Ever wonder which chemicals that the skin absorbs go easily into your bloodstream? Here are eight chemicals which can affect your health positively or negatively.
In this article:
- Formaldehyde and Formaldehyde-Releasing Preservatives
- Ethanolamine Compounds (MEA, DEA, and TEA)
- Benzophenone and Related Compounds
- Aloe Vera
- Coconut Oil’s Medium-Chain Fatty Acids and Vitamin E
- Hyaluronic Acid
- Herb-Infused Oils
Chemicals That May Benefit or Harm Your Health
1. Formaldehyde and Formaldehyde-Releasing Preservatives
Formaldehyde is one of the toxic, colorless, strong-smelling gases added to personal care products. If formaldehyde is not used directly, preservatives that release it are also used in these products.
It has been shown to pose health risks, such as cancer development, skin irritation, burning sensations in the eyes, nose, and throat, coughing, nausea, and wheezing.
You can also find formaldehyde and the preservatives in:
- nail polish
- shampoos and liquid baby soaps
- nail glue
- eyelash glue
- hair gel
- hair-smoothing products
- baby shampoo
- body soap
- body wash
- colored cosmetics
Japan and Sweden have banned the use of formaldehyde in cosmetics and toiletries, and the European Commission has restricted its use in personal care products in the E.U. There are concentration restrictions in Canada but none in the U.S.
Look for and avoid formaldehyde, quaternium-15, dimethyl-dimethyl (DMDM) hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, and 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (bromopol) in any ingredients list.
2. Ethanolamine Compounds (MEA, DEA, and TEA)
Ethanolamines are added to a lot of cosmetics and personal care products and have been linked to liver tumors. The Center for Environmental Health recently found Cocamide DEA in 98 shampoos, soaps, and other personal care products sold by major U.S. retailers.
What is Cocamide DEA? Cocamide diethanolamine is a form of coconut oil that is chemically-modified. Cocamide DEA is often used as a foaming agent but is believed to be a carcinogen.
You can find ethanolamines in:
- hair conditioners and dyes
- shaving creams
- paraffin and waxes
- pharmaceutical ointments
- eyeliners, mascara, eye shadows, blush, foundations, and makeup bases
Ethanolamines are prohibited in cosmetics due to concerns about the formation or chemistry of carcinogenic nitrosamines by the European Commission.
What should you look for and avoid? These toxic chemicals: DEA, TEA, and MEA.
This chemical has been found in as many as 22% of 25,000 cosmetic products, but you won’t see it on any labels!
Companies manufacturing these products do not mark it on ingredient labels because it’s a contaminant created during the process of mixing common ingredients together.
It’s found in products that create suds, shampoo, liquid soap, bubble bath, and hair relaxers, and has been linked to cancer.
Pregnant women, infants, and teenagers are the most vulnerable to this chemical. Canada has already banned the use of cosmetics with this chemical.
To protect yourself from 1,4-dioxane, look for products that have been certified under the USDA National Organic Program and those that contain sodium laureth sulfate, PEG compounds, clauses xynot, ceteareth, and oleth.
4. Benzophenone and Related Compounds
Benzophenone is used in the processes of creating products like moisturizers, foundation, baby sunscreens, lip balm, nail polish, shampoo, and conditioner.
Benzophenone, benzopenone-2, benzophenone-3, benzophenone-4, and benzophenone-5 are a group of harmful chemicals restricted in cosmetics in the U.S., and oxybenzone is restricted in cosmetics at up to 10% concentration in the European Union.
To protect your health, look for and avoid all of the above benzophenones as well as sunscreens that rely on non-nanosized zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
Natural and Safe Chemicals That Benefit the Skin
Although you might hear the word chemical and associate it with poison or a synthetic compound, there are plenty of natural chemicals hanging around our planet that are beneficial and promote healthier skin.
The exact definition of a chemical is “a distinct compound or substance, a special one, which has been artificially prepared or purified.” So, water, table sugar, and citric acid are all natural chemicals!
5. Aloe Vera
While you might not class aloe vera as a chemical, aloe vera gel actually contains various good chemicals, including two hormones: auxin and gibberellins.
These hormones are wonderful skin chemicals that help in wound healing and have a potent anti-inflammatory action.
Aloe vera also contains polyphenols that work to inhibit the growth of bacteria-causing infections and inflammation. Studies have also shown that the compound in aloe improves facial wrinkles and elasticity.
Another skin benefit of aloe vera is it’s a great natural moisturizer primarily because it contains mostly water. Aside from that, a study showed that the polysaccharide-rich composition of the plant contributes to the hydrating effects it gives to the skin.
