The Skinny on Your Skin Care Products

In anticipation of our annual skin care event: Love Your Skin Inside and Out on April 14th (sign up here), we want to remind you why natural skin care is important for both your skin and overall health. Most of us assume that the government is carefully scrutinizing the safety of the ingredients in the skin care products that we use daily. However, neither finished products nor ingredients are subject to FDA approval, with the exception of color additives. The FDA does not even have the ability to make a recall of a cosmetic product. Cosmetic firms are responsible for substantiating the safety of their products and ingredients before marketing. Manufacturers are required to provide a list of ingredients, but that list sometimes hides questionable ingredients under blanket terms like “fragrance”.

The skin is the largest organ in the body and is a two-way membrane. This deserves emphasis because whatever you put on your skin gets into your body—roughly 70% of it. Toxins are eliminated through the skin via perspiration and absorbed through the skin into the body’s systemic circulation through hair follicles and sebaceous glands. One square inch of skin contains 65 hairs, 100 sebaceous glands and 650 sweat glands, providing a large area for absorption. Every day the average person uses 10 or more products on their bodies including shampoo, facial care, toothpaste, soap, deodorant, hair conditioners, lip balm, sunscreen, body lotion, shaving products, and make up. The chemicals in these products may seem negligible if you look at individual products, but they do add up. Any substance not normally found in the body must be processed as a toxin by the liver. Chemicals absorbed through the skin can reach the liver in just 4 minutes.

There is growing concern over the long-term health effects of the synthetic chemicals being used in cosmetic products. President Obama recently banned microbeads, small plastic beads used for exfoliation, from skin care products. Strangely, it’s possible you have been exfoliating with plastic! A woman was recently awarded a $72 million settlement from Johnson & Johnson for putting talc in their baby powder, which she used extensively and believes caused her ovarian cancer. There are over 1000 other cases pending regarding the same issue. Yes, that’s the company we trusted to make our baby products! Parabens (which are used as preservatives) and phthalates (which are used to add texture and luster) have been identified in over 100 studies to disrupt both male and female hormone functions. To make things even more difficult for consumers, the current labeling laws contain a “trade secret” loophole that allows the use of generic terms such as “fragrance” rather than identifying actual ingredients. Many synthetic fragrances contain phthalates. There is concern over the impact of these chemicals related to their negative effect on our reproductive systems, as well as their impact on wildlife, rivers and streams. These chemicals are being washed off our bodies and flushed down our toilets.

At Walsh Natural Health, we examine each ingredient in all of the skin care products we carry. The European brands such as Dr. Hauschka and Weleda Skin Care conform to higher standards. There are only 9 ingredients banned from personal care products in the U.S., but over 40 are banned in Europe. Dr. Hauschka Skin Care products are certified by Natrue (, a European skin care certifier with strict standards. In the last several years more and more U.S. brands are also being developed that have safe ingredients.

Check the ingredients in the products you use.  An excellent reference is the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database deep, a not-for-profit environmental watchdog group that has a database with safety ratings on over 50,000 skin care products. The database has its limitations relative to European products, but is a good resource for looking up products made in the U.S. For example, they rate anything with the term “fragrance” as high hazard, regardless of the source of the fragrance. If the fragrance is from essential oils and is clearly labeled as such it is quite safe. If it is synthetic, it’s more likely to contain phthalates and other questionable ingredients. When you read a label, ingredients are listed in descending order of their quantity in the product. A general rule is to divide the list in thirds:

  • the top third contains about 90-95% of the product
  • the middle third around 5-8%
  • the bottom third, 1-3%.

Below is a list of some natural ingredients to look for, as well as their synthetic counterparts that should be avoided:

Emollients: Emollients are used to prevent dryness and protect the skin, acting as a barrier and healing agent. Natural emollients are metabolized by the skin’s own enzymes and absorbed into the skin. They are readily biodegradable and are of edible quality. Examples of natural emollients are plant oils such as jojoba, avocado and rosehip, as well as shea, cocoa and jojoba butters. Examples of synthetic emollients are PEG compounds; synthetic alcohols (anything containing the phrase benzyl, butyl, cetearyl, cetyl, glyceryl, and stearyl for example); hydrocarbons such as mineral oil, petrolatum and paraffin; and silicone oils (dimethicome, cyclomethione, copolyol).

Humectants: A humectant is a substance that is used to preserve the moisture content of materials especially in hand creams and lotions. Many conventional creams form a suffocating film on the skin to prevent moisture loss. Examples of natural humectants are lecithin, panthenol (pro-vitamin B5) and glycerin. Some synthetic humectants are propylene glycol, ethylene/diethylene glycol, PEG compounds, ethoxylated surfactants such as “laureth”, and synthetic alcohols such as glyceryl coconate, hydroxystearate, myristate and oleate.

Surfactants: These are wetting agents capable of dissolving oils and holding dirt in suspension so it can be rinsed away with water. Some natural surfactants are castile soap, yucca extract, soapwort and quilaja bark extract. Examples of synthetic surfactants are sodium or ammonium lauryl or laureth, sulphate, sodium methyl cocoyl taurate, sodium lauroyl or cocoyl sarcosinate, TEA, DEA, MEA, PEG (polyethylene glycol) compounds and lauryl or cocoyl sarcosine.

Preservatives: Skin products do not last forever nor should they. Just like food, all natural skin care products will eventually deteriorate and go rancid. Some natural preservatives are tea tree essential oil, thyme essential oil, grapefruit seed extract and bitter orange extract. Storing natural products in the fridge will help to extend their life. Examples of synthetic preservatives are methyl, propyl, butyl and ethyl paraben; DMDM hydantoin; benzalkonium chloride; butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT); and butylated hudroxyanisole (BHA).

After you check your products for synthetic ingredients you may want to consider whether the ingredients are organic. In 2005, the US Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program declared that its strict organic food standards can now be applied to personal care products. In order to use the Agriculture Department seal, licensed certifiers must examine formulas and determine that at least 95% of the ingredients are organic. More products will most likely be labeled “made with organic” ingredients which require that at least 70% of the ingredients are organic. However what may be confusing to consumers is that some products could possibly use “organic” in their trademark names without even meeting the lower standard for ingredient content. This is because the preamble of the regulations states that the word organic “does not inherently imply an organic production or handling claim and, thus, does not inherently constitute a false or misleading statement.”  Therefore, a brand name for a product may be called “Perfect Organics” and there may be nothing organic about it!

At Walsh, we are concerned about the quality and safety of your skin care products. We are proud to offer our customers products from such companies as Dr. Hauschka, Weleda, MyChelle, Andalou Naturals, Badger, North Coast Organics, Life Stinks, Simply Birgit, John Masters Organics, and plan to add additional body care products that meet our standards for high-quality products with clean, effective ingredients. We also know that the beauty and health of the skin is also dependent on the nourishment and balance of the body within. To that end, we carry products that beautify the skin and hair from the inside out like grass-fed sourced collagen peptides, sea buckthorn, biotin, and more. We also can provide suggestions for skin conditions like acne, rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis.

Join us at our annual skin care event; Love Your Skin Inside and Out to learn more and get personal suggestions about skin care that is right for you. You can sign up here. A reservation is required but attendance is complimentary. It will be a fun night full of learning and socializing, and you will have a chance at our raffle prizes and go home with some great samples to try. We hope to see you there!

“The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mode but the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives the passion that she shows. The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years.”~Audrey Hepburn.