TOXIC SKIN CARE PRODUCTS
The personal care product industry is one of the biggest industries in the world, but with little regulation or transparency. It is because of that, consumers must educate themselves on how the products they use on their skin might be affecting their health.
Did you know that an estimated 60% of what goes on your skin is absorbed into the bloodstream? After that your body has to determine what to do with the synthetic chemicals. Sometimes the body can handle it and the natural detoxification pathways take care of it, but everyone has different detoxification capabilities and a different amount of toxic load the body is already dealing with.
Simply assuming the body can handle it or it’s just a little bit doesn’t always work. A little bit of a lot of different chemicals still ends up being a burden on the system. More on that here
Body care product companies producing lotion, soap, haircare products, make up and perfumes assure people their products are safe, but the definition of safe is open to interpretation. If by safe, you mean you do not need to call poison control after using it or don’t break out into a painful rash, then yes, most products on the market are safe. But, if we consider chemicals that disrupt hormones then thousands of products on the market are not safe. There has not been significant regulatory changes in this industry since the 1930’s.
Dr. Walter Crinnon is an industry expert in environmental toxins including body care products. He discusses how synthetic chemicals over time lead to an imbalance of the immune system leading to chronic viral, bacterial, fungal infections, and autoimmunity. In our world of functional medicine, this is significant since the level of chronic infections and autoimmune diseases continue to rise. We always ask about body care and environmental hazards when addressing health issues.
The average woman is exposed to over 500 chemicals daily. That’s a HUGE amount. Most women use 8-15 personal care products before they leave the house in the morning. Paying attention to what goes on your skin is as important as what food goes in your body. Your skin is your largest organ and deserves as much TLC as your heart and liver and digestive tract.
The American Journal of Public Health released a study that the skin absorbs 64% of contaminant dosage used in the study. The face absorbed several times more than other parts of the body with underarm and genital areas showing 100% absorption. This is huge. 100% of what you put in your arm pits is absorbed into the blood stream.
This should be quite concerning considering antiperspirant/deodorant contains aluminum and propylene glycol both of which are known to have negative health consequences. Aluminum is what prevents you from sweating (the antiperspirant part) but not only is excess aluminum in the body associated with Alzheimer’s, it can also interfere with estrogen production by pushing estrogen into inflammatory and even cancer promoting types of estrogen. Aluminum is also known to impair the body’s ability to get rid of other chemicals like mercury therefore contributing to build up of mercury in the body. This is particularly problematic for women in childbearing years. Propylene glycol is a chemical known to cause damage to the central nervous system and is also in many other products we wouldn’t put on our body like cleaning agents. There are different grades of propylene glycol, based on the % of concentration, but often this level is not known or disclosed in research making it difficult to determine the danger of the chemical. The FDA determined 50% concentration or lower is safe for cosmetics and some deodorants have been known to have the 50% concentration while others a 2%. There is no way for the consumer to know, and I’m not one to use the FDA standard of “safe”.
Phthalates are another chemical in body care products you may have heard to avoid. This class of chemicals is linked to asthma, ADHD, breast cancer, obesity, type 2 diabetes, neurodevelopment issues, behavioral issues and ASD in children, as well as male infertility issues. The level of infertility in general, but also male fertility issues (sperm quantity, quality and motility) continue to rise and chemicals are a big player. Phthalates are found in make up, lotions, shampoo, conditioners and deodorant. The awareness is on the rise as you will often see products labeled “phthalate free” but be sure to check out the ingredients because marketing ploys may paint a pretty picture on the front, but still include problematic chemicals, even if it is phthalate free.
Parabens are linked to reproductive issues in women and developmental issues in children which is why you see many more products available labeled as “paraben” free. This is a good thing. Consumers are influencing the market in powerful way in the body care industry. As early as the 1990’s parabens were known to be a xenoestrogen or endocrine disruptor- mimicking estrogen production like the phthalates, and now over 20 years later, they are still in many products and potentially reeking havoc on the body.
It is important to note that the research in the area of body care products is often very biased on both sides. The United States allows more potentially hazardous chemicals in body are products than most other countries. There is no clear answer for what level of hazardous chemicals actually harm the body. Every piece of matter in the universe is a chemical of some sort, even water (H2O), but the ways in which chemicals are harmful or are a potential hazard depends on many factors such as:
- How is it given to the body?
- How much is given (the dose)?
- How long is the exposure?
- How frequent is exposure?
- How effective is the body at eliminating the hazardous chemicals?
This is where it gets tricky and where fear mongering can loom large. I don’t make this point because I believe synthetic chemicals in body care products are not harmful, quite the contrary. I believe the effects of synthetic chemicals on our body are still largely unknown because there is not yet a wide body of quality research to determine what is really safe. Additionally, small doses of each chemical may not be all that harmful, but combine 100’s of small doses of different synthetic chemicals throughout the day and it adds up! The research indicating synthetic chemicals are not safe has some quality contributions, but can be misleading.
In the end, a general rule of thumb applies “if you can’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin.”
Make up is an area of body products that historically has been tricky as the alternatives were not very effective. Let’s face it ladies, we want our make up to work and we don’t want it to cost us our health.
There are many companies who are up the challenge of producing quality, natural, safe and effective products.
Here are a few we have actually used and like:
100% Pure www.100percentpure.com
Primal Life Organics https://www.primallifeorganics.com/
W3ll People http://w3llpeople.com/
Other resources to “vet” your skincare and make up:
Skin Deep: EWG site (http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/
The Never List: http://www.beautycounter.com/the-never-list/
Body Lotion Recipe [printfriendly]
(this is fabulous for diaper rash, stretch marks, and eczema)
- 1/2 cup Almond oil or Jojoba oil (or any other liquid oil)
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 1/4 cup beeswax
- 1 teaspoon Vitamin E oil (optional)
- 2 tablespoon Shea Butter or Cocoa Butter (optional)
- Essential Oils, Vanilla Extract or other natural extracts to suit your preference (optional)
- Combine almond oil (or any other liquid oil), coconut oil and beeswax in a double boiler or a glass bowl on top. If using shea or cocoa butter, add it as well.
- As the water heats, the ingredients will start to melt. Stir occasionally as they melt to incorporate.
- When all ingredients are completely melted, add vitamin E oil (if using) and any essential oils or scents like vanilla.
- Pour into whatever jar or tin you will use for storage. Small mason jars (8 ounce) are great for this. It will not pump well in a lotion pump!
- Use as you would regular lotion. This lotion is ultra-moisturizing and more oily than water-based lotions so you won’t need to use as much. It also has a longer shelf life than some homemade lotion recipes since all ingredients are already shelf stable and not water is added. Use within 6 months for best moisturizing benefits.