Have you ever read the ingredients list on your shower gel or facial moisturiser? If you have, the chances are you will be confused by many of the items listed! Unfortunately a lot of labelling isn’t just confusing, it can be misleading too.
We all assume that products labelled as ‘natural’ must be good for us right? But this is often not the case. The word natural conjures up images of green fields and lush, vibrant flowers, but where toiletries are concerned it is a very grey area. This is because there is no simple definition of what is actually natural and just because something is natural, doesn’t mean we want to put it on our skin.
Unfortunately, the majority of the skincare products on the market today are packed full of artificial fragrances, stabilisers and preservatives which over the long term can be extremely harmful to the body. Just have a look at the list of ingredients on the bottle and you will see an array of items, many of which have chemical names that you cant even pronounce, let alone know what they do!
Does this really matter?
Well, yes it does if you are serious about wanting to reduce the toxic burden on your body. Much of what we put on our skin gets absorbed into the body and can end up in the bloodstream. Because we don’t have the necessary enzymes to break these chemicals down, they can accumulate in our organs causing problems later on.
To help give you an idea, here are a few of the chemicals that you might see in your toiletries that you should avoid and why;
There are various types of parabens and some are worse than others. In general there is evidence that these can be endocrine disruptors. They can mimic oestrogen which means that they could be associated with an increase in breast tissue tumours.
SLS / ALS (Sodium / Ammonium Lauryl Sulphate)
These have been linked to skin irritation and organ toxicity as well as endocrine disruption and disruption of the reproductive system.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer says it is a known carcinogen and it is known to cause respiratory problems.
This used to be common in shampoos and nail polish, but the good news is that its use is reducing. In Europe it is forbidden in the production of cosmetics and toiletries but some products made in America can still contain it in small amounts, so just take care.
Again there are a range of phthalates with differing toxicity levels. They can be associated with birth defects in boys, and lower the reproductive abilities in men.
These come from petrochemicals and may be associated with an increased risk of cancer, as well as immunotoxicity and allergies.
This is thought to be linked to heart disease and heart failure as well as problems associated with the muscular-skeletal system. This is commonly found in antibacterial soaps, under many different names, (see the EWG page on Triclosan for a full list of its names).
Another reason to avoid antibacterial soaps!
A possible irritant and could cause contact dermatitis.
Fragrance / Aroma / Parfum
This ingredient is not fully labelled so the exact safety is not known. However, various studies quoted by the Environmental Working Group show that it has been found to be toxic to the immune system and an allergen.
Breast Cancer UK have a useful leaflet that you can download for free which summarises where some of these chemicals can be found and what to avoid.
How do I know whether my current brand is safe?
There is a great website for brands sold in the USA from the Environmental Working Group which rates all the brands overall, and also by specific categories – check it out here This website unfortunately wont have all the UK brands listed if they aren’t sold in the USA as well, but what it does have is an extensive list of product ingredients. So if there is an ingredient that you want to check out, put the name into the search function and it will give you the low down.
So what can I do?
My best advice is to make your own toiletries. You can use some of the recipes in my DIY Toiletries section to get you started.
If you don’t have the time or the inclination to make your own then you need to find yourself a good quality brand that you can trust. Buying organic and ethical products is not cheap, because producing real ingredients naturally is not a cheap process, so be mindful of those who appear to be natural but are super cheap. Conversely, just because a brand is extortionate doesn’t mean its good for your skin! So check out the labels and make sure you are comfortable with what you are using.
Here are a couple that I love;
Vikki Baker, founder of Ugly Apples, is a good friend of mine. She personally hand makes all her own products with high quality, natural ingredients that are safe and health promoting. Her range is increasing all the time as she works on new formulae. Check out her range here and if you decide to buy then remember to use promotion code ‘Nudi-gift’ in the comments box to get your hands on a free gift with your order.
Alternatively, if you are looking for something different, then I would also recommend Neal’s Yard. They have an extensive range of bath and beauty products and are committed to providing safe, high quality products that have minimal impact on the environment and are of course cruelty free. Check them out here.
A note on affiliates;
Some of the links on my website are affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, the price is the same for you and I receive a small commission that helps to keep Nudi Organics up and running.