It's time to trade in your toxins.
What's in your Covid-19 arsenal? I seem to have collated a myriad of hand sanitisers - some large, some small, some scented and some (supposedly) soothing, anti-bacterial sprays - some containing bleach, some containing chloroxylenol (the antiseptic ingredient in brands such as Dettol), and face masks galore. I used to shun the harsh chemicals in favour of gentler remedies, but when it comes to Covid-19, I’m not taking any chances. I need the strongest, most unforgiving chemicals available.
As well as forming an important part of controlling the spread of the virus, and keeping us safe in the process, this daily load of chemicals can have other, unwanted effects. At times, my skin has become dry and irritated, even peeling and cracking after too much sanitiser. In the Spring of last year, I developed a nasty cough after accidentally mixing bleach with ammonia on one particularly frenzied cleaning spree (did you know that mixing these ingredients creates toxic gas? No, nor did I). According to Alexia Inge, co-founder of Cult Beauty, this newfound chemical exposure has created the concept of the ‘toxic load'. "This is the theory that there’s a cumulative effect caused by the non-natural compounds our bodies are exposed to – in everything from food, pollution and water – and household and personal care products,” she explains. “Combined with overactive adrenals, it’s an ominous cocktail.”
So what’s the alternative? It’s hard to justify ditching the hard stuff in the midst of such an unprecedented pandemic. However, we can reduce the other, more subtle toxins we’re exposed to everyday, often without even realising. “We’re entering a new approach to both skincare and wellness, which focuses on ‘filtering out’ the unwanted toxins: whereas ‘skip care’ focused on prioritising ingredients within your regime, this is about eliminating what’s not wanted – detoxing both your body and your bathroom shelf,” says Alexia. According to her, many will start toxin-trading, which essentially means continuing to use hard-core cleaning products in our homes, but choosing only natural personal care and eating organic food only.
Take lipsticks as a prime example; “Most lipsticks contain Polyethylene” says Molly Hart, founder of clean beauty brand HIGHR. “This is plastic, melted down and blended into the formula, which is fine for topical application - but lipstick is the only category of beauty that is actually ingested. Simple common sense would tell us it’s not ok to microdose plastic everyday.” That’s not all they contain - Molly and her team analysed formulas of the top five lipsticks in the market and found them to contain petrochemicals and synthetic fragrances as well as microplastics. “These lipsticks claim to be luxury - but to me, luxury means being clean and safe. HIGHR’s lipsticks use a plant-based organic base formula, and then added clean actives like Rosehip Oil to elevate it and actively treat the skin. We preserve it with pure vitamin E and use organic food-grade fruit extract as a “fragrance”. This is a much more expensive way to develop lipstick, but to us it's simply the responsible way to make products for women.”
It’s not just lipsticks that are contributing to our daily toxic load - everything from our fragrance to our shampoo also plays a role. “ A lot of people are very conscious about what they put on their skin, but forget completely about their scalp,” explains Yolanda Cooper, founder of We Are Paradoxx. “The chemical absorption rate on your forehead and scalp is about four times greater than the absorption rate on your forearms, and so choosing clean formulations without ingredients of concern is critical when it comes to haircare, as chemicals applied to the scalp can significantly increase the toxic load entering your body without you even realising it.” It’s for this reason that Yolanda ditched all plastic packaging for her formulas; “Whether its storage packaging for your food, containers for your make up or even your water bottle, plastics can leak chemicals that are oestrogen mimicking and can cause hormonal problems. That’s one huge benefit of We Are Paradoxx hair and body care line - it is housed in aluminium, which is not just better for us toxin-wise, but also for the environment as it is infinitely recyclable.” She’s not wrong about microplastics infiltrating our products - a 2018 study published in Frontiers of Chemistry found that 93% of bottled water contained microplastics, which prompted many to ditch plastic drinking bottles altogether. And yet, most of us still do not think to take such precautions when it comes to our beauty products.
“We absorb a lot of chemicals through our skin's epidermis so talking about what goes into topical applications is key to how we move forward,” says Dr Simon Jackson, founder of Modern Botany. Dr Jackson, who majored in toxicology, believes that research shows that exposure to certain toxins decreases the white blood count over time, reducing your natural immunity and that toxicity is one of the primary factors in chronic disease in industrialised countries. “My approach is to give people alternatives, like deodorant. Most deodorants combine Triclosan, a synthetic antibacterial, Cyclomethicone, a solvent, and Aluminium Salts to prevent sweating. Some scientists and studies have suggested that there are links between these ingredients and certain cancers. So, rather than trying to prove something is toxic, I made a deodorant that uses 11 natural ingredients that are both antibacterial and antimicrobial, as well as tannins to reduce sweating, to provide an alternative for anyone who is concerned but still wants to use efficacious products.”
So while we can’t completely eliminate toxins from our lives, and nor should we necessarily, we can offset our toxic load with free-from alternatives wherever possible. “We assume that regulations will make things like beauty products automatically safe, but you should always check the label for assurances of clean, toxin-free formulations,” says Yolanda. Noted.
This article originally appeared on GLAMOUR UK | Lottie Winter