What's Really In Your Skin Care Products?

african american woman with beautiful skin(BlackDoctor.org) — The average woman puts several different products on her face daily. From moisturizers to makeup, hundreds of ingredients get slapped on our skin without much thought as to what’s actually inside. Since Black skin especially has its own set of needs, you should start looking out now for the best and worst ingredients for healthy, glowing skin.

Which natural ingredients are best for your skin?

Proven natural ingredients are the first ones you should trust on your skin.  Aloe Vera is great for healing sores and burns caused by relaxers or other chemical damage as well as skin discolorations.  For scarring, honey surprisingly works wonders by preventing scars with its antibacterial compounds.   Other natural products that are good for your skin include:

• Green Tea – It helps control breakouts in acne-prone skin.

• Shea Butter – Our grandmothers and mothers have been touting the effects of Shea butter for years, and they’re right. Derived from the Shea nut of West Africa, this butter helps heal existing scars and even out the skin tone.

• Tea Tree Oil – As an alternative to the drying chemical benzoyl peroxide, tea tree oil treats pimples without the side effects.

How can I hydrate my dry skin?

African American skin becomes dry when it is overly cleansed with harsh chemical ingredients.  Start keeping your skin hydrated by not peeling and stripping your skin’s top layer to begin with.  Avoid using harsh chemicals such as peroxide or salicylic acid on dry skin.  Hydrate your skin with a natural oil while it is still wet.

How can I even out my skin tone?

Prevention is the most effective way to get an even skin tone.  If you cannot avoid discolorations and acne scars, avoid traditional skin-lightening creams.  These creams often contain harsh acids or hydroquinone which is a toxic skin-bleaching ingredient shown in animal studies to cause cancer. The stable form of topical vitamin C has been shown in studies to be great for brightening the skin, and lemon juice mixed with equal parts water will lighten dark spots over time.

Are there any foods that may improve skin health?

Healthy skin doesn’t just happen because of what you do on the outside of your body.  Eating the right foods can have benefits for your skin as well.  Foods that are rich in antioxidants or omegas are necessary for healthy, glowing skin. Good for your skin foods include:

• Salmon
• Blueberries
• Tomatoes
• Broccoli
• Green tea
• Extra virgin olive oil
• Leafy greens
• Walnuts
• Avocados
• Dark chocolate

What ingredients in skincare products should I avoid?

The skincare industry uses more than 10,000 ingredients, many of which little to no safety data available on them. Whether or not some are dangerous, many are definitely not good for your skin including:

• Petroleum – Petroleum and its related chemicals suffocate the skin and clog the pores.

• Fragrance – Besides the obvious fact that fragrances in skin products can cause topical allergic reactions, there’s also the peculiar fact that many fragrances contain hormone disruptors.

• Parabens – This chemical mimics the female hormone estrogen and has been found in breast tumor tissue.

• Triclosan – Found in antibacterial products, it is one chemical that is known to stay in your body for a long time.  Regular exposure to it may actually be causing resistant strains of bacteria.

• “Nano” or “micro” particles – Any skin cleansing product that claims to have anything “nano” or “micro” is one to stay away from.  Products with these kind of scrubbing agents claim to get into spots other cleansers can’t go, but there’s a reason other cleansers can’t go. These products open your skin cells up for other agents to get in – whether they’re good or bad.

• Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES) – These are sufectants that strip your skin of its natural oils causing you to look to product after product to replace your skin’s natural moisture and elasticity.