Making the switch to a clean beauty routine

For some of us as long as our beauty routine includes a cleanser, moisturiser and an SPF we’re good to go. Unfortunately, the reality is that many of the products we’re using are causing us, and the environment, more harm than good. This is why many are choosing to switch to clean beauty products.

Making the switch to a clean beauty routine makes sense if you think about it, our skin is our largest organ and up to 60% of the chemicals applied topically on the skin can enter the bloodstream. The toxins we absorb can lead to sensitivities, allergies, cancer and other serious health issues. 

What is clean beauty?

You’ll find lots of different definitions of clean beauty out there, but the simplest explanation is this… clean beauty products use both natural and man-made ingredients but put the focus on safety over source, meaning that the products are non-toxic and considered safe to use. 

Ingredients to avoid

There’s a veritable laundry list of harmful ingredients in the beauty and personal care products we use every day. Therefore, familiarising yourself with ingredients considered to be harmful and the potential negative effects they can have on your health is important. The more knowledge you acquire the easier it becomes to look out for.

This is the first step towards a clean beauty routine. To get you started, here are 8 toxic ingredients you should avoid, along with the health risks associated with them.

1. Parabens

Parabens are preservatives found in everything from soap to lotion to make-up. Parabens stop bacteria from growing so the product has water in it, it probably has a paraben in it. Examples to look out for include: methylparaben, proplyparaben, isopropylparaben, and isobutylparaben – basically if it has ‘paraben’ in the word, avoid it. Parabens are known endocrine disruptors which increase or decrease normal hormone levels leading to imbalances. 

2. Sodium Lauryl Sulphate and Sodium Laureth Sulphate

SLS/SLES are foaming agents used in many personal care products, including skincare, cosmetics, shampoo and toothpaste. They are surfactants that can cause skin irritation or trigger allergies. Additionally, a by-product of the sulphation process are chemical compounds known as nitrosamines - 90% of nitrosamines are believed to be carcinogenic.

3. Phthalates

A phthalate is a plasticiser that is added to plastic to keep it from becoming brittle. Phthalates are used in cosmetics primarily in fragrances but can also be found in other personal care products, such as hair spray and nail polish. Look out for: dibutyl phthalate, dimethyl phthalate and diethyl phthalate. Like parabens, phthalates are endocrine disruptors and can cause hormonal imbalances. Phthalates are not always listed and can be hidden under fragrance.

4. Toluene

Toluene is a chemical commonly found in nail polish and hair dyes. It’s listed as benzene, toluol, phenylmethane, methylbenzene and toluene. It is a volatile petrochemical solvent that can be toxic to the immune system and can cause developmental damage to the foetus in expecting mothers. If you’re pregnant, be especially careful and avoid nail polish containing toluene entirely. Toluene can also affect the respiratory system, irritate the skin and cause nausea.

5. Propylene Glycol

Propylene Glycol (PEG) is used is many types of cosmetics as a thickener, especially in lotions, shampoo and sunscreen. PEG is often contaminated with both ethylene oxide (a known carcinogen) and 1,4-Dioxane (which causes respiratory problems). It’s also known skin irritant and can cause hives and dermatitis.

6. BHA & BHT

Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are synthetic antioxidants used as preservatives in moisturisers and lipsticks. They can lead to allergic reactions in skin and are potential carcinogens and endocrine disruptors.

7. Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is often used as a preservative in cosmetics. Look for ingredients like DMDM hydantoin, Diazolidinyl urea (formaldehyde releasing), Imidazolidinyl urea (formaldehyde releasing), Quaternium-15 (formaldehyde releasing), Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3 diol (Bronopol), Tosylamide (formaldehyde resin). In addition to causing skin and eye irritation as well as allergies, Formaldehyde is believed to be a carcinogen and linked to neurotoxicity and developmental toxicity impacting developing babies and children.

8. Synthetic Fragrance

If you see any products with ‘Fragrance’ listed as an ingredient, beware. Synthetic fragrances are known to cause skin and respiratory irritation, triggering allergies, migraines, and asthma attacks. They also contain potential carcinogens and endocrine disruptors and have been linked to neurotoxicity and birth defects.

Learn about your skin

When making the switch to a clean beauty routine you may have to learn about your skin all over again. Pay attention to how your skin looks and feels, take photos to help check for any differences. Switching to clean beauty products will do your health good but initially may have an impact on your skin depending on what products you have been using. Each brand and product will work differently from one person to the next, so it’s important to be patient in your quest for that wonder product. Ultimately, feeding your skin with the best nutrients and staying away from harmful toxins is the key.



*source: lead Aspire Beauty Co contributor Louise Carne