Polysaccharide Definition: A long chain of monosaccharides (a class of sugar that when hydrolyzed can make simple sugar) that is used by the body for energy or for assistance in structures of cells.
Upon moisturizing the skin, aloe vera extract softens it without clogging the pores. It’s also suitable for an aftershave treatment as it hydrates the skin and aids in healing razor burn.
You can choose organic products which contain aloe vera extracts to get the benefits of the plant if you want to use it on your face, like aloe vera face masks for example.
6. Coconut Oil’s Medium-Chain Fatty Acids and Vitamin E
There are three fatty acid compounds in coconut oil that are beneficial to your skin: lauric acid, capric acid, and caprylic acid.
Lauric acid has antiviral, antibacterial, and antiprotozoal properties. It can be helpful for destroying lipid-coated viruses, such as herpes.
Capric acid is antimicrobial, too. Caprylic acid is antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory, fighting candida, skin infections, and acne.
Medium-chain fatty acids permeate cell membranes easily, and when applied to the skin, they keep it smooth to the touch, retaining the moisture content of the skin.
Taking coconut oil internally also benefits the skin, as the fat deposits under the skin can give it an even tone by reducing the appearance of large pores.
On top of the oil’s fatty acids, it also has vitamin E which is known to be a potent skin-repairing antioxidant, helping reduce the appearance of scars and stretch marks. You can apply the oil on the areas of stretch marks at least twice daily to help them fade away.
The vitamin can aid in keeping the skin supple and moisturized indirectly, too, as it lives in the cell membranes and protects them.
High levels or a high degree of vitamin E in the body contributes to slowing down the signs of skin aging as it neutralizes free radicals caused by many pollutants in the environment.
To benefit from this wonderful oil, look for organic products that contain cold-pressed coconut oil. Ann Marie Gianni uses coconut oil in her Aloe Herb Cleanser.
7. Hyaluronic Acid
Though it sounds like a chemical you wouldn’t want to put on your skin, hyaluronic acid is produced by the body naturally and helps retain collagen, increases moisture, and provides elasticity and flexibility.
In studies, it has been shown to be a key molecule in skin aging, treating wrinkles, improving hydration, and increasing elasticity. It is also beneficial for treating cold sores and providing sunburn relief.
The acid can also help speed up wound healing as it regulates inflammation levels and signals the body to create more blood vessels in affected areas.
A study revealed that applying hyaluronic acid to skin wounds can reduce wound size and can decrease pain quickly.
To benefit from hyaluronic acid’s properties, it requires looking for skincare products fortified with high-quality hyaluronic acid, such as Ann Marie Gianni’s Anti-Aging Serum.
8. Herb-Infused Oils
If you thought aromatic herbs and essential oils were added to skincare products for their scent, you’d be right. But, herbs and essential oils contain extremely complex natural compounds that go wild in your body and on your skin and can heal a variety of skin complaints.
One of the top essential oils for your skin is rose. Rose is especially soothing for dry and aging skin and has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory compounds that can help conditions like psoriasis and dermatitis.
One study even found inhaling rose essential oil inhibited water loss in the skin.
Ashwagandha is not a common herb you might find in your skincare products but quality products like those by Ann Marie Gianni contain it.
Ashwagandha fights the signs of aging, heals wounds, soothes rough and dry skin, and stimulates collagen production.
Another example of herb-infused oil is rosemary oil. A study found out that the oil can help improve skin hydration and elasticity when applied or used regularly as one of the components of your skincare products.
The oil also has antiseptic and antimicrobial properties that may contribute to the elimination of acne and oily skin. It can also aid in removing skin dryness and toning the skin when applied topically or used as a massage oil.
To improve or develop your skin healthily using these natural substances, look for organic herb-infused oils that include cutting-edge superfoods and high-quality essential oils and extracts.
You can also pick good-quality dried herbs if you want the best results or look for high-quality skincare solutions as they can last longer and will not contribute to spoilage.
Another useful tip is to add vitamin E oil or extract on these herb-infused oils to preserve them. The vitamin is not a preservative, but it is an antioxidant that can help prolong the shelf life of the oils.
Knowing which chemicals to avoid and to use will guide you on what skincare products to include in your beauty regimen. Always look for organic and natural ingredients in the products to get the maximum health benefits or skin innovation you deserve.
Which natural chemicals does your skincare products have? What skin benefits did you experience? Tell us in the comments section.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on April 18, 2017, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.