When you use non-organic skincare products, you invite harmful chemicals into your body, which accumulate over time and can have negative effects - not just locally, but throughout your entire body. But what are these detrimental effects, and how do you change that cycle for the better, opting for a healthier skincare regimen?
A blog post medically edited by Dr. Jen Haley, Board Certified Dermatologist.
Our skin acts as a veil (barrier) between us and our environment, and can absorb up to 70% of what we apply to it. That’s rather a scary thought when you consider how little we know about the chemicals used in the products we slather onto ourselves and our family members every day. These are some of the top long-term risks of using non-organic skincare products, and the chemicals (often disguised and unpronounceable) to look out for on the ingredients list that create a risk.
Skin allergies flare up
Non-organic skincare products may contain a chemical called parabens, which include ethyl-paraben, butyl-paraben, and isopropyl-paraben. They’re an inexpensive and common preservative used to prolong the shelf life of many skincare products. They also prevent the product from harboring harmful bacteria.
So, how do they cause damage? Parabens irritate the skin and can cause various allergic reactions like blotches and blemishes.
It seems counterintuitive to use non-organic products containing parabens at all, particularly for children and those with sensitive skins, because they can cause the problems you’re trying to combat in the first place.
Take note of ingredient names that end with “-paraben”, or start with “methyl-” or “ethyl-”.
Hormonal imbalances and infertility can occur
The chemicals triclosan and parabens are used often in non-organic skincare products, and have been linked to disruptions in the critical hormone balance in the body. Their chemical structure mimics the hormone estrogen.
Too much of the wrong estrogen in the body has many adverse effects and can potentially lead to skin and breast cancer. And research shows that the long-term effect of this on men, who use products containing parabens, may have lower sperm and stubborn belly fat.
Triclosan is used as an antimicrobial agent in personal care products. “It can act as an endocrine disruptor and disturb thyroid, testosterone and estrogen regulation, leading to issues like early puberty, poor sperm quality, infertility, obesity, and cancer,” says Dr Rachna Jagia, senior consultant dermatologist at Venkateshwar Hospital in New Delhi.
Watch out for: Triclosan (TSC) and Triclocarban (TCC).
Any skincare product that contains bleaching agents to lighten skin, or those used to darken skin – as in self-tanners and bronzers – can cause skin discoloration in the long run.
One of the most popular ingredients used in the treatment of skin discoloration is hydroquinone.
Hydroquinone acts as a skin-lightening agent and can be helpful in treating those that suffer with hyperpigmentation. It works by decreasing (i.e. killing) the number of melanocytes present. These are the cells that form melanin, which is what produces the skin’s color. Reducing melanin can cause a temporary whitening of the skin because of the lack of pigment cells.
Over time, however, the chemical can make the skin thin and fragile through its forced alteration. For those with hyperpigmentation, they may receive a prescription from a medical advisor, who will monitor the skin. Over the long term it can lead to patches, pigmentation, uneven skin tone, redness, and premature ageing.
Watch out for: Hydroquinone or tocopheryl acetate.
Research has proven that many of the chemicals in non-organic skincare products have carcinogenic effects. Parabens have been found in breast tumors; however, there has been no conclusive evidence that the parabens caused the tumors.
Even so, if we have the option to use organic skincare products that do not contain these chemicals, should we not look at the alternatives and avoid the risk as much as possible?
Another cancer-causing chemical found in many personal care products, such as hair dye, nail products, hair straighteners, false eyelash adhesives, cosmetic glues, and some shampoos, is formaldehyde.
Formaldehyde is one of the ingredients used as a preservative across various beauty products, because it is cost effective. With so much evidence that has been building up against it however, even large brands such as Johnson & Johnson have decided to stop using it in their products.
Watch out for: methylene glycol, formic aldehyde, and methyl aldehyde.
Why take the risk?
As with many of the non-organic skincare ingredients in use, there is much debate about the potential risk that they carry, and there is still a lot more research that is needed before we will see some of these being eradicated from our skincare products. However, when we have a choice over what we put in our bodies and on our skin, why take any risks?
If you want to avoid the harsh chemicals, then choose organic and natural skincare products. They’re kind to your skin and health in the long-run, and help save our environment.