Your Favorite Beauty Products Are Effing with Your Hormones
Scary, right? Here’s how to start re-evaluating your routine.
As you may have garnered from sex ed, hormones can be terrifying. The same way a Fabergé egg could be: incredibly delicate and easily unbalanced. Oh, and they’re responsible for the function of some very significant aspects of your body, like your metabolism, all thing sexual health, hair growth, mood, and brain function. Especially if you’re a woman, they can majorly eff with things like your skin and whether you fit into your clothing on any given day. Fun, right?
Even more fun is the fact that we antagonize our hormones in more than just the obvious ways—we do it in ways that you’d never suspect. Namely, the holy-grail products lurking in your skin-care cabinet. As Gwyneth has expounded on extensively since launching her skin-care brand under the Goop umbrella, the products we put on our faces religiously are largely unregulated. To help us make sense of it all (and dial down the panic button slightly), we hopped on the phone with Adina Grigore, founder of Brooklyn-based S.W. Basics, who literally wrote the book (titled Skin Cleanse) on omitting toxic ingredients from your skin-care routine.
How skin care disrupts your hormones and your body’s natural process:
“The way I try to express it to people is that everything that isn’t 100 percent from nature is unrecognizable to your body. That might sound super basic, but it’s a really good way to get people to see that. When it’s synthesized, which means it’s been slightly—even in some ways—very lightly tweaked, your body, even if it originally came from somewhere natural, just does not know what it is. What that means is you do not have the natural processes to break it down and handle it correctly.”
Got it...but what does that actually mean?:
“In the best case scenario, what that means is nutrients. The way that nutrients work both in your body and on your skin is that they literally feed you. Your body will break it down and it will make you live better and feel better. With synthetics, that next step is a reaction—one that’s not necessarily bad, but you’re just kind of not getting anything from it. These synthetic chemicals are harmless—they’re not doing anything wrong, but they’re not doing anything good for you either. When you keep going down the spectrum, this is the area that kind of makes people get a little bit frustrated with conversations around ingredients. These are ingredients that are not just synthetic, but they actually become dangerous to your body in the sense that they disrupt your endocrine system. They disrupt the way that your hormones are able to stay balanced and take care of you. Your body’s natural processes tend to break down because it’s like they’re being attacked.”
How disrupted hormones manifest physically (and eff up your complexion):
“The top thing people probably don’t notice is irritated skin. When people are like, ‘I have eczema’ or ‘I have psoriasis,’ I think what people tend to do is go, Oh, that’s what I’m like, and I’m trying to find products that solve that problem. That’s already your body not being able to process what is being put on it correctly. Eczema is not something that you naturally have, it’s something that’s going wrong inside your body and manifesting physically.”
How it accelerates the aging process (!):
“The bigger things are that you can accelerate the process of aging; you’re going to make your skin look very dull. It’s a similar effect to what we now think of when you hear the effects of smoking on skin. Everyone knows what that means these days and didn’t used to. We used to think of it as ‘No, it’s totally fine, you can smoke your whole life and nothing’s ever going to happen.’ That’s how I think of super severe—again, not all of them but—chemicals in your skin care are going to have those same kinds of effects. They’re going to actually deplete your skin’s ability to take care of itself. You’re going to look undernourished, and you’re going to look older.”
The biggest offenders in your beauty cabinet:
“Sunscreens are bad, or at least they have been historically. They’re getting way, way, way better. Thank god! I think sunscreen is an area where people freaked out so much, and it got so much attention, that now it’s actually pretty easy to find good ones. As long as you’re not buying your sunscreen at the grocery store—which we all sometimes get stuck doing—you can actually find something that’s better. What you want is a physical block, not a chemical block. You’re looking for a sunscreen that’s going to sit on top of your skin and actually block out the sun, rather than something that’s going inside your pores and then live in your bloodstream.”
The ingredient you need to obsessively check your products for:
“I think an ingredient that companies just drive me crazy with, because I don’t understand why they’re not responding more quickly, is petroleum oil. It’s gone through waves where people are like, ‘Wait, why are we using petroleum oil?’ but then somehow it just goes away. So the formulations never change, unless you see something that’s oil-free.
“The entire oil-free craze happened because so many companies were using petroleum oil. Buzz started to happen around how bad it is for your skin, and then they started cutting it. But Vaseline is petroleum oil, so many lip products on the market have petroleum oil in them, so many lotions have petroleum oil in them. Anything that you see that says mineral oil on it is petroleum oil. That’s a really big one to me, because that’s gasoline that you’re putting on your skin! Why would you? It’s that simple.”
The baby steps you can take to overhaul your beauty cabinet:
“When I was starting out, I was super into telling people to read their labels, and a lot of the feedback I got is that labels are just as confusing when they’re natural. A lot of stuff is written in Latin, it’s still a really complex, long ingredient list. For me, and even with the amount of experience I have within the industry, it’s about where I’m shopping online when I’m looking for my products. Just find a resource where you really trust that they’re curating the collection. Look for a new retailer if you need to—there are so many amazing online and brick-and-mortar retailers. Think about that we [S.W. Basics] launched in Target—that’s a huge shift that they’ve made in their aisles. Now I feel confident in their beauty section. If you see something that says it doesn’t have parabens, it doesn’t have sulfates, it doesn’t have phthalates, that matters. Those are things that you are cutting out from your routine, and that’s not a bad place to start.”