Sulfate-free, silicone-free, no added artificial fragrances – are some of the beauty buzzwords doing the rounds in skincare circles.
Thanks to social media and concerned friends, most of us already know nuggets of information such as SLS in shampoos dries out your hair and can also cause headaches (!), paraben in facewash may irritate your skin and such.
But the answer to the question if chemicals in our skincare products are harmful is not so simple. “It’s a yes and a no. Natural chemicals are not harmful but synthetic or artificial ones are. At the same time Hyaluronic Acid, Glycerine, Apple Cider Vinegar etc have proven very beneficial for our skin,” says celebrity aesthetician and dermatologist Dr Bharti Magoo, Golden Touch Clinic.
Read, re-read the ingredients
Rather than binning your skincare products, the key is to invest time in actually scanning through the ingredient list of your MVPs of your beauty cabinet, including your trusted deodorant… “The deodorants currently available in the markets are loaded with ingredients that are best used as pesticides. Some of the key offenders include Triclosan, Parabens, Phthalates, Aluminium, PEGS/PG/DEA/TEA and Zinc. These are harmful even for adults, which is why it is best to keep children far away from products that contain these ingredients,” says Dipali Mathur Dayal, co-founder of toxin-free brand Super Smelly.
It is also a wise move to only opt for dermatologically-tested products and check how it fares on the EWG website or Indian-government approved Smart Consumer app. Here’s Dr Magoo’s dermatologically-approved list of some of the known-offenders and their proven health hazards.
Siloxanes are found in a lot more products than you probably realise and the products are pretty diverse too – moisturisers, toothpaste, face wash, shampoos, cosmetics products, deodorants. It can cause endocrine problems, headache, blood pressure etc.
PEGs (polyethylene glycols) are petroleum-based compounds that are widely used in shaving products, skincare products, makeup, skin cleansing products, shampoo, hair conditioners and deodorants. This may cause brain damage, allergic reactions, burning eyes etc.
Ethanolamines are colourless ammonia compounds used in some hair dyes and colours as well as face wash, wet wipes, body wash, shampoos etc. It increases the growth of tumours, breast cancer etc.
Parabens are preservatives known to disrupt hormone function, an effect that is linked to increased risk of breast cancer and reproductive toxicity. It can cause many chemicals to enter the body that should not be there, causing further problems on the inside and not doing great things to the skin such as allergic reactions, premature ageing, pigmentation etc.
Phthalates can be found in fragrances, hair products, skin lotions, nail polish and nail hardeners. They have been found to have endocrine disruption effects, linked with endometriosis, reduced fertility in males as well as obesity.
Why au naturel?
While the immediate side effects of using beauty chemicals are serious, experts maintain that it takes only 26 seconds for them to get absorbed into your bloodstream. Many of the chemicals are touted to be endocrine disruptors, carcinogens and neurotoxins that can cause ailments such as eczema and even cancer.
However, there is more to the aforementioned absorption theory that is very popular among beauty circles. For starters, some products are DESIGNED to penetrate your skin better for best results.
“The ease at which substances are absorbed into our skin depends on a number of factors, including the structure and size of the chemical applied to the skin. While a lot of chemicals are simply too big to be absorbed by the skin, others are just small enough. Some are even designed to penetrate the skin quickly and easily, like nanoparticles and penetration enhancers found in many lotions and sunscreens. Absorption of chemicals mainly depends on the different types of chemicals and skin,” says Dr Magoo.
If you were expecting miraculous, flawless skin after the first application, you may have to take a seat. Even though genuine organic and green products have great effects and are less harmful, they take time to show results. So, consult your dermatologist or cosmetologist before going green.
At the same time, not all products that claim to be toxin-free are quite as they sound. So, you may still have to do a patch test before using a product as per usual and not fall for labelling gimmicks.
One of the most common ploys is the ‘chemical-free’ tag on a few condiments in the beauty aisle. In reality, there is NO such thing as chemical-free. "Water is a chemical, humans are made of chemicals and most around us are chemicals. It is incorrect to look for products without chemicals because that is not possible. What one has to look for are products WITHOUT harmful chemicals such as Triclosan, synthetic colours and fragrances etc," says Dipali.
Organic skincare is all being smart, not scared!