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Thursday, May 19, 2016


The skin is the largest organ of the body. It has several functions, the most important being to form a physical barrier to the environment, allowing and limiting the inward and outward passage of water, electrolytes and various substances while providing protection against micro-organisms, ultraviolet radiation and toxic agents.
However, the skins porous nature means what you put on it can penetrate through the superficial layer of the skin, which in turn can affect your health and sense of well-being; negatively or positively.
This article will focus on twelve key ingredients found in skincare and/or make-up products that can have a negative impact your health and sense of well being, and that should be avoided.

Phthalates (also called Phthalic acid esters) are multifunctional chemicals. There have been concerns over phthalates exposure to the body due to their detection in blood, amniotic fluid and human breast milk across many countries .

Parabens are a family of synthetic esters of p hydroxybenzoic acid that share similar molecular structures and are widely used as preservatives. Paraben compounds; the most common being methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben have been found to affect
oestrogen levels, potentially impacting female reproductive health.

Triclosan is a wide spectrum antimicrobial agent. It is believed that Triclosan can penetrate through skin and is a suspected endocrine disruptor, that is, that it affects hormone function.

Studies on skin irritation of surfactants show that irritation is dependent on the structure of the sulphate. SLS is an anionic detergent which tend to be more irritating to the skin and eyes in comparison to amphoteric and non-ionic detergents .
Their ability to remove stratum corneum lipids means they penetrate the skin deeper into the viable layers and cause immune reactions .In addition, they are also known to elicit skin reactions such as irritant contact dermatitis or may cause inflammation.

Polyethylene Glycols are petroleum based ingredients and are often used in creams in
particular, as a moisturising agent. They have a penetration enhancing effect which is
important to remember for several reasons:
Firstly, PEGs make it easier for other undesirable ingredients in your skincare products to penetrate deep into your skin.
Secondly, PEGs have the potential to disrupt the
skins natural moisture balance, thus altering the surface tension of the skin.
And thirdly, PEGs often come contaminated with toxic impurities. Examples of these impurities are Ethylene Oxide and 1,4-Dioxane. Studies have shown exposure to high concentrations of 1,4-Dioxane may cause eye, skin, and respiratory irritation, nervous system effects, and liver and kidney toxicity.

Imidazolidinyl Urea is often found in water-based cosmetics. It serves as a preservative or additive in these types of products and after application often remains on the skin for hours, allowing sufficient time to be absorbed by the skins dermal cells.
Its Formaldehyde releasing ability makes it known to be a potential allergen and toxicant in humans. Formaldehyde in cosmetics is widely understood to cause allergic skin reactions and rashes in some people .
Other formaldehyde releasing chemicals to look out for are DMDM Hydantoin, Diazolidinyl Urea, Methenamine, and Quarternium-15.

Triethanolamine (TEA) is primarily used as a pH adjuster and it also has several other purposes in cosmetic and personal care products, for example a surfactant, buffering and masking agent. Triethanolamine (TEA) is an amine produced by reacting Ethylene Oxide (considered highly toxic) with ammonia (another known toxin). These compounds break down over time and recombine to form nitrosamines which can be a carcinogenic and toxic.
It has been determined by CIR (Cosmetic Ingredient Review Assessments) as a skin toxicant and “safe for use in cosmetics and personal care products
designed for discontinuous, brief use followed by thorough rinsing from the surface of the skin. In products intended for prolonged contact with the skin, the concentration of Triethanolamine should not exceed 5%.”

Sunscreen Chemicals such as Benzophenone-3, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate (EHMC) and Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane, (BMDBM) have more recently been utilised in cosmetic and personal care products to protect the consumers against adverse effects of solar radiation.
However, some UV filters can have side effects with potential health risks to the consumer.
Laboratory studies of several sunscreen chemicals indicate that they may mimic hormones and disrupt the hormone system.
Mineral sunscreens such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are usually better in terms of safety, however it is important the forms used are coated with inert chemicals as to reduce photoactivity otherwise user could potentially suffer damage to skin.

Synthetic Colourants are often incorporated in cosmetics and hair dyes to make them look “pretty”. However, the FD&C colours used in these product types are derived from coal tar (a by-product of petroleum) which stimulate allergic reactions.

Synthetic fragrances are used in some cosmetic products and primarily personal care products. However, they are not required to be declared in the ingredients list other than indicated under ‘parfum’, therefore it is impossible to know which fragrance substances are in the cosmetic products we purchase. This has raised some concerns as there have been some reported side-effects of these substances related to skin sensitivity, rashes, dermatitis, coughing, asthma attacks, migraine, etc

Polyacrylamides are used in colour cosmetics, skincare lotions and moisturisers as a stabilising and binding agents or foaming, anti-static, and lubricating agents. Though the ingredient itself is not a concern it is its potential to breakdown into acrylamide, which is a suspected carcinogenic.
This has been supported by human studies who have found associations between acrylamide exposure and pancreatic cancer among men, exposed in the workplace. Moreover, studies have shown that acrylamide may reduce fetal weight at doses in the low parts per million ranges.

Hydroquinone is used primarily in skincare products for its strong affect as a whitening agent. This ingredient has been related to several health concerns; cancer and organ-system toxicity. Studies which support these concerns have shown Hydroquinone works by decreasing the production and increasing the degradation of melanin pigments in the skin. This increases the skin’s exposure to UVA and UVB rays, increasing the risk of skin cancer. Also, Hydroquinone has been linked to a skin condition called Ochronosis in which the skin thickens and turns bluish-grey.

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