If a skincare product only stayed on the outer layer of the skin, we wouldn’t have to worry about endocrine disrupting chemicals or carcinogenic ingredients in the formulas. The fact is that some of the ingredients get through the skin and therefore, a careful understanding of how this happens is necessary.

When you take a bath or go swimming, your body doesn’t double in volume. So, we know the skin is watertight. However, the skin is selectively permeable. Some ingredients do get through due to their tiny size, small molecular weight and nanoparticles. Other ingredients get through via the ‘delivery system’ of ingredients – these are non-active ingredients that help other ingredients get through the skin. If you have ever used a nicotine patch or a hormone patch, you would know that drugs can be delivered through the skin. And in cosmetics, if you are applying an anti-ageing cream with claims to boosting collagen, you would want the active ingredients to reach the collagen in the dermis (below the surface of the skin).

If the desired active ingredients get through the skin, then the presence of toxins in the formula can unfortunately get through too.


What do the regulators say?



Regulatory frameworks exist to protect the consumers. In the UK and the EU, there are minimum number of tests that skincare products need to go through before being marketable. Tests like product stability and skin irritation are standards. But no tests are required to prove that skincare products are free of carcinogenic or endocrine disrupting chemicals. Skincare products simply need to avoid any ingredient on the banned official lists of “endocrine disruptors”, “mutagenic” or “carcinogenic” ingredients.

Sadly, regulatory frameworks are notorious for being very slow in adding toxins to their lists. This is particularly true of the endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) which have been accepted globally as toxins only 2 decades ago, that is early 2000s! The EDC list is extremely short so far. In the EU where the list is the longest, it stands currently at 25 ingredients. It takes approximately a decade for a chemical ingredient to be agreed by various parties to go on this list. The lobbying powers of chemical and pharmaceutical companies are enormous. Moreover, products containing those toxins scan still be sold to consumers up to 7 years after the ban. Another frustration arises when scientists tweak a banned ingredient to replace the banned one. Then, the “new ingredient” would need to go through the whole decade of debate and proofs before it gets banned too.


Why should we care?


What do EDCs do to human health? They interfere with our hormonal (endocrine) system by altering hormone synthesis, hormone transport, hormone metabolism and compete for the cells’ hormone receptors, leading to an increase, or decrease of stimulation at wrong times. 

EDCs can affect foetal development, immune response, human reproduction, metabolism, obesity, brain development and can have DNA epigenetic modifications.

More and more global studies are linking the drop in sperm count (more than 50% drop in 40 years) and precocious puberties to EDCs. EDCs are toxins that accumulate in our bodies, that can eventually lead to several metabolic health problems.


How to minimise EDCs and reduce the toxic load in our lives:

It’s impossible to live a life without toxins in our modern lifetimes. Luckily the body has the capacity to eliminate toxins that enter our systems. But sadly, it struggles to do this job due to high toxic load. Here are some of the sources of potential toxins:

  • Plastics like milk bottles, water bottles. Never heat food in plastic containers. Never drink plastic bottled water that has been exposed to high temperatures (in the car during the summer)

  • Fire retardant coatings on children’s toys, clothing, beddings

  • Stain protecting coatings on fabric covered furniture

  • Wall painting with high VOCs

  • Medications & birth control pills

  • Skincare products and hygiene products

  • Lycra and other petroleum based synthetic fabrics, in particular when these fabrics come into contact with the skin during sweating

  • House cleaning products, laundry products

  • House candles made of paraffins (opt for alternative waxes like soja or bees wax)


What should one do to reduce toxins in skincare?

By opting for natural skincare, you can minimise the exposure to potentially harmful chemicals and reduce the risk of skin sensitivity or allergic reactions. It's worth noting that "natural" doesn't always mean "safe for everyone." Some people may still have sensitivities or allergies to certain natural ingredients. Not all synthetic ingredients used in skincare products are harmful, equally, not all natural ingredients are harmless. The majority or EDCs are synthetic man-made compounds, but some EDCs are found in nature such as plant-based phytoestrogens and fungus-based mycoestrogens.


These are Skin Diligent products where the final formulas have been tested for oestrogenic endocrine disruption.


When I started Skin Diligent, it was my personal mission to create a skincare line that didn’t trigger any endocrine disruption. This was important because our first line of products was targeting acne, a skin condition strongly related to hormonal imbalance. But technology was, and still is, lacking to test skincare products for all hormonal impact. However, the skin has oestrogenic receptors, and so we could at least test and ensure Skin Diligent products to be free of oestrogenic endocrine disruption.

Avoiding the short EDC list wasn’t good enough for me, so ensuring the final formulas to be free of endocrine disruption, including any chemical cocktail effect, was key. In this sense, our products are safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women, women who have battled breast cancer, and anyone who desires to lead a life with less toxins.


Tule Park, co-founder

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