Are there toxins on your skin?

This week we have a fantastic Change the World Wednesday Challenge lined up.

It’s all about the skin.

When I was pregnant I learned that 60% of what you put ON your skin can end up in your bloodstream. I soon learned to read labels as I was determined to have an organic baby!

Most of the products I was using were a no-go – they contained SLS, parabens and other toxic nasties.

I like to think I’m now using natural products but this week’s challenge is giving me time to double check things; it reads “This week refuse to put chemicals on your body. Read the labels on everything which comes in contact with your skin and only use it if it’s chemical free.”

I can’t wait to get stuck in.

The first thing I use in the morning is toothpaste, deodorant and something to strip wash. I must admit, and don’t cringe at this, but I use Ecover washing up liquid to wash under my arms! I’ve just checked the label and it contains:

  • Water
  • Anionic and Nonionic Surfactants
  • Citric Acid
  • Salt
  • Aloe Vera
  • Wheat Proteins
  • Perfume (Type: Lemon; contains: Limonene, Citral)
  • Preservative (0,02%): 2-Bromo-2-Nitropropane-1,3-Diol

Hmmm, not too sure about something that says ‘perfume’ as this can be up to 200 different chemicals which manufactures are under no obligation to divulge. And I’m not sure about that preservative either.

This week then, I’m going to switch to washing under my arms with bicarbonate of soda.

Natural alum deodorant

The deodorant I use couldn’t be more natural – it’s a natural volcanic alum stone from Natural Spa Supplies and unlike some brands, this one does not contain ammonium alum which is made with waste from aluminium factories and nylon factories. Ammonium alum doesn’t work well and because industrial waste is never ‘cleaned’, but just used as a cheap ingredient, the synthetic alum is always contaminated and can cause allergies.

Health food shop owners as well as consumers are confused because deodorant manufactures state ‘ammonium alum – pure natural mineral salts’, however ammonium alum does not exist in nature..

SLS, Triclosan, Fluoride…

My toothpaste is the best one I can find – it is free from fluoride, SLS and Triclosan, but it does contain glycerine – some people believe that glycerine coats the teeth which means they can’t remineralise. You can make your own toothpaste from bicarbonate of soda and peppermint oil or even buy a toothbrush that ionically cleans your teeth, meaning you need no product at all.

Rhassoul clay

On my face I use rhassoul clay, so no nasties there and I finish off with a few drops of jojoba oil containing geranium, lavender and chamomile essential oils.

Organic shampoo and conditioner

On my hair I use John Masters shampoo and Biorganics conditioner. The shampoo contains a long list of ingredients;

  • Aloe barbadensis (aloe vera leaf juice) gel
  • aqua (water)
  • decyl glucoside
  • sodium lauroamphoacetate
  • sodium cocoyl sulfoacetate
  • babassuamidopropyl betaine
  • panthenol (vitamin B5)
  • lavandula angustifolia (lavender) oil
  • rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) leaf oil
  • hydrolyzed soy protein
  • wheat amino acids
  • sorbitol
  • symphytum officinale (comfrey) leaf extract
  • chamomilla recutica (chamomile) flower extract
  • lavandula angustifolia (lavender) flower/leaf/stem extract
  • urtica dioica (nettle) root extract
  • equisetum hiemale (horsetail) leaf/stem extract
  • achillea millefolium (yarrow) extract
  • camellia sinensis (white tea) extract
  • salix alba (willow) bark extract
  • lonicera caprifolium (honeysuckle) flower extract
  • potassium sorbate
  • sodium benzoate
  • guar hydroxypropyl trimonium chloride
  • linum usitatissimum (flaxseed) seed oil
  • borago officinalis (borage) seed oil
  • helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil
  • simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) seed oil
  • tocopherol
  • sulfur
  • glycerine

It seems like there might be some interesting psychology going on with this list – many of the nice ingredients have both latin and English names, but others don’t. This immediately made me wonder if the ones without English translations were toxic nasties.

Picking an ingredient at random, I can see that sodium lauroamphoacetate is a surfactant and has a low toxicity rating – phew!  Sodium benzoate is a preservative and again has low toxicity rating while a couple of the other mystery ingredients do not have any data about them. Overall I feel ok about this product and will continue to use it.

The conditioner contains

  • Aqua
  • Aqueouse extracts of rosemary (rosemarius officinalis) oil
  • Nettle (uritica dioica) oil
  • Thyme (thymus vulgaris) oil
  • Behentrimonium nethosulphate
  • Behenamidopropyl
  • Dimethylamine behenate
  • Birch leaf (betula albe) oil
  • Chamomile (anthemis nobilus flower) oil
  • Clary (silva sclarea)
  • Lavender (lavandula aungustifolia)
  • Coltsfoot leaf (tissilago Farfara)
  • Yarrow (achillea millefolium) oil
  • Mallow (malva sylvestris )
  • Horsetail (equistetum arvense) oil
  • Panthenol
  • Soybean protein (glycina soja) Tocopherol (vitamin e)
  • Acetamide MEA
  • Cetyl Alcohol (plant derived)
  • Trace minerals,

The ingredients I am unsure about (Behentrimonium nethosulphate, Behenamidopropyl and Dimethylamine behenate) drew no conclusive data over on the cosmetics database, so I’m none the wiser as to what these ingredients are and whether they are harmful or not.

I use mineral make up, but to be honest this post is going to get too long if I dissect all of these as well! I buy Bobbi Brown, Lily Lolo and Bare Escentuals. I use it so rarely and feel ok about these products so will continue to use them.

My verdict

I think what this challenge has highlighted to me is a need for a radical overhaul of product labelling. Customers need to have clear, helpful information that empowers them to make a choice.

What about you – any unexpected nasty surprises in your beauty products?


  1. Jane on August 27, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    I agree that it is very hard to understand what the ingredients are in our toiletries. To be honest, I am not convinced that the ingredients in some natural or organic products are any better than those in some other products. Sometimes, so-called natural products just seem to be made from chemicals which have been manufactured from natural plants. Over time, I have come to the conclusion that the safest option is to use smaller quantities of toiletries, and to use just plain water wherever this is viable. However, an article I have read today lists all sorts of chemicals that are routinely added to our tap water. Therefore, maybe even plain water is no better than some of the products we buy. This just leaves me even more confused about what to do for the best. Why is nothing ever simple?

  2. Alicia@ eco friendly homemaking on August 29, 2012 at 12:52 am

    Wow I think you are doing great!