The Dirty Dozen Chemicals to Avoid in your Skincare

This post was originally published on the The Primal Shift.
The Primal Shift is a podcast hosted by Crystal Fieldhouse and Jo Litton
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In today’s podcast episode we’re going to be talking low-tox skincare… because as the creator of Ecology Skincare, one of the most common topics I get asked about, is which skincare ingredients should we avoid and how can we choose more natural skincare options.

And it’s natural that once we get our nutrition dialled in, once we’ve cleaned up our diet and we’re looking better, feeling better and have more headspace …that we then take a look at what other aspects of our lifestyle we can “clean up” …and for both of us skincare was a biggie!


“The average woman uses 12 products containing 168 different ingredients daily” ~ The Environmental Working Group (EWG)


Jo and I chat about:

  • Where we started when we were thinking about going low-tox
  • Overusing coconut oil on the skin and how natural products can be still really irritating for people with eczema or sensitive skin
  • What we used to use on our skin and how that’s changed over time
  • How deodorants work and the quest to find a good natural deodorant that doesn’t irritate
  • What comedogenic is – aka acne causing ingredients
  • Defending against scaremongering, what really affects absorption into the skin
  • How to simplify your skincare regime, using less products and using them less often – like using Konjac Sponges for cleansing
  • The Dirty Dozen Ingredients to avoid in your skincare and personal care products and their better alternative
    – #1 Sodium Lauryl Sulphate and sodium laureth sulphate
    – #2 Parabens
    – #3 Fragrance or Parfum
    – #4 DEA, TEA and MEA
    – #5 Phthalates
    – #6 Formaldehyde releasing preservatives (Quaternium-15, DMDM hydration, Diaziolidinyl Urea (Germall), Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate (suttocide)
    – #7 Mineral oil, petrolatum, paraffin oil
    – #8 PEG
    – #9 Triclosan
    – #10 Coal tar and coal tar dyes (look for p-phenylenediamine, aminophenol, diaminobenzene and colors that begin in “CI” followed by a 5 digit number e.g. CI 19140)
    – #11 Silicones and silicones
    – #12 BHA and BHT
  • How to start making the transition and simplifying your skincare regime
  • What ‘green washing’ is
  • Scrutinising the top 1/3 of ingredients more than the rest of the ingredient list. These ingredients account for 95% of the contents of the product
  • Crystal’s eBook: Natural Skincare Secrets for Women with Sensitive Skin, use the promo code LOVETPS to get it for free

Want to be able to pick up a product and easily see if it contains ingredients best avoided?


Transcript of this Podcast:

Crystal:             Hey, everyone. Welcome to the Primal Shift, practical approaches to primal living in a modern world. I’m your butter vodka sipping host, Crystal Fieldhouse from Ecology Skincare. I have with me the purple carrot addict Jo Fitton.

Jo:                    Hey, everyone.

Crystal:             In today’s episode, we’re going to be talking low-tox skin care, because as the creator of Ecology Skincare, one of the most common topics I get asked about is which skincare ingredients should we avoid, and how can we choose more natural skincare options.
I don’t know about you, Jo, but for me… it was natural once we get our nutrition dialled in. We’ve cleaned up our diet… we’re looking better, we’re feeling better, we’ve got some more head space… that we then have the room to take a look at the other aspects of our lifestyle that we can clean up.
For me, skincare was a biggie. It might not be that way for all of us.
What was your low tox focus after food, Jo?

Jo:                    Yeah. It’s a big topic, because there’s so much, we don’t realize how many different products we use on our bodies and around the homes, because that’s the other thing. As I said to you earlier, I think that cleaning up the products that were used to clean the home was quite straightforward. It was just a matter of going out and buying more plant based products to clean with.

Jo:                    It’s different when it comes to thinking about what you’re going to put on your skin. There’s more consideration on that. For me, just like for you, because we have sensitive skin because you know, we’re precious, that was even more tricky. I know we’ll probably talk about this a bit later, but it was a big craze (and I don’t know if it’s still such a big craze), but everyone in the natural Whole Foods community was rubbing coconut oil all over themselves. I just couldn’t do that, it just would end up in a rash if I did that.

Crystal:             Me too.

Jo:                    It was really about finding something that was natural but suitable for sensitive skin, so like a moisturizer was really important, because I am a ginger and white and freckly.

Crystal:             The ginger ninja.

Jo:                    Yeah. All the way probably from Scotland or somewhere like that. I get burnt really easily, so before I switched over to a more natural lifestyle, I was using a lot of commercial sunblock, you know, the real chemical stuff.

