Photographed by June Kim
Let’s talk skincare nasties.
It pays to know what goes into your skincare. With the skin being the body’s largest organ and highly permeable, what we slather on it gets absorbed into our bloodstream, tissues and, in some cases, accumulate in our organs.
Not all skincare are created equal. Most of the creams on your vanity contain chemicals – from mild skin irritants that clog pores to downright toxic chemicals with more serious long-reaching effects. Here, we break down potentially toxic skincare ingredients to look out for when reading the back of that jar – and what had been carefully and safely cut out of all DAMDAM products.
This well-known preservative is widely used in skincare, makeup and toiletries to prevent the growth of bacteria, mold and fungus. The controversy over the use of parabens started with a 2004 research study that linked parabens to breast cancer, a claim that has since been hotly debated upon within the beauty and scientific community. The fact remains that parabens have a weak ability to mimic estrogen and are endocrine disruptors when used over the long term, potentially leading to lowered fertility and endrocrine-related cancers. Our verdict? It’s best avoided until more research has been conducted on its long-reaching effects.
These slippery polymers are added into skincare and cosmetics to make them feel silky, blend easily and make skin look smoother. However, silicones actually clog pores, prevents the skin from breathing and decreases skin renewal, leading to acne, dehydration and premature ageing. What’s more, silicones are also difficult to remove and do not biodegrade, making them an environmental hazard to boot.
This group of endocrine-disrupting chemicals are used in beauty and personal care products to soften plastics in products like hairsprays, nail polishes and some skin moisturisers. It is also often added to artificial fragrances, which means that it might not appear on the ingredient list.
Commonly added to the majority of beauty and personal care products (such as shampoo, body and face cleansers) for its foaming effects, sulphates are a known skin and eye irritant and can also interact with other chemicals to form nitrosamines, a carcinogen.
It should come as no surprise that your pretty jar of pink moisturizer is loaded with numerous synthetic chemicals that give it its rosy hue. Artificial dyes are in pretty much most of what we use, from toothpaste to makeup, and are sometimes made with coal tar and heavy metal salts like lead. They can cause skin sensitivity, allergic reactions and more seriously, thyroid and kidney tumours when ingested or absorbed into the body.
This petroleum by-product is ubiquitous in most skincare and cosmetics, simply because it is cheap, gives a luxuriously silky texture and forms a seal over the skin, thereby preventing moisture loss to the environment. However, it also suffocates the skin and prevents skin from absorbing beneficial ingredients in the skincare that it is formulated with. It is sometimes listed as petrolatum, its more solidified version.
Any skincare with ‘bad’ alcohol (like denatured alcohol) in it basically damages your skin’s barrier function, which needs to stay healthy in order to keep out damaging free radicals and toxins. In fact, studies have shown that alcohol in skincare increases cellular death and premature ageing, not to mention dehydrates the skin’s surface when it evaporates. However, fatty alcohols (like cetyl alcohol and stearyl alcohol) are generally harmless to the skin, and are commonly used as emollients.
Petroleum-based ingredients are in so many of our commonly-used beauty products, either as an ingredient or in the plastic packaging. Aside from the above-mentioned mineral oil, phthalates and parabens, petrochemical by-products also include toluene and formaldehyde – all of which disrupt the body’s hormone levels and are possibly carcinogenic.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)
GMOs are essentially plants and other living organisms whose DNA has been scientifically modified, which is highly prevalent in this day and age of industrial agriculture, as you can imagine. Side effects of GMO products being absorbed into the body include allergic reactions, immune and skin disorders like eczema. To avoid GMO ingredients in your skincare (and food too), go for certified organic or GMO-free products.
Shop toxic-free DAMDAM products here.