How natural “non-toxic” skin care can kill healthy skin cells

Natural skin care can yield incredible results, but it can also destroy your skin. When I founded OUMERE, I did so out of a need for skin care that worked, was natural, and did not accelerate the aging process by damaging my skin. I found that synthetic brands didn’t do any harm, but this was because they weren’t doing anything at all. A result from using inorganic, biologically inert materials such as mineral oil and silicones. And when I went to natural skin care brands, they did something, but they were doing something bad. They destroyed my skin.

Our body reacts to natural products biologically, which means there is a stronger effect to natural skin care than synthetic skin care. So when natural skin care is formulated by marketers, cosmetic chemists, ex-ballet dancers or anyone else without an extensive background in cellular biology, the result is dangerous, cytotoxic paint thinner wrapped up and sold to you as skin care.

A bit of a side note that will be a subject of a future post. I often get skepticism and incredulity when I tell people chemists make bad and dangerous skin care. The reason for this is twofold:

1. A chemist is likely acting as a cook in a kitchen, and was directed by a marketer to concoct a formula based on an already decided list of trendy and marketable ingredients that will suit consumer demand. That chemist did not pour over research for years to come up with the best formula for skin care. And even if they did…

2. A chemist does not have the education nor the research background to understand and properly analyze published biological research studies. As a cellular biologist, I cannot properly read and analyze inorganic chemistry research studies because I have not had the extensive research background and experience to deduce whether or not that research has merit. So for that same reason, a chemist cannot look at a biological paper and do the same. How would they know if the proper tissue stains were used? What about proper dehydration methodology or fixation reagents for the tissue samples? How about the correct thickness to section their specimens for microscopy? All a chemist, or other non-biologist reading biological papers is able to do is read the paper and assume that the authors did the right thing and are telling the truth in their results. A dangerous assumption that is the cause for the spreading of bad science, and the current research irreproducibility crisis.

It is important to not fall victim to an appeal to authority fallacy. Just because someone is a scientist, and/or has an overly elaborate sounding degree doesn’t mean they understand all science, some science, or any science at all.

When I do my consulting for companies who are looking to revamp their beauty counters, I am inundated with natural cosmetics and skin care labeled as non-toxic. And without fail, that ‘non-toxic’ skin care is the most cytotoxic thing I have ever seen. And every time I think a natural beauty product couldn’t get worse, I am shown another product that is even more destructive than the last. Here are the things that I find in natural skin care that makes it cytotoxic:

1. Essential Oils

Essential oils offer no health benefit and are dangerous for your skin. What makes them cytotoxic is that they break the skin cell down in the same way your body breaks down a cell when initiating cell death (apoptosis). Essential oils break down the cell membrane, which weakens the skin cell, breaks it down, and causes the cell to die.

Apoptosis, programmed cell death is a normal part of development. However, when we do harm to our skin, and kill off cells pre-maturely we do damage that accelerates the aging process.

2. Rose and other flower extracts

Flower extracts have no health benefit either and initiate an inflammatory response which can cause tissue degradation, and cell death. Furthermore, when tissues break down, such as the skin, you weaken your body’s natural defense to bacterial, viral, and fungal pathogens, leading to skin disease.

3. Witch Hazel

Witch hazel is an antiquated skin care ingredient that has no place in modern skin care regimen. It is a known irritant and an inferior ingredient compared to AHA’s and PHA’s.

4. Inflammatory plant oils

Plant oils offer a tremendous benefit to skin, but they must be formulated properly. If you have an abundance of carrot seed oil, which is an extremely beneficial oil, but high in oleic acid, then you need to have an abundance of oils high in linoleic acid to balance out the fatty acid profile to elicit anti-inflammatory benefits. Too often do I see a litany of high oleic-acid plant oils in a ‘non-toxic’ beauty product ingredient list with little to no anti-inflammatory counterparts. The result is inflamed skin, acne, contact dermatitis, and other skin maladies that cause the breakdown of the cell.

5. Physical scrubs

Anything that exfoliates the skin physically causes pre-mature cell death through mechanical damage. This pre-mature cell death accelerates the aging process. The act of physical abrasion also creates microlacerations, which, in addition causes wrinkles and fine lines, but also acne, inflammation, dryness or increased oil production.

6. Lack of preservatives

Preservation is anti-aging, a lack of preservatives is pro-aging. When you do not use preservatives in your skin care, mold, fungus, bacteria, and viruses grow in the container (even pump containers), and the infestation in the product goes on your skin and in your body, and causes cellular damage. Preservatives have been the subject of fear-mongering by non-scientists, especially on blogs, and is not based in anything factual. In a properly formulated skin care product, non-irritating effective preservatives are used in a concentration that is high enough to offer broad spectrum protection against pathogens, and low enough to not cause skin irritation. It is important to understand that it is far safer to have a preservative in your skin care than to have none at all.

7. Foaming agents in cleansers

Foaming cleansers are destructive to the skin because they weaken the very defense that protects skin from bacteria: it’s pH. Foaming cleansers are alkaline, and take your skin from a healthy, bacteria-fighting acidity, to a weak alkaline state that is vulnerable to bacteria. Those with bacterial acne and other skin ailments have a skin whose pH is too high, which breaks skin cells down. I always tell people, cleansing your skin will not cure acne, but using the wrong cleanser can create acne (or make existing acne worse).

8. Vitamin C and Citric Acid

Vitamin C is a highly unstable molecule that, when used in the free-form such as in serums, can cause free radical discharge. The free radical discharge causes breakdown of lipids in the cellular membrane, causing inflammation and cell death. More about the dangers of vitamin C in serums can be read here. Citric acid in high quantities (listed high on an ingredient deck) is also dangerous. However, citric acid is suitable when used in low amounts (seen low on an ingredient deck) for pH control or stability purpose.

Skin care is often considered a luxury, and isn’t taken seriously. But taking care of your skin is essential for health. When skin care is made by someone who doesn’t understand what they are doing, or made by someone or some company motivated less by their client’s health and more by dollars, you and your skin are going to suffer the consequences. Always do your research. Know the dangers ubiquitous in skin care. Know that just because something is natural, and labeled as ‘non-toxic’ doesn’t make it safe. Most skin care on the market isn’t skin care at all, it is skin wear, and does more harm than good.


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