How can we protect our skin from chemical bombardment?

How can we protect our skin from chemical bombardment


In just one square inch of skin, there are 650 sweat glands, 234 feet of nerves, 65 hair follicles, 57 feet of capillaries, 1,250 pain receptors, 19,000 sensory cells, 13 cold and 78 heat receptors.

Our skin is designed to absorb – vitamin D from sunlight, chemicals and many other things it comes into contact with. Smokers trying to give up
cigarettes can apply nicotine patches, which means the skin absorbs the chemical and helps to stop the cravings for the weed.

The fact is, our skin is extremely delicate but we often don’t think of that when we bombard our skin on a daily basis – whether that’s with personal
care products or household cleaners.

Make-up, moisturiser, deodorants, shower gel and shampoos can all contain toxic ingredients, which, if we are continually exposed to, could cause us harm.

The issue is controversial; some biochemists have issued warnings about the cocktail of ingredients our skin absorbs when we go about our daily beauty routine.

According to one US organisation called Skin Deep, women use about 12 products a day, containing a total of 168 ingredients.

Samuel Epstein, a world-renowned authority on the causes and prevention of cancer, says many ingredients in make-up have been shown to cause cancer in animals and should never be used as part of a beauty routine.

Coal, for colours, phenylenediamine, benzene and formaldehyde are just some toxins found in shampoos, skin creams and blushers.

The good news is that by increasing our awareness to some of these nasties, we can choose safer alternatives and minimise our exposure. So what are these toxins and how can we avoid them?

Shampoo and shower gel

Sodium lauryl sulphate is a harsh detergent that was originally used as an industrial degreasant and floor cleaner. It has been linked with immune
system depression and has been shown to cause severe skin irritation and erosion.


Propylene glycol is a petroleum derivative that is found in most forms of make-up as a moisture retainer and solvent. In industry it is used in hydraulic brake fluid and antifreeze.

The chemical causes allergic and toxic reactions in some people and yet it is often used as an ingredient in products claiming to be natural. The same goes for parabens, which can imitate oestrogen.

Although women need this hormone, too much can have a negative effect, possibly encouraging tumour growth as parabens have been shown to accumulate in breast tissue. The paraben family has also been shown in research to accelerate the ageing process of skin through absorption.

Take action with simple changes

So what can we do? Fortunately, it is very easy to buy quality chemical-free personal care products that are as good, if not better, than those on the high street.

Neals Yard remedies and Green People are just two of the many companies that offer everything from make-up, moisturisers and deodorants to shaving foams and shower gels.

I watched a great video on You Tube about what is contained in cosmetics. It certainly opened my eyes – and highly recommend it. It’s called ‘The Story of Cosmetics: what’s really in your personal care products?’


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