A recent online article quoted a dermatologist's statement that just because something contains natural rather than artificial chemical ingredients doesn't mean that it's better for you and that those with sensitive skin should simply use mild, fragrance-free soaps, cleansers and lotions.
While it is true that some natural substances are toxic and some chemicals are not and that some people do have reactions to natural products, I would venture to say that, generally speaking, you're safer putting aloe vera on your skin, for example, than some of the commonly used chemicals. However, it can be difficult to tell which chemicals are dangerous and which ones aren't. The trick lies in choosing natural skin care treatment that is effective and avoids the major offenders.
What are the major offenders?
Although there are several chemicals to be avoided, two of the most prevalent are petroleum and propylene glycol.
Petroleum, petroleum jelly and mineral oil:Petroleum-based products are among the most commonly used ingredients in skin care treatment products - including many that are labeled 'natural'.
Many studies have verified these ingredients to be dangerous. For example, a hospital study showed that infants are 11 times more likely to get systemic candidiasis from the use of petroleum-based skin care products. The candidiasis stopped when the hospital discontinued use of the products. Another study, this one conducted by Columbia University, found that the breast tissue of women with breast cancer contained significantly higher levels of petroleum than women without breast cancer.Mineral oil is a by-product of the distillation process that turns petroleum into gasoline. It forms a film over the skin that gives the illusion of softness without actually changing anything about the skin. Like petroleum, it is not 'skin care treatment', it simply masks the skin's actual condition while clogging the pores, preventing the absorption of oxygen and moisture, and inhibiting the process of expelling toxic wastes.
Propylene glycol. The major ingredient in antifreeze, propylene glycol is used in skin care treatment products to facilitate the absorption of other ingredients and to prevent the product from melting or freezing in extreme heat or cold. The labels of many skin care products, natural and otherwise, now carry a notice stating that is does not contain propylene glycol. You will find many arguments that this product is safe: the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) warns propylene glycol users to avoid skin contact as it can cause liver and kidney damage, but some say that the MSDS refers only to highly concentrated forms of the chemical and that the amounts used in skin care products are relatively insignificant - which is true.
Nevertheless, a thorough review of government and industry research conducted and published by Scorecard designates propylene glycol as suspected of causing respiratory toxicity, skin or sense organ toxicity, immunotoxicity and neurotoxicity. Additionally, because propylene glycol facilitates absorption through the skin you absorb more of any other chemicals in the products. Its sister, ethylene glycol, is even worse.The level of toxicity in our environment has been the subject of many news stories, propositions for new laws - even the weather forecast includes an air quality index to let us know if it's safe to go out of our house. Anyone informed of these dangers would want to reduce their risk. Getting industry under control is obviously a long battle, but we can, at the very least, reduce exposure in our own household by avoiding those chemicals listed above and choosing safe natural skin care treatment products.