What you put on your body is just as important as what you put in it, so here’s how to reduce your chemical load
I’m often asked what products I’d recommend if money were no object. While I do have an answer – Guerlain Abeille Royale Day Cream ($176, 1800 811 611); Prevage Anti-Aging Daily Serum ($195, 1800 354 663) and La Prairie Skin Caviar Luxe Sleep Mask ($365, 1800 649 849) – I find a more relevant question is, what products do I regularly spend my money on? My answer to this is “skincare with a low synthetic chemical load”.
The simple fact is that I value my health more than my appearance, and while natural products may not do as much for my wrinkles and pigmentation, they keep my skin clean and hydrated, my hair shiny and they save my liver some extra work. Grab any skincare, haircare or make-up product from your shelf and have a look at the ingredients. Chances are you won’t know what many of them are or do. Does that matter to you if the product works?
If a healthy diet is important to you, then your answer should be “yes” – and that means it’s time to extend your awareness of ingredients to your beauty products. “Topical skincare products can be absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream,” Irene Falcone, founder of natural product store Nourished Life, says. “The skin isn’t an impermeable shield – you just have to think about the way nicotine and other medical patches work to realise that what goes on, goes in.”
KNOW YOUR INGREDIENTS
Not all ingredients are going to have a negative impact on your health, so it’s worth knowing which ones pose minimal risk and which are best to avoid if you want to reduce your chemical load. “Potential hormone disrupters like parabens, found in many beauty products, phthalates, which are the artificial fragrances found in perfumes and other personal care products, and triclosan, which is found in soaps and deodorants, are likely to build up over time, potentially causing health problems in the future,” Falcone says. While some ingredients may not cause internal damage, common ingredients such as sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), propylene glycol and synthetic fragrances may cause uncomfortable skin irritations. Personally, I have to steer clear of shampoo with SLS or I end up with a flaky scalp, and many perfumes send me into a sneezing frenzy. “Irritation is terrible for skin,” Paula Begoun, founder of Paula’s Choice Skincare, says. “It causes collagen to break down, triggers oil production directly in the pores, increases free radical damage, and impedes skin’s ability to heal.”
There’s no regulation of what can be labelled “natural skincare” in Australia, which means it’s up to the consumer to check the ingredient list. Jose Kakebeeke, Australasian trainer for natural skincare brand Dr. Hauschka, suggests avoiding products with parabens, petrochemicals, polyethylene glycol (look for PEG), synthetic fragrances and dyes. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to recognise these on the label. Parabens are used as a preservative and found in the majority of beauty products (they’re usually the words ending in “ben”). If you’re worried about them, choose a paraben-free brand, or avoid products that cover a large area of the skin, such as body moisturiser, and replace with a body oil.
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