Guest blog by Sam Hadadi
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Most of us are on a never-ending journey to look more beautiful.
At some point in our lives, we’ll all wish for skin that’s younger, clearer or more radiant. We all want thicker, glossier, ad-worthy hair. And we most definitely want those supermodel-long legs and taut, toned tums.
Sadly, it’s near impossible to live up to this ‘ideal’. Instead, we tend to be greeted by wrinkles, uneven skin, spots, wobbly bits and cellulite when we look in the mirror, and that’s just for starters.
Because of this, the beauty industry is booming. In fact, it’s worth a staggering £15bn1 in the UK alone, with our quest to look more beautiful costing us a fortune –and we bet you’ve been tempted, too. After all, every single day we’re seduced by adverts telling us to buy this cream, invest in that serum, or swallow that magic pill.
But do we ever stop to question these adverts? Do we ever wonder whether these miracle lotions and potions are worth it, or even what they contain?
If you ever stopped to consider just what’s in that pricey night cream, it’s likely that you wouldn’t have bought it in the first place. Loaded with suspected carcinogens, neurotoxins or hormone disruptors, many of the country’s best-loved (and most trusted) beauty products can contain a hazardous cocktail of chemicals.
However, despite this, despite those health warnings, we keep on buying. Back in 2004, a study2 revealed that the average adult uses nine personal care products each day, containing 126 different chemicals in total. When you put it like that, don’t you want to know what these chemicals are, what they can do? And do they pose a health risk?
After all, when you smear your face with that moisturiser, the chemicals are directly absorbed straight into your bloodstream, without any filtering. And since your skin is your body’s biggest organ…well, it’s a scary thought, right?
Among the chemicals commonly-found in cosmetics are Parabens and Sodium Lauryl Sulphates, or SLSs as they’re more commonly known. Both are often used in toiletries because, yep, you guessed it – they’re good for profit. However, they may not be quite so good for our bodies…
Parabens are a group of chemicals used as preservatives and can be found in anything and everything, from moisturisers and shaving gels, to shampoos and toothpaste. Look on your labels, and they’ll be listed as (keep with us, they’re all a bit of a mouthful) methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben and isobutylparaben.
More often than not, companies add these chemicals to their products to kill bacteria and prolong their shelf-life. However, many users have recently started to sit up and question the potential toxic effects of these Parabens – do they cause more harm than good?
Although there remains a lot of research to be done (there have been no direct links between Parabens and cancer, for example), many have suggested that the surge in breast cancer may be linked to the use of Parabens in our cosmetics.
Among those who are worried is oncology lecturer Philippa Darbre. She says: “We’ve known for more than 25 years that oestrogen exposure is linked to breast cancer development and progression. So it is not such a leap to be concerned that repeated, cumulative, long-term exposure to chemicals that weakly mimic oestrogen might be having an impact.”
Meanwhile, a Danish study3 showed that parabens could be detected in the blood and urine of young men just a few hours after paraben-containing lotions were applied to the skin.
Despite there being little direct evidence linking parabens to health problems, the lack of certainty is causing many to turn to natural beauty products. After all, why take that risk when there are so many paraben-free products out there?
Moving onwards, and we also have Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (more commonly-known as SLS) - a detergent, a crystalline salt of sulfated lauryl alcohol.
Used in soaps, shampoos and other products to help them ‘foam’ or ‘lather’ up, SLS also happens to be a known irritant. Not only can it upset the delicate skin, eyes and scalp, but it can also dissolve the natural oils on your skin. In fact, the Sodium Lauryl Sulphate found in many ordinary soaps also happens to be the same one you use to degrease car engines...
Terrifying, isn’t it?
Well, it gets worse. According to the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep: Cosmetic Safety Reviews4, research on SLS has linked it to:
Of course, as with Parabens, this all remains without firm and solid evidence. But why use a moisturiser which could irritate rather than soothe? Surely that defeats the object?
Whichever side you’re on, it’s all rather scary. If you wouldn’t eat it, why knowingly smother it across your face?
Because of this, the beauty industry is starting to do a 360 degree turn, with many companies starting to churn out natural, or ‘organic’ products.
Of course, many firms use the words ‘natural’ or ‘organic’, even if their products don’t necessarily contain completely pure ingredients (the Ecocert ‘organic’ stamp means just 10% of a product’s ingredients are organic5, for example). However, using genuinely natural products on our faces can see us reap the rewards, including:
Eco-Friendly: Companies producing chemical-rich moisturisers will, more often than not, pump those chemicals into the air and water. However, many of the natural health and beauty options are farmed and manufactured organically, meaning fewer chemicals are released.
Less Irritation: Harsh chemicals can cause uneven skin, rashes, irritation and breakouts. Meanwhile, natural skincare will often work with your skin to soften and soothe.
Protect the Skin: As we mentioned before, our skin is our body’s largest organ, and – scarily - chemicals applied to the skin can enter our blood faster than if we ate them. By using natural beauty products, you can replace these harmful chemicals with natural ingredients that are beneficial to your body.
Of course, by now we all know about coconut oil as a natural, unrefined oil to use in baking, cooking and to stir into coffee. But what about using it in your bathroom cabinet, too?
Used for centuries as a natural (and effective) hair conditioner, body moisturiser and facial cream, coconut oil has dozens of beauty uses6. However, one of our favourite ways is to use it as a moisturiser. Yep, put down that pricey cream, and use a jar of our Lucy Bee instead! Seriously…
You see, coconut oil is great for your skin - it suits all skin types, whether your face is dry, oily, prone to breakouts, or sensitive.
So, how does it work? Well, it is a medium-chain triglyceride, adding deep, long-lasting moisture to the skin. Thanks to these wonderfully moisturising properties, and the fact that it is rich in Vitamin E, coconut oil works brilliantly on all levels. It will even strengthen the skin tissue and can heal damaged skin, including with burns, cuts and scars.
As cosmetic doctor Dr Josh Zeichner says: “Besides its hydrating ability, (coconut oil) contains lauric acid, which has been shown to kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi, explaining why coconut oil may help treat certain skin infections."
So, not only can you use Lucy Bee to help soothe insect bites, speed healing, prevent flaky skin, and soften the appearance of fine lines but it will also remove make-up easily and work as the perfect massage oil.
Gentle enough for babies and children, coconut oil is a natural skincare one-stop-shop. In fact, it’s pretty much the answer to all your skincare problems. So put down that over-priced jar of face cream, and start raiding your kitchen cupboards…
About Lucy Bee Limited
Lucy Bee is concerned with Fair Trade, ethical and sustainable living, recycling and eating close to nature with additive free products for health.
The views and opinions expressed in videos and articles on the Lucy Bee website/s or social networking sites are those of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect those of Lucy Bee Limited.
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Sam Hadadi is an ex-BBC journalist and now a freelance writer specialising in fitness and food.