Why Natural Skin Care?
In recent years there has been a growing awareness of the need to take control of what we put into our bodies. We are turning, in growing numbers, to organically produced foods and supplements to avoid the chemicals that we now know play a substantial role in many of the health problems of contemporary society.
The same diligence needs to be taken in choosing the products that we use on our skin. It makes little sense to take such care in selecting the foods that we eat and then apply products to our skin that contain a spectrum of chemicals that are known to cause the same health problems that we seek to avoid with diet. As we have learned to read food labels in order to avoid harmful chemicals, we must also learn to read and understand the labels of our personal care products. The following is a brief description of some of the more common ingredients found in skin and hair care products and a summary of the “Health Hazards” they present as published in the manufacturers Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). An MSDS is produced by the chemical manufacturer and supplied to users of the chemicals to inform them of potential hazards, uses, handling, clean up, etc. The MSDS for any chemical can be obtained from the internet. It is not possible to include all of the chemicals used in cosmetics within the confines of this article. If a chemical is not listed, it should not be taken to mean that it does not present a health hazard, the chemicals listed were chosen at random to present a concept. Also note that the chemical names in this article are the chemical manufacturer’s names and may vary slightly on a cosmetic label.
Common Skin Care Ingredients & Their Hazards
PHENOL RED INDICATOR (phenol) Hazards: Inhalation of dust may irritate respiratory passages. And, “May be harmful if swallowed”. Prolonged or frequent contact may cause irritation. (1)
151 RED CADMIUM (151 red) Hazards: Medical conditions aggravated by exposure: Skin, eye, and respiratory disorders and impaired functions. Red 151 is a carcinogenic. (2)
SOLVENT YELLOW 3 (Yellow 3) Hazards: Yellow 3 is a known carcinogenic that can enter your body through inhalation, ingestion, and skin penetration. It oxidizes into potentially harmful chemical compounds. Exposure may cause eye and skin irritation, skin contact may cause allergic reaction. Yellow 3 is an animal carcinogen causing primarily liver carcinomas. It is a possible human carcinogen. (3)
56 BLUE Hazards: Inhalation of vapor or mist can cause irritation to the respiratory tract. Repeated or prolonged contact may cause skin irritation. This material is an eye irritant. If ingested it may cause irritation of the digestive tract. And, if inhaled reports have associated reported and prolonged exposure with permanent brain and nervous system damage. (4)
METHYLPARABEN Hazards: Prolonged or repeated contact may cause skin irritation.(5)
TRIETHANOLAMINE Hazards: Causes skin irritation causes eye irritation. (6)
PROPYLENE GLYCOL Health Hazards: Harmful if inhaled or swallowed, may cause skin irritation, may cause eye irritation, exposure can cause gastrointestinal disturbances, nausea, headache and vomiting, CNS depression. (It is interesting to note that this product is commonly used in foods, particularly baked goods.) (7)
STEARIC ACID Health Hazards: Inhalation of dust may cause irritation of nose and throat. May be a skin irritant. Or, chronic affects unknown. (8)
PANTHENOL Health Hazards: Hazards of this product are unknown, the manufacturer cautions against skin, eye, inhalation and ingestion contact. (9)
SODIUM LAUREL SULPHATE-SODIUM LAURETH SULPHATE Health Hazards: Sodium Laurel Sulphate and Sodium Laureth Sulphate, the alcohol or ethoxylated version of Sodium Laurel Sulphate may be two of the most harmful ingredients in commercial cosmetics, shampoos and conditioners. They are industrial detergents used for engine degreasing and heavy cleaning. Some products, particularly in health food stores are beginning to label “SLS Free” in recognition of the hazards of these chemicals. SLS’s can penetrate and be retained in the eyes. Other studies have shown that SLS and SLES can react with other ingredients and form carcinogens in the form of nitrates and dioxins which easily enter the blood steam through the skin and hair follicles. (10)
While this is a partial list of the chemicals used in cosmetics, it adequately makes the point that caution is appropriate when deciding on a program of skin care. The problem is exaggerated by the fact that there is frequently a multiplication of effects when chemicals are combined. There is no information available on the hazards of the combinations due to the variety of possible combinations. Further, all toxicity testing on chemicals is acute testing; long term effects on humans are speculative.
The above information begs the question as to how we can maintain healthy skin and hair if we are to avoid these chemicals. The answer is to take the same approach to personal care that you take to diet. Avoid the chemicals as much as possible by reading the labels and choose the products that are the most chemical free. There are products on the market that are completely chemical free such as pure and natural oils as moisturizers. Natural oils give excellent results when used as moisturizers in that they improve the health of skin as well as controlling and reducing dry skin. The performance expectations we have need to change slightly. Packaged lotions frequently include glycerin and chemicals as humectants, etc. that give a moisturized “feel” to the skin while in reality they are drying and damaging to the skin. Natural oils penetrate skin and do not leave a noticeable film on the surface of the skin. When used properly, natural oils improve the texture, elasticity, feel, and health of skin. Some, such as jojoba and grapeseed oils, are UV absorbents and so provide some sun protection. Tests have shown that jojoba oil accelerates the tanning and slows the burning of skin exposed to sun.
The following list of five natural oils can be used singly or in combination to achieve the results that are promised by manufacturers of skin lotions and creams.
