Now that we have commemorated Memorial Day, our summer season of outdoors adventures is upon us. I offer this column again as a reminder as we ponder how to enjoy the sun and the great outdoors, all while protecting our skin.
Many of us buy our bodycare products based on what the advertisers tell us – how nice a lotion makes us smell, the way we look in the mirror when we use that product. I suggest we all educate ourselves and always read the labels, and as is often said in Latin, ”caveat emptor” or ”buyer beware.”
As taxpayers, we would like to believe that the Food and Drug Administration ”has our back” and would not allow any potentially harmful ingredients into our bodycare products, but research tells us that is not necessarily the case.
Of the 10,000-plus bodycare products in the North American market, an estimated 99 percent contain one or more ingredients that have never been evaluated for safety, according to research from the Environmental Working Group.
Did you know that if a body care product is marked ”for professional use only,” harmful chemicals are not required to be listed on the label? There is actually no required testing to prove that a product is actually hypoallergenic and many harmful chemicals unintentionally included in a product are not listed on the ingredient label.
The skin is our largest organ. When we exercise, as we perspire, our skin performs an important role in detoxification. Just as our skin assists in removing toxins from our bodies; it is also an entryway into our bodies of toxins around us.
Many have used topical medication to take advantage of the skin’s ability to absorb ingredients when rubbed in. One of the common toxins we absorb through the skin is chlorine. We allow harmful chlorine into our bodies every time we shower or bathe. Shower filters are inexpensive, and can help you avoid absorbing chlorine into your bloodstream.
Back to cosmetics, I read that women who use makeup on a daily basis absorb five pounds of chemicals each year, on average. Many of the harmful toxins are known as xenoestrogens, mimicking the actions of estrogens and disrupting hormonal balance. This can go a long way to counteract our intentions of living in a more healthy and aware way.
A few ingredients commonly found in many bodycare products are:
Parabens – A heavily used preservative implicated in cancer because of their hormone disrupting qualities.
Mineral Oil – a petroleum product that clogs the pores, creating a build-up of toxins.
Sodium Laurel Sulfate – found in 90 percent of body care products that when combined with other chemicals becomes a nitrosamine – a potential carcinogen.
Acrylamide – found in many facial creams and linked to breast tumors.
Propylene glycol – a common moisturizer can cause dermatitis, irritate skin and is linked to kidney and liver issues.
Phenol carbolic acid – an ingredient in many lotions and creams that can cause circulatory collapse, paralysis and even death from respiratory failure.
Dioxane – part of PEG, which is found in many products, is a carcinogen, and particularly toxic to the nasal passages, making facial products with this ingredient harmful.
Toluene – a poisonous ingredient made from petroleum, with chronic exposure being linked to anemia, lowered blood cell count, liver and kidney damage.
I suggest you take this page into your bathroom and look through your cabinets and read the ingredients and dispose of products containing any of them. There are many products available without harmful ingredients, listed in this Safety Guide on the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) website: cosmeticsdatabase.com/index.php?nothanks=1 . Enter a product or category and find out which products are safe. EWG has an app for smartphones, too. The app will read the barcode of the item and let you know if it is safe to use, and if not, why.
As the saying goes, ”We are what we eat;” and remember, we are also what we wear or spread on our skin.