The “Ugly” in Skincare Products

Priority One of looking younger, as any doctor or anti-aging expert will tell you, is taking care of your skin: minimal sun exposure, hydration, supplements, and so on. But many people with the best of intentions are inadvertently exposing themselves to a battlefield of toxins waging war on the face and skin. Imagine slathering on a skin cream loaded with lead, parabens and even formaldehyde?

Buyer Beware

Unfortunately, toxins in skincare products are more common than they should be, largely because they aren’t regulated the way many physician-prescribed products are. The majority of skin care products on the market today have never been evaluated for safety because there is no legal compulsion to do so. There are no warnings about the contents of these products. Their shiny, expensive packaging and exotic ingredients can belie some harmful, toxic chemicals that may be absorbed into the deepest layers of the skin.

Why would a company knowingly use toxic chemicals in their products? Simple. Money. Some ingredients that “may” be toxic are considerably less expensive than others. Many hazardous products have been on the market for some time, and it wouldn’t be economically feasible to alter a beauty product that has already been heavily invested in.

So what is a consumer to do? You can use products that are safe and deliver the desired results to look younger, healthier and more vibrant. They do exist! It takes a little homework on your part, but it’s worth it. Visit and search for the products that you have been buying to see how they are rated in terms of safety and level of toxins. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll find. You can see a list of those that rate the highest and have little to no toxins in their composition.

For a simpler start – and a good rule of thumb when shopping for a skin care product – remember “The Three P’s” to avoid – Parabens, Phthalates, and Perfumes. Also be wary of products containing lead, and the preservative formaldehyde (embalming, anyone?), often disguised in the list of ingredients as “diazolidinyl urea,” and a proven carcinogen.

Parabens are added to prolong the shelf-life of a product , serving as a preservative and fungicide; they have also been shown to “mimic” estrogen and have been linked to the development of breast cancer tumors.

Phthalates are often added to plastics to increase their flexibility, and are used in skin care products for much the same purpose. But the risks here far outweigh the rewards, as phthalates have been proven to interfere with hormones and cause birth defects if used by women in child-bearing years.

Perfumes are perhaps the biggest culprit among popular skin care products, because we as consumers enjoy things that smell good, right? When you are shopping for a face cream, when sampling it at the counter what is the first thing you do: you smell it. We are all attracted to a pleasant fragrance, but essential oils and perfumes can cause irritation to the skin, inflammation, rosacea. And while you may not notice any problems on the surface, more serious problems could occur deeper, including the breakdown of collagen and hindering the ability of the skin to heal properly. Bottom line: irritated skin creates wrinkles, and doesn’t look youthful or firm. Why spend money on a product that will yield these unsatisfactory results?

Shop wisely for better and safer results when it comes to your skin care products. The products you purchase could change the way companies are creating new ones and might even encourage them to reformulate those that are toxic. Many companies have done so in marketing their products internationally, but continue to sell the inferior, more toxic versions in the United States because there are no federal regulatory standards on cosmetics with which they need to comply.

Be your own advocate and do the research. I’m writing this not only as a physician but also as an advocate for my patients. I am increasingly concerned with the products on the market today, so much so that I developed my own line of skin care products that are toxin free. Clean, healthy products that work are available if you know what to look for.

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