Crystal:             Yeah.

Jo:                    I would use that a lot when I went out. That’s loaded with all sorts of nasties.

Crystal:             Yeah it is.

Jo:                    When I wasn’t putting that on, I was putting fake tan on, because I wasn’t so comfortable being such a whitey, so I had to put the fake orange on.
I don’t do that anymore obviously. I cringe sometimes when I think about how much I was putting on my skin.

Crystal:             It’s funny, this is off the topic, but when I was younger, I used to eat at least one carrot every day for lunch. I sort of had that orange thing going on for me inside out, like my skin took on quite that sort of-

Jo:                    At least it was natural, a bit of carotene.

Crystal:             Exactly. Exactly. I was a lot like you, using a lot of those products that aren’t great and not really realizing the impact that I was having. Once I did start paying attention, I kind of tried to pick up the paleo template and apply it to my skin care and had a lot of problems with it, like yourself. It’s not always the case that natural ingredients are the way to go. They can be just as irritating as the chemical varieties. I had big problems with coconut oil as well. It used to make my skin really red and rashy. I was getting a lot of eczema at the time and I was thinking, “this just seems to be making my skin worse” and it was. Coconut oil is really high in salicylates and I was reacting to that. For people that do have eczema, there is a big correlation with a sensitivity to salicylates as well.

Jo:                    Right. Yeah.

Crystal:             Coconut oil especially for people with eczema is not a good idea and it can be fairly comedogenic as well. It’s not great for people with acne, either.

Jo:                    What does that word mean, Crystal?

Crystal:             Comedogenic is acne causing.

Jo:                    Okay, yeah.

Crystal:             You might see that reference thrown around quite a bit, particularly with oil-free moisturisers.

Jo:                    I learned a word today, I’m happy now.

Crystal:             Yeah. Going natural’s not always a straightforward process.

Jo:                    Yeah. I had the same issue with deodorants. It’s been the bane of my existence to find a decent natural deodorant.

Crystal:             Is it the baking soda that irritates you?

Jo:                    Yeah. It’s just, I think I showed you once, I try not to show too many people because it’s a bit horrifying, but I’d end up with these big rashes under my arms and my arm pits, which is so sore, and it’s really bad obviously in summer when you’re plying on the natural deodorant and because it gets hot, it only gets worse. It’s really important I think with deodorant to find a natural one that works, because I think we’ve got lots of glands under there, don’t we?

Crystal:             Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jo:                    The commercial deodorant that’s got all the chemicals and aluminum and that sort of stuff, it’s going straight into the lymph system isn’t it?

Crystal:             Yeah, exactly. The way that the deodorants with aluminum in them work is they essentially block those pores that are producing sweat, which is, that’s not great. You’ve really got to support your body’s natural functioning, not try and override it. We should actually have a natural smell. That sort of BO smell is not great. Of course, you don’t want to smell like BO, but we should have just that natural smell.

Jo:                    Yeah, that pleasant not offensive smell. A lot of people have commented that when they switch over to a more healthy lifestyle that they don’t sweat as much, because they’re not trying to get rid of so many toxins in their body, so once they’ve gone through that detox process, they don’t have as much stinky BO. I tend to be okay, but because I’m quite active, I’m not necessarily exercising a lot, I move around a lot, I walk a lot during the day. I just find that some natural deodorants, it’s a catch-22, they might not irritate me because they don’t have baking soda, but they’re not very protecting, especially when I’m going to work, so I have to freshen up during the day to compensate for it. It’s tricky.

Crystal:             Do you find that you rotate your deodorants a bit?

Jo:                    There’s a couple there that I alternate between. I found a couple of brands, one brand in particular, which obviously I won’t mention because I’m not going to promote anything, but it’s a natural one that doesn’t have baking soda. I think it’s got arrowroot, and I think the arrowroot is a good substitute-

Crystal:             Yeah, it is a good substitute-

Jo:                    I think it’s an active ingredient.

Crystal:             Absolutely. The other thing as well, when we clean up our diet, in some ways maybe eating more meat and in other ways maybe have a bit of gut health so are able to absorb nutrients more easily, but when we have more zinc in the system, zinc is one of those minerals that does many, many things. When we are sufficient with our zinc levels, we’re not sweating with that yucky smelling sweat as much, which is really interesting. Yeah, we just don’t have that sort of stinkiness about us so much.

Jo:                    If there’s someone in the office who’s a bit pongy, give them some zinc.

