Posts Tagged ‘Safety of parabens in skin care products’

The Tricky Part is Keeping it Fresh

Monday, June 14th, 2010

sun-faceLike a lot of other women today, I am perhaps too aware of all the unhealthy chemicals we’re exposed to everyday. With summer on the horizon – literally, the Solstice is Monday! – I’ve been on the hunt for an effective and affordable sunscreen. Thankfully, current periodicals routinely add to the backlog of online information available on which chemicals we need to watch out for in sunscreens; unfortunately, most of them tend to be pricier than their more dangerous competitors. While I’m certain I can refrain from slathering too much sunscreen on my body and rarely spill it, this isn’t the case with my children. Hence, my annual return to the “sunscreen issue.”

This year, I’ve upped the ante. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me before, but the chemicals in most of the moisturizers with SPF moisturizers we use everyday are just as suspect as those in the sunscreens we coat ourselves with during the summer months. The vast majority of sunscreens, including those contained in moisturizers to reduce the incidence of skin cancer and prevent premature aging contain potentially harmful chemicals like Benzophenone, homosalate and octyl methoxycinnamate (or octinoxate), which can mimic naturally occurring hormones and disrupt our bodies' systems. Some also contained Padimate-0 and parsol 1789 (also known as avobenzone), which may cause DNA damage when exposed to sunlight. Not only can they "kill" you, but less than 2% of them even work. Even if applied correctly - i.e., liberally and often - the much overrated SPF rating does nothing to prevent the effects of cancer-causing, premature-aging UVA rays.

What should you look for?

A recent GOOD post provides an exhaustive list of guidelines for selecting and using a summer sunscreen. Of these, the following are more pertinent to choosing an everyday moisturizer with sunscreen protection:

1. If your intention is to prevent cancer and reduce premature aging, IGNORE SPF RATINGS.

2. Choose zinc and/or titanium dioxide over chemical sunscreens. Zinc is the most effective active ingredient for protecting your skin from sun damage currently on the market. As long as you avoid ingesting it, titanium dioxide is as safe and effective as zinc.

3. Avoid vitamin A; humans may be among the planet’s mammals who are getting cancer at higher rates due to overexposure to vitamin A.

4.Minimize exposure to parabens – a class of chemicals used as preservatives in most name brand skin care products – and avoid fragrances, which contain phthalates (another chemical preservative related to parabens). Parabens mimic estrogen, which has been widely associated with increased incidence of breast cancer.

While most of us can do without the fragrance, I don’t know anyone who relishes waking up to moldy facial cream. Don’t laugh. It’s happened to me – long ago when I made my own cosmetics because the few safe variants available then far exceeded my modest personal expense budget. Note that I made very small quantities just for myself; major cosmetic manufacturers ship their products over long distances, through varying climates and storage temperatures, to store shelves where they sit for undetermined periods of time before making it the medicine cabinet or vanity. They correctly argue that that: a) parabens are among the least irritating and most effective preservatives, and b) they are used sparingly, typically appearing at the very end of the ingredients list. Still, parabens remain “bad” for our health; the recent development of nanoparticles, which can permit even the tiniest amounts of toxic ingredients in our skin care products to penetrate the skin and enter the blood stream, makes them even worse for us.

The good news is that The Environmental Working Group recently released its list of top 10 safe moisturizer that effectively prevents unnecessary sun damage (the corresponding list of top 10 safe and eco-friendly sunscreens is also available now!):

1. Marie Veronique Organics Moisturizing Face Screen: Reviews suggest it’s very drying.

2. SanRe Organic Skinfood Shaded Rose and Coconut Day Cream: Earns rave reviews, except for the patchouli scent.

3. Devita International Daily Solar Protective Moisturizer: Very creamy and works!

4. Keys Soap Solar Rx Cosmetic Moisturizing Sunblock: Uniformly high reviews.

5. Sweetsation Therapy Sun*Si’Belle Organic Triple Action Moisturizer: This one must have been pushed in the world of SAHMs (Stay At Home Moms)…Sweetsation’s website provides a long list of products reviewed, which are all good.

6. Skin QR Organics L’air du Soleil: Another one marked by a foul – this time, antisceptic – scent, and it’s difficult to rub in.

7. Institute Dermed Sun Protective Cream Oil Free: Loved by those with dry skin.

8. Sun Science Organic Daily Wear: Essentially a sunscreen that works well for the face.

9. Karen’s Botanicals Lavendar Facial Cream: Best for those with Rosacea and other skin conditions.

10. N.V. Perricone M.D. Cosmeceuticals Target CAe Solar Protection: Highest reviews appear on its own site.

Note that all of these products exceed the average drugstore price for moisturizers ($10-$12 for name brands), but most are comparable to the cost of similar products at department stores ($20-$50). One penny-wise approach is to purchase a safe face and body sunscreen, and use it year-round on your face in combination with a preservative-free everyday moisturizer. The Body Shop’s Aloe Soothing Day Cream ($16) and Boots Organic Face Hydrating Day Cream ($12.99 at Target) are affordable options that work really well. In addition, I’ve found that as a consequence of the added humidity in summertime, I can actually ditch my moisturizer altogether for a couple of months out of the year to offset the cost of the more expensive sunscreen.