Skin Hydration Showdown: Body Lotions vs Natural Oils

Looking at the ingredients list on my personal bottle of body lotion is like looking at a winning list of Scrabble words: Aluminium stearates. Butylphenyl methylpropional. Methylchloroisothiazolinone. Neopentyl glycol diheptanoate.

Now, I haven’t taken chemistry since high school and I can’t pronounce these ingredients, much less understand what they are, so why would I want them on my skin?

© meganjoyt, Flickr

It turns out that the average bottle of body lotion sitting innocently on your bathroom counter could be more harmful to you than you think. It is a concoction of artificial ingredients – a Frankenstein’s monster of chemistry, if you will – that may not only potentially wreak havoc on your body, but probably has contributed to damaging to the environment. For good karma and better health, here is a truncated list of ingredients to avoid in moisturisers:

  • Parabens. Parabens (possibly prefixed with methyl-, ehtyl-, propyl-, and butyl-) are used as a preservative to prolong a product’s shelf life, but it is also a skin allergen, and some research have found traces of it in breast cancer tumors. While there is no definite proof that parabens are carcinogenics, dermatologists have advised to avoid it where possible. In another word, use it with caution.
  • Fragrances. The way a body lotion smells can make or break our decision to purchase it: I personally cannot resist lotions that smell like cucumbers, cocoa butter, or orange and ginger. But I also can’t ignore the fact that it probably does more harm than good, as artificial fragrances may contain up to four thousand different ingredients that include animal urine (yuck). They have been known to cause a slew of health issues including headaches, skin irritation and discolouration, and respiratory problems. When it comes to fragrances in beauty products, fruits scents are the safest bet.
  • DEA (Diethanolamine). This is an ingredient that has been known to cause allergic reaction, but it also has hormone-disrupting properties that have been linked to  kidney and liver cancer.
  • Mineral oil. A byproduct of petroleum that covers the skin to keep in moisture, but you may as well be applying cling wrap on your skin. Like its cheaper, more common cousin petroleum jelly, mineral oils will actually disrupt your skin’s natural ability to moisturise itself, in addition to clogging pores and causing acne.

I know parting with the fruity fragrance of your favourite body butter may be difficult, but you should consider one of these items as a healthier, more natural alternative to the chemical combos you are used to; the best part is, you probably already have these in your kitchen!

  • Coconut oil. Coconut oil is the Swiss army knife of beauty. In addition to smelling like a dream tropical vaction, coconut oil has proved to be an effective facial moisturiser, body lotion, and hair serum. It will not suffocate the skin, has antibacterial and antioxidant properties, and is even gentle and effective enough for eye makeup removal.
  • Olive oil. Yes, olive oil. The very same type you drizzle your salads with. I stopped using artificial body lotions a month ago and replaced it with extra virgin olive oil, and I think my skin has never loved me more for it. I’ve noticed a decrease in pigmentation and my skin retains moisture much better than before: I do not have to moisturise as much through out the day, and I’ve noticed a notable increase in suppleness and elasticity.

The only downside is how upon initial application, you may find these oils greasier than the lotions you’re used to – but they will sink into the skin soon enough and retain the moisture much more safely and with more efficacy than any scented moisturiser you will find in drugstores. Give mother nature a shot!

© Lance Fuller, Flickr