Crystal:             Some oysters.

Jo:                    Yes.

Crystal:             They might get the wrong impression though.

Jo:                    Yeah, so not oysters, maybe some pumpkin seeds or something, or just slip them a supplement.

Crystal:             If you’re sort of thinking, well, there are two ends to the spectrum. You might be the kind of person who’s already moved towards the likes of the coconut oil or down to that more natural end of the spectrum, and we’ll talk about why coconut oil might not be so great for skin from just a physiological point of view. Or you might be one of those people that’s now thinking, well, crap, I’m using all the skin care that’s commercial based or is made mass produced essentially. The Environmental Working Group is a fantastic website, EWG, fantastic website to look at if you’re wanting to research the chemicals or ingredients in your skin care. The same with the Chemical Maze, they’ve actually got an app that is available definitely on iPhones, I’m not too sure about Android, so you can look up all the different ingredients. We’ll put these resources in the show notes for you guys.

Crystal:             The Environmental Working Group did a survey, and what they found was on average, we women use 12 different products a day containing over 168 different ingredients, which is huge.

Jo:                    Wow, that’s massive.

Crystal:             It could be effectively quoties, quoty fingers, “feeding our skin over 100 different chemicals before we even have breakfast”

Jo:                    What an onslaught on the body that is.

Crystal:             I know. Your liver’s got to, what does get absorbed, because obviously not, there are stats floating around the internet that say something like 50 or 70% of what we put on our skin gets absorbed, or it takes six seconds for things to reach the bloodstream. All those sort of, for want of a better word, scare tactics, you’ve got to take all of that with a grain of salt.

Crystal:             What we put on our skin, not all of it gets absorbed into the body. It does depend on the area of skin you’re putting it on, like some area of the skin like our eyelids and our face are a lot thinner than our feet, so we’re going to absorb more than other areas. It depends on whether the skin’s wet or dry, it will absorb more if it’s wet.

Crystal:             The size of the molecule in the product itself, if the molecules are too big, they’re just not going to get into the body, there’s no way. Something like collagen for example, you see it in antiaging moisturizers, collagen is great, and we know that when we have more collagen in our skin, then we’re less likely to have wrinkles, but such a big molecule, there’s no way that it’s actually going to get absorbed across the layer of skin. There’s so many different factors that go into whether or not things get absorbed.

Crystal:             What does make it into our bloodstream, there’s research that falls down on both sides. We don’t really know what the long-term or the cumulative effects of all the chemical exposure really is. We can certainly make calculated guesses and make sure that we’re erring on the side of caution.

Crystal:             For me, it was a big case of reducing the number of products that I’m using all up, and there’s way you can do that. For example on the Ecology Skincare website, we have konjac sponges, that way you can delete a cleanser, you can just use water and a konjac sponge to cleanse with instead of another product.

Jo:                    Yeah, and they’re great.

Crystal:             They are great. Yeah. Using an extra product to remove makeup, you could use a microfiber cloth that removes makeup instead, and that way you’re getting rid of a product as well. Definitely you can go with less products.

Crystal:             You can also look at those products and look for products that have got less ingredients in them, that way you’re getting less exposure as well to different chemicals, and using them less often. Once again, when your diet is better and your skin and your body are functioning in a more natural way I suppose, a more functional way, I don’t need to wash my hair as often as what I used to. It doesn’t get as oily, it doesn’t get as greasy. In that way, I’m using my shampoo and conditioner less than what I was previously.

Jo:                    Yeah. I think people need to really be wary of the marketing messages out there, because women in particular, and men too now, but women in particular get told constantly through the media that they have to have a special cream for this and that and the anti ageing and the eye cream and the lip serum. They get told they need all these really small, expensive products to do separate things when like you said, if you just used, looked after your body and fed it from the inside out and sort of simplified the regime, then it’s just as effective.

The Dirty Dozen Chemicals that are Best Avoided in our Personal Care Products

Crystal:             Yeah, exactly. Let’s take a look at all those products that we have and touch on the dirty dozen chemicals that are best to avoid in our personal care products and why, and we’ll also give some tips on what to look out for and ways to make some better skincare choices.

Jo:                    Crystal, you mentioned before that potentially we can put up to 168 different chemicals on our skin. Why is the dirty dozen only 12?

