WOMEN absorb more than 5lb of chemicals from beauty products through their skin every year.
A daily routine of cleansing, toning and moisturising is thought to be essential for a healthy and youthful complexion, but scientists are now raising concerns about the damage chemicals in cosmetics and toiletries are doing to our bodies.
Biochemist Richard Bence has spent three years studying ingredients in products such as body lotion, shower gel and toothpaste and says some man-made compounds may irritate skin, cause premature ageing and some have even been linked to cancer.
He said: “There is a growing amount of research questioning the ingredients found in conventional beauty products.
“We really need to start questioning the products we are putting on our skin and not just assume that the chemicals in them are safe.
“We have no idea what these chemicals do when they are mixed together. The effect could be much greater than the sum of the individual parts.”
Dee Atkinson, director of Napiers Herbal Health Care, has also been voicing her concern over the amount of chemicals we all use in our cosmetics.
Through her own work developing natural and organic bath and body care products and running a skin clinic at Napiers, the qualified medical herbalist has developed an interest and knowledge of product ingredients.
“In our mothers’ and grandmothers’ time, many fewer products were used, and the chemical load on our bodies was less.
“Everything you put onto your skin is absorbed… it’s a frightening thought.
You wouldn’t eat most of these products, but you do let them be absorbed into your body in other ways.
“If you suffer from allergies, or any chronic health problems, remember that your skin is an organ and think about what you put on it.”
Here we asked Dee to take a look in three women’s bathroom cabinets to find out just what potentially hazardous chemicals they are putting on their skin and hair every day.
IT WOULD BE GOOD TO KNOW WHAT I SHOULD AVOID
ACTRESS Erin Gavin happily admits to being a cosmetic junkie, with a bathroom cabinet overflowing with all kinds of moisturisers, eye creams and body lotions.
But before we spoke to her, Erin, 26, said she had never once considered what the chemicals in her cosmetics were doing to her system.
Erin, from Glasgow, said: “I love my products and admit I do use quite a lot every day.
“I use the usual cleansers, toners and moisturisers but I also use day and night creams, eye creams, body lotions and hair treatments.
“I had never before thought about the chemicals that are in them, let alone the fact we are absorbing 5lb of chemicals into our bodies every year.
“That’s horrendous and quite frightening. It would definitely be good to know what chemicals we should be avoiding in our products.”
It was Erin’s shampoo and conditioner that caused Dee the most concern.
Her TRESemme shampoo contained sodium laureth sulfate, which Dee says is a detergent that can “cause drying of the skin, should only be used as a rinse-off product and is considered to be a skin irritant”.
Her TRESemme conditioner contained quaternium, of which Dee said: “There are many different versions of this substance but, basically, it is a germicide derived mainly from vegetable fats which can potentially sensitse skin.”
But TRESemme said: “Sodium laureth sulfate is utilised in almost all shampoos in the UK and has been used for many years with no adverse side effects on the whole.
“When blended with other detergents in a formulation any possible irritation is reduced.”
I’M SHOCKED AT FINDINGS
DRAMA student Emma Brankin reckons she doesn’t use a huge amount of cosmetics, but just by using shower gel, facial wipes and deodorant every day means the 18-year-old from Glasgow is being exposed to a huge amount of chemicals.
She said: “I only use the real basics plus I never really wear any base make-up. I only use eye make-up and a bit of blusher.
“So I wouldn’t have thought the amount of chemicals would have been a big issue for me which is why I was really shocked. I never consider taking a look at the ingredients.”
Emma was shocked to discover that methylparaben was found in her Visibly Clear Neutrogena Daily Cleansing Cushions as it is a paraben, which are considered to be potentially carcinogenic.
Dee said: “The parabens are one of the most widely used group of preservatives in cosmetics.
“It is thought to cause allergic reactions and it is considered to be a potential carcinogen.”
But Neutrogena’s parent company, Johnson & Johnson, pointed us to the Cosmetics, Toiletry and Perfumery Association, the industry body for the cosmetics industry, who say that any research suggesting parabens are a danger has been totally discreditedrecently.
Another ingredient to cause Dee some concern was PVP which was found in Emma’s Sainsbury’s Extra Firm Hold Mousse.
Dee said: “It is used to give a softer set to hairsprays, this resin is also used in creams and lipsticks. Ingestion can possibly cause damage to lungs and kidneys.”
A Sainsbury’s spokesperson said: “Product safety is our top priority. We would not allow any product on the shelf that is not safe, and all our cosmetics must pass an independent toxicology and safety review.
“Every ingredient we use is also covered by The Cosmetics Directive, which is part of European and UK law. “
I WILL THINK TWICE NOW
JOURNALISM student Pamela Lawn admits the amount of chemicals in her cosmetics is something she never really thought about.
The 19-year-old from East Kilbride regularly uses face wash, moisturiser, deodorant and different types of makeup but has never considered what she is actually exposing her body too.
She said: “I never really think about what’s in the products I use but taking the time to look at the list of ingredients has really made me think. I was astounded by the amount of chemicals in some of the cosmetics, never mind what they all are and whatthey can do.
“There are about 30 different things listed in some and one product really surprised me – I thought it was meant to be a really simple natural moisturiser.
“I will certainly be thinking twice about what I buy from now on.”
It was chemicals in her make-up and body lotion that caused Dee the most concern. Pamela uses Maybelline Dream Matte Mouse, which contains the potential irritant and potentially carcinogenic paraben, propylparaben. Her FCUK Cream Up Body Cream containsPetrolatum, which Dee says “is a form of petroleum jelly that can cause allergic skin reactions”.
FCUK said: “This product is part of our High Maintenance range that has actually been discontinued.”
Maybelline pointed us to the Cosmetics, Toiletry and Perfumery Association (CTPA), the body for the cosmetics industry, as they felt it was more of an industry issue as parabens are used in so many brands.
ACTPA spokesperson said: “Unfortunately, the belief that parabens are potentially carcinogenic comes from one very small study carried out a few years ago, which has been widely discredited. Parabens are preservatives and they are used so widely becausethey are very good at their job and have been shown not to cause skin irritation.
“Many cancer charities also agree there is no link between parabens and cancer and even independent research carried out by the European Commission agrees that they are safe.”
By Samantha Booth
Source: Daily Record; Glasgow (UK)