Goodbye Skincare Chemicals!

I’m just in the final stage of finishing my degree. One aspect of my course this year has involved studying ecotoxicology, or the influence of man-made chemicals on living organisms and the environment. A very depressing module a times, but a very interesting and informative one that has made me seriously re-think my skincare routine and what ingredients I should be using.

A few years ago the ‘paraben buzz’ began. A few papers were published, mostly in the oncology world sharing studies of paraben discovery in breast cancer tissues. Cosmetic addicts then jumped on the bandwagon. Do I think they are safe to use? No. But does it frustrate me that people stay away from them without having done their research? YES! It amazes me how easily people are influenced and how quickly an idea can trend without those involved actually understanding why they are doing something. This is the first of a few posts I will be releasing on chemicals in skincare. Let me fill you in, from a scientific perspective on what a few of these chemicals do, and I’m sure you will understand why I think it is better to be safe than sorry...

1.     1.  Parabens. This is a group of endocrine disruptors. The endocrine system consists of various glands in our body and their hormone secretions. From the hypothalamus to the adrenal and thyroid glands, right down to the gonads (ovaries and testes). These glands secrete hormones that are picked up by receptors on specific cells that require that hormone to carry out a particular function. Estrogen is a female hormone, but parabens mimick this. The problem of parabens in cosmetics is that cause an excessive estrogenic effect on the body. Breast cancer is caused by excess estrogen leading to rapid cell growth in breast tissues. In the same way that those on the contraceptive pill or taking hormone replacement therapy suffer from an increased risk of breast cancer, those subjecting themselves to estrogen mimics also may potentially be at risk. There has been no concrete evidence that those absorbed through skincare products accumulate in the breast tissue over time, but Goodson et al. (2011) found methylparaben in tumour growth in breasts and Tavares et al. (2009) linked paraben use to mitochondrial function in the testes – a potential cause for the increased infertility in the developed world.  A study of 160 breast cancer samples revealed 99% contained parabens (Barr et al., 2012) - scary stuff! My issue with these is that because they are lipid-soluble (and the breasts are mostly composed of fatty adipose tissue) they have the potential to accumulate, causing damage over time. GOODBYE FROM ME. 

2.     2.   Methylisothiozolinone (MI) (now that’s a mouthful!). This is another common preservative to fight of micro-organisms in skincare products. This has been shown by Lundor et al. (2011) to be a neurotoxin, outcompeting essential metal Zinc for special binding sites in our cells, preventing the growth of neurons by inhibiting certain proteins. It also generates reactive oxygen species (ROS – more commonly known as ‘free radicals’) which lead to cell damage. A lifetime accumulation of ROS are what are thought to cause the aging process. This is why there is a constant buzz about antioxidants in the foods we eat and the products we use. These antioxidants basically transform crazy free radicals into safer molecules that no longer cause damage, hence their importance! AU REVOIR.

3.     3.   Phenoxyethanol. This is another carcinogen which causes ROS to damage cells. It also acts synergistically with MI to make it super-good at preventing bacterial invasion to our products. Both this and MI have been found to cause contact dermatitis in some patients, indicating heightened sensitivity in several people.SAYONARA.

There are of course other preservatives, and I will write another post mentioning some others, as well as detergents and mineral oils. But for now I wanted to let you know about a rather big step I have taken in my skincare regimen. A few days ago I had a massive in-depth look at the ingredients in my ample supply of skincare products and decided to take the step and get rid of anything with any of these ingredients. Face, hair and body. YIKES! That was basically EVERYTHING bar a few nice gems. Not that I agree with my friends to using them either, but hey, we’re all students and everyone loves a freebee :-) so I had several happy pals! I then proceeded to make a rather large order at Feel Unique for some new goodies due to arrive in the next couple days. Lots of reviews to come!

I hope this was informative. Please share your thoughts and ideas!


  1. Wow! Thanks for posting this, an interesting read and definitely a lot of stuff I wasn't aware of before. I'm for sure going to have to take a closer look at my skincare products now!

  2. Great post! Very informative :)


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