Crystal:             Yeah. This was put together by the David Suzuki Foundation, and we will put the link in the show notes as well. They’ve put together this list of ingredients, they based it on pulled data from really respected scientific and advocacy organizations, and they conducted a survey around 6,000 people, Canada I think it was based in, who were using 12,000 personal care products, and they narrowed it down to 12. Yes, there’s a lot of different ingredients in skincare products, but they’ve pretty much put it on a sliding scale, so this is the worst of the worst. These are the ingredients that tend to pop up in so many of our personal care products.

Jo:                    They’re the most common ones.

Crystal:             The most common ones, yeah, yeah. What they found was in all those 6,000 people, 12,000 personal care products is that more than half of the products that we use contained multiple numbers of these dirty dozen ingredients. 80% of the products had at least one of these dirty dozen ingredients in them.

Jo:                    Okay.

Crystal:             Those dirty dozen ingredients, I’ll run through them, I won’t go into heaps of detail with them, because we will put links in the show notes for you to pick up some free downloads.

Jo:                    These are the main ones when someone’s looking at a product in the super market or in a chemist or whatever that they turn it over and they look at the ingredients, they should be looking out for these ones in particular.

#1 Sodium Lauryl Sulphate

Crystal:             These ones in particular, absolutely. Your first one is something that we’re all probably pretty familiar with, this is sodium lauryl sulfate, or even sodium laureth sulfate as well. It’s a detergent or a foaming agent most commonly found in shampoos, your cleaners, body washes and things like that. For this one, it’s really irritating to the skin. It strips away our skin’s natural oils, which for those of us who have sensitive skin or are prone to really dry skin, it just makes things worse.

Jo:                    Yeah. I think the foaming action in shampoo is just really there to make people feel like their hair is being washed, isn’t it? You don’t actually need that foaming action for the hair to be cleansed.

Crystal:             Yeah. Having something that does foam, it will strip out extra things that you don’t necessarily want to get out of your body like those oils on your skin, and oils on your hair as well, because that’s what-

Jo:                    The natural oils.

Crystal:             Yeah, exactly. You’re right. The foaming side of things, it does make you feel like it is doing something, it’s getting it cleaner. What people will often find is when they move over to those more natural options with the more milder detergents, so look out for particular your yucca extract or polyglucosides like decyl glucoside, those are detergents that are milder and they don’t foam as much. It is something that you’ll need to get used to when you do make that change over. You might be feeling like this product isn’t working to cleanse your hair properly, but it is. It’s doing as much as it needs to, we don’t need to overdo it.

Jo:                    Yeah. Just getting used to it.

Crystal:             Yeah.

Jo:                    What’s the next one?

#2 Parabens

Crystal:             The next one is parabens, and this is something that we’re probably all familiar with as well, so you might see methylparaben or polyparaben in the list of ingredients. Often, they come together, you often don’t see just one of those parabens, you might see two or three or four.

Jo:                    They come in gangs.

Crystal:             They come in gangs, exactly. They’re preservatives. You find them in moisturizers, toothpaste, shampoo, even makeup. They’re in between 75 and 90% of your mass produced personal care products.

Crystal:             The reason why your parabens aren’t so great for us is they’re definitely associated with skin irritation, and also endocrine disruption. This is one that’s quite loaded. Parabens are something that are held up as the biggest, nastiest things in your skincare products. The reality is the research does fall down on both sides. On the one side that they’ve only got fairly weak endocrine disruption and no link to breast cancer, because this is breast cancer that pops up as, oh my god. On the other hand, there’s research that suggests that they do definitely have an effect on our hormonal system and do disrupt, they do mimic estrogen activity.

Crystal:             The reality is probably somewhere in the middle. It will depend on dose, it will depend on how much you expose yourself to.

Jo:                    If they’re in so many different products and we’re constantly putting it on our skins, most people using it are bound to get some sort of dose of it.

Crystal:             Yeah, absolutely. It’s definitely not something I want to have on my skin or in my body. I definitely err on the side of, that’s not something I’d like to have in my products.

Jo:                    No.

#3 Fragrance or Parfum

Crystal:             The third one is fragrance or parfum, and this is huge.

Jo:                    That’s like flavoring in food, which is normally just, when they say flavoring, it’s MSG isn’t it? The same sort of thing.

Crystal:             Yeah, exactly. The words fragrance and parfum, are a catchall for thousands of different products. It’s a way that skin care companies can maintain a proprietary or a secrecy around their ingredients, so they sort of put, they’re allowed to put it under the term fragrance, and they don’t need to disclose what it is so they can protect their formula in that case. What it doesn’t do is protect us, because the chemicals that come under that net contain all sorts of crazy stuff that can cause skin irritation, that can sensitize the skin, cause allergies, skin reactions. Essentially, your fragrances are among the top five allergens in the world because they do contain, they do cover so many different ingredients.

