hands

When you’re already buying what seems like the best quality hydration product on the market, what more can possibly be done to restore your skin’s topography to its formerly supple and resilient glory? That’s easy – just become a label sleuth. Whip out your magnifying glass and pull a Sherlock Holmes on your favorite moisturizer brand. Once you launch your own ingredient investigation, you’ll discover that there’s far more going on than seemingly well-intentioned promises of new-improved moisture retention or a formula teeming with 20% more botanicals.

As trusting as so many of us are, thinking that stores wouldn’t dare sell body care products if they weren’t actually good for us, there’s no policing system currently in place… which basically means that we have to take the reins in order to ensure our own personal safety. Bottom line? If your current brand contains any of the following ingredients, please find a natural alternative or make your own safer skin lotion – it really is that easy!

PETROLATUM

Otherwise known as petroleum jelly (yup… Vaseline), mineral oil, paraffin wax/oil or petrolatum, this gasoline derivative — which is frequently contaminated with carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons — actually perpetuates chapped, dry skin as well as photosensitivity since it prevents the body from purging daily toxins. Why? The substance attaches to skin cells, creating the appearance of better hydration, when in reality it merely just forms a barrier that blocks nutrient and oxygen transmission.

GLYCERIN

If you grew up in a household where family members celebrated the perceived miraculous healing abilities of this popular skin humectant, you’re hardly in the minority. Just like Vaseline, glycerin (also known as glycerine and glycerol) has enjoyed a long career as a key moisturizing ingredient, and while it can be obtained from both vegetable or animal fats and oils, it is most commonly derived from biodiesel waste courtesy of the saponification of oil and fat. The non-toxic and eco-friendly substance certainly seals moisture into skin, but it does so while also triggering subdermal skin layers to dry out, creating a chronically chapped sensation.

CETEARYL ALCOHOL

Despite attracting moisture, anything with ‘alcohol’ in its name also inherently dries out the tissue that it’s applied to (skin and hair, watch out!). This fatty alcohol – also well known by its alter egos cetyl alcohol, cetostearyl alcohol, palmityl alcohol, cetylstearyl alcohol, 1-octadecanol, uniox a and various other alcohol-suffixes – is highly skilled at helping oil and liquid ingredients to combine, plus it makes products appear thick while also rendering hair and skin seemingly hydrated. Unfortunately, it is also a suspected environmental toxin.

PARABENS

It’s a very wise idea to eliminate all personal care products in your arsenal that contain either butyl, ethyl, methyl or propyl parabens because the chemicals are readily absorbed into the body where they are believed to trigger everything from skin irritation and toxicity of the immune, reproductive and neural systems to disruption of the endocrine system. The majority of urine samples obtained from Americans of various socio-economic backgrounds show paraben contamination, which is of great concern since the highly toxic estrogen-mimicking preservatives are also commonly found in the tumors of breast cancer patients.

ISOPROPYL PALMITATE

Why is this coconut palm derived emollient — also known by the names ethylhexyl palmitate and octyl palmitate — in oodles of skin and personal care products given the fact that it clogs pores, irritates skin and in many cases triggers dermatitis? Well, almost immediately upon application, it’s readily absorbed into the skin, rendering it visibly supple. For that quality alone, this admittedly ‘natural’ ingredient scores a high five in cosmetic and personal care circles, however, the unsustainable harvesting practices of so many major global palm oil suppliers place a continued burden on rainforest species that rely on palm trees and their fruit for their very survival (namely orangutans), earning this ingredient two huge thumbs down.

POLYETHYLENE GLYCOL

Those in the know refer to this compound by any number of street names — including carbowax, polyoxyethylene, and/or polyethylene oxide — and for all intents and purposes, it’s a lubricant like no other. From eye drops and laxatives to toothpastes, sexual aids and skin moisturizers, this popular antifreeze ingredient is – surprise, surprise – obtained from petroleum and deemed a potential carcinogen. Furthermore, despite popular belief, it makes skin prone to bacterial infection, actually rendering it visibly worse for the wear since natural moisture levels become significantly altered upon application.

SILICONE

Non biodegradable polymer resins such as amodimethicone, cyclomethicone, dimethicone or dimethicone copolyol do a phenomenal job of making the skin appear moist and properly hydrated when in reality, they settle into the cells, preventing the normal oxygen/nutrient process from occurring. This backfires on the user because toxins can build up, irritating and causing potential health issues for the lymphatic system with repeated and prolonged use.

Image: chimothy27 

For more juicy green goodness, follow Elizah via Twitter @elizahleigh