Many people have grown more cautious about the purity of the foods they put in their mouths, carefully avoiding chemical additives and preservatives. But you may not have realized that a substance that you would not eat may also be harmful when rubbed or smeared on the skin. After all, our skin is very porous. Why else would nicotine and hormone patches work so well?!?
This is why over the years I have adopted the following rule:
If you wouldn’t eat it, you shouldn’t smear it!
There is no argument that natural and organic skin care products are healthier compared with non-natural skin care products. Potentially harmful or irritating ingredients are found in most of the regular personal skin care products that you can buy today, even those marketed for your baby! Some compounds commonly found in these items (e.g., cocomidopropyl betaine – actually voted 2004 “Allergen of the Year” by the American Contact Dermatitis Society!!!) may be derived from a natural source – coconuts, for example – but are then processed so completely as to be rendered synthetic.
The reason more women choose natural skin care products is because they understand the real risks of exposing themselves to harmful ingredients.
What many people do not know is that it is not enough for a product to be natural or organic. It has to be 100% natural or almost 100% natural. Why is that?
The issue is that some Organic and Natural skin care products that are not 100% natural may contain ingredients that are linked to health issues.
Just of few examples of these ingredients:
SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) and SLES (sodium laureth sulfate) are petrochemical detergents used in soaps and shampoos. Studies have linked them to numerous ailments, including cancer, while others deny these allegations. However, according to Ido Mashal, a chemical and materials engineer from the Technion, Haifa, both sides of this debate agree that SLS act as skin irritants. In fact, SLS chemicals are used by cosmetic companies throughout the world as a way of deliberately irritating the skin in order to test creams and ointments for curing skin irritation! Even at low concentrations – much lower than those used in the cosmetics industry – these compounds can trigger dermatitis.
- Parabens (methyl-, ethyl-, and propylparaben) are preservatives used in deodorants, soaps, creams, and other cosmetics to prevent spoilage. Scientists are becoming increasingly aware of their dangers. They are easily absorbed into the body through the skin and can cause skin irritations and allergies. Even more alarming, recent research is highlighting a connection between some breast cancers that develop in the upper-outer quadrant of the breast and the use of deodorants. As Mashal points out, parabens seem to function like estrogens – which have been clearly linked to breast cancer – and can lead to increased estrogen levels in the body.
- Talc, commonly found in baby powders and sprinkled on the most intimate areas of the bodies of babies, children, and adults, has been linked by conclusive studies to cervical and ovarian cancers. Johnson and Johnson had to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to women who used their baby talcum powder and got ovarian cancer.
- DEA (di-enthyloamine), MEA (mono-ethylolamine), TEA (methylolamine) are almost always found in products that foam. These are hormone disrupters also known to form cancer-causing nitrates in the body.
- Isopropyl alcohol, an anti-bacterial agent that can result in dry, split skin, headaches, dizziness, depression, and nausea, is derived from petroleum or coal.
- Mineral Oil (or Baby Oil) coats the skin like plastic wrap, disrupting its immunity and preventing it from breathing or releasing toxins. The skin is the body’s largest organ of toxic elimination. Accumulation of toxins can result in abnormal cell development, premature skin ageing, acne, and other disorders.
And it’s even worse than you thought!
Many products contain hidden chemical compounds that are not even listed on their labels! Stacy Malkan, co-director of U.S. Right to Know and author of Not Just a Pretty Face reports: “Companies in the U.S. are allowed to put substances into personal care products with no required safety testing and without disclosing all the ingredients. . . . [We] sent hundreds of products to labs to find out if they contained compounds not listed on labels; many did! In the U.S., the Cosmetics Ingredient Review Panel tests ingredients for safety. Even when they recommend against using one, companies are free to ignore their recommendations.”
The Living Whole website points out that the “innocent” term “fragrance” can represent an “undisclosed mixture of various scent chemicals and ingredients such as diethyl phthalate” (which has been associated with causing damage to the nervous system as well as to reproductive organs in males and females). Can you believe that you may be innocently applying this stuff to your baby’s bottom!?!
So how do I care for myself, my kids and other family members – without causing harm?
If you want to protect yourself and family members from harmful hidden chemicals, confusing claims about “natural” or “organic” sources of product compounds, and your own inability to tell one substance from another, your only recourse is to choose products that are 100% natural or close to 100% natural.