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Acne is often battled with salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide-based solutions, which present a host of environmental and health concerns in their production and application. Natural alternatives, like tea tree oil-based products, provide a health- and earth-safe solution using plant-based ingredients with proven antibacterial, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory properties.

What to look for when choosing an eco-friendly acne treatment

  1. Avoid benzoyl peroxide: The chemical composition of this common acne treatment can damage ecosystems and threaten wildlife and human health. Benzoyl peroxide's antibacterial properties are related to those of triclosan: a recent study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that triclosan can be linked to cancer in lab animals, may disrupt hormone function in humans, and is a non-biodegradable toxic agent that pollutes ecosystems and threatens wildlife when it is discharged into the water stream.
  2. Look for natural, plant-based ingredients in place of petroleum-based salicylic acid: Petroleum is a non-sustainable resource whose extraction and production has caused major environmental damage to soil, surface and ground waters, and local ecosystems, and contributes to global warming.
  3. Avoid chemical agents that may dry out your skin: Alcohol, acetone, and the foaming detergent diethanolamine (DEA) can dry out skin, and they're no friend of the environment or your health either: alcohol is petroleum-derived, acetone can pollute indoor air quality, and DEA is a known carcinogen.
  4. Go organic: Because the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) spends only a tiny portion of its budget investigating the chemical composition and toxins in skin care products, soaps can tout their use of organic ingredients and still have up to 30 percent synthetic materials, even the ones labeled "organic" or "made with organic ingredients." The only way to be sure that the product you are purchasing is, in fact, organic USDA Organicis too look for the USDA Organic Seal on the label. This seal guarantees that every ingredient is organically produced as defined by the National Organics Standards Board, which bans the use of harmful pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and genetic engineering.
  5. Look for acne treatments that do not contain animal fats or employ animal testing: While you're contemplating green attributes, you may also wish to join the cruelty-free movement. Just keep in mind: a company may claim that they don’t employ animal testing for their products, but without third-party verification, it’s hard to know whether these statements are in fact completely true. Leaping BunnySo stick to those products certified as cruelty-free by looking for products with the Leaping Bunny Logo or the Certified Vegan Logo. You can rest assured that no bunnies (or monkeys or cats for that matter) were harmed in the making of these non-animal-tested products.

Find it! Eco-friendly acne treatments

Below, we've highlighted some of the cleanest and greenest over-the-counter topical acne remedies out there, ranging from quick fixes to multi-step zit-zapping systems. If you're looking for something even more pared down, look into straight-up tea tree oil. It's the active ingredient in many natural acne lotions and potions and is often the most budget-friendly choice for topical acne treatment.

Before you buy

It should go without saying, but just in case: before turning to any serious acne remedy that goes beyond simple spot treatment, check in with your dermatologist for consultation.

Also keep in mind that if you choose an acne treatment concocted with green ingredients in lieu of an easy-to-find variety, you'll likely be confronted with a higher price tag as chemicals generally come cheaper than botanical, organic-certified ingredients. For example, a .3 fluid ounce Burt's Bees Herbal Blemish Stick retails for $8.59 while 65 Noxzema Triple Clean Pads go for $4.49.

Using an eco-friendly acne treatment helps you green because...

  • Eco-friendly acne treatments rely on ingredients found in nature, not health- and eco-unfriendly chemicals, to keep skin clean and pimple-free without causing additional derma-woes.
  • Like other conventional skincare and cosmetic products, medicated over-the-counter acne remedies may contain petroleum-derived components. Petroleum is a non-sustainable resource with various eco-repercussions.
  • Many makers of eco-friendly acne treatments also follow green business practices, such as using recycled packaging and harnessing renewable energy sources like wind power.

For most, the primary worry over the active ingredients found in many popular acne treatments, benzoyl peroxide (Clearasil, etc.) and salicylic acid (Stridex, etc.), is whether they will be too harsh and result in burning, redness, and further irritation. However, as synthetics, both are also equipped with eco-issues.

