We have all done it before. During a leisurely shopping excursion, you stop to gaze longingly at a beautiful body scrub impeccably packaged in fancy paper and ribbon. The product’s colors are unearthly and perhaps they even sparkle. You go to try the tester and the scent is both delicious and intoxicating. You have never smelled anything like that before. The product itself seems like something out of a whimsical realm where unicorns roam freely and the weather is always perfect. Your first impulse is to buy whatever this magical body scrub and take it home so you can indulge in all its wonder.
You believe that something that looks and smells this good must be equally wonderful. Stop for a moment and look at the ingredients list. If it looks like something you last saw in high school chemistry, put the item down and walk away.
Just because something looks and smells good doesn’t mean it is good for you or your skin. Be very discerning when picking out the right body scrub for you. So many scrubs are nothing more than a hazardous brew of chemicals, synthetic coloring, and fragrance.
Manufacturers use materials that are far from natural for a variety of reasons but the primary ones are to save money, to extend shelf life and to make things appear more appealing. Whenever possible avoid products containing parabens, synthetic colors and artificial fragrance.
Parabens. Parabens are widely used preservatives that prevent the growth of bacteria, mold and yeast in cosmetic products. Sounds good, right? Unfortunately that is not all they do. Parabens possess estrogen-mimicking properties that are associated with increased risk of breast cancer. These chemicals are absorbed through the skin and have been identified in biopsy samples from breast tumors. They can be found in makeup, body washes, deodorants, shampoos and facial cleansers. You can also find them in food and pharmaceutical products. Look for products that are paraben-free.
Synthetic colors. If you take a look at your product label and notice FD&C or D&C, they represent artificial colors. F representing food and D&C representing drug and cosmetics. Synthetic colors are suspected to be a human carcinogen, a skin irritant and are linked to ADHD in children.
With so much risk why do manufacturers continue to use them? A big reason to go artificial is cost. Synthetic dyes can be mass-produced at a fraction of the cost of gathering and processing the materials used to make natural colorings. Artificial colors also often have much longer shelf lives then their natural counterparts. And finally, going artificial allows for a wider spectrum of hues than what is found in nature.
The toxins that artificial colors leave on your skin greatly increase your risk of sensitivity and irritation. They can also clog your pores and lead to breakouts. Using these products on your skin allows the chemicals to be absorbed into your body, where they can cause even greater damage.
Many artificial dyes have been banned from use in food because of the health problems they cause. Unfortunately, there are relatively few restrictions on the types of dyes that can be used in skincare products so you must actively be on the lookout for them.
Artificial Fragrance. Artificial fragrance on a list of ingredients is just a fancy word that can refer to any number of toxic chemicals. Synthetic fragrances can be stronger, longer lasting, more complex and sophisticated and less expensive than natural fragrances. Synthetic fragrances are often stabilized with cancer causing phthalates. They are mostly derived from petroleum. Synthetic fragrance compounds can cause allergies, asthma attacks and headaches. Overly perfumed products may irritate the skin as well.
Natural fragrances are generally made from ingredients harvested from plants rather than from petrochemicals. They are Mother Nature’s creations. Essential oils are the pure natural aromatic essences from a variety of aromatic plant material including grasses, leaves, flowers, needles, and twigs, peels of fruit, seeds, bark, and roots. Seek out products scented with pure essential oils.
If you have sensitive skin, it is especially important to seek out all-natural products. Synthetic colors, parabens and artificial scents can lead to skin irritation, even in individuals who do not typically have reactions from products. All-natural scrubs featuring essential oils, botanicals, and fruit extracts can achieve powerful exfoliating benefits without the dangers associated with their synthetic counterparts.