Sometimes dirty little industry secrets finally get aired. And the skincare industry is no different, outdated information which has fueled common skin myths and misinformation now have a counterattack backed by real medical evidence.
Ultimately choice in skin care is up to the individual but everyone deserves to know if they are really washing their face with petrol or if ingredients in their sunscreen loaded makeup or natural moisturiser could be the culprit to their long standing skin irritation or allergic dermatitis. People also need to hear that maybe sunshine isn’t such an enemy requiring a heavy fortress of chemical sunscreens added into every aspect of their skin care. Ironically, what you might think is protective or natural may actually be harmful or even toxic.
Skin myths busted
1. Sun is not the total enemy for skin – obviously, sunburn needs to be avoided but a little bit of sunshine is health and improves mood and creates vital vitamin D.
2. Skincare products can contain as much harm as good – more and more ingredients are being listed as potential carcinogens, endocrine disrupters or cause allergic reactions.
3. ‘All natural’ and even ‘organic’ labelling of products aren’t always trustworthy – you are better off reading skin labels (just like we read food labels) and identifying the exact ingredients for yourself. Getting educated is important.
The Skin Care Industry Billion Dollar Lies
One of the biggest lies in the industry is that the sun is skin’s worst enemy. We know sun exposure ages you and causes skin cancers, right? Well, yes sun exposure can accelerate ageing and UV radiation increases the risk of DNA damage and mutations increasing your risk of skin cancers.
However, there is a sunny side to the sunshine which can help you find the right balance of sunshine. What you don’t often hear about is the flip-side of the sun; that the right amount of sunlight is actually good for your skin and critical to your overall health and well-being.
Vitamin D deficiency in our community is rising parallel with our overly sun conscious mentality and commercial marketing of moisturisers and cosmetics with extra chemical sunscreens. Could this be causing more harm than good?
Basically getting the correct balance of sunshine for your skin type is an important discussion to have with your general practitioner; darker skin requires more sun than lighter skin to create vitamin D. Growing medical research suggests that getting enough vitamin D could actually reduce your risk of a wide range of skin cancers and chronic health problems.
Which brings us back to the dilemma of using sunscreens – while they are very good at blocking UVA rays, they also block the ability for those sun rays to make vitamin D. I routinely tell patients that getting 10 to 15 minutes of morning or afternoon sunshine is recommended (without sunscreen) and is, in fact, critical for good health – as the sunshine is necessary to activate vitamin D in the skin and vitamin D is serious power vitamin – you don’t want to be deficient in this one!
Everyone knows Vitamin D strengthens bones and muscles but summarising new research; it also protects you from cardiovascular disease and arthritis, controls blood sugar, regulates blood pressure and helps prevent cloudy thinking as well as depression. And vitally importantly vitamin D has been shown to prevent skin cancers!
So having a little fun in the sun is important but timing your sunshine intake to avoid the scorching midday harmful UV rays is even more important.
Alternatively just cover up and turn on your internal sunscreen protection. In fact, everyone should try protecting their skin by eating foods which are high in antioxidants and externally apply antioxidant rich moisturises.
The most natural way to counter the free radicals, toxins and pollutants causing your skin to age and show fine lines and wrinkles is to nourish your skin with antioxidant rich foods.
Vitamin A helps maintain skin cells and deficiencies means dry, flaky and more acne prone skin. Vitamin E is a brilliant skin protector and mixed tocopherols help improve wound healing whilst vitamin C is crucial to growth, repair and collagen formation and coQ10 supplies cellular energy and has antioxidant power for your skin as well as counteracts free radical damage and prevents damage to collagen and elastin resulting in firm youthful skin.
And don’t forget to add good oils like omega -3 fatty acids which are found in salmon, nuts, tuna and fish oil supplements. They protect your skin, reduce skin inflammation and signs of ageing.
Look for the hidden dangers in skincare products that are damaging for your health. In September 2016 the FDA banned triclosan, a chemical found in everyday antiseptic hand-wash and even toothpastes, because of insurmountable evidence of being an endocrine disruptor. This has re-sparked community concerns about the overall safety of chemicals found in everyday skin products.
The top 10 chemicals highlighted as skin concerns are:
1. PARABENS – hormone disruptor.
2. PEG – potent carcinogens containing dioxane
3. Propylene glycol – dermatitis and skin irritations
4. Sodium laurel sometimes labelled as coconut derived – combined with other chemicals it becomes nitrosamine, a powerful cancer – causing agent; penetrates skins
5. PABA – attacks DNA causing genetic mutation when exposed to sunlight.
6. Toluene or butylatedhydroxytoluene – anaemia, low blood count, liver and kidney damage and birth defects.
7. Phenol carbolic acid – circulatory collapse, paralysis, and convulsions, coma, death from respiratory failure.
8. Mineral oil or paraffin – coats skin like plastics and clogs pores, traps toxins in, slow skin cell growth, disrupts hormone function, suspected of causing cancer.
