We’re all aware that what we eat plays a huge role in how likely we are to develop diseases. Fewer people are aware that it is just as important to be cautious about what we put on our skin. Our skin is our largest organ, and it is our body’s first defense against toxic substances from the outside world.

The skin is closely linked to the blood stream; it turns out that many of the creams and chemicals applied to our skin get absorbed into our blood stream- yuck!

Did you know that skin care products like moisturizers often have ingredients designed specifically to make our skin more permeable?

This is not good news; more permeable skin equates to more toxins in the blood stream. Sometimes, skin care products contain known cancer-causing substances, and no one is stopping them from doing so. Therefore, it’s our jobs as health-conscious consumers to read the ingredients labels on skin care and hair care products.

A study published within the National Center for Biotechnology Information observed the effects of various moisturizers on mice that were already at a high risk for developing skin cancer. The mice were irradiated with UVB two times per week for 20 weeks, and then had moisturizers applied to their skin five days per week for 17 weeks.

UVB is a component of sunlight that is responsible for sunburns and contributes to skin aging and skin cancer development, so these mice were already at a very high risk for getting skin cancer. In addition, mice have much thinner skin than humans do, and so the UVB and moisturizer would have greater effects on their skin.

Therefore, this information is most relevant to people who get a lot of sun exposure or are genetically predisposed to skin cancer. However, knowing the toxic and/or carcinogenic ingredients in certain moisturizers and other skin care products will be helpful to everyone, since it is possible for these ingredients alone to trigger the cell growth that leads to tumors.

The moisturizers tested in the experiment were Dermabase, Vanicream, Dermovan, and Eucerin. Overall, these mice developed 69% more tumors than the control group. For people with weakened skin or pre-existing cancer risk factors, using these products is probably a bad idea.

There are hundreds of moisturizers on the market, though, and it can be hard to figure out which ones are safe. The ingredients below are commonly found in skin care products, but are also often present in hair care products. It’s best to keep an eye on what’s in any product that you use so that you can switch to a safer one if necessary.

If you don’t want to use a store-bought product with chemicals you can’t pronounce, consider making your own moisturizer. It can be even easier than going to the store, and it’s obviously much healthier for your skin. If you want to look for better quality store-bought options, here are some of the ingredients that you should steer clear of.

Potentially Harmful Ingredients:

Sodium lauryl sulfate is in most hair care and skin care products, which makes no sense after you consider how bad it is for us. Two major points here are that it’s a recognized skin irritant and that it’s very harmful to the environment.

Countless scientific studies have linked sodium lauryl sulfate to hormone disruption, toxins within the organs, and increased skin permeability (which makes it easier for toxins to enter the blood stream). This chemical also pollutes the water and air during the manufacturing process. Mineral oil is used as a moisturizing agent, but it is rather inefficient. It actually just takes moisture from other cells within your skin and brings it to the surface.

This is thought to put unneeded stress on the cells that moisture is taken from, speeding up the skin aging process. In addition, it seems to act as a sealant on the skin. This is bad because it means that the skin cannot absorb moisture naturally or get rid of toxins as well as it’s supposed to. Frequently applying mineral oil to the skin can cause negative effects on both the endocrine system and the immune system.

Tanning oil is essentially pointless. People usually apply this before going out to sit under the sun and tan, but why? Tanning oil attracts sunlight and usually has such a low SPF level that it does not protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UVB rays.

Tanning oil makes it more likely for you to get sunburned. Some types contain harmful ingredients in them, so there’s no point putting it on your skin if it doesn’t even help protect you.

Propylene glycol often causes skin irritation and dry skin over time. It also increases skin permeability, making it easier for toxins to get in.

Parabens, including methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and isobutylpareben, are in many skin care products as well.

They are used to prevent bacterial growth, but can cause skin irritation and are easily absorbed into the blood stream. The main health concern with parabens is that they are thought to act as estrogen disruptors, and may contribute to the growth of hormonal cancers like breast cancer.

Isopropyl palmitate is a chemical that clogs your pores and makes it difficult for your skin to “breathe” properly. It can cause dry, nutrient-deprived skin.

Ceteareth-20 is used to increase the permeability of the skin. It is sometimes contaminated with known carcinogenic substances, such as 1,4-dioxane and ethylene oxide.

It is quite harmful if used on injured skin and is considered toxic overall by many people and groups.

BHT is an ingredient that many people choose to avoid in their food, but it can be found in certain skin care products as well. It is linked to gastrointestinal issues, liver damage, and possibly even cancer.

Isopropyl myristate is linked to skin, eye, and lung irritation, and can trigger skin inflammation. Sodium hydroxide is recognized as a strong irritant; it is potentially toxic to the skin, the brain, and various other organs.

Making Your Own Moisturizer

It’s actually quite easy to make your own moisturizer that’s good for your skin. There are tons of recipes online with only a few ingredients, and it’s possible that you’ll have them all in your house already. Here are two good beginner recipes for healthy DIY moisturizer.

  1. Melt ½ cup of organic coconut oil. Mix it together with 1 teaspoon of liquid Vitamin E and 12 drops of lavender essential oil. Let it solidify and apply.
  1. Melt 2 tablespoons of organic coconut oil. Mix with 4 tablespoons Aloe Vera gel, 1 teaspoon of liquid Vitamin E, and 2 tablespoons of almond oil.

This article first published on Diet Sage