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Your Skin Is Not a Kitchen Countertop


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Your Skin Is Not a Kitchen Countertop


I repeat, your skin is NOT a kitchen countertop.

Seems simple enough, right? But for decades we have measured the value of our skincare regimens with products like, “deep clean” ultra-exfoliators, chemical peels, bleach treatments, and my personal favorite, the oil-free moisturizer. Your skin is not a kitchen countertop that needs disinfecting, it is an organ eco-system of cells and vessels that beckon for your tender loving care.

Oh, hi there. My name is Kenya Bonita, I'll be the resident author of this blog. I started Saint Alabaster, an eco-conscious natural skincare line, after personal disappointments with both common skincare and natural skincare currently on the market. This is our new blog, It Needs Salt. Here, I’ll delve into my own research and experiences in searching for skincare answers, I’ll also address questions submitted by readers.

 So, back to playing nice with your skin. Like many teenagers being doomed with a sudden onset of acne, I used to treat my skin like a pot caked with grease- no regimen that left my face short of dried out and mildly assaulted made the lineup. I was treating my skin as a barrier, not as a part of my body. When I finally began to accept this, I saw just how much unnecessary trauma I was causing myself, and that’s when I made the switch.

You may have heard growing up to never use soap on your face. This is because solvents, i. e. soap, have undesirable effects such as stripping the skin of natural oils, triggering over-production of sebum, and causing dermal irritation. We may know that harsh solvents aren’t recommended for facial skin care, but it’s not always easy to recognize these ingredients when they pop up in your products (especially that foaming cleanser!). Here are some common ingredients used in today’s cosmetics and personal care products that may be preventing you from obtaining that vibrant, balanced glow. I hope that this list helps you to recognize what you do and do not want in your personal journey to maintainable, sustainable, happy skin: 

Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate *

What it is: Extremely common solvent used in commercial AND natural skincare

Common Names: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sulfate (SLS), Dodecyl Sulfate, Sodium Irium, Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium, Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate, Sodium Dodecyl, Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl

What it does: Used as a foaming agent in cleansers. SLS is also used as a surfactant in shampoos and toothpastes.

 Why it's bad: A severe skin and eye irritant. Repeated or prolonged contact with skin may cause dermatitis. A major concern is its potential to interact and combine with other chemicals to form nitrosamines, a carcinogen. 

Toluene **

What it is: A petrochemical derived from petroleum or coal tar sources. 

Common Names: You may see it on labels listed as benzene, toluol, phenylmethane, methylbenzene.

What it does: Toluene is a potent solvent able to dissolve paint and paint thinner. 

Why it's bad: It can affect your respiratory system, cause nausea and irritate your skin. Expecting mothers should avoid exposure to toluene vapors as it may cause developmental damage in the fetus. Toluene has also been linked to immune system toxicity. It can be found in nail polish, nail treatments and hair color/bleaching products. 

DEA ***

What it is: (Diethanolamine), TEA (Triethanolamine) and MEA (Monoethanolamine) These substances are harsh solvents

Common Names: TEA, MEA, DEA 

What it does: Used in cosmetics and face and body creams as an emollient.

Why it's bad: They can cause allergic reactions, and long term use of DEA-based products (such as Cocamide DEA) have been linked to an increase in the incidence of liver and kidney cancer.

2-Methoxyethanol ****

What it is: Fragrance ingredient and solvent 

Common Names: Methyl Cellosolve, glycol monomethyl ether; ethylene glycol monomethyl ether; methyl oxitol; Ektasolve; Jeffersol EM, 109-86-4; Ethanol, 2-methoxy

What it does: Anti-caking agent, emulsion stabilizer, adhesive

Why it's bad:  2-Methoxyethanol is toxic to the bone marrow and testicles. Workers exposed to high levels are at risk for granulocytopeniamacrocytic anemiaoligospermia, and azoospermia

Diethylene Glycol Monoethyl Ether *****

What it is: Solvent

Common Names: 2-(2-Ethoxyethoxy)ethanol; 111-90-0; CARBITOL; Dioxitol; Transcutol

What it does: Used to make soaps, dyes, and other chemicals. 

Why it's bad: The substance de-fats the skin, which may cause dryness or cracking. (Carbitol) is said to confer a "vanishing effect, which appears to be esteemed in these preparations. This effect suggests that "carbitol" may be absorbed from the skin. If so, its use might be injurious, especially to the kidneys, which are readily damaged by members of the ethylene series of glycols. Cosmetic preparations containing more than 5% of carbitol should not be used even for application to small areas of body ... Use ... for this purpose may constitute an unexpected hazard, especially if applied to broken skin or in persons with renal disorders. 


Human and Environmental Toxicity of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS): Evidence for Safe Use in Household Cleaning Products ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH INSIGHTS

Compound Summary for CID 3423265  PUBCHEM

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate  The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) 

** Toxic Ingredients in Cosmetics and Skin Care Products  HEALTH GUIDANCE

*** Ethanolamine Compounds (MEA, DEA, TEA And Others) Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

**** 2-Methoxyethanol Wikipedia

Compound Summary for CID 8019 Pub Chem

*****  Diethylene Glycol Monoethyl ether CASRN: 111-90-0  [Browning, E. Toxicity and Metabolism of Industrial Solvents. New York: American Elsevier, 1965., p. 632] **PEER REVIEWED**

 Diethylene glycol monoethyl ether: an emerging solvent in topical dermatology products Tolmar Inc. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. 

External use of "carbitol solvent," "Carbitol" and Other Agaents  From the Division of Dermatology, Department of Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine