I know, I know. Petroleum and other chemicals like parabens that are commonly found in beauty products have only been found to have limited amounts of harmful effects on the body. Studies are inconclusive and more testing needs to be done before the FDA will label these ingredients as harmful. And yes, I know they’ve been used in skin care products for decades, and on the surface, most people seem to be ok.
I also know that petroleum is a byproduct of the oil industry, and while it may be a fantastic barrier to hold moisture in the skin, it is derived from the same stuff as car fuel. This means it contains chemicals that were probably never meant to penetrate human skin on a daily basis. Parabens are chemically-derived compounds used for preserving ingredients and have been linked to breast cancer and reproductive issues. Yes, I know it takes years of testing to determine if a chemical is harmful (parabens have at least replaced formaldehyde), but I’ve made a personal decision to reduce my use of them in my skin care products now.
This new commitment follows my progression over the years toward a healthier, more natural health regiment.
Over a decade ago, I made a conscious effort to limit the amount of processed and unhealthy foods I put into my body. I stopped eating fast food in college, I don’t eat junk food, I stay away from canned vegetables, I rarely eat red meat, I use moderate amounts of salt and butter, and I eat a TON of fresh fruit and vegetables. I never had a health scare, but cancer and high blood pressure run in my family, and I prefer to avoid both. I also simply found that the more natural and unprocessed food I ate, the better I felt.
About two years ago, I became more aware of the chemicals I was putting in my hair. When I started researching how to enhance my natural curls, I found that the fewer sulfates and silicones I used on a daily basis, the softer and healthier-looking my hair became, not to mention it grows like crazy.
So the natural progression, from my perspective, is to get smarter about the products I am putting on my skin. Skin is the body’s largest organ, and will absorb a portion of what’s layered onto it (some studies say up to 60%). Personally, I’d rather my skin absorb natural, plant-based minerals and vitamins than any material that may or may not cause hormonal imbalances.
This is a highly personal decision, and I don’t impose my health beliefs on others unless asked. But hey, since this is my blog…
I’m still relatively new to the petroleum/paraben-free skin care game, so these are the few produces I’ve used with success so far:
Shea Moisture is easily becoming my favorite skin and hair care line. I LOVE this stuff. It is free of parabens and mineral oil (a derivative of petroleum), the formula is rich, and it smells divine. It absorbs fairly easily into the skin, but because it contains natural oils like shea, cocoa, coconut, jojoba and olive, it does leave the skin slick and shiny. I always apply this at night, right after a shower, right before bed, and it keeps my skin moisturized throughout the next day. I’ve also tried the Shea Moisture Body Lotion, but found that I needed to reapply the next day. If your skin is not too dry, the lotion may work fine. My skin is a bit drier, so the rich formula of the body butter is more effective. The cost is on the high side in terms of drug store brands at around $10 for a 6 oz container, but part of my commitment to harm-free skin care is the acceptance that I will pay a higher price for higher quality. I don’t know if it’s just in my head, but I think my skin also glows a little from using this lotion. 🙂
Since I’ve become *ahem* more mature, I’d started looking for an eye cream to tighten up the
skin bags under my eyes. Eye cream is ridiculously expensive for very small amounts, and just couldn’t see myself forking out that much money when 1) I wasn’t convinced they would work, and 2) I knew there had to be a simpler, less expensive alternative. I started reading labels, and saw that a key ingredient in most of these creams was Vitamin E. I’d also read an article somewhere that one of the 80’s supermodels cracks open a Vitamin E pill every night and smoothes the contents onto her face. While I’m hesitant to smooth any kind of oil all over my face (I had a bad experience with the oil-cleansing method that resulted in a trip to the dermatologist), I figured the softening, healing properties of Vitamin E would be great for the fine lines around my eyes. So I headed to Whole Foods and bought a small bottle of the Home Health brand, which contains only tocopherol (natural Vitamin E oil) and vegetable oil (do your research – there are also synthetic tocopherols). I’ve been using this as a nightly eye cream for about a year and a half, and while it doesn’t necessarily tighten loose skin, I do think it has slowed the onset of wrinkles, which are caused by thinner, dryer skin. (I do have some laugh lines though, which I’m proud of.) As for tightening up the skin, I heard tea bags work because of the constricting properties of caffeine. I’ll give it a go and let you know.
I also started using Vitamin E oil as a replacement for the nightly Vaseline I used to moisturize my lips. I can’t even guess how much Vaseline I’ve probably ingested a result of sleeping with it piled up on my lips. Vitamin E oil works just as well, but your lips will look super greasy at night!
This one is very new in my bathroom cabinet, but I’ve just picked up Neutrogena Naturals Multi-Vitamin Nourishing Moisturizer. The skin on my face is on the sensitive side, and I’m pretty picky about what I put on it. I don’t need anything too oily because my skin produces enough, yet I have dry patches around my eyes and chin that need attention, plus daily SPF makes my eyes burn. I selected this moisturizer because 1) Neutrogena generally has a reputation for gentle, effective skin care, 2) at $13 for a 3 oz. container, it is more economical than many “natural” moisturizers, and 3) given that I’m becoming *ahem* more mature, I was looking for ingredients to nourish and improve, not just hold moisture in. It takes a couple of weeks for my skin to adjust to a new moisturizer, so the final verdict has not been rendered, but so far Neutrogena is not a bad choice. I like that it contains natural oils like olive, palm and castor, yet it’s not greasy at all on the face. In fact, I have to get used to how non-greasy it is, because I’d been using good ole Oil of Olay, which leaves a nice little slick of sheen on my face. The only thing I don’t particularly like is that, at night, when the temps are cooler in the house, the area around my eyes feels a little tight, but it’s not a huge deal because I use the Vitamin E oil mentioned above. It’s fine for now, but I probably won’t be able to use this product in the winter, when my skin is even drier. I’ll be sure to update this post in a couple of weeks once I’ve given this moisturizer time to mesh (or not) with my face.
This is the second petroleum-free moisturizer I have tried. The first was Alba Botanicals Natural Hawaiian Moisture Cream. While it was a helluva moisturizer, it was very oily, which didn’t go over too well in the summer months. This might make a better night cream or winter moisturizer. Oh, the struggle!
To be perfectly honest, I don’t know if any of the petroleum or paraben-based products I’ve used all these years have had harmful effects. But I know that what you put on your skin seeps into your body, so it just makes sense to me to use products that have never been linked to any harmful effects. My goal is to nurture my body with what it needs to thrive and heal itself. I know it’s impossible to avoid chemicals – they’re in the air we breath, but I can at least reduce what’s within my control.
Stay healthy, my friends.