Jo:                    And cause lots of migraines as well. I just know that if I am exposed to too much perfume, like someone in an office or something like that, or if anyone’s walked through a department store through the fragrance section, you walk out with a migraine, it’s just terrible. That’s obviously all the chemicals.

Crystal:             Yeah, yeah, exactly. In a previous role of mine, I used to be a medical rep and call on GPs and specialists, and there would be specialists particularly on the allergy end of the spectrum that as a medical rep, they would state very explicitly, “Do not wear any perfumes or anything when you’re coming to call on this specialist, because we have people in our waiting room that are so sensitive to fragrances that we’d like this to be an area where they’re not going to be affected.” It’s like a little haven for them.

Jo:                    Yeah. I remember when I was probably about 19-20 and my cousin had a perfume that I liked the smell of, and so she let me spray some on my chest. I can’t even remember what it was called. It was about 15 minutes, my whole neck and chest was a big red rash. It was just horrendous. I had to wash it off and try and calm the skin down. I’ve never had that with another, like, I don’t use fragrance anymore. It was just horrible, and that particular one that my skin just hated.

Crystal:             Yeah. It’s interesting as well. There’s a lot of products that say they’re unscented, and there are so many chemicals as well that need to go into a product to disguise the scent or the aroma of other ingredients. Even those products that say they’re unscented might have the words fragrance or parfum somewhere in the ingredient list to try and cover other aromas in the product as well. Definitely read the ingredients.

Crystal:             As an alternative, essential oils or plant extracts are a better alternative, but definitely there’s still ones to watch out for. You don’t want to have a product that’s overloaded with essential oils, because that can cause problems as well.

Jo:                    Yes, absolutely. We’re up to number four.


Crystal:             Number four is your DEA, TEA, and MEA. This is a group of chemicals that are foaming agents, and they help to adjust the pH of a product. But they’re also skin and lung and eye irritants, and also linked to hormone disruption. They’re often found in your shampoos and your moisturisers as well. Interesting with the moisturisers, but that’s to help give sort of a creamy feel to the product.

Jo:                    People have washed their hair and they get shampoo in their eyes and it stings, is that because of that stuff normally?

Crystal:             Could be. Yeah, it could be that, it could be the sodium lauryl sulfate, it could be the preservatives, it could be anything. Shampoos and conditions are hard products to switch out. It’s possible, though.

#5 Phthalates

Crystal:             The fifth one is phthalates. This is not something that you’ll ever actually see on a skincare label, because they’re one of those that do hide in that term fragrance, under that umbrella term. They are also more in a way a contaminant as well. Companies might not necessarily willingly put them in there.

Jo:                    Right, that’s a bit sneaky.

Crystal:             Yeah, it is. It comes back to just try and avoid products that have the words fragrance or parfum on them. Your phthalates in particular, they have been found to be carcinogenic, and they’re also ones that, they can mimic estrogen activity as well, so they can disrupt hormones. They’ve been linked to birth defects and infertility as well. Again, the evidence comes down on both sides for all of these.

Jo:                    Do they tend to be in plastics as well?

Crystal:             Yes.

Jo:                    Is it the phthalate that are in a lot of plastic products?

#6 Formaldehyde Releasing Preservatives

Crystal:             Yeah. Number six is your formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, widely used in haircare products, moisturisers, baby products, makeup, that kind of thing. We’ll put a list of what those ingredients are, what those formaldehyde-releasing preservatives actually are, I’ll put the list in the show notes, because there’s a lot of big long names that I’m just not going to embarrass myself trying to pronounce.

Jo:                    And I’m certainly not either.

Crystal:             Yeah. Like the other preservatives, they can cause skin irritation and have suspected effects on the liver and the immune system and the nervous system as well.

Jo:                    Just the word formaldehyde-releasing doesn’t sound very appealing to me.

Crystal:             No, exactly. Certainly in larger doses, it has definitely been found to be carcinogenic. In the building industry is where the most research has been done into formaldehyde products and building products.

Jo:                    Yes. I think formaldehyde is in cigarettes, too.

Crystal:             Yeah, you’re right. I remember seeing posters on the wall that can call out the different ingredients in cigarettes.

Jo:                    Nice. Yes. Number seven.

