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The Truth Behind Skin Care

The skin is the body's largest organ and absorbs much of what is placed on it and interacts with the environment. Research has shown that up to 60% of what you put on your skin is absorbed into the blood stream. In a lifetime we will come into contact with approximately 75,000 chemicals, many of which have never been properly tested on humans, which have come into play in the last half century. We absorb a great number of these new synthetic chemicals from our food, our toiletries, and from the environment. There has been a dramatic increase in cases of skin problems such as eczema, psoriasis, various allergies and cancers which are believed to be inextricably linked with our lifestyle. By choosing to use natural, organic ingredients on the skin, you make a choice to minimise exposure to potentially harmful ingredients.

More research than ever is available on the ingredients used in well-known skin-care brands on the market today. By law, they are expected to display their list of ingredients on their packaging. If they do not, you are at liberty to ask. Many ingredient names have been changed in order to make it difficult for the public to ascertain where it originates from. When in doubt, look up the ingredient first.

The Women’s Environmental Network (WEN) are leaders in research related to products/ingredients that could be potentially damaging to women.

Membership is welcomed on and meanwhile, I have taken the following information as it is written on their website for reading interest with the writers name included:

Careful Beauty Explained

WEN’s Careful Beauty Checklist Explained

Free from bleaching agents Bleaching agents, such as hydroquinone and mercury, are added to skincare products to help lighten skin. Although banned in the EU they are still manufactured in Asia and Africa. These bleaching chemicals are highly toxic – hydroquinone can cause brown patches on skin and is an irritant, mercury can cause serious poisoning as well as cancer and exposure to both have been linked to ochronosis.

Free from chemically manufactured / synthetic made / nature identical ingredients Nature identical ingredients are produced synthetically or processed but are chemically identical to substances that are found in nature. Synthetic ingredients: e.g. silicones, paraffin and other fossil fuel-derived products.

Free from detergents Detergents are alternatives to soap and are derived from petroleum based products. Some commonly used detergents are; · Ethoxylated Alcohols (EA) including PEG, SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulphate) and · Amines and Derivatives including Diethanolamine (DEAs) such as cocamide, lauramide, myristamine and oleamide DEA, DEA-cetyl phosphate, DEA oleth-3 phosphate, triethanolamine (TEA), TEA-lauryl sulphate, monoethnolamine (MEA) including cocamide, linoleamide and steramide MEA) Many of these are known for their foaming action and surfactant functions (easy mixing of oily and water-based substances) in daily use products such as shampoo, conditioners, facial cleansers, hair dyes, lotions, soaps, baby shampoo, baby wipes, shaving cream and acne treatment. Detergents can dry skin and hair, cause irritations to eyes and skin, and can react with impurities and nitrate preservatives, some of which may cause cancer. DEA causes liver and kidney tumours, can damage testicles and reduce sperm activity. Many of the EA detergents are potentially contaminated with or break down into cancer causing agents. Research demonstrates a strong relationship to toxicity to kidneys and nervous system. Free from GM ingredients Genetically modified organisms are highly contested ingredients on a global scale. Some mass produced cosmetics have GM ingredients, which could be maize or soya based. Consumer concerns have pre-empted European companies to work at removing GM ingredients from their products, however many US companies maintain there is not enough evidence of harm from GMOs in cosmetics.

Free from lanolin Lanolin, also known as wool fat or wool wax, is used as an oil or alcohol and is derived from a sheep’s oil glands. Lanolin is found in moisturisers, especially those for lips. It is found in shampoo, ointments, face washes and creams, lip balms, hand creams, cold creams and face powders. Lanolin can be an irritant and can cause chapping of the lips. If the cosmetic product does not use certified organic lanolin then there is a risk of exposure to traces of DDT, dieldrin, lindane and other neurotic pesticides. Additionally, lanolin no longer is used in pure form because of the allergy-causing reactions.

Free from nanoparticles Nanoparticles, such as titanium oxide and zinc oxide are used in cosmetics and as UV filters in sun creams. Nanoparticles are defined as anything smaller than 100 nanometres in size, with a nanometre being one-billionth of a metre, 80,000 times smaller than a human hair. It has shown to be possible for nanoparticles to enter the bloodstream on inhalation and cross the blood-brain barrier, thus entering the brain itself. Fullerenes are another example of nanoparticle used in anti-ageing products. Due to the fact that nanoparticles pass cellular membranes, it can be expected to reach DNA and have adverse affects on genotoxicity, a short term measure of carcinogenicity. Research associated with the health affects of fullerenes and titanium dioxide indicate that certain nanoparticles may be genotoxic and photogenotoxic.

