Why what we put on our skin matters

Why what we put on our skin matters

First it was ‘clean eating’ that was all the rage, and now we have ‘clean beauty’ as the buzzword that keeps popping up everywhere. From supermarket shelves to department store counters, there is no denying there is a ‘clean’ revolution happening. Many brands are jumping on the bandwagon and ‘green-ing’ their image and formulations. I have to confess - I’ve always been a beauty and skincare product junkie, and for many years I never read a label or gave a thought as to what was actually in the formulations I was using. I chose them depending on what they promised to do, whether or not I felt the brand was reliable, and sometimes because they had nice packaging or looked good (shallow, I know). But once I had my babies, and wondered what was best to use on their skin, I started to look at ingredient labels and found that a lot of the products sold in the baby aisle of the supermarket are full of synthetic ingredients and artificial fragrances (I mean, why - babies smell so good anyway). My midwife always recommended using almond or olive oil for babies, because natural ingredients were less likely to irritate delicate skin. This started me thinking about what was really in the skincare and bath products we were using at home, although at that point in time I was too busy adjusting to motherhood and the demands of having small people to really put much effort into making any real changes!

But over the past few years, I’ve become very interested in what we are putting on our skin, and how this can have an effect on our overall health and wellness. According to Dr Libby Weaver, in her excellent book Women’s Wellness Wisdom, what we put on our skin really does matter because our skin “is not simply a layer, it is an organ.” As such, anything we use on our skin should help support the skin’s functions, not attack it or overload the body’s processes. “You only have to think about how nicotine patches work to realise that your skin is a direct route to your blood supply, and that your detoxification systems will have additional work to do depending on what ends up in there.” Weaver recommends using products made without synthetic ingredients, and to look for those that use organic and/or biodynamically grown ingredients.

With so many synthetic ingredients in our everyday products, it can be a nightmare trying to figure out what we should avoid. Even reading a label can be like trying to decipher a foreign language. Where to start? Naturopath Deanna Copland says we should avoid SLS (Sodium Laurel Sulfate), a foaming agent which strips the natural oils from the skin and can contribute to eczema and other skin issues; fragrances other than those from natural essential oils, as they can be carcinogenic and/or can alter reproductive hormones; formaldehyde, which is also carcinogenic; aluminium (used in some deodorants) and lead (used in some lipsticks), as these heavy metals can be absorbed by the body and disrupt certain processes.

In her book The Nature of Beauty, Imelda Burke, founder of Content Beauty, has written a chapter based on the ingredients she avoids in the products she uses. In addition to those listed above, she also avoids mineral oil and petrolatum, by-products of the crude oil industry and which are very cheap and long-lasting, but do not do much for skin. Even very expensive skincare can be made up of a high percentage of these cheap, fairly ineffective ingredients, and they are not always listed or obvious to find on labels. She also lists parabens, as these “have been found to disrupt physiologically important functions and have a mildly oestrogenic effect on the body.” Another ingredient she avoids are ethanolamines, which are used as foaming agents, emulsifiers and stabilisers, and can also be difficult to spot on labels as they come from a variety of sources. Burke also avoids phthalates, which are compounds used in the production of plastic, and have been found to be disruptive to normal hormone function and metabolism.

With so many brands and products out there on the market, it can be hard to know which ones are the real deal when it comes to using natural ingredients and gentle formulations that actually give great results. At temple+co, we have trialled a number of great brands and products to find the ones we love. Some of our favourite brands are The Skin Kitchen, Tailor, Rohr Remedy, Edible Beauty, Cocovit and NUORI, which you can find at temple+co. We also think the products from WelleCo and The Beauty Chef support great skin from the inside, so be sure to check those out too.