#7 Mineral Oils

Crystal:             Number seven is your mineral oils, your petroleum or petrolatum depending on where you come from. You’ll often find these in moisturisers and eczema products, lip gloss and lip balm, because they help to give a shine to products.

Jo:                    It’s like, what’s that old product that used to rub on baby’s bottoms? Petroleum jelly.

Crystal:             Petroleum jelly?

Jo:                    Yeah, you can still buy that. It’s horrendous.

Crystal:             Yeah. I’m pretty sure you can still get Vaseline as well.

Jo:                    It actually smells like petrol.

Crystal:             Yuck. The reason why they’ve put them on baby’s bums and that kind of thing is that they do help to protect the skin.

Jo:                    It’s like a barrier.

Crystal:             Yeah, yeah. They do form a barrier, but because they do form a barrier, they can interfere with our skin’s natural functioning. The better option over, I’ll say this as well, you can also find them in, it’s a really common lip balm product, a paw paw one, I just can’t remember the name off the top of my head, the one with the red-

Jo:                    The one with the red tube. Yes.

Crystal:             I know. They are protective for skin, but because they essentially form that suffocating barrier over skin, the better alternative is to still protect our skin, but use products that are more likely to support our skin’s natural function like your grass-fed tallow, your lanolin, your beeswax and things like that that will help form a sort of natural barrier but still not suffocate your skin.

Jo:                    Yeah.

#8 PEG

Crystal:             Yeah, that’s number seven. Number eight is your polyethylene glycol or PEG, P-E-G. It’s a thickener, it’s a softener, it helps to draw moisture or keep moisture in the skin as well. Again, it can interfere with the skin’s barrier function because of that. PEG has been found to increase the absorption of the other ingredients in a product, so if it’s in a product that’s got a lot of these other dirty dozen in it, it can help to facilitate the absorption of these other ingredients through your skin’s barrier as well, so that’s not something that you want to happen.

Jo:                    It’s enhancing the absorption of those.

#9 Triclosan

Crystal:             Yeah, exactly. Number nine is your triclosan. It’s an antimicrobial that’s found in your antibacterial washes, hand sanitizers, some of your toothpastes. Again, it can be really irritating to skin. It’s another one that’s really easily absorbed, and is suspected to interfere with hormonal functioning.

Jo:                    Would people actually see that on the label, that term?

Crystal:             Yes. Definitely.

Jo:                    It would be in most commercial products?

Crystal:             I think there’s been a movement to try and get it out of products and reduce the use, because people are becoming more aware that just their blanket carpet bomb sanitize antibacterial stuff is not always the best way to go. I think you’ll start to see it less and less in products.

#10 Coal Tar and Coal Tar Dyes

Jo:                    Yeah, okay. We have number 10.

Crystal:             Your coal tar and coal tar dyes, and again, I’ll put the numbers that relate to those particular dyes in the show notes, but essentially that’s colorants in hair dye.

#11 Siloxanes and Silicones

Crystal:             After your coal tar and coal tar dyes, number 11 is your siloxanes or silicones. These are most often in your haircare products as well, because they give your hair a nice shine that sort of softens and smooths out-

Jo:                    And it’s a bit of a sealing as well, isn’t it? Is it the same silicone that is used in some baking products?

Crystal:             I actually don’t know the answer to that. I don’t know, we’ll have to look it up.

Jo:                    Yeah, that’s interesting. I’ve always wondered whether those silicon baking products are safe or not.

#12 BHA’s and BHT’s

Crystal:             I mean, given the name, I’m sure there would be a relationship. Number 12 is your BHAs and BHTs. These are preservatives that are found in moisturizers, shaving products and makeup. As I said before we launched into the dirty dozen, I will put in the show notes some free downloads for you guys, because something that I found when I was looking up these ingredients was there was no resource that had, for example, it listed by personal care products, so you couldn’t just necessarily pick up your shampoo and go, “Okay, which ingredients do I not want to see on the label of my shampoo?” What I did was I put together a resource, it’s called the Ecology Bathroom Detox Checklist, and it’s broken down by product so that you can do exactly that. You can pick up your moisturizer or your shampoo and go, right, what should I not see on this label. I’ve also got in there some suggestions for more natural alternatives as well.

Jo:                    That’s great.

Crystal:             Yeah. To pick that one up, just go to

Jo:                    Great. How do we change, then? There’s obviously so many products that people probably use that have these in them. Do you recommend a slow transition?

