Plastics Are Seeping Into Your Skin, And The Environment
Personal hygiene is a bigger priority for people than ever before. Gone are the 16th-century days of showering monthly – which is a great thing when it comes to keeping odors and germs in check. But despite society’s obsession with cleanliness, very few people are actually checking to see which harmful ingredients they’re exposed to on a daily basis. Plastic is a big one, as most shampoos, soaps, moisturizers, and styling products are made with toxic plastic ingredients that lead to issues for our bodies and the world we live in.
As of recently, law-makers have begun to place limitations on the plastic ingredients permitted in cosmetics, but dangerous chemicals and additives are still lurking in the products people use every day. That’s why it’s imperative that buyers take responsibility for their own health and wellbeing by reading the labels on their go-to beauty staples.
Here are the top five reasons why you should avoid plastics in your soaps, lotions, and sprays:
1. They’re Not Even Necessary for Hygiene Purposes
Reach for virtually any bottle of shampoo on any drug store shelf, and you’ll find a huge list of ingredients that most people can barely pronounce. Those ingredients are there to clean your hair, right? Not so much. In actuality, most of them are just inexpensive additives and fillers that are meant to preserve and thicken your products — not actually clean your body.
Polyethylene Glycols (PEGs), for example, are petroleum-derived compounds that are often loaded with byproducts. Since they’re thick and sticky, they’re typically added to shampoos and other cleansers to give these products a denser, “more luxurious” feel. Even though they’re considered “a low overall hazard,” they’ve still been linked to organ system toxicity.
Another very common additive (although thankfully on the decline as of the last few years) is parabens. They were first introduced in the 1950s, and are now used in the vast majority of hair care products, toothpastes, and even canned food. They’re often added to formulas in order to prevent the growth of bacteria over time, but they’re also capable of entering through our skin and disrupting proper hormone release and the endocrine system.
Yes, these ingredients are cheap to manufacture and they do serve a purpose (even if they’re not cleaning your hair), but are they entirely necessary? Given the fact that there are nature-made thickeners and antimicrobials like xanthan gum and tea tree oil, probably not. Even if you’re not totally sold on the studies, it’s better to be safe than sorry — you can achieve the same results with natural ingredients that come without side-effects.
2. Like a Sponge, Your Skin Absorbs Everything You Put on It
No matter how good it smelled, you probably wouldn’t eat your favorite bar of soap. That being said, new research has shown that the skin could be a lot more absorbent than we realize, and as a result, beauty products could be getting into our systems the same way they would if we had ingested them. According to a study from Toxicological Sciences, “A plethora of data recently coming to the forefront shows that exposures to xenobiotics are not limited to oral consumption or inhalation.” Currently, research estimates that the skin absorbs anywhere from one percent to 27 percent when coated with 2-butoxyethanol – an organic compound – but what about the compounds that aren’t so organic?
The absorption of parabens through the skin has now been proven by one study, which found intact paraben esters in human urine. A different study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that simply handling thermal receipt paper caused an increase of BPA to show up in participants’ urine over the next 24 hours. What about products that we lather over our skin every single day? For this reason, those within the holistic health and naturopathic spheres have come up with this simple rule: “If you wouldn’t put it in your mouth, you shouldn’t put it on your body.”
3. They Might Be A Quick Fix, But Your Hair and Skin Could Suffer Long-Term
Yeah, you’re having a great hair day today due to your favorite conditioner, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to continue to benefit you long-term. Silicone, for example, is one of the most common ingredients in beauty products because it prevents the loss of moisture, lubricates the hair for better conditioning, and creates a barrier that protects against humidity. However, because it’s waterproof, it can cause a build-up of residue that can be tough to wash out – especially if you’re adding more and more every day. Over time, silicone ingredients can cause hair to look dull, lifeless, and heavy, and can even lead to hair loss due to the excess weight on the roots.
PEGs, which we spoke about earlier, might also be sabotaging your beauty routine in the long-run. They’re used in skin care products to soften and thicken formulas, but they can also dry out your skin and speed up aging. That’s the exact opposite of the result you’re looking for when you choose a moisturizer.
Then there are Dimethicones, which may very well be one of the most common ingredients in hygiene products. These are large molecules made out of several smaller silicon units bonded together, and they create a plastic-like coating on your hair and body. They’ve been deemed “safe” by the FDA, but many people have reported acne, irritation, and overgrowth of bacteria because this coating traps germs, sweat, and debris against the skin, ultimately worsening your complexion.
Lastly, there are all the other plastic-based ingredients that you could be sensitive to. Since they’re synthetically-made, chemicals and additives can prompt an allergic reaction, which could lead to dandruff, eczema, psoriasis, or general inflammation.
4. Plastics Have Been Linked To All Sorts of Scary Health Concerns
According to a 2005 study from the Environmental Health Perspective, “reproductive and developmental problems have become more prevalent” in recent decades, and synthetic chemicals are strongly suspected to be one of the main culprits. Three separate reports state that most personal care items contain ingredients that haven’t yet proven to be safe – and, moreover, some have officially been deemed unsafe. Many of these ingredients have been linked to “male genital birth defects, decreased sperm counts, and altered pregnancy outcomes” in animal studies. BPA, parabens, and phthalates are all thought to disrupt the reproductive system by mimicking estrogen in the body and reducing testosterone.
Plastic polymers are also found in products like hair spray, which is first airborne before it reaches your hair. Some studies have pointed out the link between lung disease and breathing in these toxins, namely in long-term exposure for dogs. The plastic most commonly found in hair sprays is Polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP), which is most dangerous when used alongside styling tools. Once heated, PVP melts and creates toxic fumes that we then breathe in, causing damage to the lungs in sensitive individuals.
Finally, a 2009 study stated that on a daily basis, our bodies are exposed to over 200 toxins from synthetic sources, and many of them are known carcinogens. One of those is BPA (Bisphenol A; a common additive in plastic), and research has found that personal care products heighten our bodies’ absorption of it.
5. The Environment is Also Suffering from These Ingredients
We’re not the only ones suffering from the negative side-effects of plastics; these ingredients also have a massive impact on the environment around us. Plastics are synthetic, meaning that they don’t effectively break down or decompose the way that organic matter would. As a result, when they flow down the shower drain, they’re not gone.
Microbeads, for example, are turning our fish toxic, according to scientists. These are the tiny plastic beads often used for exfoliation purposes in face washes and scrubs, but when they wash down the sink, they stay fully in tact until they reach the ocean. There, fish consume the microbeads and they sit in their stomachs, attracting toxic chemicals that have been shown to cause neurological and fertility problems. Silicone has a similar effect, as it has been deemed “bio-accumulative” and may also cause similar problems for animal-life. Then there are all those wrappers and bottles, which – for anyone who’s ever seen a picture of a landfill – don’t require an in-depth explanation.
Bottom Line: How to Avoid Plastics in Your Beauty Routine
Yes, there are a lot of ingredients to look out for when avoiding plastics, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Simply by checking your labels for the above toxins, you’re on your way to a healthier hygiene routine.
If you’re on the lookout for genuinely safe beauty products that actually enhance your skin and hair, check out Enovvia Naturals. This brand skips all the questionable ingredients like sulfates, parabens, silicones, and synthetic perfumes. Instead, they use openly-listed botanical extracts, like in this shampoo and totally biodegradable ingredients that are never tested on animals. Their prices are affordable, their products are highly-reviewed, and their formulas are totally plant-based, so both you and the environment can benefit.