Your skin is a giant organ that absorbs pretty much anything it is exposed to, including the chemicals inside your daily cleanser. This is why it’s so important to be aware of what we are using to clean our face. It’s hard to tell if your daily cleanser might make your skin red and irritable.
If you didn’t know, the thousands of chemicals that go into making facial scrubs, acne washes, and blackhead cleansers are sitting in your bathroom shelves. Now, we all know that blackheads and acne are a pain to deal with. To try and fix this, most people try product after product, from blackhead removers, to facial masks, to acne spot treatments. Most of the time they don’t pay too much attention to what’s inside. Even though companies list out the ingredients they use in their products. I find myself getting a headache just reading the bottle and not really have any idea what any of these names really mean. I try any type of facial cleanser that I can get my hands on. As a result, I sometimes end up with itchy or red skin. This is the sad struggle of someone with sensitive skin.
After doing a little bit of research, I’ve put together a short list ingredients that can be possibly be irritating my skin. These are some of the labels you should look for on the back of your bottle when you’re shopping for your skin cleansers.
I tend to think of flowers or some sweet smelling perfume when I come across the word, “Fragrance”. The purpose of adding a fragrance is to give our products a pleasant aroma when we use it. That way, we feel like the product we’re using is natural and effective. But, it turns out that Fragrance is actually one of the biggest causes of allergic reactions in cosmetics. Often times, most of the nice smells in our cleansers are synthetic, meaning they are artificially made. Fragrance isn’t naturally infused with any herbs without going through some chemical alterations first. The American Academy of Dermatology found that fragrances are the most common cause of allergic contact dermatitis, which is an irritation or rash on the skin. Try looking for skin cleansers that are labeled “fragrance-free” or “no fragrance added”. They can help you avoid the risk of an allergic reaction. Be sure to check the back of the bottle to verify that your product is in fact fragrance-free.
Surfactant are the compounds in our facial soap that helps with the cleansing process. They help the soap rinse impurities off your face effectively. It also reduces the surface tension on our face allowing for an enjoyable lathering process. Pretty much most of the ingredients you read that end with “Sulfate” or “Stearate” can be considered a surfactants. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), for example, is used in about 90% of commercial skin care products, as well as cleaning products. It is a foaming agent, but it is also considered an irritant. Have you ever washed your face with foamy soap and accidentally get some of it in your eyes and you started to feel a stinging or burning sensation? Or if you’re like me, and have fairly sensitive skin, and your face just starts breaking out after you use it? It may be the SLS working. These compounds can cause rashes, and eat away protective substances in skin. Although there hasn’t been any clear evidences yet, some scientists believe that Sodium Lauryl Sulfate can be linked to some forms of cancer. So just be safe, choose a cleanser without any sulfates in it. Sulfate-free cleansers tend to be more gentle and will reduce the damage to your skin. A gentle cleanser won’t strip your skin of its natural oils and are actually good for your skin.
Now, I love the sound of this word – Exfoliate! I imagine a product that helps me get dirt off my face and makes me feel clean. It’s a nice sounding term to refer to something that takes away all of the impurities on your skin. But did you know that alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) are considered exfoliants? I don’t know about you, but anything “acid" doesn’t sound too safe to me. Some exfoliants that fall into this category include lactic acids, citric acids, or glycolic acids.
Research shows that AHA can treat pigmentation and photo damaged by rubbing away and treating damaged cells on the top layer of the epidermis. So they do serve a nice purpose, especially for those of us that have age spots or sun damage. Unfortunately, there are some side effects. AHAs can cause irritation to the skin. Over time, it can actually increase your skin’s sensitivity to sun exposure since it’s wearing out the top layer of your epidermis.
4) Artificial Dyes
Where do you think your little bottle of acne wash gets that tint of soft pink or clear light blue coloring from? They’re all artificial dye, guys. Apparently, companies have to mix up to 25 different synthetic chemicals just to get that light pretty color. If you ever see FD&C or D&C on a bottle followed by a color name and a number, it means your product has been treated with synthetic dyes. D&C stands for Drug & Cosmetics, and the F stands for Food. These abbreviations tell you what kind of material they synthesize the different colors from.
Most of these colors come from petroleum and coal tar. The ones from coal tar are especially dangerous and may have heavy metal deposits and lead in them. Essentially, you are exposing your skin to toxins that can block pores and cause your skin to breakout. So why choose a cleanser with artificial dyes when you’re putting your skin at risk for more breakouts? The decision is simple, find cleansers without the added dyes.
Have you ever read the words “ethanol,” “benzyl alcohol,” or “methanol” on the back of a bottle of toner or face wash? These compounds are suppose to help vitamin C and other nutrients penetrate your skin so they can be absorbed better. But, to achieve this, it has to break through your skin’s protective barrier. In doing so, it dehydrates your skin cells and increases your skin’s vulnerability to bacteria. It also destroys elements in cells that reduces inflammation. Even though alcohol does effectively penetrate and clear your skin, it does it too well. This added ingredient does more harm than good.
You can see why it’s so important to check the labels for these types of ingredients. Reading the labels is the first step to finding cleansers that are right for you. There are plenty of safe cleansers are out there. It just takes a little bit more effort to find the right one that’s perfect for your skin type. What do you think? We would love to hear your thoughts!
- "10 Toxic Beauty Ingredients to Avoid" Web. 12 Nov. 2013
- "Skin Care and Cosmetics" Web.
- "Cosmetic Ingredient Dictionary" Web.
- "Label Lingo: How to Decode and Read Skin Care Product Labels" Web. 24 Sep. 2014
- "Ingredient Watch List: Artificial Colors and Dyes—Full of Potentially Harmful Chemicals" Web.