I remember years and years ago going into my grandparents’ bathroom, sitting on the floor, and then opening up the shelves to see what was in there. I was a nosy little kid, and I just thought it was so interesting to see what other people bought and used in their home. I remember the usual things – towels, a hairdryer, a few extra bars of soap, toilet paper. And then there was a bottle of a gentle facial cleanser that a dermatologist told my grandma would be good for all skin types because it was so gentle. Being the kind, amazing woman that she was she purchased a bottle and kept it in their spare bathroom for anytime any of the grandkids would come over. That way anyone who had a breakout could use it, and anyone who didn’t have one/wasn’t prone to them could use it too.
My grandma told me it was safe to use and, perhaps, could be even better than the acne wash I was using. And since it was coming from one of my favorite people in the world I believed it! It was gentle, but foamed up, and I felt special using it since it was outside of the norm. I also got tricked by the simple ingredient list, thinking that the shorter the list was the “healthier” it had to be for me. There was one thing we didn’t know we needed to know, though, and that was that the short ingredient list contained absolutely nothing beneficial to our skin and that several of the ingredients could cause some serious damage: endocrine disruption, cancer, allergic reactions, etc. I’m not laying any blame on my grandma, because you don’t know what you don’t know. She asked for a recommendation for a gentle cleanser all of her grandkids could use, and followed instructions given by someone who should have had a little more of a handle on the actual benefits and potential harms.
So. A short ingredient list: Water, Cetyl Alcohol, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Stearyl Alcohol, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Butylparaben. Let’s dive in and learn a little bit more about that “gentle cleanser” and how those few ingredients can could serious harm:
- Water. Obviously this one is OK. No explanation needed.
- Cetyl Alcohol. Used as an emulsion stabilizer, fragrance ingredient, foam booster or viscosity increasing agent. Essentially a wax that can create allergic reactions on the skin by damaging the lipid bilayer of the skin.
- Propylene Glycol. A humectant that brings moisture from the air to the skin. Created by the chemical reaction of a byproduct of fossil fuel and fermentation, and considered a probable carcinogen (cancer causing compound). Can be found in higher doses in antifreeze and paint. Also could have neurological effects, isn’t super safer for pregnant/nursing moms, and has a good amount of skin irritation possible.
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. Helps with foaming of the product. Is a surfactant that can cause skin irritation or trigger allergies. Is often contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a byproduct of a petrochemical process called ethoxylation, which is used to process other chemicals in order to make them less harsh.
- Stearyl Alcohol. Used as an emulsifying agent. Has been shown to be an irritant to skin, eyes and lungs. Also has some cancer and organ system toxicity concerns; one or more animal studies show tumor formation at high doses (much higher than what you would likely find in a skincare product, but regardless not something I want on my skin).
- Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Butylparaben. All parabens (hence why they’re grouped together), and all used as preservatives in products. Parabens mimic estrogen and can act as potential hormone (endocrine) system disruptors. Exposure to estrogen is one of the primary influences on the development of breast cancer. Studies also show that parabens go so far as to be found in our urine and the tissues in our bodies. There are also emerging studies that could categorize parabens as being carcinogenic (cancer causing).
Turns out America’s favorite gentle cleanser isn’t really that great – in fact, it’s pretty terrible. What should you use instead, then, if you have sensitive skin or just want a gentle way to cleanse? Here are five better, safer options:
- Beautycounter Cleansing Milk
- Beautycounter Nourishing Cream Cleanser
- Conscious Skincare Gentle Face Wash
- Zatik Beauty Essentials Dragon’s Blood Cleansing Gel
- Daisy Blue Naturals Gentle Cleansing Cream
As always, I hope this series encourages you to take a good hard look at the products that you put on your body, and the bodies of your family. It doesn’t need to be all doom and gloom though – and there are great resources available to you to do the research! One of them is EWG’s Healthy Living App, which is free and allows you to scan in or search products to see how they rank in terms of toxicity and why.
Also, it bears saying, that at Beautycounter we are fighting for more health protective laws that will regulate this multi-billion dollar industry. We are making a ton of headway, but we need more voices – and that may be YOU! If you feel that tugging in your heart to join this movement as a consultant, please reach out to me. I’m an open book and willing to share my experience and would LOVE to have you join my team!