The two chemicals are different in purpose and composition. Benzoyl peroxide kills acne-causing bacteria and is in the chemical family of substitute benzenes, the same family inhabited by parabens, which are known endocrine disrupters that are not only detrimental to human health, but also destructive to animal hormones and development. (Studies have found higher levels of parabens in tumors from human breast tissue, but, because the potential damage to the endocrine system has yet to be proven, the controversy surrounding the toxicity of parabens is still being debated.) Another relative of benzoyl peroxide is the potent synthetic antimicrobial agent triclosan, which has been found in 55 percent of streams examined in 2002 at levels high enough to disrupt the natural life cycle of frogs.[1] Triclosan can cause skin and eye irritation, and can form dioxin and chloroform in the right circumstances, which are both probable carcinogens. Another common synthetic to look out for in products containing benzoyl peroxide is DEA, a foaming detergent. While DEA is infrequently used in skin and hair care products because it is a known carcinogen, the more commonly used chemicals TEA and MEA are often contaminated with DEA.

Salicylic acid—most famous as the active ingredient in aspirin—is effective in preventing whiteheads, blackheads, and aids in unclogging the pores and exfoliating the skin. It is a beta hydroxy acid that can be found naturally in the bark of willow trees, and can also be made synthetically. When this is the case, it's formed by combining petrochemical products or byproducts. Petroleum is a non-sustainable resource whose extraction and production has caused major environmental damage to soil, surface and ground waters, and local ecosystems, and contributes to global warming. The petroleum industry results in 2.6 million gallons of oil spilled every month during transportation and about 71 million pounds of toxins released into the air and water during refinement.[2]

Acetone, the key ingredient in nail polish removers, can also be found in many conventional acne remedies, usually in combination with alcohol. Acetone occurs naturally in forest fires, volcanic gases, the breakdown of human body fat, and vegetation, but unnatural, industrial release of the substance is more prevalent. It can enter water supplies via hazardous spills and landfills. Levels of acetone in the air are usually higher in urban areas compared to rural ones; the presence of the substance also tends to be higher inside homes than outside due to the use of chemical household products containing the substance.

Controversies

With little to no regulation of terms like organic and natural in personal care product labeling, many companies have been accused of "greenwashing", claiming that their product is safe and natural without any third party verification that that is true. Many consumers report that these claims, at times, can be confusing and misleading. Making sense of environmentally friendly standards is an important part of being a wise consumer.

Understanding organic labeling

One murky area is the term “organic.” While the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) maintains clearcut standards for organic food, the same can’t be said for body care products. The industry is in turmoil trying to agree upon a set of standards. Some companies use the USDA certified organic food standard, which requires 95 percent of the ingredients to be organic. Others use the less stringent California state standard for organic cosmetic products, which requires at least 70 percent organically produced ingredients. And still others label their products organic without meeting any external criterion.

In the meantime, a nonprofit standard-setting group called NSF International has released a draft set of rules for organic personal care products and a group of 30 cosmetic companies recently devised their own set of specifications called Organic and Sustainable Industry Standards (OASIS). How it all washes out remains to be seen.

Related health issues

Acne is a medical condition that should be treated seriously. Before starting an acne-fighting regimen using either a prescription or over-the-counter medication or using a natural, non-prescription remedy, consult your doctor or dermatologist as side effects may occur and worsen the condition. For more on acne and your health, please see Health911.com and WebMD.

Glossary

  • benzoyl peroxide: This antibacterial agent is the active ingredient in many over-the-counter and prescription acne medications, geared toward those suffering from mild to moderate acne.
  • parabens: This family of synthetic preservatives (which includes methyl-, ethyl-, propyl-, and butyl-parabens) can possibly disrupt the endocrine system.
  • salicylic acid: This substance, found in plants but also synthesized, is used as a food preservative, an antiseptic in toothpaste, as a peeling agent in psoriasis treatments, and a sloughing agent in acne treatments.
  • triclosan: An antibacterial agent that may form dioxin and chloroform in the right circumstances, both probable carcinogens.

External links

Comments

05/25/2009
7:42am
acnescar

In order to get the acne free face, acne patients should use the natural ingredients on their face, avoid oily food and also stay away from chemical agents. The site gives the info about acne cure.

http://www.treatmentsforacne.net/skincarebytype/Acne-Treatment/index.htm

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