9. OMC- kills skin cells.
10. Acrylamide – breast cancer
(Adapted from reset your biological clock, Al Sears research group)
You should keep this list of harmful ingredients handy when you’re checking the labels of skincare products. All of these chemical ingredients have a potential health threat. Many have been found to be endocrine disrupters increasing the risk of hormonal changes contributing to endometriosis for instance and many more can cause allergy in the skin and contact allergic dermatitis.
While it’s common for patients to self-treat contact allergic dermatitis for years with corticosteroids because it’s not common knowledge that Allergy to chemicals in common skin care products causes dermatitis and many people suffer unnecessarily when a simple patch test could have educated them on ingredients to avoid.
Contact dermatitis is characterized by redness, swelling, itching, and scaling caused by an allergic substance that makes direct contact with the skin. The condition can develop at any age, and contact dermatitis often stems from an unsuspecting source such as fragrances or preservatives in cosmetics and other personal care products; which is why women are more affected than men because they use a greater number of personal care products.
You can rely on patch testing to identify contact allergens. At our sister clinics collective.care and Australian Allergy Centre our doctors use a contact patch test called chemotechnique and typically we use the Australian Baseline series which is 60 of the most common substances that cause allergies. These are applied in small concentrations to the skin on the back for 48 hours. If small, red spots, that may also itch, appear within three to five days, this indicates that the patient is allergic to the substance and removing that substance is the best treatment for them.
Interestingly, patch testing often reveals an allergen that the patient had not previously considered because it was not intentionally or directly applied, for example, sunscreen ingredients hidden in their foundation or shampoos fragrances running down their neck and hair dyes causing neck rashes.
Some more common and covert sources of allergens that patients may not recognize as likely the causes of their chronic dermatitis are:
• Rubber – eg applicators used to apply eye shadow contact the skin, or where foam rubber sponges are used to apply and remove makeup
• Metals – eg nickel is the most common of all metal allergens. Nickel may be present in costume jewelry, such as earrings, and in eyelash curlers or tweezers used on the face or even jeans studding and gold is also a common allergen and may be transferred to the face from gold rings on the hands.
• Acrylates – Acrylates are used in the application of artificial nails and in both home and salon nail repair kits. Ironically, nail products can cause dermatitis on the sensitive face without causing it on the hard nail matrix.
• Colophony – Colophony, is a sticky material often used in mascara and may also be transferred from the fingers due to exposure in hobbies such as bowling, baseball, or playing stringed instruments
• Sunscreen Ingredients – the sunscreen ingredient benzophenone, which blocks both types of harmful UV radiation, can also cause allergy. Photo-contact dermatitis is common on areas of the face and neck where sunscreen has been applied and is most often noticed after UV exposure because UV light activates the sunscreen.
• Hair Products – Benzophenone can also be found in hair care products but a more common ingredient in these products that may cause facial contact dermatitis is cocoamidylpropyl betaine, which is found in baby shampoos and many adult shampoos. Ingredients in hair care products can cause facial or neck dermatitis more than scalp because of rinsing.
• Ink – Black henna (para-phenylenediamine) use among the East African and Mediterranean populations notorious for allergic dermatitis. Red ink in tattoos also cause many chronic reactions for tattoo patients.
Individuals who suspect they may have contact dermatitis should seek evaluation and treatment from a doctor trained in skin or allergy. They will take a thorough history from the patient, including asking for information about the type and brands of personal care products used, occupation, hobbies, and prior treatments.
Our Taylor clinic, collective.care and Australian Allergy Centre have doctors trained in detecting contact allergies and performing contact patch tests.
The simplest way to give your skin a radiant glow:
1. A little sun goes a long way
2. Obey the laws of good nutrition
3. Don’t ever let your skin burn
4. Know your skin type and the needs of your skin
5. Avoid chemical sunscreens and stick to mineral sun screens
Concerned about your skin, skin reactions or safe skin care. Talk to one of my team of expert trained doctors.
Taylor Clinic – skin and cosmetic doctors. 1300 003 223. Double Bay, Bella Vista and Wollongong.
collective.care – skin and allergy doctors. 1300 344 325. Edgecliff, Bella Vista and Wollongong.
About the author:
Dr Bekir MBBS FRACGP believes in advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical, and cosmetic treatment of the skin and advocates high standards in clinical practice, education, and supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of healthier skin.
Al Sears MD. Reset your biological clock. AhHa press. 2010.
P Kumar. Patch Testing in Suspected Allergic Contact Dermatitis to cosmetics. Dermatology Research and PracticeVolume 2014 (2014), Article ID 695387
2016. Amerolo. EWG working group on sunscreens. 2016. 72% Offer Inferior Protection or Contain Ingredients that May Harm Skin. EWG.org
2016. Berih et al. AFP. Allergic dermatitis. Black henna (para-phenylenediamine) use among the East African patient population in a general practice setting.2016.
Lucas et all. AFP. What is the optimal level of vitamin D?
Separating the evidence from the rhetoric Volume 43, No.3, March 2014 Pages 119-122