The Number One Chemical in Skin Products to Avoid

Skin health

Sometimes my skin seems like a mysterious stranger altogether separate from me.

It breathes, it grows, it has feelings, it gets hurt and heals again, and all this is happening while I am busy thinking about my day to day schedule and what to make for dinner tonight. As my skin and I grow older together, we are both changing in ways neither of us could predict!

So I’ve decided to get to know my skin a little better.  Really sit down with it more often over a cup of tea and listen to what is going on with it. Is it dry? Does it need exfoliating? Is it getting enough sun? What is its take on Coconut Oil?

Just like anything else I do, when I want to know more about a subject, I ask an expert. In the case of my Skin, I called on Tricia Utley, a Licensed Esthetician and trusted skin therapy expert.

I wanted to know if she had suggestions for straight up what to avoid putting on my skin, since from my own research and experience I know that most over the counter products are chock full of toxic chemicals and crazy lab experiment ingredients!

It’s pretty crazy what is allowed in our personal care products. The reason that the ingredients are allowed into our products is that they are usually in small quantity…but the problem is that the studies on these toxic ingredients are only on each ingredient not on the cumulative effect of layering on serums and creams nail polish and hair products.

I mean, ask any woman how many products she uses before she leaves the house and it is quickly realized that most women use a minimum of 10 products.

When pressed to narrow it down to two toxic ingredients in anti-aging products Tricia says “I would look out for Hydroquinone and Fragrance.

Hydroquinone is a highly controversial ingredient and has been banned in most other countries. In the U.S you can get it over the counter if it is under 2% and with a prescription for higher percentages. This ingredient is used to bleach the skin and get rid of dark spots.

Hydroquinone is known to cause cancer as well as organ-system toxicity it can also, permanently cause problems like hyper and hypo pigmentation especially with overuse. It is definitely not worth the risk when there are other viable natural ingredients that will brighten the skin.

Fragrance is a tricky one to look for because it can even be found in products marked “unscented”. This is a really vague label which represents thousands of chemicals many have not been tested for safety. Fragrance can also cause inflammation in the skin (which leads to aging) and even trigger asthma and allergies.

Fragrances made out of essential oils could be a problem because a lot of oils are adulterated and contaminated with chemicals. It is really important to do research on a cosmetic company to find out how they are sourcing essential oils and choose products that don’t have the ingredients labeled “fragrance” or “parfum”.”

Ok, so that led me to think about all these raw food masks and treatments I see on Pinterest and all over the internet. So I asked Tricia what she thought about just schmearing avocado all over my face and trying not to let people lick me for 20 minutes.

That’s when Tricia explained to me that it is important to consult an expert in regards to DIY skincare because everyone is different and has unique needs and for some home remedies might not work for their skin concerns. In addition, ingredients can have beneficial results as well as less than desirable effects.

For instance, different oils can clog the pores and foods like lime juice can even burn your skin if you go out in the sun! It is important to support the skin’s acid mantle (the body’s protective barrier). If it is disrupted through using the wrong products, DIY remedies or environmental factors, bacteria can get in and cause problems.

Then, there is the issue of getting those food ingredients where they need to go.

Our skin is waterproof, but semi-permeable. So a lot of molecules won’t penetrate past the surface of the skin.  So, just because something benefits us nutritionally doesn’t mean it will have the same effect when applied to the skin. Some ingredients cause a low level inflammation which in the short-term will make wrinkles look better, but this is actually aging my Skin long term. Not what I had in mind.

Now that I was thinking of getting burned by lime juice and aging through inflammation and wrinkles…I was dying to know what Skincare Experts and Estheticians used for sunscreen. Tricia’s answer was “Zinc oxide is my sunscreen of choice.”

It is a physical block and is the only single ingredient that blocks both UVA and UVB. One of the problems with sunscreen in the U.S is that we don’t have a way to check a sunscreen for it’s ability to block UVA rays (which are the aging rays and are responsible for DNA damage) Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing into the skin and when the skin is exposed to the sun they absorb the sun’s rays. One issue with chemical sunscreens is that they can be irritating to the skin (which is aging the skin!)

One of the challenges with zinc oxide is that it can be chalky so some companies have been formulating nano-particles of zinc. The trouble with that is that the tiny zinc molecules can get into the bloodstream and organs.

We don’t have any long term studies to know what kind of damage that can do so make sure to use non-nano zinc oxide. Of course no sunscreen is 100% protection and I think managing the sun is a lot more complicated that what sunscreen to wear. Sunscreen should just be one tool to keep you from premature aging and cancer.”

So, my Skin and I are testing the waters right now with some home-made face cream (see recipe below) so I know we are avoiding Hydroquinone and Fragrance.  My Skin has also made it very clear that sleep is it’s biggest non-negotiable beauty need. At least 8 hours each night followed by at least 96 oz of water each day is my Skin’s preferred regimen.  (We’ve decided to keep the citrus in the water, by the way.)

Have you chatted with your skin lately?

Try this DIY skin cream recipe 

PS – My girl Tricia Utley is a trusted skin therapy expert who believes in personalizing her treatments by blending science and nature to create a nurturing environment for optimum skin health. Each individual reacts differently to their environment, internal and external stress, and skin care products so she is always looking for creative ways to combat those challenges.  Check out her website here.


Carolyn Maul
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