As skin is our largest organ and our first line of defence, flaky patches, flare-ups, breakouts and redness can be an early sign that health is being compromised. When you consider women put up to 168 chemicals on their bodies every day, it’s no surprise the surface layer protecting us from harmful bacteria and allergens starts to shout out for some TLC. But who has time to plough through research to identify the best cosmetics for problem-prone skin? We’ve scoured the scientific literature for you to find which plant and vegetable extracts used in sensitive skin makeup are proven to repair and replenish.
The good, the bad and the ugly: makeup ingredients to avoidThe Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the regulatory body for ensuring safe products and accurate marketing claims in the cosmetic industry, revealed makeup and self-care lotions and potions account for around 30 per cent of injury reports. Some lipsticks contain hazardous heavy metals including lead, beryllium, thallium, cadmium, chromium and arsenic which have been linked to cancer, bone, kidney, heart problems, hormone disruption, allergies, arthritis, skin inflammation, as well as brain and nerve dysfunction. This is very concerning because what goes on your lips goes in – absorbed through your skin and licked off to enter the body through your mouth.
If you wouldn’t dream of eating heavy metals off a plate, then it’s time to think about removing them from your lipstick diet. Other ingredients to be wary of on sensitive skin are phthalates and parabens, which are hormone disrupters (a UK study associates parabens with breast cancer), carcinogenic coal tar and skin irritant formaldehyde. Also look out for butylated hydroxyanisole (or BHA), a preservative which can be cancer-inducing in high doses. Some manufacturers are now using alternative preservatives to BHA and parabens with the catchy names methylisothiazolinone (MI) and methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI). MI and MCI are found in some wet wipes, moisturisers, cosmetics and skin cleansers and can cause skin allergies. They are banned in leave-on personal care products in Europe.
So are levels of makeup toxins likely to do long-term damage?
Chemicals can be easily absorbed through the skin to the bloodstream, and in the case of lipstick, we ingest up to two kilograms over a lifetime. Research carried out in 2011 by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found levels of lead in 400 tested lipsticks. Intense colours appeared to show the highest composition of lead. On the whole, authorities say these quantities are too low to be classified as unsafe, but one US study found that average twice-daily application of 10 of 32 tested lipsticks/glosses resulted in exceeding allergy-aggravating chromium intake by 100 per cent. Canada, the US and EU have restrictions on acceptable levels of heavy metals in makeup, however unsafe products still hit the shelves as most do not require premarket approval and safety tests are the legal responsibility of manufacturers. You can find out more about harmful chemicals in Australian cosmetics on the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) website, which will help you understand the ingredients which should never be found in makeup for sensitive skin.
Makeup for sensitive skin: Healing ingredients that help
Given that we use so many personal care products each day, it makes sense to choose trusted ones with moisturising anti-inflammatories and antioxidants to soothe and heal (ideally made from food-active ingredients).
Antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, D and E, play an essential role in fighting against free radicals that are the main cause of negative skin changes. Avocado, sesame, jojoba, olive and coconut oils are often used in makeup for sensitive skin, as their protective health benefits are backed by science. For example, avocados are rich in essential fatty acids, which are needed to prevent eczema. Avocado drenches the dermis with 'C’ nutrients, which are scientifically proven to to tackle acne, rosacea and post-inflammatory hyper-pigmentation. These properties make avocado oil perfect for young and mature skins as it also contains phytosterols (plant steroids) to calm irritated skin. It also boosts collagen in connective tissue to fight the signs of ageing.
Meanwhile, sesame oil contains skin-calming omega 3, plus the reparative minerals zinc and magnesium. In lab tests, zin and magnesium was found to block out 30 per cent of UV rays compared to coconut, peanut, olive, and cottonseed oils which block 20 per cent.
Look to food to nourish your features and flood them with nutrient-filled goodness. Edible oils like avocado and sesame are perfect for use in sensitive-skin makeup and will let your skin breathe easy.
Image by Chris Jarvis