Avoiding chemical additives in skin care products

If you are one of the million + viewers of The Story of Cosmetics, you no doubt were a little disconcerted to find out so many synthetic and chemical additives make their way into common skin care products.

Some of the worst offenders are preservatives like parabens or formaldehyde derivatives – they prolong the shelf life of products but can accumulate in our bodies and reach potentially harmful levels. Other ingredients such as mineral oil, petrolatum and fillers don’t in fact hydrate the skin all that much – but act more like cling film that clogs pores and can lead to breakouts or irritation. Not to mention harsh surfactants disrupt skin’s pH and strip its protective acid mantle…

So what can we do to reduce the 100 or more different synthetic chemicals in our daily skin care routine?

Meet the Dirty Dozen

The David Suzuki Foundation has compiled a handy list of some of the most toxic ingredients commonly found in skin care products. You can print out a copy and keep it in your wallet, or access their mobile site from your phone when you’re on the go. Just getting the Dirty Dozen out of your skin care routine is a great step to healthier skin and a healthier you.

Start turning each bottle, jar and tube around

If you are on a mission to detoxify your skin care routine, you need to scrutinise everything you put on your skin and hair. That’s cleansers, toners, scrubs, facial masks, moisturisers, make-up remover, body wash, body lotion, shampoo, conditioner, hair serums, hair treatments, styling products. Have we got everything? Actually no: make-up is not off-limits and everything from foundation to mascara should go under the magnifying glass too. It does take commitment!

But give yourself some slack

It’s better to improve your routine and substitute a few products – even if you keep some that aren’t ideal but that you can’t live without – than not to substitute at all.

Make your own

Raid your kitchen cupboard and mix some raw sugar and olive oil. Add a drop of two of essential oils and voilà! Body scrub. Yoghurt, oats and lemon juice: face scrub. Honey and aspirin: face masque. We have plenty more ideas and recipes in our Natural Skin Care category – and if you haven’t already, it’s time you met the ever entertaining and ‘Food on your Face’ expert Crunchy Betty.

Go all natural and/or organic

Look for brands with an uncompromising ingredient policy and if possible an accreditation like ACO, Natrue, BDIH, Cruelty Free,…

Think laterally

Every step in your skin care routine is an opportunity to do good for your skin. Natural products give you incredible bang for your buck – more so than products with synthetic ingredients, fillers and diluted extracts. Try washing your face with pure aloe vera and moisturising with a pure cold-pressed oil like rosehip or jojoba – see if your skin likes it! These are gentle products that are usually well tolerated by very sensitive and unbalanced skin, but if you are concerned change only one thing at a time in your routine.

You don’t need to get more fancy than nature’s own chemistry when it comes to nourishing, repairing, preserving moisture and giving your skin a healthy, dewy glow!

Do you pay attention to labels and buy or pass on products depending on their ingredients?