The skin is the largest human organ and serves not only to protect our internal organs, regulate temperature and enable sensations of touch, but also forms the basis of what we show to the world. As such, it demands to be well cared for.
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With billions of dollars spent on skin care products each year, competition is fierce and many consumers fall victim to expensive ad campaigns which promise beauty and youth without credible evidence to back their claims. Add to this the fact that many skin care products available in Australia contain synthetic chemicals and toxins that have been banned in other countries, and choosing skin care products becomes risky business.
So how do you choose skin care products that are safe and effective?
Find a skin care philosophy that you're comfortable with and match it to the philosophy of skin care producers. A popular philosophy at the moment for example, revolves around the statement 'if you can't eat it, don't put it on your skin'. It makes sense when you consider that 60% of what you put on your skin is absorbed and shortly detectable in the bloodstream; just as we aim to ingest healthy foods, why should we not aim also for our skin to ingest healthy products?
My personal skin care philosophy involves using products that are suitable to my skin type, protect and nourish my skin, and enhance wellbeing with simple, natural and organic ingredients. These days it's not difficult to find products that fit my criteria, and if all else fails there are homemade skin care options. I also choose products that have not been tested on animals, contain no animal ingredients and are produced in an ecologically and environmentally responsible manner.
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This is of utmost importance - be responsible, take the time to read labels and know exactly what you're putting on your skin, and subsequently into your body. And don't be fooled by labels that read 'natural' and 'organic' - real organic products are certified organic (look for the certification) and anyone can stick the word 'natural' on a label, regardless of the ingredients list.
If you don't recognise an ingredient, go to your phone or computer and Google it. A great place to start is the Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database where you can search thousands of ingredients and discover which products contain them. The Natural Resources Defense Council offers a helpful guide to labelling - though an American site it is still an informative guide. There is a long list of ingredients that should be avoided with some found to have links to various conditions including allergies, cancer, and reproductive problems in both men and women. The manufacture of chemicals is doing enough damage to both our external and internal environment, why further damage our health and wellbeing by ingesting chemicals directly into our body? Here is a label I can live with - it's from Gaia's Baby Moisturiser (available at Coles for $10) which I use in summer as it's light, clean and nourishing. And I can recognise every ingredient on the label.
Gaia Baby Moisturiser
Here's a label from a popular brand of skin care products that you couldn't pay me to use - the differences are obvious.
Know Your Vitamins
It's true that certain vitamins are of benefit to the skin - vitamins A, C and E in particular. Many skin care products contain synthetic vitamins and the jury is out on whether synthetic vitamins are safe. There is also an argument that extracted vitamins are useless as they are only beneficial in their whole and complex form. So don't pay a fortune for skin care products based on vitamin content, you're far better off ensuring you're receiving adequate vitamins from a well balanced diet.
More Expensive Isn't Necessarily Better
A ridiculously expensive skin care product range may contain a similar concentration of helpful ingredients as a cheaper one. It may also contain more harmful chemicals and toxins. So be assured that you do not have to spend a fortune to achieve good results. If in doubt go back to the philosophy of the producer and checking the ingredients.
In addition to homemade skin care products there are only three product ranges whose philosophy, ingredients and manufacturing processes I've found that I trust to purchase and apply to my skin.