What Is That? Common Skin Care Ingredients
When you're on a diet, you probably obsess over the foods you eat. You spend time pouring over the ingredients listed on food packaging, making sure that you're checking for artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, and the dreaded trans fats from oils. When it comes to your health, you don't want to do anything half-way. You're all-in, right?!
So why do you not put the same time and energy into your makeup and skin care regimen? Your skin is the largest organ of your body (yes, it's an organ with important functions. . . . .not just a pretty covering to be sun-dyed). It's also one of the most sensitive when it comes to environmental insults. It's your first line of defense, and is often the first to show symptoms when there is a health issue somewhere in the body.
The array of skin care products on the market is dizzying in its extent. When most people are standing at the shelves or beauty counter picking their poison, they typically reach for a brand name that's familiar, or a product they last saw a commercial for. Often, they grab their old security blanket; that one item or product line that they've used for the last 15 years because it's comfortable and familiar.
Learn to be a more savvy shopper when it comes to your skin. Here, we'll go through a few of the most common types of ingredients found in your favorite packages and will tell you why that ingredient should be avoided or worshipped.
Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs): YAY!
While these can sometimes cause mild irritation and sun-sensitivity when first introduced to your skin, they are highly beneficial for you. This family includes glycolic, lactic, tartaric, and citric acids. AHAs can help prevent and reduce the appearance of fine lines, age spots, and irregular pigmentation. They may make you more sensitive to sunlight, so always use a sunscreen in the morning. If you're new to these, apply every other day at first, gradually working up to daily application. YAY!
Parabens are used to protect the cosmetics from the growth of organisms like bacteria and fungi, so they can extend the shelflife of your products. Common parabens include methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben. You'll find them in soooo may of your old favorites, but they have been linked to a bunch of serious health problems. They have been implicated in breast cancer and male reproductive issues and are a known endocrine disruptor. If that weren't enough, they just plain don't help your cause. The Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine found parabens to increase sensitivity to the sun and cause premature aging. YUCK!
Beta-hydroxy acid (salicylic acid): YAY!
Studies are showing that salicylic acid can be less irritating than the AHAs, yet has similar positive effects on skin texture and color. It removes dead skin and can improve the appearance of sun-damaged skin. Since it is able to penetrate oil-laden hair follicle openings, it is helpful for fighting acne. YAY!
Formaldehyde can be useful in preventing bacterial growth. . . .that's why it's commonly used in the embalming process of deceased people! Topically, it's been linked to adverse and allergic reactions and has been proven to decrease your immune system functions. Formaldehyde has also been linked to cancer. Sadly, you're not going to easily spot it in the ingredients list, as companies are sneaky about trying to hide it. Common forms of formaldehyde used include Diazolidinyl urea, 3-diol Imidazolidinyl urea, DMDM Hydantoin, Quarternium-15, Nitorpropane-1, Formalin, Methanol, Methyl Aldehyde, and Methylene Oxide. YUCK!
Hyaluronic Acid (HA): YAY!
Hyaluronic acid is commonly found in the body in places like your skin, and healthy joints, as it helps to lubricate and protect. It can hold 1,000 times its weight in water, so it's an ace for increasing skin's moisture content and preventing water loss. It can also help to protect skin from environmental stressors and is tolerated well by all skin types. YAY!
Foaming Agents: YUCK!
Commonly used to increase the luxurious lather of washes and shampoos, these include sulfates, DEA, and TEA. They're known lung, eye, and skin irritants and have been linked to cancer. Environmentally, they've been shown to cause harm to marine life when washed down the drain. YUCK!
Retinol comes from Vitamin A, which has a molecular structure tiny enough to get into the lower layers of skin, going straight to collagen and elastin. There, it's been proven to provide a whole host of huge benefits, including improving fine lines and wrinkles, skin texture, tone and color, and improve hydration levels. All of that makes it a powerful anti-aging ingredient. Look for Tretinoin, retinol, and retinyl palmitate. YAY!
While we all love things that smell great and put us in a good mood or remind us of the beach, fragrance should be relegated to your favorite candles. "Fragrance" is a term that is vaguely applied to many different things that can include harmful ingredients that cause allergies, reproductive issues, neurotoxicity, and cancer. YUCK!
DMAE (dimethylaminoethanol): YAY!
DMAE is produced naturally in the brain and can be found in anchovies, salmon, and sardines. It does good things for your brain function, but it's also been linked to topical benefits when applied to the skin. It can protect skin cell membranes from free-radical damage. It firms, smooths, and brightens the complexion, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. YAY!
PEG (Polyethylene Glycol) Compounds: YUCK!
Commonly seen as a thickening agent in creams and moisturizers, this chemical is also a known carcinogen that can cause cell mutation (genotoxicity). Big YUCK!