As the saying goes, “We are what we eat”. But are we also what we put on our skin? There are many differing reports on whether those with celiac disease need to avoid skincare products with gluten. Some say all gluten products should be avoided and others think that only products that can be ingested, such as toothpaste, mouthwash, and lipstick should not be used. Besides the risk of gluten, there are many chemicals in most of our beauty products, which are loosely regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. As we are becoming more aware of the chemicals and preservatives found in our food, should we be worried about what we are using as beauty products, especially for those of us with digestive and other health problems?
As with the gluten question, there are different opinions on whether the chemicals in our beauty products should be of concern. One side claims that the skin is a protective layer that does not allow the absorption of chemicals and/or that each small application of makeup or skincare will not cause any damage. Although there are some products that may not be absorbed, products like moisturizer and sun lotion do get absorbed and enter our circulation. Once it is in our bloodstream, it’s in and may affect our body. Then think of the fragrances, wheat, and other allergens in our products, the chemicals in toothpaste that you accidentally swallow as you brush your teeth, in shampoo that gets into your eyes as you shower, in the hand moisturizer you slather on multiple times of day, and in the hair spray and deodorants you inhale.
There is no definitive proof that these chemicals cause damage, however, there are numerous scientific articles and studies demonstrating risks associated with some of the chemicals and there is the added potential danger of what can happen when chemicals are mixed together in our beauty products.
Some common chemicals used in beauty products and associated risks are:
Parabens: Used as a preservative in cosmetics, facial and body cleansers, shampoo, and deodorants to prevent the growth of mold, bacteria, and yeast. They can be absorbed through our skin into our blood and digestive systems and have been shown to be an endocrine-disrupting chemical, cause allergic and skin reactions, and linked to cancer.
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS): Used as a detergent in shampoos, face and body cleansers, toothpaste, etc. It is originally from coconut but is made through an ethoxylation process, which results in the introduction of the carcinogen, 1, 4 dioxane. The Center for Disease Control states on its website that 1,4 dioxane is “probably carcinogenic to humans”. Additionally, SLS may be able to interact with other chemicals to form another carcinogen, nitrosamine.
Formaldehyde: This is a chemical I used as a biology graduate student. While doing so, I was required to wear gloves and goggles, and handle open containers of it only in a fume hood to prevent contact and inhalation. It is toxic and has been linked to cancer and allergic skin reactions. So you might be surprised to know that it is often used as an additive to makeup, shampoo, and cleansers to prevent the growth of bacteria.
Even without definitive proof that these chemicals may affect my health, I have decided to try and limit my exposure to them. I have been slowly learning to make my own beauty products with all natural ingredients that I buy at the grocery and natural stores. If that is not an option for you, you can buy them online through sites like Amazon. In addition to not using chemicals, they are fun to make, it cuts down on the plastic waste from buying beauty products, and they are cheaper.
Below are some products I use and websites I recommend:
Toothpaste: Mix 2 tbsp of coconut oil, 1 tbsp of baking soda, and 20 drops of peppermint essential oil in a glass container (I use a small mason jar). It took a couple of days to get used to the baking soda, but now I love it and my teeth are whiter. Recipe from Trash Is For Tossers. This page also includes recipes for makeup remover, hand body scrub, exfoliating mask, and lip scrub.
Face oil: I swapped this for my face moisturizer. Fill a colored glass bottle 3/4 up with the sweet almond oil, fill the rest of the bottle with the rosehip oil, and then add a couple drops of lavender essential oil. It feels luxurious and I think it is helping the fine lines around my eyes. Time will tell…
Shampoo and conditioner: I use a bar of soap to wash my hair and apple cider vinegar as a conditioner. Mix 1 tbsp of vinegar, 1 cup of water, and 10-20 drops of tea tree essential oil in a squirt bottle. My normally dry hair actually feels soft. Recipe from DIY Natural.
Body Moisturizer: Watch the Trash Is For Tossers video for directions on how to make it. Ingredients are ¼ cup coconut oil, ¼ cup of shea butter, ¼ cup of cocoa butter, ¼ cup of sweet almond oil, and a couple of drops of preferred essential oil, such as lavender oil.
Deodorant: This is a deodorant, not an antiperspirant. Watch the Trash Is For Tossers video for directions on how to make it. Ingredients are 2 tbsp of arrowroot powder, 1 tbsp of baking soda, 1 tbsp of coconut oil, and 1 tbsp of shea butter, and 5-10 drops of lemongrass essential oil.
Other Websites & Guides:
- Live Simply – She has many different recipes for lotions, shampoos, exfoliators, and more.
- Treading My Own Path – She gives tips on products for hair, body, and skin
- Hello Glow – The website has a whole section on natural beauty
- A guide to essential oils
- A guide to carrier oils
Photo taken by kerdkanno on Pixabay