Going through this adventure and being more conscious about my lifestyle choices has also got me thinking a lot about what I am putting on my body and skin every day. Swapping my usual skin care products with more organic and natural ones was an obvious step to make on my path to leading a more conscious and ethical life.
Recently I’ve been reading some articles about the ingredients that are present in our regular personal care products. Honestly, what I read really shocked me. Did you know that the average woman’s beauty routine contains at least 100 different types of chemicals and that some of them can react awfully when mixed together? I didn’t…and now I can’t stop thinking about the fact that I’ve been exposing my skin and body to so many chemicals for so many years – yuck!
That said, not all chemicals are bad, some of them are necessary for us to maintain healthy levels of bacteria and some can really benefit our skin. Indeed, many chemicals occur naturally and help us lead healthy, happy lives. Yep, the most essential chemical on our planet – water – is a solvent with its own wonderful chemical formula: H2O ☺. Now, my reaction when I found out about all the chemicals I’ve been putting on my skin seems to be indicative of this misleading narrative, or rather let’s say ‘negative connotation’, towards the word “chemicals”, particularly in the context of skincare products. But it seems somewhat outrageous to just dismiss chemicals as harmful simply because the word conjures up images of horrible reactions to chemical exposure. As I said, chemicals are also natural and our lives depend on them.
However, it is also true that there are some nasty guys out there too. Some of the most well-known ones are: Parabens, Phthalades, Formaldehyde, Aluminium or Sodium laureth sulfate. I challenge you to look online for these ones. A simple scan of Wikipedia will reveal more to you than I need to here. One thing I am sure of though is that you’re going to want them to be as far away from you and your precious skin as possible. Some of these chemicals have been catalogued as high-risk toxins for humans and others are related to hormone and endocrine disruption, skin irritation, and even cancer. In the case of Parabens, they’ve been found in breast cancer tissue leading Breast Cancer UK to warm people to avoid these. Of course, all of this doesn’t help us much in being more conscious consumers. Good chemicals…bad chemicals…how does this aid us in making better lifestyle choices? Let’s call in the experts!
You can find many cases online of dermatology experts saying that based on our current understanding, it’s perfectly safe to use products that contain any or all of the chemicals listed above since the proportion contained in the product is so tiny. In an ideal world in which the use of skin care products was occasional, maybe this argument would hold water. But if you stop and think about it, the amount of product that we put on our skin every day is certainly not tiny and when you think of how frequently you apply these products, you soon realize that exposure to these harsh chemicals is not as minuscule as some experts claim.
I mean, let’s think of an average routine: start with your shower gel and shampoo in the morning, tooth paste, skin-day cream, make-up (from primer to concealer to foundation to mascara to eye shadow to lip stick etc.); and we also use skin tonics, face masks, body sprays, perfume, depilatory creams, sunscreen and so on and so on. Your skin is absorbing hazardous chemicals from all of these products everyday, now more than ever. What’s more, there aren’t even any long-term studies about the impact on health of all these chemicals because we are the first generation of humans to use so many different skin care products in such high quantities. Honestly, experts really don’t know what may come from the extensive use of these products. But hush…this is something that large, well-known cosmetic companies don’t want us to think about – we all know that it’s profits before people.
In addition to the effects these ingredients may have on the body, our chemically tailored products are also damaging and contaminating the environment. The chemical components that are in our personal beauty care products do not break down very well; some of them are different types of plastic which won’t decompose naturally so instead they accumulate in our ecosystems harming the environment. I’m sure you’re all aware by now of the disgusting state our planetary ecosystem is in thanks to plastic! It’s not always obvious to us that we’re putting more plastic into the ecosystem since the plastic in our products doesn’t look or feel the same as the plastics we (hopefully) separate out for recycling. The plastics in our products exist at a chemical level and are a far more sinister kind. We wash these microscopic plastics down our sinks every day when we wash our hands or remove our make-up or have a shower etc., and it all gets flushed out into our streams and rivers and lakes and oceans…where it ends up in the stomachs of fish or birds…and, more scarily, our water system. It’s very likely that there’s plastic now in you, me, your family, your cat, your dog. And remember, I’ve not even mentioned that most of these products come in plastic containers that will take hundreds of years to decompose. We really need to take this into consideration too as taking care of the planet has to become our number one priority.
So we arrive back at our question – what can I do to avoid all these nasty chemicals? Well, we can take a stand today and start making things better from here on out. In terms of brands which are doing things right, there are quite a lot to choose from. Some of the ones you can buy from in the UK are: Neal’s Yard Remedies, Pai, Odylique, Terre Verdi and Green People. These are certified organic companies that make amazing products for you and your skin. I‘ve tried some of them already and I’ve got to say that there’s no way I’ll be using anything else ever again. They are great brands with great products that treat people and the planet with respect.
I would like to end with one final point. Nowadays, commercials and marketing campaigns make us feel like we need tons of products to feel good and look good but it’s really not true. Your skin needs to be looked after, of course, just like your body in general. It needs to be kept clean and moisturized and treated for specific problems…but that’s all. For me, I like keeping things simple: one soap for the shower; one shampoo for my hair; a moisturizing cream for my skin (I suffer from dry/sensitive skin and sometimes it gets very itchy if I forget to put some cream on after the shower); a restorative oil for the winter when my face gets really damaged by the brutal South Coast weather; and a natural cleanser to clear the pores on my face. Ultimately, the most important thing to do is to choose carefully what works best for you. We are all different and what works for me may not work for you. Listen to your body and treat it with love, kindness, and respect.
Please share with me the products you normally use for your daily beauty routine and if you’ve ever tried organic or natural products which ones they were. ☺ Let’s share our knowledge!