Crystal:             Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. For a few reasons. I mean, one, particularly if you do have really sensitive skin, you’ve got to change things out one at a time to give you a chance to work out what might be causing any skin irritation. If you change over everything all at once and your skin breaks out or flares up, you’ve got no idea which one of those products might be causing that. Of course the other reason is the cost, the hit to your wallet.

Jo:                    As we mentioned earlier too, there’s a lot of natural products that can be just as irritating, if not more irritating to the skin, so it’s really just unfortunately a bit of trial and error to work that out.

Crystal:             Exactly. There’s often a price differential as well, between your cheapy supermarket or pharmacy type products and your more natural products, which you can also find in pharmacies, but you might also find them in health food shops, online stores as well. There’s going to be a difference in price, because if you’re using higher quality ingredients, then it’s going to cost the manufacturer more. It’s going to cost you more as well.

Jo:                    As you said earlier, if people are simplifying the amount of skincare products that they’re using, so going from say 10 different products down to three or something like that, then obviously they’re not going to be spending as much money on different products, so they can maybe invest that into a handful of really high quality ones.

How to read the labels

Crystal:             Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. I guess to help me sort of wade through the minefield, because you go, okay, I need to read my labels, everyone says read the labels, that’s cool, but what am I looking at? What do I look for? How do I interpret the labels as such? Definitely, look at the labels the way you’d look at food. You want to go for products that do have a shorter ingredient list, that have ingredients that you recognize so you can visualize growing in nature or you just know what they are. When we look at a food product, we don’t want to see the numbers. We want to see names, not numbers with a lot of these things.

Crystal:             In terms of reading the labels, it’s also about sort of that greater research that you can do around the company and their ethics and their philosophies as well. If you know what the ethics and philosophies are of the companies that produce those products and have more knowledge around that, then you kind of know what to expect from the product.

Crystal:             If you know that a particular company uses 100% natural ingredients and you’ve got that sort of starting place, you go, okay, I’ll check out this range of ingredients and I’ll have an assumption that they’re more likely to be on the natural range, which is not saying just assume that they will be, it’s saying that’s a good place to start when you’re starting to investigate different skincare products.

Jo:                    Yeah. I’ve noticed too that there’s a few products like deodorants that don’t actually have the ingredients on the product. You turn over the back, and there’s nothing there. I’m like, “Hmm, that’s a bit dodgy.” People can go online if they really want to find out, but I think if a company’s not willing to put their product list on their product, then they probably shouldn’t.

Crystal:             I would be surprised at seeing that on a deodorant but I definitely will take a look at it. Legally, it should be on the product in some way, shape or form, whether it’s on the outer packaging, the inner packaging, or just on the literature that might come with the product. It has to be somewhere.

Jo:                    The consumer has to be able to access it.

Crystal:             They have to be able to access it. Where that’s not the case is if it’s a TGA registered product. You might not see all the ingredients on sunscreen for example.

Jo:                    Right.

Crystal:             If the deodorant you were looking at was TGA registered, if it had some sort of therapeutic action, then-

Jo:                    So it was exempt from that.

Crystal:             It’s exempt. Yeah, exactly. That’s definitely something to look out for. You can email the company directly, and they should disclose that information to you.

Jo:                    Yeah. All right.

Crystal:             They should. Yeah. Even when you are looking at the ingredients on the label, a label that purports to be all natural products and that kind of thing, it is still important to definitely look at it through the lens of assessing the ingredients. There’s a term called green washing in the industry. The ingredients or the product can appear to be more natural than it really is by, and the ingredient list might say for example sodium lauryl sulfate and in brackets say derived from coconut oil for example. They make that by adding sulfuric acid to coconut oil, and one of the byproducts is sodium lauryl sulfate. The end result, the ingredient itself, that’s still not great for us. Some would argue that adding sulfuric acid to coconut oil is not that great either, but they can sort of put that green halo on it by saying derived from coconut oil.

Jo:                    The end result is still harmful.

Crystal:             Yeah. The end result is still a chemical product that’s going to irritate your skin, strip your skin’s natural oils and potentially cause a few issues for you. Definitely go for a shorter ingredient list. Look for natural ingredients with names that you can recognize and even visualize growing in nature. You will find that some labels will have names that you recognize, but also some chemical names that you don’t recognize.

Crystal:             Don’t get freaked out by that, it’s just, they call it the INCI way of labeling ingredients. That’s something that crosses barriers in terms of countries and in terms of different common names for different ingredients. You might see the chemical name in bold or in brackets. When I say chemical name, it’s the botanical name. For example, you might see, I’m going to totally embarrass myself with this pronunciation, Simmondsia chinensis, and then in brackets, Jojoba oil, or you might see the first term in brackets and then have Jojoba oil not in brackets. That is what it is. Don’t get too freaked out by the big, big names, especially if they’ve got the more common names in the mix as well.

