How to tell if a skincare product is safe….in general and in pregnancy.

Hi Doctor. I'm in my 24week of pregnancy and planning a wedding. I recently got a couple of cosmetic products from Elizabeth Arden and would love to know if they are safe. First I got the Visible Difference Special Moisture Formula for Body Care , and these are the ingredients list:Water/Aqua/Eau, Squalane, Laureth-23, Glycerin, Propylene Glycol Stearate, Cyclopentasiloxane, Glyceryl Stearate, Oleyl Alcohol, Cyclohexasiloxane, Glycol Distearate, Allantoin, Panthenol, Glycol Stearate, Xanthan Gum, Parfum/Fragrance, Benzyl Alcohol, Benzyl Benzoate, Benzyl Cinnamate, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Citral, Citronellol,

This is such a great question. You’ll notice I cut off that list of chemicals above at about the 1/3 mark…… 🙂

First………… sadly…the requirements for skincare product safety in the US are not very high. Basically for ALL the over the counter products, they just have to prove that product can’t kill you (partly joking here) and that most people tolerate it without getting irritated or allergic. That’s pretty low standard in my opinion. They don’t need to prove that something works the way they IMPLY it will.

The standards in Europe are higher, so I often look at them. I just returned from a european trip with my children since my daughter is studying environmental policy in Copenhagen right now and…….they are way ahead of us.  Even the hotel tiny bottles are almost all more natural, more organic and have less chemicals. It’s harder to find these lines here…..and have skincare products that still WORK….but I’m going to really try for this site’s shop. You’ll see some changes over the next few months.

So what to do now? Safety and irritancy are two different things. For example, the propylene glycol in your product above is probably safe, but it causes irritation and allergic reactions in an increasing number of people. The other glycols don’t like hexylene, glycol is usually fine. A cosmetic chemist explained to me that it’s because PG is a smaller molecule. Larger molecules are absorbed into the system less and have less potential to get into our bloodstreams.

How to tell if a skincare product is safe:

  • Look at the Environmental Working Group site. I don’t always agree with them and they are awfully dogmatic sometimes, but it’s a start.
  • Avoid products with long lists of chemicals and look for shorter lists and more natural things in the base, especially if pregnant.
  • Look for labelling that says things like …….free of formaldehyde, fragrances, lanolin, etc. Some products will tell you what they are free of.
  • There’s a lot of debate on whether petrolatum based products should be avoided. So far, I’ve not seen any convincing evidence that they are harmful to humans on the skin.
  • Zinc is the safest and most effective sunscreen active ingredient!
  • Be careful because many products say “natural” on them, but it’s a meaningless term. Often if you read the label, they aren’t very natural at all.
  • Eminence is expensive but organic and available in the U.S., try them if you are concerned. Take a look at other lines like Juice Beauty, Skinmedica and Skinceuticals.
  • My problem thus far with the organic lines is that sometimes they just don’t work very well. This will change with time, I’m hoping.

Hope this helps,  Dr. I

Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

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Hi, I’m Dr. Irwin. I believe that consumers deserve a medically trained and unbiased skin care advocate.

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