3 synthetic ingredients to avoid

There's just as many synthetic ingredients in your standard bottle of moisturiser as there are promises. 

The lists of both seem endless. Face wash, toners, moisturisers, body lotions, body scrubs, shampoo, conditioner, make up .... another endless list. Everything we put onto our skin is absorbed into our body, where it eventually winds up at our liver, to be broken down. Depending on the health of our liver (and on the chemical, not every synthetic chemical is able to be broken down) this may not be a fast process, so these synthetic ingredients can get sent back out into the bloodstream where they can contribute to skin and hormone conditions, as well as our overall health and wellbeing. 

Yikes, that's more than just skin deep. 

While no means an extensive list, steering clear of the ingredients below is a way to start detoxing for healthier skin, as well as avoiding the potentially harmful, accumulative effects from long term use of synthetic chemicals.

1. Phthalates 

These widely used industrial chemicals are found everywhere from plastic toys, car interiors, vinyl flooring, shower curtains to nail polish, hairspray, beauty products and perfumes. Used to make plastic flexible and as lubricants in cosmetics, phthalates comes in many types with common forms such as di-n-butyl phthalate (DPB, commonly found in nail polish) and di)2-ehtylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP, found in perfumes). Most of the time, phthalates hide under the word 'fragrance' in ingredients list.

It's hard to avoid them completely, but reducing exposure to these chemicals is possible. Phthalates are known endocrine disruptors, tipping the hormonal scale to make both males and females more feminine, which can contribute to hormone related medical conditions. It's worth becoming aware of natural brands that are phthalate free such as Dr Hauschka + MV Organic Skincare. If your looking to buy local check out Tailors Skincare  or try your hand at making your own natural beauty products. 

2. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)

SLS (alongside it's cousin sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)) is a surfactant, detergent and emulsifier found in cosmetic products, cleansers, moisturisers, detergents, shower gels, hair shampoos and toothpastes. It is used to remove grease and oil from clothes, skin and other surfaces, as well as being responsible for the foaming action of these products. SLS and SLES can be highly irritating to the skin, contributing to dermatitis, skin irritations and aggravating eczema.

Although SLS is derived from coconuts, it's the possible contamination with a toxic by product during manufacturing that makes this ingredient a riskier concern. This toxic by product, 1,4 dioxane, is carcinogenic to humans. The accumulative effect of long term use of products containing SLS is unknown, as studies to this effect are lacking. Avoiding products that use this chemical will reduce exposure to any potential contaminants. Friendlier products such as New Zealand made Ecostore can be easily located on the supermarket shelf, so you can relax knowing a switch to SLS free products is right there if you want it. 

3. Parabens

AKA preservatives. Parabens are inexpensive chemicals that are used to prevent the growth of fungi, bacteria and other such nasties in order to extend the shelf life of a product. Unfortunately, parabens are a cause of allergic reactions and contact dermatitis. These synthetic substances are also considered xenoestrogens (synthetic oestrogens) that have the ability to mimic the effects of oestrogen within the body. Xenoestrogens are endocrine disruptors that alter our hormonal systems and are implicated in hormone related conditions and some cancers.

We are often cautious about eating synthetic preservatives in our food, but considering that topical application is the express route to the blood stream (food has to pass through the digestive system to get there), it is worth taking a look at products that use natural preservatives such as organic acids, plant extracts, oils and vitamins. Make up in particular is a grey area when it comes to 'natural' products. If your looking to make a switch to makeup that does not use parabens or synthetic preservatives, trying a mineral based range such as Jane Iredale could be for you. 

Going on a rampage and changing the entire bathroom and kitchen product range in one hit may not be entirely practical (or economical). Consider small changes such as switching to a natural brand when the dishwashing liquid runs out. And if your not quite sure which beauty product to begin with, choose the one that spends the most time on your face. We tend to wash off cleansers fairly quickly, while moisturisers are applied and left on our skin to be absorbed. And for those of you who like all-in-one products, Dr Bronners range of liquid soaps can be used to clean just about anything from your body to the kitchen sink. Truely!