised to find out how many products that contain these chemicals are already in your own home…

10 Product Ingredients to Watch Out For

Artificial Colors (FD&C, D&C) – Most artificial colors are derived from bituminous coal tar and contain various carcinogenic (cancer-causing) substances, including benzene, xylenes, naphthalene, phenol, and creosol. Although protected by law, these substances are a known cause of allergies and can effect the reproductive health of women. Used because people like pretty colors.

Artificial Fragrances – Artificial fragrances used in cosmetics typically contain a mixture of hundreds of different chemicals which are unknown to the eventual consumer (due to “trade secrets”). Many of these substances have never undergone any testing for safety. Reported side-effects include dizziness, headaches, vomiting, and skin irritation. Long-term effects are unknown. Used because people like things to smell nice.

Avobenzine (Parsol 1789) – Common broad spectrum sunscreen ingredient breaks down to form free radicals when exposed to sunlight. Free radicals are a known carcinogen and can cause damage to our DNA.

Dibutyl Phthalates – Often found in perfumes and skin creams as a plasticizer, dibutyl phthalates are easily absorbed into the skin and contain a hormone disrupting agent that may cause birth defects in male fetuses. Used because it feels nice and smooth.

Formaldehyde – Formaldehyde, a common household preservative, can be found in products ranging from particleboard to fabric softener (check your laundry room). This substance has been found to cause fatigue, headache, nausea, rashes, sniffling, coughing, wheezing, and burning in the nose, eyes, and throat. At elevated levels, it can also bring on chest tightness, breathing difficulties, and has been linked to cancer

Lauryl Sulfate (Laureth Sulfate, SLS) – SLS, a chemical surfactant, is the primary lather or bubble producing agent found in many soaps, shampoos and cleansers (also used in carwashes and engine degreasers!) Reported side-effects include eye irritation, scalp irritation, tangled hair, swelling of the hands, face and arms and split and fuzzy hair. SLS can disrupt our hormones by mimicking estrogen and are considered unsafe. Used because its cheap so its an effective filler.

Mineral Oil – Mineral oil, often found in petroleum jellies (petrolatum), is listed as a known carcinogen in the “National Toxicology Program” and is known to cause hyper-sensitivity to the sun. Used because its cheap so its an effective filler.

Parabens (methyl, propyl, butyl or ethylbenzoates) – Parabens are chemical compounds derived from Para-Hydroxybenzoic Acid and are used in cosmetics as a preservative. Parabens have recently been found to be an endocrine disrupter and can interfere with the ovaries, thyroid, and hypothalamus. Parabens disrupt our hormones by mimicking estrogen and are considered unsafe.

Polyethylene Glycol (PEG’s) – PEGs are commonly found in many cosmetics as a preservative and are currently being studied as a possible carcinogen by the FDA. PEGs are a well-known cause of allergies.

Propylene Glycol - Called a humectant in cosmetics, it is really "industrial anti-freeze" and the major ingredient in brake and hydraulic fluid. Tests show it can be a strong skin irritant. Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) on Propylene Glycol warn to avoid skin contact as it is systemic and can cause liver abnormalities and kidney damage.

Lee Wright is a mother of two and president of Ma Mi Skincare – an Orlando-based natural skincare company that is designed specifically to help Mom’s look and feel healthy, youthful, and vibrant as they meet the joys and challenges of motherhood. If you have any questions or comments about the safety of skincare products or harmful common ingredients found in skincare, don’t hesitate to contact Lee@mamiskin.com or visit her website at www.mamiskin.com