Skincare products feeding your body and the planet

At Olea|Cocos we want to raise awareness that what you apply on your skin goes into your bloodstream and has therefore an effect on your health. Also, it washes off to the oceans and soil.

I was not aware of this until a few years back. Indeed, I recall learning at high school that our skin protects our whole body. That meant to me that whatever we put on our skin, it stays there, evaporates or does the necessary magic to not get into our body. At the same time I thought that all skincare products were regulated so all the ingredients used did not harm our health or our planet. So, imagine my disappointment and surprised when I found out that most skincare products have synthetic ingredients that do harm our bodies and health because they actually get into our bodies. Our skin eats!

Our skin is composed of three layers, the epidermis (the outer layer), the dermis, and the hypodermis. Despite the several layers of protection, these can be easily trespassed by everything we apply to our skin. It is called dermal absorption and it can happen in one of three ways. (See Figures 1 to 3 taken from the Center for Disease Control & Prevention). Once a substance gets into our skin it goes to our bloodstream.

Dermal absorption of skincare products

Unfortunately, no health organization talks about dermal absorption in relation to the products we apply to our skin. They are concerned about dermal absorption for workers in different industries including the cosmetic one. If producing some cosmetic products is harmful to the workers, what about the users of those products? Are they at risk as well?

Cosmetic companies are allowed to use synthetic ingredients even if they can be harmful. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in more than 30 years only 11 ingredients have been declared to be unsafe by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). In fact, FDA recommendations are not compulsory for cosmetic companies. It is our job as consumers to inform ourselves and read product labels. No one is going to do it for us.

On the other side, when we use skincare products we are not only feeding our skin but also the planet. Most of those products will be washed off, pass through the waste system and go into the soil, plants, oceans and sea life. For example, Tatarazako et al (2004) found that Triclosan - an antibacterial agent used in soaps, shampoos and other cosmetic products- was detected in wastewater effluents and was quite toxic to organisms like algae. The micro-plastics (tiny particles made of polyethylene or petrochemical plastics) added to some cosmetics ingredients (including some scrubs, toothpastes, shower gels, among others) are impossible to filter by the waste systems, so they go straight to our oceans affecting sea-life as well. Sure said, your individual use of skincare products with harmful ingredients is not the main source of pollution for the oceans, but we are all contributing.

Figure 4: From our shower to the oceans

Skincare products end up in the ocean

Now that we have seen how our skin eats, let’s review what we are feeding it with. We have compiled information for a basic skincare product we all use: Soaps!

Information has been summarized from the EWG. They are a non-profit organization assessing the hazard of ingredients, skincare products, water and crops in the United States. They rank skincare products with a score that ranges between 1 and 10. Products with scores lower than 2 represent a low hazard, products with scores between 3 and 6 represent a moderate hazard, and products with scores between 7 and 10 represent a high hazard.

We have selected a small sample of soap bars widely used and known as well as our Lavender Face & Body Soap. We choose this Face & Body Soap from our Olea|Cocos selection because it is the more likely one, among our Soaps, to have a higher score. Essential oils can be very hazardous to the body if not used correctly. However, even this Face & Body Soap outperforms the others included in the comparison. See Table 1 for full results.

Table 1: Sample of Soap Bars and their hazards to your body and the planet

Comparison of Soap Bars, including our Olea|Cocos bar
Comparison of Soap Bars and their hazards to your body

EWG has analyzed more than 73,000 products, do not hesitate to check yours if it is not in this sample.

Takeaway: Look at the ingredients of the products you are using. It matters for your health and the planet's well-being.

Enjoy your skincare!


#skincare #soapbars #health #planet

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