Green Beauty School: Titanium Dioxide, Micro Plastics, Aluminum

  • Does anyone else out there feel like everything you eat, breath and slather yourself in is going to get you in the end? Would you rather just give up on green beauty in the face of it all? Resign to apathy? Freefall into a pile of asbestos cackling like a madwoman? Do you even know what a phthalate is? Do you even know how to say or spell that? I don’t. I just type a bunch of random letters into the computer and let the software correct it for me (thank you, modern world).

    Please excuse the interrogation. Sometimes it just feels like there are so many questions and, often, too many answers. But just think about it this way: each time you learn how to distinguish between a ‘phthalate’ from a ‘Sodium Cocoamphoacetate’, you’re taking a tiny piece of power back into your own hands, and, for that matter, back into your own body.

    So we’re taking you to Green Beauty School. We’re breaking it down into tiny, bite-sized pieces (all organic and paraben free, of course). And we’re going to begin by giving you the most common culprits. The toxic guys. The ones with long names and leather jackets, who’ve been sneaking into our bathrooms over the past century or so.

    And that’s the big point to make, really. In the context of humanity, these chemical compounds have only been around for a hot minute, so it’s not all that surprising that we’re only now finding out how shady they are.

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    So, what are they?

    Titanium Dioxide: Titanium Dioxide comes in the form of a very fine, very white power that is used in everything from paints, adhesives, printing inks, roofing materials, and automotive products (yes, really) to an array of cosmetics, soap, and toothpaste. It comes in two different forms: pigment grade titanium dioxide and as an ultrafine, nanomaterial when maximum ultraviolet light absorption is required (i.e. protecting your face from UVA/UVB exposure – yes, it’s an active ingredient in sunscreen, which is why it probably sounds so familiar). You can also find it hiding in loose mineral make-up (yes, the natural kind) and pressed foundation powders.

    Microplastics: Simply put, any plastic smaller than five millimetres in length is considered a microplastic. In beauty-land, you’re probably most familiar with them in the form of microbeads, which garnered a reputation that rivals Donald Trumps’ due to their hazardous environmental effects. They have since been banned in the U.S., but they’re still hanging round in Australia. Look out for these in your physical exfoliators, body scrubs and toothpaste. They may also be lurking around in a few of your other personal care products, like creeps, as a cheap filler to beef up the volume.

    Aluminum: Aluminum is a light, silvery grey, ductile metal-element that you most likely know due to the starring role it plays in your kitchen: soft drink cans, tin-foil, and oven trays. Aluminum is commonly used in antiperspirant deodorants to duct sweat glands and inhibit the body’s natural transpiration process (ugh!).

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    Why are they bad for me again?

    Titanium Dioxide: The EU has issued a warning on titanium dioxide in it’s purest form due to the belief it qualifies as a category 2 carcinogen (anything that may cause cancer in humans or animals) in it’s purest form. Eek. The main threat posed by titanium dioxide is not when applied topically, it’s respiratory irritation when accidentally inhaled (by way of dust when used in paint coatings and so on). Still, it has been linked to cancer in some cases by way of topical application.

    Microplastics: Make no mistake, though large cosmetic companies will claim nano plastic ingredients are non-toxic and safe to use, all research suggests otherwise. Their nano-size enables them to easily penetrate skin. And it’s not just about you – they’re insanely bad for our environment and the other animals that share our planet. Once they make the journey down our drain and into the ocean, marine life often mistake them for food. They’re not biodegradable either. Can you imagine how many microbeads are swirling around the ocean rn? Yep. Not. Good. One more thing to think about: if fish eat microbeads, and human are eating said fish…

    Aluminum: Because it’s a neurotoxin! Sounds scary. It is. Aluminum can mimic oestrogen within the body and therefore penetrate the bloodstream and lymph nodes after being applied topically to armpits. Aluminum has been found within the breast tissue of breast cancer patients and linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Yikes. I think we can leave it at that.

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    What are my alternatives?

    Titanium Dioxide: Sunscreen is most definitely a non-negotiable day-to-day product. If your skincare regime were to consist of merely one step (hey, no judgment, somedays ours does), it should always be sunscreen. So, what to do? You’ll need to steer clear of chemical sunscreens and be mindful when using physical ones as these generally contain titanium dioxide as the main form of UV protection. You will be hard-pressed to find a sunscreen that doesn’t contain titanium dioxide (which may also be listed as zinc oxide on the label), so your best bet is to opt for an el-naturale sunscreen with titanium dioxide as the sole active ingredient. Avoid aerosol sunscreens completely. We’ll keep you posted.

    Try: The Honest Company Mineral Sunscreen

    Microplastics: Jojoba Beads! Chemical exfoliants! Salt! Sugar! Apricot Seeds! Macadamia Nut! Look for anything with the ‘Beat The Bead’ certified logo, a global initiative aiming to encourage companies to discontinue incorporating microbeads within their products. We really, really don’t need to use these at all.

    Try: Mukti Organics Bioactive Body Elixir, The Jojoba Company Jojoba Bead Facial Cleanser

    Aluminum: So many things! There’s no reason to use traditional antiperspirants in modern day society, you guys. Look for all-natural deodorant formulations, which are popping up everywhere, in the form of a paste, spray or roll-on. NB: be mindful of bi-carb soda if you have sensitive skin as this can cause irritation.

    Try: Eucalyptus Deodorant, Malin+Goetz, Agent Nateur Deodorant, Corpus Natural Deodorant (check out more of our all-time favourite deodorants here)