Free from phthalates Phthalates are used as a plasticizer and a solvent in cosmetics. They may be listed as dibutyl, dithylhexyl, DEHP, DBP to name a few chemical variations. Some phthalates may not appear on a label as they are components of ‘fragrances’, ‘parfum’, ‘perfume’ and other synthetic fragrances. Phthalates are used in the production of plastics, packages, cosmetics and other household items. Research strongly demonstrates that DEHP is linked to adverse affects to male and female reproductive system and the EU has banned the use of some phthalates in PVC toys as well as listing it as a ‘substance of very high concern.’ Phthalates are found in a number of products that are fragrant or have a scent to them e.g. ‘parfum’. Parfum can contain more than 100 different ingredients which are not required to be identified on a product. A previous study of name brand cosmetics found phthalates in nearly 80% with none of them listing phthalates on the ingredients list. Phthalates can be found in cosmetics such as nail varnishes, deodorants, fragrances, hair gels and sprays, hand and body lotions.

Free from petrochemicals Petrol based products, such as petroleum, mineral oil, propylene glycol, isopropyl alcohol, paraffin, petroleum and petroleum by-products are used as penetration enhancers, lubricants and emollients in such products as cold creams, lipsticks, mascaras, baby creams, moisturising creams, shaving creams, hair conditioners, makeup removers to name a few. Petroleum based products can irritate and sensitise skin, may compromise skin’s own moisturising system as well as contain harmful impurities.

Free from synthetic preservatives Synthetic preservatives are those ingredients of an unnatural source or origin used as a preservative system in products. Organic certifiers may allow specific preservative systems within a product, however those will not be included in this section. Due to the fact that parabens are one of the most widely used preservatives they are the primary exclusion on the list. Formaldehyde may be hidden within products and may be released when products break down or react with another product. It can be found as a preservative in various cosmetics, soap, nail hardeners and varnish. Ingesting formaldehyde can cause internal bleeding, severe abdominal pain, coma and death. Formaldehyde is a proven neurotoxin, genotoxin, carcinogen and skin irritant. It is involved in DNA damage and inhibits its repair and in conjunction with other chemical ingredients can produce mutagenic and carcinogenic effects. Preservatives are the second most common cause of allergic and irritant reactions to cosmetics.

Free from retinol Retinol, natural vitamin A, is added to cosmetics for marketing reasons[1]. Other forms of retinol include tretinoin, adapalene, tazarotene and retinol and are used in moisturisers and night creams with the suggestion of offering anti-ageing effects. Used as ingredients in anti-ageing creams, these chemicals were developed for and continue to be used as acne treatments. Predominantly found in anti-ageing skin creams and moisturisers as well as psoriasis and acne care. When exposed to large doses of retinol during pregnancy research shows that it may harm the development of the embryo. Side effects associated with topical tretinoin are skin irritation, dryness, peeling and sun sensitivity and with persistent use, skin damage and accelerate ageing. Adapalene and tazarotene both indicate similar side effects from usage, but add redness, burning sensation and rash.

Free from synthetic colours Synthetic colours are entirely artificial in composition and added to makeup and other coloured products. These crude oil, coal tar and mineral derived dyes and lakes may contain carcinogenic arsenic and lead. In the USA FD&C colours are certified for inclusion in food, drugs and cosmetics and D&C colours for drugs and cosmetics only. Questionable synthetic colours are: FD&C blues 1(E133), 2(E132), 4; Green 3; Reds 4, 40(E129); Yellows 5(E102), 6(E110), D&C Reds 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 10, 17, 19, 21, 27, 33; Green 5; Oranges 5, 17. Disperse Blue 1; Yellow 3. These ingredients are found in products such as lip glosses, children’s toothpaste and hair colours. Some synthetic colours have been linked to childhood hyperactivity disorders as well as cancers.

Against animal testing Regulation requires cosmetic companies to test products to ensure consumer safety, however the methods used are entirely up to the manufacturer. According to COLIPA, the European Cosmetic Toiletry and Perfumery Association, a testing ban on animals in the EU applied from March 2009 whether or not an alternative to animal testing is available.

Contains ingredients which carry the certified Fair-trade Mark The Fair Trade criterion was added as a number of cosmetics products now include ingredients which carry the Fair trade Mark. For more information about Fair trade and for an explanation of the differences between organic and fair trade standards please visit Full and clear disclosure of ingredients That all the ingredients listed on the label are all the ingredients contained in the product. High street cosmetics products can contain ingredients like phthalates, which are not listed on the label but contained in the product to carry fragrances or make the products undrinkable in the case of perfume. Also the ingredients used to create a fragrance. Plants from sustainable managed areas An indicator of whether companies producing greener cosmetics extend their concern for human health to environmental health.