5 Natural Oils for Better Skin Care
Jojoba Oil: Jojoba oil comes from the seed of a desert bush yet its molecular structure is very similar to Sperm Whale oil, Orange Ruffy oil, and human skin oil or sebum. It penetrates the skin down the hair follicles and also through the pores, coats the cell membranes and inhibits moisture loss. It has Vitamin E as a natural sun protection, it is an SPF 4. Jojoba oil dissolves the wax form of sebum so it opens the skin allowing toxins out and oxygen in as well as allowing the natural oils to the surface of the skin.
Jojoba comes in two grades: Golden, which is yellow in color, and “Filtered” or “Refined” which is virtually water white in color. The golden oil is heavier and does not penetrate fair skin quickly. It is useful for symptomatic relief of skin problems such a psoriasis, seborrhea, cradle cap, acne, rosatia, and eczema. It is also best for extremely dry skin. People of color may find that it penetrates their skin more quickly than the “filtered oil.” The “filtered” grade of jojoba is much lighter and will penetrate fair skin rapidly and without leaving an oily residue on the skin. It is useful as a carrier oil in aroma therapy or for use in conjunction with other heavier oils to facilitate penetration. For those seeking a light moisturizer that leaves no oily feel to the skin this is an excellent choice. Jojoba oil can be used as a hot oil treatment or hair gloss with the added benefit of dissolving sebum wax which collects in the follicle. Follicles that are clogged are a factor in dry scalp, dry hair and hair loss. Stability of jojoba oil is excellent, jojoba oil has an indefinite shelf life, if uncontaminated it does not rancidify.
Almond Oil: Almond oil is a heavier oil that gives more of an emollient feel to the skin. It is an excellent massage oil as well as a skin moisturizer. It contains vitamin E as a natural component, this gives it a long (18 month) shelf life as well as benefiting the skin. Almond oil should be used in combination with jojoba oil as a carrier to avoid the feel of oiliness on the skin and to prevent blockage of pores. Because almond oil has a larger molecule size, it does not fit easily through skin pores and jojoba “carries” it into the skin. Almond oil should be used by those with extremely dry skin.
Grapeseed Oil: Grapeseed oil is high in vitamin E and D; it is an excellent source of essential fatty acids including Omega 3, Omega 6 and Omega 9. Grapeseed oil is a collagen bonder and may be beneficial in reducing wrinkling. Grapeseed oil is slightly lighter than almond oil, penetrates better and is easily carried into the skin when used with jojoba. Massage therapists frequently prefer grapeseed oil because it lacks the “greasy” feel of heavier oils.
Avocado Oil: Avocado oil is a stable oil due to its monounsaturated structure and the presence of naturally occurring vitamin E. Avocado oil is prized for its multiple properties (emolliency, penetration, stability, lubricity, skin softening and moisturizing) by fine cosmetic manufacturers. Avocado oil used pure softens the skin, increases elasticity, leaves no greasy residue, and moisturizes. Avocado oil can be used as a “hair gloss,” it softens and moisturizes the scalp. Avocado oil is a source of Omega 3, Omega 6 and Omega 9 essential fatty acids.
Apricot Oil: Apricot oil is slightly lighter than almond oil and slightly heavier than grapeseed oil. Apricot oil can be used for massage and as a skin moisturizer. Using the filtered grade of jojoba with apricot will improve penetration into the skin so that the pores are not blocked and there is no oily residue left on the skin. Apricot oil is high in vitamin E which gives it excellent stability and provides a smooth silky feel to skin. Stability is very good, apricot oil has an eighteen month shelf life. Apricot oil is a source of Omega 6 and Omega 9 essential fatty acids.
There are wide differences in skin not only from one person to the next ,but from one area to another on the same person. Use combinations of the above oils to moisturize and condition based upon the needs that you have. Skin that is exposed to sun and wind is likely to be drier than skin that is protected from the elements. When using oils to moisturize, you will find that a small amount goes a long way and that one application will last throughout the day. Most important you will notice an improvement in the overall health of your skin that is both natural and long lasting.
Sesame Oil: This oil is known as a very powerful antioxidant. It has very positive effects on skin, can open pores, refresh and make our skin look smoother. Since sesame seed oil is an important natural source of the mineral copper, it has excellent anti-inflammatory properties and can be used for treating wounds and swelling, calming down sunburns and arthritis pains.
According to multiple studies, including "Antioxidant Properties of Sesamol" in 1949 at New Orleans' Southern Regional Research Laboratory, sesame oil is a powerful antioxidant. It owes its antioxidant power to a naturally occurring compound called sesamol. Antioxidants are important to skin health because they seek out and inhibit free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can prematurely age the body and contribute to diseases. When your skin ages prematurely, it loses collagen and elastin, the substances that make skin strong, soft, firm and elastic. Roberta Wilson's Aromatherapy: Essential Oils for Vibrant Health and Beauty states that all skin types are typically tolerant of sesame oil, which is particularly beneficial for the natural treatment of conditions that cause chronic dry skin, including psoriasis and eczema. According to Natural Home Remedies, sesame oil's effectiveness in these cases is due to its high absorption rate and high content of vitamin E, a vitamin commonly recommended for the treatment of a wide range of skin conditions. Wilson's book also cites studies that suggest sesame oil may be effective in protecting against the sun's harmful UV rays and the skin cancer they can cause. One such study determined that an external application of sesame oil blocks roughly 30 of the harmful UV rays, and another found that the oil's high linoleic acid content may inhibit skin cancer cell growth.
(1) W.R. Grace Material Safety Data Sheet.
(2) Binney and Smith Material Safety Data Sheet.
(3) Pylam Products Material Safety Data Sheet.
(4) Blue Ridge Talc Material Safety Data Sheet.
(5) Napp Chemicals Material Safety Data Sheet.