When it comes to improving your overall health, there’s a lot you can do. You stop drinking booze if you have liver problems. You avoid cholesterol if you starts showing signs of heart disease. So why do most men continue to completely overlook the massive organ that holds it all together? It’s time we break down what should be going on with with your skincare routine.
Your skin absorbs roughly 60% of what you rub into it—and it turns out a good deal of what’s on the market here in the States can be toxic.
That may sound a bit extreme, but the truth is the United States lags far behind other countries with what chemicals it bans us from putting on our skin. “In Europe for instance, there’s around 1,300 ingredients that are banned from skin care products—in the US there’s only 11,” said Tara Foley, who founded the Boston-based skincare store Follain, which focuses on natural and effective ingredients, in 2013. “So products in the US will have the same label on the front as they do as a product in western Europe, Japan, Canada—just about anywhere—but very different ingredients in the product if they’re manufactured in the US by these big brands.”
That was part of why she started the store. “I saw there was a very clear connection between human health and [skincare] products” Foley said in an interview with Men’s Journal. “I was so invested in fitness and nutrition. Then I realized, ‘What am I doing slathering all of these proven toxic ingredients all over my skin and undoing so much of the good stuff I was doing by working out and eating the right foods?’”
And like the difference between the iceberg lettuce at the bottom of your grocery store’s produce section and fresh kale from the farmers’ market, natural grooming products tend to cost more.
“It’s complicated, but we’ve essentially been trained by the skincare industry into looking for cheaper, cheaper, cheaper—when really those things are often quite harming to our health,” Foley said. “This is just another investment in your health. You’re literally slathering it all over your body, your face, and your hair every day. These ingredients go to the same place as your food, so if it’s thought about it in that way, I think it’s a little easier to tolerate a $6 bar of soap as opposed to a $3 one. That’s what the difference is.”
Still, there’s a big knowledge gap about these ingredients, which is why Foley focuses so much on education: helping customers figure out what works best for their skin—and what they should be avoiding. If you can’t make it to Beantown to figure out what you should and shouldn’t have in your dopp kit and medicine cabinet, Foley has outlined four toxic chemicals you should start to avoid right away. These are known for their negative effects on men’s health specifically.