Monday, May 16, 2011

Think of your skin as a sponge...

Did you know that there are skin care and cosmetic products allowed to be sold in the United States that are not allowed to be sold in Europe because of health concerns?

We try to do everything we can to be healthy:  we drink more water, buy organic food, cut down on sugars.. But if we aren't paying attention to what we are putting on our skin (or should I say in our skin) we miss a very important part of protecting our health.

Take a moment and think of what comes in contact with your skin every day. Here's my quick list:

shampoo            lipstick                      
conditioner        chap stick                   
soap                  nail polish remover
body lotion        eye liner     
moisturizer         mascara
foundation         deodorant
blush                 bed sheets
sunscreen          clothes

Ingredients matter. Here are some of the most common, yet potentially harmful ones commonly found in our every day beauty and home products...

Parabens - (Methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben) synthetic preservatives that can build up in our tissues over time and become potential endocrine disrupters (aka: they mess with our natural hormone balances which can lead to hormone-related issues and cancers) a deeper look

Sodium Lauryl (Laureth or Myreth) Sulfate - cleaning agents that irritate the skin, strip our bodies of natural protective oils, and are potential carcinogens (cancer causing substances) a deeper look

Glycols - originally developed for use in anti-freeze, as a de-icer for planes, and for brake fluid. This chemical is used in personal care products to keep things from drying out and is usually listed under "propylene glycol (PG)," "polyethylene glycol (PEG)," or "ethylene glycol (EG)" a deeper look

Phthalates - synthetic fragrances that can be toxic, linked to birth defects and developmental problems (often found in hair sprays, deodorants, nail polishes, and perfumes) a deeper look

Our skin is like a sponge, absorbing whatever we put on it. That is why when people choose to stop smoking they wear a nicotine patch on their skin to help them quit. Although the rates of absorption are different with each chemical and area on our body, keep in mind that our most vulnerable parts (like the eyelids, lips, face, and underarms) are where we often put these products.

Something else to think about...
  • we breathe in these products (applying facial powders, spraying hair spray or perfumes)
  • we swallow these products (lipsticks, liners, chap sticks, rinsing our shampoos and conditioners, washing our faces, brushing our teeth...)
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require health and safety studies or testing of cosmetics so we are on our own when it comes to protecting ourselves and our families from harmful products.

What can we do about it?
Buy products that are certified organic. The certification means that a product only contains organically produced ingredients, free from toxic and persistent pesticides, heavy metals, and irradiation (exposing items to radiation to lengthen shelf life).
You can also go to Skin Deep and look up the toxicity ratings of products you currently use or are interested in buying. There, you can find less harmful alternatives to what you currently use and find out just how bad (or good) some products are.

It's not easy to make a total switch, especially when you have been using the same products for years, but I hope you see how important it is to protect ourselves from chemicals that should never be in contact with our skin. I'm about half way there with my daily line-up. So far I've made the switch to safe: mascara, blush, bronzer, deodorant, body lotion, shampoo, conditioner, body soap, toothpaste, laundry detergent, and fabric softener. I can say one thing, my skin is much better after the switch.

For a list of my recommendations please email me at and I'll let you know what I've found so far.

Coming soon: a simple step to healthy sun protection

Happy Monday!


Some information for this post was gathered from Taste for Life magazine and Better Nutrition magazine.