Crystal:             The last thing I would say is definitely look more closely at the top third of the ingredients on the ingredient list. As with food, the skincare ingredients, they’re listed in order of highest to lowest in terms of quantity. With Nicole Bijlsma, she’s written a fantastic book called Healthy Home Healthy Family, and there’s so much good information around products in the home, skincare products, water purity, all sorts of environmental toxins. What she says is that the first third of the ingredients on their label account for 95% of the contents of the product.

Jo:                    Wow.

Crystal:             Yeah. The second third of the ingredients represent 5 to 8%, and then the last third accounts for 1 to 3%. If the first third of ingredients on that label accounts for 95% of the ingredients in the product, definitely look at that third way more closely than the rest.

Jo:                    I think Nicole has her own cleaning product line as well.

Crystal:             She does, Abode.

Jo:                    Yeah.

Crystal:             It’s a good line.

Jo:                    Yeah, I’ve used some of that stuff, it’s good.

Crystal:             Yeah. There’s a few good tips there for you guys. Definitely start, download that bathroom detox checklist, What you were saying before Jo with the how do we go about this, do we do it all at once, do we do it one at a time? Just definitely take it easy. Choose your level of comfort with your chemical exposure. It can be really expensive to throw everything out all at once.

Jo:                    Phase things out.

Crystal:             Phase things out. Just make the determination that you’ll better choices the next time you go to buy that product that’s running out. Go easy on yourself. Over time when you’re taking this approach, you will be exposing yourself to less chemicals, and especially as you said before, if you are using less products or using them loss often.

Jo:                    Yeah. You know, in the world that we live in, we cannot prevent exposure to products in the environment. We can only do what we can do with our personal lives, like with our skincare products and our cleaning products. The reality is, is that on a daily basis, we’re going to receive an onslaught of chemicals in the environment. It’s really just about trying to minimize that, but we can’t live in a bubble pretty much.

Crystal:             Yeah. Yeah, exactly.

Jo:                    Just do what you can.

Crystal:             Yeah. There’s always the old mixing oatmeal in with water and using that-

Jo:                    A bit of sea salt and honey, yum.

Crystal:             Exactly. Well, honey is actually a great cleanser for the face. I’m pretty sure I’ve actually seen it used instead of shampoo as well, but I just haven’t been game to do that, because I just don’t want to deal with what happens if I can’t get all the honey out of my hair.

Jo:                    Yeah. You don’t want to be stuck around bees if that happens.

Crystal:             Exactly. Exactly. Guys, I hope that’s answered some of your questions or underlying concerns around chemicals and skincare and gives you an idea of what to do look for when you’re starting to make those lower tox choices with your personal care products. I do have a book that I’ve written, and it’s called Natural Skincare Secrets for Women with Sensitive Skin. There’s a whole chapter on these dirty dozen chemicals.

Crystal:             I’ve pulled together information from that David Suzuki summary of all those dirty dozen chemicals, and also pulled in information as well from the Chemical Maze, that Chemical Maze app that we talked about earlier, from SevenCanaries, and also from Nicole Bijlsma’s book as well, pulled it all together into a table, so 12 tables of all of those ingredients, and also some great information around that as well on how to choose your skincare products.

Crystal:             I’ve organized a promo code for you guys so you can pick up the book free, it’s worth $7. On the website, when you check out your cart … Put the book in your cart to start with, Natural Skincare Secrets for Women with Sensitive Skin, and use the promo code LOVETPS, all one word, and you’ll get the book for free.

Jo:                    Yay. What a great deal, and it is a fantastic book. Go get it.

Crystal:             Yeah. Cool. Thank you so much for joining us today. Thank you, Jo.

Jo:                    Thanks, Crystal you brainiac with all this chemical stuff. I’ve learned some new words today.

Crystal:             We will put all the links and everything in the show notes for you guys at, and yeah, please come and catch up with us on Facebook and Instagram at The Primal Shift, and we will endeavor to answer any questions. Leave us your comments, tell us what you use. Tell us, if you found any particular skincare ingredients that you love that are natural, they’re working for us, let us know over social media, because we’re always on the lookout for some good skincare products.

Jo:                    Yeah. Thanks everyone.

Crystal:             Thank you.

Jo:                    Bye.

Crystal:             See you.

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