What is an anti-oxidant

Free radicals are molecules produced during normal metabolism or as a result of an unhealthy diet or exposure to pollution, tobacco smoke and chemicals. Free radical damage may play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases. Antioxidants are found naturally in many foods, including fruits, vegetables and nuts, and can also be found in nutritional supplement form.


Vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E and the mineral selenium are examples of antioxidants.

Skin Cream Emulsifiers, Preservatives, Stabilisers

All skin creams have to contain a certain amount of non active ingredients for the purposes of preventing the oils from going rancid, prevent separation and mould formation and allowing the oils and water to combine or emulsify.

Water is the main ingredient in all moisturisers and because of that we went to great lengths to choose the best water we could find. It would have been cheaper to use filtered tap water but we chose Canadian glacier water which is fantastically pure and above all soft.

STEARYL ALCOHOL - A benign emulsifier that helps the oils to combine with the other ingredients.

CANDELLILLA WAX - derived from a plant called Euphorbia Cerifera. It improves the consistency of creams.

SORBITAN OLIVATE and CETEARYL OLIVATE - a combination derived from Olive Oil that act as an emusifier and stabilizer.

TINOSAN - a great new preservative based on SILVER that is formaldehyde free, non-halogenated, contains no phenols and no ammonium compounds. It is only required in very small quantities.

POTASSIUM SORBATE - A common preservative so safe that it is used in food. It is mainly to prevent mould formation but is only required in very small quantities in this formula.

Ingredients we don’t use and neither should you…..


Typically, Methyl and Propyl and Butyl and Ethyl Paraben — Used as mould and other microbe inhibitors to extend shelf life. They are very effective at doing so and are universally utilised in cosmetics as a result. It has long been known that sensitive people can have allergic reactions to these substances. However more recently there have been suggestions that they can have an oestrogenic effect, i.e. mimic hormones, when absorbed through the skin. There is also research to show cancer causing potential, or mutagenicity associated with parabens and related preservatives.

Preservatives are essential in most products and safer, if less robust, alternatives are grapefruit seed extract and potassium sorbate.


These are mostly complex artificial chemicals and can often cause allergic reactions. Again, being chemicals, most enlightened manufacturers believe the risks associated with them are too great. We choose not to use even natural fragrances simply because there is no point. If you see 'parfum' listed in ingredients, the chances are it is a 'trojan horse' for Parabens.


A form of antifreeze and brake fluid made specifically for cosmetics. It is derived from mineral oil and apart from the fact that we like to avoid all mineral oil derived substances, it can be drying and irritating for the skin. There are suggestions that it can have carcinogenic effects over the long term.


Like all of the above it is conventionally considered safe but can be irritating on the skin and also is implicated as a carcinogen although this is disputed. Follow the motto ‘When in doubt, leave it out’!!


Blocks the pores and irritates the skin. Many people are sensitive to mineral oil that is generally more irritating than vegetable alternatives.


Some people are sensitive to Lanolin but worst of all is that it has been found to be contaminated with several carcinogenic pesticides.

From the UK Daily Mail 11 August 2008

Popular moisturisers linked with raised skin cancer risk - August 18, 2008. Popular moisturisers used by millions of people every day could be increasing the risk of sun-induced skin cancer, reports the Daily Mail.

In laboratory tests carried out by scientists at Rutgers University in New Jersey, a number of well know skin creams were found to speed up the development of skin cancer.

The study, published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, looked at the effect of four moisturisers on mice primed to develop skin cancer by exposure to UV light. The animals had the creams applied to them five days a week for four months.

Not only did the moisturised animals develop non-melanoma skin cancer more quickly than non-moisturised animals, they also developed twice as many tumours.

The scientists say that the ingredients in the products used in the trial are found in many leading brand skin care products. The application of a custom-made cream, which lacked several of the ingredients in the brands tested — including mineral oil and the sodium lauryl sulfate — did not affect the tumour development.

The researchers said that safety tests on moisturisers usually focus on whether they irritate the skin, not whether they cause cancer. But they concluded: “Further studies are needed to determine the effects of widespread use of moisturising creams on the risk of sunlight-induced cancer in humans.”

Your Products Don't Need Animal Ingredients To Work.

The use of animal ingredients in our personal care products is not as common as it once was. Many companies have found alternatives. However, Two Ingredients we are seeing more commonly these days in anti-ageing skin care creams are collagen and elastin. Both of these ingredients are proteins that encourage the skin to stay firm. As we age the elasticity diminishes and our skin starts to sag and lose elasticity.

Collagen and elastin are also found in animals. Skin care companies believe we could use these proteins from animals on our own skin to help it maintain suppleness. Non animal versions do exist for both these ingredients and may be just as effective.

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