Reading the ingredient list on the back of your skincare regimen is usually a jumbled mouthful of words ending in “-ine” and “-oxide” and “-ol”—none of which ring any bells for the average person.
When deciding which ingredients you should steer clear of, start by eliminating anything you can’t pronounce. If you can’t read through the ingredient list without Googling the pronunciation of a word, it means it's probably unnatural, your skin will perceive it as a threat and you will prolong any undesirable condition you were hoping to get rid of.
So, what ingredients are considered a no-go?
1. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (read: detergent): The same stuff you use to dissolve food residue from your dinner plate is what goes into the cleansers derived from harsh petrochemicals. Sodium lauryl sulfate is a strong detergent that works to take makeup off of your skin at the end of the day. While it's certainly effective for this purpose, it's simultaneously stripping your skin of all the wonderful, natural oils it needs to heal, protect and preserve itself.
These cleansers often feel like the right thing because they leave your skin feeling squeaky clean, but that’s precisely the problem. Skin shouldn’t be squeaky. Healthy, balanced skin is smooth and supple. Happy skin is silky soft.
2. Alcohol(read: preservative):When a product you’re using on your face includes alcohol, it is likely purposed as an astringent in a toner or moisturizer. The irony is that alcohol does exactly the opposite of what these products should do.
Think about the last time you overindulged during cocktail hour… you were probably left feeling tired, stressed and lackluster because the alcohol you consumed dehydrated you to the point of exhaustion. The same thing happens when you use alcohols (or any ingredient ending in “-ol” or “-al”) on your face. Drying out your skin prompts it to defend itself, overproducing oil and leaving you in a nasty cycle of unbalance.
3. Coconut Oil (read: pore clogger):Coconut oil doesn’t need to be demonized in all applications. It’s a nutritious option to cook with and awesome for your hair. Unfortunately, when applied to your face, coconut oil can be suffocating. It is simply too large a molecule to fit through your skin, so when applied to your face, it acts much like a wax, making it difficult for the skin to breathe and expel toxins as it wants to throughout the day.
4. Mineral Oil/Glycerin(read: junk food for skin):While white bread might make for a delicious PB&J sandwich, most of us can agree that it’s not exactly a health food. The same idea applies to mineral oil and glycerin. These ingredients are cheap, easy to work with and make for a malleable base for many commonplace skincare products. The problem with them is they are perceived as a threat by your skin.
Many skincare companies boast that mineral oil helps to retain natural moisture and replenish parched skin, when in fact it does just the opposite. It's derived from heavy petroleum and sits on top of your skin without the chance for absorption. At this stage, big cosmetic companies will conveniently introduce a toner or scrub that's meant to cut through the greasy feeling, sending your skin back into defense mode and starting the cycle all over again.
Glycerin, often promoted as a natural ingredient, is usually sold to consumers as a humectant, or something that helps retain water. The problem is that while the substance doesretain water, it’s not very good at sharing. Glycerin hoards the moisture for itself, all the while drawing dirt and dust into your pores. It forms a thick layer on your skin, preventing toxins from escaping throughout the day and making it more and more difficult for your skin to breathe comfortably.
Here’s a tip: if the air has less than 65% humidity, (most places in most seasons), the glycerin molecules will begin to pull moisture from the lower layers of your skin, essentially drying your face from the inside out.
5. Acids/Peels(read: skin thinner):Everyone loves to exfoliate! And we can’t blame them, exfoliation is a wonderful way to say a gentle goodbye to skin cells that are no longer alive and thriving. The key word there is gentle.Traditional exfoliation methods are anything but. Using crushed up nut shells, microscopic beads or abrasive acids will cause your skin to protect itself by thickening, ultimately requiring even more exfoliation. Over time, this process will cause fine lines and wrinkles to become more pronounced.
Luckily, there are plenty of natural exfoliation methods, like a unique enzyme found in papaya skins, that are just as effective and far less aggressive. The right way to exfoliate is to softly break down dead surface cells so that you can rinse them away without scrubbing.
6. Phenoxyethanol(read: poison):As the general public begins to become more aware of the toxicity of preservatives, cosmetics manufacturers have switched over to an ingredient called phenoxyethanol, which is a combination of benzene and eythlene oxide. Both carcinogens and both poison to your skin.
In fact, if you put phenoxyethanol directly on your skin, it will burn you. You can imagine what this does when it’s a part of your daily self care routine. Hives, rashes, breakouts and even problems with your central nervous system. Yikes.
Of course it’s tempting to reach for the bottle of cleanser that's going to last in your medicine cabinet for two years, but you have to wonder, is the convenience worth the price your skin will pay? Up to you, but it’s worth noting there are tons of healthy, raw products on the market that will serve you well both short and long term, without breaking the bank.
7. Salicylic Acid(read: dehydrator): Commonly used as a wart remover, salicylic acid is made by fermenting glucose in Chinese factories. It is extremely harsh and belongs to a family of chemicals called salicylates. In many cases, these chemicals cause respiratory issues, congestion, itching skin, stomach pain and severe headaches.
Salicylic acid is also extremely harmful to those who are in the sun for long periods of time. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has reported that using topical products with BHA’s or salicylic acid may lead to heightened sensitivity to the suns ultraviolet rays. This can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer.
8. Glycolic Acid(read: weakening preservative): Many dermatologists used to recommend glycolic acid for those with acne as it is able to penetrate the skin cells deeply. The problem is that this acid is made from formaldehyde. Glycolic acid works by breaking down the cellular bonds in order to achieve a deeper result, but the improvement is only temporary as it causes the skin to swell and create a smooth appearance that fades as soon as the acid wears off.
Think of it like a bee sting: the few hours after you are stung, you are likely to notice a difference in the skin around the injury. Similarly, glycolic acid will cause your skin to swell for a brief period of time before it returns to its usual state, only it has been dehydrated and stressed out, which often causes more blemishes to arise.
Often, you will hear that glycolic acid is safe because it is found in lactic acid, comes from the bark or a willow tree or is found in citrus. What you don’t hear as often is that it is also used in the leather industry, as it is wonderful for tanning and breaking down cow hides due to its unrelenting strength.
Let’s all take a deep breath together. (ahhhh).
It may seem like we’ve just wiped out all of your skincare options and challenged all the ingredients you once held dear to your heart. But trust me, there are so many options out there with fresh, natural ingredients that your skin will welcome happily!
The simple truth of the matter is that skincare can be just as effective without using toxins and poisons. Your skin will respond gently, and will continue to improve over time, creating bright, balanced, happy skin that lasts and has a much better defense mechanism against internal and external stressors. The trick to detoxing your own personal stash is to get up close and personal with the ingredient list. Look for oils, saponified or not, enzymes, seeds, roots and natural extracts. That's the good stuff.
If you’re looking for a safe place to start your natural approach to skincare, our sample kit is a wonderful option!