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Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Going sulphate free...

About three years ago I was having a terrible time with my skin. During my teens I had suffered from acne and extremely oily skin but now found myself in the position where my skin was so dry it was physically peeling off. I was working for a major cosmetics brand at the time and the thought of having customers scrutinising my face on a daily basis seemed unbearable. The more my skin suffered, the more I piled on the makeup like a mask and my confidence plummeted. 

I thought that i had been taking good care of my skin. I washed my face in the shower in the morning with a foaming cleanser and moisturised with an oil free moisturiser afterwards. I took little notice of the ingredients in products, simply assuming that these companies had everyone's best interest at heart. It wasn't until my skin started becoming irritated, hot and swollen after washing with a foaming cleanser that I started to think I was having some kind of reaction. 

My first instinct was to stop using this foaming face wash. I decided to use a cream cleanser for a week and see if there was any noticeable difference. At this point I was willing to try anything. I plumped for the Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish as it had always had very positive reviews from friends and family. The first thing i noticed was the absence of any swelling and irritation after use. Now, I'm not saying that this product will be for everyone. High profile bloggers such as Caroline Hirons have reported they have had a reaction to this product. But hey, it was working for me. 

I was initially sceptical that I would achieve the level of 'clean' with this product that I was used to as clean skin to me was with squeaking skin *rolls eyes now. So I used the hot cloth cleanser for a week and I was converted. My dry patches were subsiding and my skin generally felt like it was returning to some kind of balanced state. 

After researching 'allergies to foaming face washes', I was alerted to Sodium Lauryl Sulphate as being the probable culprit. I found the internet was awash (excuse the pun) with poor itchy, swollen souls who cannot tolerate this chemical in their cleansing routine. Sulphates or surfactants are primarily what give cleaning products a good lather or foam. 

The dangers of sodium laureth sulfate do not arise from its ingredients but rather from the way it
is processed This process, called ethoxylation, is intended to make sodium laureth sulfate more gentle for skin and hair. It also produces a chemical contaminant called 1,4-dioxane. You will likely not see it in the ingredient list of your soap, shampoo and toothpaste, however, because 1,4-dioxane is not technically an ingredient. It is a byproduct, and according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, is therefore not required to be listed on product labels. Comprehensive exposure to the chemical is associated with several health risks. One of these health risks being irritation to eyes, skin and nose. This is a side effect that I had experienced. In particular the reaction of my skin.

This information and my own experiences of cleansing with and without sulphates was enough to spur me on to eliminate them from my routine altogether.  My advice to anyone experiencing skin irritation or suffering from a skin complaint and is using a product containing sulphates would be to simply switch to a sulphate free product for a week. Give it a go! 

In my next post I will be talking about my current sulphate free routine for face, body and hair. 

xx Holly 

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