It only seems appropriate that we write this today, as 100s of 1000s of young students and scholars from around the world stay out of class for the day to join Gretha Thunberg’s #ClimateStrike. Our children have said ‘enough is enough’ and they are taking the stand to protect their own future, because we simply are not doing enough.

We can start…. by making better decisions each and every day.

We all do it,  we get up in the morning, groggy eyed and still stretching as we splash our faces then proceed to apply a conveyor belt of products from cleansers to serums and day creams, not to mention the make up to follow.

But do we really know what it is we are putting on our skins? Are we being so seduced by the luxurious scents and satin feel on our skin that we stop paying attention to exactly what it is we apply to our delicate skin twice a day, and the environmental impact of our regimes ?

Being informed will simply allow you to make more intelligent and conscious choices for yourself, your family, and the planet as a whole.

You might lose a couple of seconds of your life while looking for detrimental chemicals on product labels, but is that any match for the healthier years you’ll add to your life, the illnesses you’ll avoid, and the example you will be in support of a more sustainable world?

Let’s have a look at some of the harmful ingredients you may come across and a healthier alternative you could replace them with.

“skin absorbs up to 60% of the chemicals in products. They then come into direct contact with the bloodstream. What we put on our skin should be as clean as what we eat, but most people are unaware of the situation.” – BlackPaint.SG

Parabens: (METHYLPARABEN, ISOBUTYLPARABEN AND PROPYLPARABEN)

Parabens are widely used preservatives in cosmetic and pharmaceutical products. Chemically, they are a series of parahydroxybenzoates or esters of parahydroxybenzoic acid, fancy words that do a fair share of harm when used regularly on your skin. Studies have shown that some parabens can mimic the activity of the hormone estrogen in the body’s cells, and while estrogenic activity is associated with certain forms of breast cancer, parabens have been found present in breast tumors. Not sure about you, but that’s enough of a risk for me to think twice about applying anything with unmentionable chemical names on my skin. Alternatives to parabens are probably phenoxyethanol, sodium benzoate, benzoic acid and benzyl alcohol. – just as unpronounceable but a friendlier bunch!

Artificial Fragrance/Parfum Fragrances (or perfume) are in nearly 50% of all cosmetic products, it really is what draws us to them, don’t we all open the body lotion and smell before we buy?

Cosmetic companies don’t have to legally disclose which chemicals are in their fragrance – on the label this could be called fragrance, perfume, parfum, or aroma. You may also notice some label their aromas as “natural”. However, not all “natural” scents are completely natural. In fact, most scents are made from chemicals derived from petroleum or coal which irritate the nose and the skin. Some can even cause allergic reactions dizziness, vomiting, coughing and hyperpigmentation in some people. Products that are labeled as unscented products may contain fragrances with masking agents that prevents the brain from perceiving odour. Masking agents are often phthalates which are known endocrine disruptors.

Best Alternatives: fragrance-free or unscented products and high-quality essential oils

Aluminum
Aluminum is a common ingredient in deodorant and mostly antiperspirant. It is often linked to Alzheimer’s and brain disorders and is a possible risk factor in breast cancer. Really does sound like the last thing you would expect to find in any of your beauty products. Ditch the traditional antiperspirants and opt for the many natural alternatives on the market, or if all else fails.. go natural… what BO could possibly be worse than an endocrine disrupting neurotoxin?

DEA/TEA/MEA 
These are abbreviations for diethanolamine, triethanolamine and monoethanolamine, all of which are ethanolamines — ammonia-based compounds used as emulsifiers and foaming agents in cosmetics, shampoos, soaps, body washes, shaving creams, fragrances and sunscreen.

DEA and its compounds cause mild to moderate skin and eye irritation. The European Union classifies DEA as harmful on the basis of danger of serious damage to health from prolonged exposure.

OXYBENZONE
We all know that we need to look after our skin especially those of us living south of the equator, but could the sunscreen we apply also be harming us? Oxybenzone is one of the highest-risk chemicals found in sunscreen. Sunscreens contain oxybenzone to absorb UV light. It acts like estrogen in the body, alters sperm production in animals and is associated with endometriosis in women. It has been shown to penetrate the skin and cause photo-sensitivity. As a photocarcinogen, it’s demonstrated an increase in the production of harmful free radicals and an ability to attack DNA cells; for this reason, it is believed to be a contributing factor in the recent rise of melanoma cases with sunscreen users.

Mineral Oil (Most harmful when poorly refined) 
Found in many products such as baby oil, body lotions, soap and makeup. Mineral oil is a petroleum by-product which cloggs the pores and interferes with the skin’s ability to eliminate toxins, promoting acne and other disorders. Slows down skin function and cell development, resulting in premature ageing. The U.S. Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances classifies mineral oil as both carcinogenic and tumorigenic. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) In products that foam such as shampoo, cleansers, bubble bath. SLES can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which may cause cancer. SLS may damage liver. Irritates skin, eyes and respiratory tract. Harmful to fish and other wildlife.

It is not all ‘doom and gloom’ for your beauty regime. There are so many natural, sustainable alternatives for each of your product requirements on the market. Some may be just as effective as their chemical counterparts and others may take a little longer to show results, but in our opinion waiting a little longer to get your ‘natural glow’ and doing no harm in the process is a no brainer.

We would like to be around in 50 years time, happy, healthy and ‘glowing’ with pride for making the right decisions for our planet and each other.