We love using cosmetics and skin care products to enhance our natural beauty. But did you know that the ingredients in the products you’re using interact with your body in ways that go deeper than surface-level skin health? When topically applied, certain chemicals in conventional cosmetic formulas are absorbed into your body, where they can interact on a hormonal level, leading to endocrine disruption and imbalances. Hormonal imbalances are often the hard-to-spot culprit behind persistent conditions like adult acne or thinning hair. Unfortunately, conventional cosmetic packaging doesn’t warn you about this. That’s why it’s important to be able to spot ingredients with hormone disrupting properties so that you can steer clear of products containing them! Here we’ve rounded up a mini lesson on these hormonal sabotagers, how to avoid them, and what some cleaner alternatives are.
Ingredients to Watch Out For
So what ingredients should set off alarm bells when you’re shopping for new products? The first red-flag ingredient is a family of chemical compounds called Phthalates. They’re commonly found in plastic packaging, and also in conventionally perfumed or fragranced body products like lotions and deodorants. They’re used to plasticize products and give them a flexible texture that’s able to hold on to color and scent. Often, the word “phthalates” won’t even be mentioned in the ingredient list, and instead the general umbrella term “fragrance” will be used. It’s a sneaky way for companies to avoid giving their entire ingredient breakdown, and should provoke the question, ok but what’s in your fragrance? The issue is, Phthalates are widely known to function as endocrine disruptors when absorbed over time. They’ve been determined to mimic or replace hormones, and a study by the University of Maryland tied them to reproductive birth defects. They’ve also been linked to increased waist circumference and insulin resistance. So as much as we like our products to be “fragrant” and have a consistent texture, Phthalates are on our to-nix list.
Next on our watch-list is triclosan – a broad spectrum antimicrobial used as a preservative in water-based products like bath products, cleansing products, makeup, shaving products, skin care, and suntan products. As a preservative, it’s effectively able to slow or halt bacteria growth, so it’s added to products to give them a long shelf life. Fine, but do you want to be applying it to your face and body every day? Not so much. Studies have shown triclosan to be a hormone disruptor that accumulates in our bodies by entering our blood stream and storing in our fat cells. It’s also being researched as potentially leading to the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria – again, on our to-nix list.
Used as an ingredient in sunscreen, oxybenzone is another hormone disruptor that’s often present in conventional skincare formulas. It’s used in sunblock and sunscreens because of its ability to absorb UVA and UVB rays (sounds good, right?) and because of its emollient properties that allow it to easily dissolve into makeup foundations with an SPF component. Because of this, it’s also found in lip balms, lipsticks and anti-aging creams, usually with flashy packaging that boasts the sunblock component in the product. This said, its potential health hazards are extremely concerning. Lab studies have shown oxybenzone to be a Photosensitizer, meaning that it produces DNA-damaging free radicals when exposed to light – this points in the direction of being carcinogenic, and more studies are currently being carried out around these concerns. Add to this the fact that oxybenzone disrupts hormonal balance, leading to weak estrogenic activity that can cause all kinds of adverse health effects, ranging from anxiety to reduced metabolic activity to cystic acne – all things we’d rather not dabble in.
Healthier Alternatives to Look For
So what about alternatives? Instead of using these conventional hormone disruptors, Puristry products use a variety of safe and plant-based preservatives, emulsifiers and active ingredients with equal or more effective properties, and sans the scary hormonally disrupting side effects.
As a thickening and emulsifying agent, we use locust bean gum, a naturally texturizing ingredient derived from the leguminous carob tree (Ceratonia siliqua) that grows in Mediterranean countries. For enhanced consistency, we also use Vegetable glycerin, a natural triglyceride derived from plant sources such as soy, palm and coconut oils, with a versatile set of properties that render it the perfect thickening and texturizing agent.
Japanese Honeysuckle is one of our go-to fragrance ingredients, with its subtle and sweet scent that’s easily layerable and blendable with other stronger scent presences. Moreover, Japanese honeysuckle is a natural preservative with an impressive resume that allows it to function as an antimicrobial and antibacterial agent. That means your organic plant-based cosmetics can stay stable on the shelf, without any of the adverse health effects of triclosan.
Armed with these natural substitutes, our skincare lines measure up to their conventional counterparts, but with ultimately more skin and body-loving effects that are sustainable for use in the long run. Mini lesson big picture? Read labels and get to know your alternatives! Keep up with us here for more ingredient deep dives and chemical watch-list roundups.