The skin is the largest organ in our body. It functions as our first line of defence against toxins, radiation and harmful pollutants, and it supports all our other bodily systems through the regulation of body temperature and the maintenance of our immune system. Therefore, it makes a lot of sense to be extremely mindful of what we are putting on our skin, and to understand what to avoid.

Up to 60% of what we put on our skin gets absorbed. That means that the products we put onto our bodies affects our health and overall wellbeing, either negatively or positively.

Because the FDA does not regulate skincare, almost any ingredient can be incorporated in formula as a filler ingredient or an active, with some of them being potentially dangerous to your health.

Many of the ingredients found in traditional skincare products such as face washes, lotions and sunscreen have now been linked to health issues such as allergies, eczema, cancer, hormonal disruption, and reproductive problems. So yes, your skincare body products CAN make you sick!

Synthetic substances and chemical compounds are now so commonly included in our food and our beauty products that it is not uncommon for us to expose the body to potentially toxic ingredients without realising. When talking about skincare, the largest issue is the distinction between a product that claims to be “organic” or “natural” and a product that doesn’t harm the skin.

There’s a long list of nasties to look out for, so let’s start with the most obvious:

Fragrance/Parfum- A simple word with a very harmful meaning, fragrance refers to chemically engineered scents designed to imitate the scent of natural ingredients. Fragrance may be a hormone disruptor and can contain harsh allergens. The chemical ingredients used to create fragrance are not required to be listed individually, so you can never be truly sure what you are actually being exposed to when you see these terms.

Parabens- Harmful additives that mimic oestrogen. Research is currently being conducted into the potential link between breast tumours, breast cancer, and damage to breast tissue. Most commonly used in skincare- Methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and ethylparaben. Parabens are not always labelled, and are found in every day products such as moisturizers and deodorants.

Phenylphenol- A preservative found in facial cleansers proven to be a carcinogen.

BHT- A preservative used to mask unpleasant odours, BHT is a proven endocrine disruptor which may cause serious organ damage when used long term.

Sulfates (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate)- Foaming agents that can cause skin irritation, inflammation, and may result in eye damage.

Polyethylene- A foaming agent that is a strong skin irritant and carcinogen.

Phenolxyethanol- An antimicrobial found in sprays that may cause dehydration, nausea, and decreased nervous system function. It is strongly recommended that this product not be used on children.

Benzalkonium Chloride- A preservative found in moisturizers, a proven carcinogen and highly cell mutagenic.

Aluminium (chloride or chlorhydrate)- known to imitate oestrogen, cause hormonal imbalances, and may cause breast cancer. Aluminium is a metal that can behave like oestrogen in our bodies, disrupting the healthy functioning of the endocrine system. Unfortunately, you’ll find that aluminium is found in almost every personal care product, especially antiperspirant deodorants. Always choose an aluminium-free alternative where you can.

Triclosan – A synthetic antibacterial agent that may disrupt thyroid function and can degrade into a form of dioxin, a class of chemicals linked to a broad range of toxicities including cancer.

Usually found in soaps, mouthwash, shaving cream, deodorants, toothpastes, etc.

Octinoxate- A chemical UVA protector that is a proven carcinogen, endocrine disrupter, and skin irritant.

Benzophenone- A chemical scent adjuster, proven endocrine disrupter, benzophenone can cause serious kidney issues.

DEA (diethanolamine), MEA (Monoethanolamine), and TEA (triethanolamine)

Clear, colourless, viscous liquids with ammonia-like odours.

This trio is usually found in products that foam, such as facial cleansers and soaps. They are also found in eye makeup, fragrances, hair products, and sunscreens.

DMDM hydantoin (Imidazolidinyl)

An antimicrobial agent and preservative in cosmetic and personal care products, DMDM hydantoin may cause joint pain, skin allergies, headaches, and insomnia. It is commonly found in skincare products, cosmetics, shampoos and conditioners, and detergents.

Mineral Oil – A petroleum by-product that coats the skin like plastic, mineral oil clogs the skin’s pores disrupting the skin’s ability to eliminate toxins. Mineral oil is commonly found in creams, lotions, ointments and cosmetics, and may cause or exacerbate acne and other skin issues caused by congestion.

Siloxanes – Look for ingredients ending in “-siloxane” or “-methicone.” Used in a variety of cosmetics to soften, smooth and moisten. Suspected endocrine disruptors and reproductive toxicant (cyclotetrasiloxane). Harmful to fish and other wildlife.

My Skin Whisperer team and I are often overwhelmed by the amount of people who tell us that they have sensitive skin. We’ve observed a pretty strong link between using conventional skin care and long-term skin sensitivity.

The truth is, so many of the products you buy are filled with toxic chemicals that may make your skin feel good when you first start using them, but in actual fact damage your skin with long term use. That’s why it’s so important to understand and know what you are putting on your skin, and to get advice from the experts. Our team are available for consultations in person at our Parkes and Orange clinics, or online for our clients across Australia.