Can Everyday Skincare Products Be Harmful?

Many cosmetic chemicals are designed to penetrate the skin completely, and they do. As a result, some common cosmetic ingredients turn up in the body.

Every day, the average woman uses about a dozen products containing more than 150 different ingredients. With so many attractive options and price points, it is not so easy to choose a product that will work for you.

We are constantly bombarded with advertising – products that promise brighter, firmer, younger looking skin. Products which often cost a fortune and are filled with chemicals we've never heard of, which provide 'miracle' effects.

But have you ever stopped to think that all those products you are loading onto your skin could be doing harm? Depending on what they are paired with or how often you use them, some mainstream skin-care products can actually be even irritating.

Some of the chemicals found in commercially available cleansers and moisturizers could aggravate existing skin conditions; some could cause a new skin condition if you have an allergic reaction to the product.

For instance, eczema, age spots and dry, flaky skin can all be exacerbated by skincare products. So, if you have noticed recent changes in your skin, your skincare products could be to blame.

Controversial facts

Are levels of cosmetic ingredients found in our bodies causing biological damage? Only more research can say. For now, for example, a new study has found that the mixture of chemicals found in beauty products could harm women’s fertility or even cause breast cancer.

Also, be aware of filler products, such as silicone and emollients, which give the products a silky texture and slippery feel. These ingredients are not necessarily harmful, but can make up the bulk of the product, while the actual active ingredients, such as antioxidants, can actually make up only a small percentage of the product.

Some ingredients used in skincare products, such as parabens, have gained a bad reputation over the years, as studies have shown that parabens can either alter or disrupt the body’s biological processes, such as hormonal functions. Studies have also found parabens in breast cancer tissue.

However, according to skincare experts, the information about parabens is misleading. Current evidence shows that the levels of parabens found in cosmetic products are safe for human use. Most reputable skincare companies have a strict policy of safety first, efficacy second – which means, no product can be manufactured without strict toxicology and safety trials.

Always check the ingredients

An important fact to understand is that the US Food and Drug Administration does not regulate cosmetics the way it regulates food and drugs—before they end up on the market. It’s more of a regulate-after-the-fact situation.

In the US, there are approximately 12,500 unique chemical ingredients approved for use in the manufacture of personal care products. Currently, cosmetic manufacturers have no legal obligation to report health problems from their products to the FDA.

Cosmetics also do not need to go through a pre-market approval process before they are sold in stores, and regulators do not assess the safety and effectiveness of the claims on the products.

The FDA expects the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR), the industry's safety and research board, to ensure the safety of all ingredients and products, so that whatever ends up in your makeup and skin-care products has been given the OK. If a health or medical problem is identified in a product that is already on the market, that’s when the FDA may step in.

This is not encouraging to hear, so it’s great if you want to do your homework on ingredients and become a more informed consumer. Know your label – not the one in front, but the ingredient list on the back.

That very long list on the back of the packaging may be daunting, but there is no need to be intimidated by things like scientific names. Take your time and find out what everything means.

Distinguishing a good skincare product from a harmful one is as simple as a little bit of knowledge, access to the Internet and knowing what works for your skin.

There are ways to check if the ingredients in your existing products are toxic, although, as a general rule, a long list of complex chemical names indicates a product that is very far from natural.

Using websites such as EWG's Skin Deep database, which provides ingredient listings and toxicity ratings for thousands of personal care products, is a great place to start.

Choose ingredients that will target your specific skincare concerns and make sure that these are quite high up on the ingredient list.

Healthier alternatives

It can be difficult navigating stores in search of the personal care product made without harmful ingredients. But no need to start thinking that there are no safe skincare ingredients to use for beautiful, glowing skin.

Natural products derived from plants, essential oils and other naturally occurring ingredients all feature in some of the best organic skincare ranges. And you won't need a degree in chemistry to understand the ingredients lists on their bottles.

So, why not make the (sometimes tough) decision to switch to a more natural alternative?

You can make your own skincare, which, while time-consuming, can be a cheaper way to experiment with different natural ingredients, or purchase from a natural range.

It is important to remember that, when it comes to skincare, simple is better. As the saying goes, “Don't put anything on your skin that you wouldn't put in your mouth.”

The great news in all of this is that the personal care industry is really cleaning up its act, in large part because of pressure from consumers like all of us, who are clamoring for safer options and more transparency about ingredients and formulas.

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