Ok, while the title may sound a little melodramatic many people really have no idea what they are putting on their skin. I see countless amounts of people that are so 'health conscious', worrying about every little thing that passes their lips, yet when they get out of the shower every morning are smothering themselves head to toe in skin products. Many people think of the skin as a protective barrier, because, it many ways that is exactly what it is. But in terms of the skin products that we lather ourselves in every day, our skin acts as a sponge absorbing a lot of those chemicals. You just have to think of how a nicotine patch works in order to understand just how easy it is for us to absorb chemicals via the skin.
Parabens, for example, are present in many skin products and have estrogenic activity, which means they could potentially disrupt hormones raising concerns regarding breast cancer (1). Studies have also suggested that parabens can cause mitochondrial dysfunction and a recent study indicated a positive association between concentrations of urinary butyl parabens and male sperm DNA damage (2).
Phthalates, another example of a chemical commonly found in skin products are often used to soften and moisturize the skin. Studies have indicated that they could increase the risk of a vast range of birth defects and infact could be endocrine- disrupting compounds that affect the male reproductive system. Reports have suggested a positive correlation between sperm malformation and levels of urinary bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) (3).
So the question remains, what can be used as an alternative? There are a few simple things you can do to really reduce the chemical load on your body. The first thing would be to not over complicate things. Do you really need all of those 'anti-aging' serums and ointments that promise you'll be wrinkle free till the day you die? Eating a diet rich in wholefoods and eating enough good quality fats would be the simplest and most efficient way to keep your skin, hair and nails at their best. For the products that you simply cannot part with, there are countless alternatives out there that are just as good and without the heavy chemical load. Just go to your local health store and you no doubt will be inundated with many options. Often they are also significantly cheaper then the high-end skin product brands that many people tend to buy so it is a win win!
Many people are misinformed about the damage that skin products could really be doing to your health and it seems a shame considering the widespread focus on improving health and nutrition. Simple changes to your skin-care routine could see your health and overall 'glow' reaping the benefits.
1. Prusakiewicz, J. J., Harville, H. M., Zhang, Y., Ackermann, C., & Voorman, R. (2007). Parabens inhibit human skin estrogen sulfotransferase activity: Possible link to paraben estrogenic effects. Toxicology, 232(3), 248-256. doi: 10.1016/j.tox.2007.01.010
2. Pedersen, S., Marra, F., Nicoli, S., & Santi, P. (2007). In vitro skin permeation and retention of parabens from cosmetic formulations. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 29(5), 361-367. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2494.2007.00388.x
3. Guo, Y., & Kannan, K. (2013). A Survey of Phthalates and Parabens in Personal Care Products from the United States and Its Implications for Human Exposure. Environmental Science & Technology, 47(24), 14442-14449. doi: 10.1021/es4042034