It's far easier to determine the safety of a skin care product by what it shouldn't have than to outline all of the ingredients that are safe.
In this vein, as far as we are concerned here at Healthy Strong, the best natural skin care does not have the ingredients from the following list:
Personally, I also look for shampoos that do not promote animal testing and, ideally, that's organic. Natural doesn't mean much on labels. If you're unsure of a product, the Skin Deep database is a wonderful resource. They list body care products and rate them based on how potentially harmful their ingredients are.
Why would we want to avoid these ingredients? There's been a lot written about the effects of certain chemicals being applied daily to the skin. To summarize all of them, the ingredients listed above, among others, have been known to cause unpleasant reactions in many people. Companies are allowed to use them because they are supposedly in such small doses, they won't affect anyone. However, these products are used so frequently, this tiny amount of chemical builds up pretty fast. Studies have shown that these chemicals are found in high amounts in urine tests, which means the chemicals are undoubtedly making it into the blood stream with potentially dangerous side effects. Those of us who suffer from sensitive skin know that even in small doses, these ingredients can cause discomfort.
Your skin is the largest organ in the body, designed specifically to protect it from outside enemies. While it doesn't absorb everything that touches it (or we'd be in serious trouble), it does absorb some, otherwise sports rubs and creams wouldn't work. Knowing the skin absorbs at least some of what goes onto it should be enough to make us want to put only the best on our skin, or at the very least, avoid anything that might disrupt the body's natural processes.
The skin has three main layers: the epidermis, the dermis, and the hypodermis. These three layers work together to do some pretty incredible things, like protecting the organs, allowing certain vitamins and minerals in, keeping infection and bad bacteria out, keeping the body at healthy temperatures, and repairing injuries, among other things.
You know how oil and water don't mix well? The outer layers of the epidermis are hydrophobic (repel water) and lipophilic (absorb oil), which explains why we can take showers without swelling up. The inner layers, however, are the opposite, which is why they need blood (made primarily of water). It's hard for substances to make it through both types of layers.
The skin is pretty good at blocking most of what it is exposed to and is only capable of absorbing certain things. Absorption, in this case, means that it makes it into one or more layers of the skin, but does not necessarily mean it makes it all the way through to the bloodstream. That's how good the skin is at what it does.
The level of absorption, the speed the skin absorbs, and the level of good or harm a chemical can cause are all factors in determining whether something is considered harmful, as well as how much of and how often the product is used. It also depends on each person, their skin type, individual sensitivities, genetics, and where on the body the products is applied.
Many chemicals are considered harmful simply because we haven't been using them long enough to determine whether they are harmful or not. Testing on humans would be considered unethical.
Herb & Hedgerow helped me understand this one. Have you ever made your own mayonnaise? It's pretty cool. If you haven't, here's how it works. You blend oil and egg with an acid like vinegar or lemon juice, and voilá, you have both oil and water in a stable mixture that blends well with both water and oil. It's magic! Just kidding, it's called emulsification and that is how your skin absorbs skin products—and whatever else companies add to their skin products.
Some blogs I've read about this claim that your body absorbs 60% of all the external products put on their skin. The 60% statistic that's been thrown around online might be accurate, but I can't find a study with this exact number. What I have found is that most of these chemicals in skincare are found in blood and urine tests, which means that they are most certainly penetrating the skin.
Most of the ingredients and additions to your skin products and cosmetics have been deemed "safe" in certain levels. So is radiation, come to think of it. There are many things that may not cause immediate reactions, but that doesn't mean they need to be applied multiple times daily on the thin skin of your face and on your scalp.
Most of the added ingredients are meant to be used as preservatives, fragrance, stabilizers, or color. These are unnecessary, added potential toxins that may react with your natural enzymes and cause sensitivity and rashes. Furthermore, once they are eventually absorbed in the blood stream (let's be honest, with as often as we use these products, they are undoubtedly going to enter the bloodstream) they can disrupt your hormones, affect your reproductive system, cause inflammation, and so much more.
Why not? It costs the same, works as well, smells equally as good or better, and all without putting dangerous toxins into your body. Check back later for recipes and suggestions of our favorite products.