Your Skin is Your Largest Organ
The skin is porous, and absorbs whatever we put on it. One study (1) showed that broad body surfaces absorbed 64% of the total contaminant dosage applied to them. The face, a more porous part of your body, is several times more permeable than broad body surfaces (2), and underarms and genitalia have been show to absorb chemicals at a rate of 100% (3)! Let that sink in for a moment.
Parabens, Phthalates, and Petroleum (the 3P’s)
Parabens, Phthalates, and Petroleum are commonly used ingredients in mainstream skincare. They extend shelf life, thicken consistency, and increase spreadability.
(methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben and isobutylparaben)
Used in commercial beauty products like deodorants, cosmetics, body lotions, and shampoo and conditioner as preservatives, parabens are known endocrine disruptors and have been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer and reproductive toxicity (3). They have the ability to penetrate the skin and remain in tissue unaltered by the body. Endocrine disruptors are though to be a potential cause of many autoimmune disorders.
(mineral oil, petrolatum, paraffin wax)
Used in beauty products as a moisturizer, petroleum penetrates the skin and then resides in fatty tissue. Petroleum impurities are known animal carcinogens and possible human carcinogens (4). Petroleum is classified as a xenoestrogen, a chemical that promotes estrogen dominance and can lead to endocrine (hormone) disruption (4). There is new evidence showing a link between endocrine disruptors and an increase in ADHD, Autism, and other childhood onset disorders (4).
(DBP, DNOP, DiNP, DEP, DEHP, BBzP, DiDP, DnHP, DMP, DnOP, BPA)
Also called plasticizers, phthalates are used to make plastic more flexible. In beauty products, they are used to make fragrance last longer, increase absorption, and lubricate or enhance spreadability. Pthalates have been linked to low birth weight and decreased gestational age in infant born to mothers with a high phthalate content in their bloodstream (5) (phthalates can cross the placenta). They have been linked to infertility in men due to low sperm count and damaged DNA in sperm (6). A potential link has also been found between phthalates and onset of early puberty (5) as well as childhood obesity.
How to Choose an Oil
Whether you’re making your own skincare product or purchasing one at a store, check the quality of the oil. Only use oils that are organic and cold-pressed.
(no pesticides, herbicides, or GMO contaminants)
Just like many of us prefer not to ingest foods grown with toxins, it is wise to avoid absorbing these toxins through our skin as well. Similar to regulation of the 3P’s, there is no safe level of any combination of pesticides and herbicides. If an oil is organic, the label should state so clearly. If it doesn’t, you can assume it is not organic.
(pressed at a temp below 49°C)
Cold pressed oil has no need for refining after being pressed, and it retains its nutritive values as well. High heat processing not only breaks down the nutritive proteins in the seeds and fruits being pressed, but can cause oxidation of the oil, which in turn can lead to oxidative damage to your skin.
When choosing a bodycare product, it's so important to do your research. Lots of mainstream companies will attempt to hide sub-par products by using names most people aren't familiar with. A good way to know if a company is being transparent is to ask- shoot them an email if you have questions! If they are vague when answering, or don't supply an answer, you can be sure their product line isn't something you want to use.
- Brown et al. The role of skin absorption as a route of exposure for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in drinking water. Am J Public Health. 1984 May; 74(5): 479–484.
- Kasting and Kretsos.Skin Pharmacol Physiol 2005;18:55-74
- Oestregenic activity of parabens in MC7 human breast cancer cells. Byford, et al. The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Microbiology. Volume 80, Issue 1, January 2002. Pgs 49-60.
- Neurodeveloment and Endocrine Disruption. Colborn, Theo. Environmental Health Perspective. June 2004, Volume 112 number 9, pgs 944-949.
- Precocious Puberty: A Comprehensive Review of Literature. Cesario & Hughes. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecological, and Neonatal Nursing. May 2, 2007 pgs 263-274.
- DNA damage in Human Sperm is related to urinary levels of phthalate monoester and oxidative metabolites. Hauser, et al. Oxford Journals, Medicine and Health, Human Reproduction. Volume 22, pgs 688-695.