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The word "cosmetics" comes from the Greek word "kosmein" which means to bring order or harmonize. Today’s cosmetic industry is a far cry, with nearly 10,000 different ingredients – most of which are questionable.
Throughout my years of making natural cosmetics, I’ve come to realize that the conventional industry fills its products with basic ingredients that are at best, ineffective for our skin or at worst, dangerous to our health.
The consumer who, in the frantic race to maintain her youth at all costs, may one day pay the price of damaging that which she seeks to maintain.
The Basic Ingredients:
As you know, the list of cosmetic ingredients is written on the containers in descending order. The first two ingredients that we can identify in most cosmetic products are water and a derivative from the distillation of mineral oil. Thus, these beautiful little white emulsions are basically water mixed with by-products of the petrochemical industry, such as: paraffinum liquidum, petrolatum, ozokerite, cera microcristallina, hydrogenated polyisobutene, etc. The list is long. These cheap ingredients are, at best, able to prevent dehydration by forming an occlusive film on the skin that will be washed off next time you cleanse your face. All this to say, these ingredients are completely useless for maintaining healthy skin; they do not stimulate regenerative properties nor are they absorbed by the skin’s cells. On the other hand, natural plant-based oils are metabolized and "digested" by enzymes that are found on the surface of the epidermis (skin). Only vegetable oils can be assimilated into the skin, mineral oils cannot. So, why are these derivatives so popular? Well, the answer is simple; they are very cheap to produce and therefore very lucrative for the manufacturer. They don’t easily go rancid (which removes the need to use antioxidants such as BHT and BHA) and therefore have a longer shelf life. They are also completely odourless which means that they can be perfumed with any fragrance without risk of interaction with a base ingredient (which is not the case with vegetable oils). These substances easily make "oil in water" or "water in oil" emulsions. Essentially, mineral oils are a dream come true for every conventional cosmetologist.
However, in the world of natural cosmetics, we systematically reject any ingredient derived from the petrochemical industry, because unlike vegetable oils, these ingredients are not only void of beneficial properties, they are completely inassimilable and prevent epidermal oxygenation (your skin cells need to breath!)
It is well-known that the consumer is seduced and influenced by what they smell. Thousands of synthetic fragrances are available to the cosmetologist, created with the sole purpose to seduce our noses. Be warned: synthetic fragrances are not harmless.
Research conducted in the United States and Europe have consistently concluded that synthetic fragrances are one of the leading causes of skin allergens. In Germany, it has been shown that synthetic perfumes causes skin reactions in 1 out of 3 people. We are talking about contact allergies, hives, asthma, rhino-conjunctivitis and general irritations. The remedy? Stop using the product.
Besides allergens, these synthetic perfumes contain a more insidious toxic substance called phthalates, which are often part of the raw material for synthetic scents. When you see "fragrance" listed as an ingredient in your skin care products, you can be almost certain that they contain phthalates. These noxious substances accumulate in the body’s tissues, where they negatively affect the reproductive system by disturbing hormonal balance (endocrine disruption) and may even be carcinogenic.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies DEHP (a type of phthalate) as one of the possible causes of cancer and according to the National Toxicology Program (NTP), DEHP is considered to be a human carcinogen.
In order to avoid the risk of contamination, preservatives are often used in abundant quantities. However, synthetic preservatives, like synthetic fragrances, also appear to have a high allergenic potential.
The most popular preservative under scrutiny are parabens. Some studies in the US show that the use of parabens will likely lead to the development of skin allergies. It is important to note that parabens accumulate in body fat, and that they are potential “endocrine disruptors”, mimicking the action of female hormones by binding to estrogen cell receptors. Unsettling news, as hormonal factors are predominant in the development of breast cancer. Though there has never been a formal research that demonstrates the link between parabens and breast cancer, we would rather not take the chance.
A study by a group of researchers from the Tokyo Medical University found that when methylparaben was applied topically, in amounts typical of commercial cosmetics, skin aging was accelerated with skin exposure. Parabens are found in approximately 80% of cosmetic products, including creams, lotions, shower gel, shampoos and even so-called “hypoallergenic” skin creams prescribed by dermatologists.
In Europe, other studies show that the preservatives chloroacetamides and quaternuium-15 are even more damaging to the skin than parabens. Fortunately, there are very effective preservatives available that naturally prevent bacterial and fungal growths without damaging our skin or disturbing hormonal function. They are, of course, the essential oils.
For the past 34 years, I have been working with these wonderful and small aromatic molecules, and I can tell you honestly and professionally, that they are my greatest allies. Besides their incredibly beneficial properties, they are the most amazing preservatives you can find in a cosmetic product.
The cosmetics industry is a broad field and I have only covered a few important issues about commercial creams and lotions. I have not addressed makeup, UV filters or deodorants, which I must say, do not have a good reputation. If this topic interests you, I strongly suggest that you read a shocking, and informative book. This book, title listed below, is a great reference that will forever change your hygiene skin habits for the better.
To purchase safe, 100% natural and truly nourishing skincare for you and your loved ones, visit our online store!
Ref: The Truth about Cosmetics, Rita Stiens, ed. LEDUC.S 2005
Here’s a great article on the subject written by journalist Isabelle Morin in LaPresse.ca