Zit-busting soaps contain not only junky petrochems but also body - and planet-contaminating triclosan.
Q: Do you know any eco-friendly ways to get rid of acne?
A: As a zitty 11-year-old, my grade school crush told me point blank I should wash my face more, when I was already scrubbing it twice a day with a medicated acne wash. Yep, mortification is the word. Twenty-five years later, I still have to be careful about what I put on my face.
How do you keep your acne fight clean and green? First off, you steer clear of blemish-busting soaps like Clearasil Daily Face Wash, Clean & Clear Oil-Free Foaming Facial Cleanser, Tersaseptic, Cetaphil Antibacterial Gentle Cleansing Bar and Neutrogena Deep Clean Body Scrub Bar.
Why? Well, besides all the junky petrochemicals they contain, their active ingredient is body- and planet-contaminating triclosan.
Triclosan, in case you haven't heard my antibacterial sermon before, is an endocrine-disrupting chemical that enviros like Rick Smith of Environmental Defence are campaigning to see banned. It's turning up in the urine of 75 per cent of us as well as in breast milk, dolphin tissue, soil samples, waterways and more.
Did I mention that it's toxic to aquatic life and doesn't easily break down in the environment, and that the Canadian Medical Association wants it gonzo, too?
Besides triclosan, the naughtiest zit zappers, like Murad Acne Body Wash and Neutrogena's Oil-Free Acne Wash Foaming Scrub, have other nasties including formaldehyde-releasing DMDM hydantoin or diazolidinyl urea as well as lots of ethoxylated sudsing ingredients that are all too often contaminated with cancer-linked 1,4-Dioxane.
Nearly all acne products - including natural acne washes, by the way - contain salicylic acid, which Environment Canada says is turning up in water bodies such as the St. Lawrence River. That's largely because it's also a metabolite of pain relievers like aspirin, though. Salicylic acid is safe enough as long as you don't swallow it. But what are your alternatives?
Stop stripping your skin! Using oil-free products actually pushes your oil glands into overdrive. Try using a cleaning cream or milk like Earth Science A-D-E Creamy Cleanser (which is pretty affordable at under $10; earthsciencenaturals.com), unless you have cystic acne, which co-founder of Pure + Simple spas Kristen Ma says is the only type of acne that requires you to reduce oils on the skin's surface.
If you've got pus-y whiteheads, you'll need an antibacterial treatment, so try something with 5 per cent diluted tea tree oil (which some studies have found to be as effective as benzoyl peroxide) or gentle organic lavender essential oil instead of eco-headache triclosan. Lotions with 2 per cent or more antibacterial green tea extracts have been found to be effective on mild to moderate acne.
Looking for a cheap 'n' easy DIY solution? Try rubbing a little crushed garlic on your pimples at night, and let it sit for five minutes before washing.
Straight witch hazel is a great breakout-controlling toner. If you buy Thayer's-brand blended witch hazel, though, make sure you get the alcohol-free kind. You can even add a couple of dozen drops of lavender oil to the bottle. Hydrosols (aka floral waters made from steam distillates) like rosewater are great, too, especially on mature skin.
Don't be afraid of moisturizing with straight oils. For real. Try dabbing a little super-healing antioxidant-rich tamanu oil (from the tamanu nut) or sea buckthorn oil, both of which are fantastic for acne-prone, acne-scarred and all sorts of problem skin.
And don't just stop at lotions and potions. Diet plays a huge role in flare-ups (as does stress). Several studies (including one with 47,000 participants) found that the natural growth hormones in milk actually stimulate pimples. Skim milk was, for some reason, the worst.
A 2010 study published in Clinics In Dermatology added that foods high in sugar, including foods high on the glycemic index, boost production of the androgen hormones responsible for acne, so cut those out, too.
Whatever you do, think long and hard before going on any prescription drugs like antibiotics. I was barely a teen when a dermatologist took one look at my face and put me on tetracycline. (Thanks, doc.) Studies have found that taking the stuff leads to drug-resistant zits in up to 50 per cent of those taking antibiotics, as well as chronic yeast infections, candidal super-infections, C. difficile and worse. Good times.
The side effects of drugs like Accutane are even crazier. The pharmaceutical has been linked to depression and women have to sign a pledge that they will not get pregnant because birth defect risks are so high. Before you take this route, call up a holistic dermatologist or naturopath for whole body help.
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