When it’s time to make a new skincare/bodycare/haircare or other cosmetic purchase, what are the main factors that contribute to what you choose? What do you prioritise? It might be:
- Ease of purchase/accessibility
Or it might be the actual composition. See, when you’re purchasing a product, you are doing so because you have a job that needs doing. A niche that needs filling. You might have skin that needs cleaning, hair that needs styling, nails that need painting or dry skin that needs soothing. And while we must consider a price point within our budget, a product that we can easily get our hands on and we’ll actually enjoy using, first and foremost we should be critiquing the formulation.
Marketing is a powerful tool. Placing an attractive model before us – along with a sports car and a beautiful house on the beach – plays on our subconscious. A part of us truly believes that by buying that product (whatever it is) it will help us achieve that dream lifestyle. And it’s incredible how many of us would purchase without even taking a look at what’s in the can.
Today we’re talking common, but unpleasant ingredients currently littering our products. These are those unnecessary fillers that are best hunted out as you peruse the label and then avoided.
- Synthetic Fragrance & Colour – The former is there because it’s cost effective and the latter for aesthetics. But both have been found to be hazardous to health. Many chemical concoctions used to create a mimic fragrance are capable of causing hormone disruption. And as for the colours? Some of those are known carcinogens and culprits of anxiety and hyperactivity, not to mention skin irritants.
- Phthalates – These are plasticisers, therefore making a product softer. This makes sense if you’re making a child’s toy, perhaps? But added to products we’re putting on our body? In theory, they can allow a product to reach the most desirable texture, but in reality they are endocrine disrupters. There’s ample evidence linking it to an array of behavioural dysfunctions, as well as breast cancer.
- Formaldehyde – An excellent preservative used to keep strange specimens in glass jars for hundreds of years, formaldehyde is added to products as an antibacterial agent to extend the shelf life of the product. In theory, sounds good, but with so many excellent antimicrobial essential oils able to do the same thing, why are we bothering with this carcinogen? Look out for this one in nail polish where unfortunately many formulations still contain the chemical.
- Talc – There has been evidence linking talc-use with a higher risk of ovarian cancer. It really depends on whether the talc is asbestos-containing. Talc consists of hydrogen, oxygen, magnesium and silicon and is mined from the soil. Asbestos naturally occurs close by and so it’s important that care is taken during processing to ensure the purity of talc on the market. Aside from the obvious talcum powder, talc is found in many powder face cosmetics like finishing powders and eyeshadows, so be mindful of this one. Cornstarch and arrowroot are great alternatives to conventional talcum powder for the body and as dry shampoo. If it’s makeup you’re looking at go for formulations with silica and mica.
I’ve not included SLS on the above list because in my experience and research, evidence for any long-term effects is inconclusive. Irritation is a potential side effect of using it, but that’s on a case-by-case basis for sensitive skin. As a personal preference, I purchase products without it, but I don’t necessarily think everyone needs to do that.
There’s also inconclusive evidence for parabens. Yes, these preservatives have the ability to bioaccumulate in the body and have been found in the breast tissue of cancer patients, but the evidence to say that they contributed to the cancer is sparse.
Too much of anything will lead to one or another detrimental health issue. And no matter how hard you try, there comes a point where you realise that life must be lived fully. It’s a miserable existence trying to avoid every potential hazard you come across. But if there’s one change you make, let it be to make your next cosmetic purchase one that is a bit more natural and a tad more beneficial to health. Oh, and if you’re looking for a list of cruelty-free companies, start here.
Photo via Unsplash