Friday, May 7, 2010


What you put ON your body is just as important as what you put INTO your body. A lot of focus has been on food and how it affects our health. Remember the saying "you are what you eat?" Well, we are what we wear as well. Making sure we eat a balanced meal including fruits and vegetables is half the battle on our way to good health, now is the time to reexamine the products we put on our skin.

You may have read or heard how damaging phthalates, parabens, sulfates, and petrochemicals can be and then heard opposing information saying that there is no scientific evidence that these chemicals are damaging or absorbed through the skin. The most common opposing view is that these synthetic chemicals found in skin care products are used in such minute amounts that they are insignificant when it comes to the affect they have on our health. Ask yourself, does this contradictory view seem logical to you?

There should be no debate that all products get absorbed into our skin. Absorption merely occurs at different rates, depending on the molecular structure of an individual ingredient and depending on which part of the body an ingredient is applied. The skin absorption rate of a child is different that that of an adult just as well as hydrated skin is easier to penetrate than dehydrated skin. Also, the more skin you expose to a particular chemical the more you will absorb.

Once upon a time we believed our skin was a protective barrier, keeping us safe from the harmful chemicals in our environment and although this is somewhat true, for the most part it is not.

Scientists have always known that the skin readily absorbs certain chemicals, hence the invention of topical medications such as the birth control (patch), acne treatments, arthritis creams, topical antibiotics (bacitracin, neomycin) etc... so as it is now science doesn't support the view that products do not get absorbed into our skin and once those who held that view realized the evidence didn't support their claim they attempted to convince consumers that absorption isn't a concern because the amount of any particular ingredient in a product is so small. Again, not entirely a fallacy. The amounts are small but the untruth is that there is definitely a concern.

Consider this, you have a newborn baby girl with dry skin so you slather her with cream daily. The cream contains methylparabens, butylparabens, BHT, PEG-150, and simethicone. You wash your babies hair with a shampoo that contains PEG-80. Later, as your baby grows into a child you use even more products like sunscreen containing homosalate and oxybenzone. When your child grows into a teenager she begins using cosmetics that contain lead, petroleum, formaldehyde, aluminum, BHA, Coal Tar, DEA, Mineral Oil. You encourage your teen to wash her hands often with antibacterial soap to avoid catching or spreading bacteria and that soap contains triclosan. As an adult your daughter uses deodorant that contains aluminum chlorohydrate, ethylparabens, and propylene glycol. Yes, all of these products contain minute amounts of chemicals but they are used in abundance over many years and little by little as they are absorbed into our bodies they go through our blood stream, settling into our fat cells and their individual components combine creating something more potentially harmful than they were before you used them on your body. Again, this is no different than the medications (prescription or otherwise) that we've taken. We all know that certain medications combined in our bodies can be harmful even sometimes causing death. Chemicals in body products can have the same affect.

There is some mistaken belief that the FDA only approves products that have been scientifically deemed safe. After all, it is the FDA research that is sited when a company wants to convince the public that it isn't dangerous. Unfortunately, the truth be known, the FDA is understaffed and overworked. FACT: about 11% of the cosmetic industry is regulated by the FDA while the other 89% is self regulated. When a company is self regulated they do their own lab testing to determine if an ingredient is safe for use and then releases their own studies convincing the public that their product is beneficial for your body. Now ask yourself this, what company testing their own product is going to tell the public it isn't safe?

"Cosmetic products and ingredients are not subject to FDA premarket approval authority, with the exception of color additives. However, FDA may pursue enforcement action against violative products, or against firms or individuals who violate the law."

"Cosmetic firms are responsible for substantiating the safety of their products and ingredients before marketing."

"Recalls of cosmetics are voluntary actions taken by manufacturers or distributors to remove from the marketplace products that represent a hazard or gross deception, or that are somehow defective."

"FDA is not authorized to require recalls of cosmetics"

Remember, once upon a time mercury was considered non toxic and used in various products (dental fillings, preservative for mascara, thermometers) it wasn't considered a threat to our health until people started getting brain and kidney damage after being exposed to it. According to the National Geographic Society there was substantial evidence that mercury caused many deaths throughout history but that information was ignored. And although this information about the damage to our health has been known to the public since the 1970's it wasn't until the 2000's that legislation had gone into place banning mercury from use in certain products.

The same can be said for the use of Lead. It has been known since the first century A.D. That lead is dangerous to our health yet we continued for many centuries to find use for it.

Why? The many uses of mercury and lead were/are too important monetarily to allow certain health risks to halt their production and the same is true for numerous other ingredients on the shelves today.

So what can you do to protect yourself?

First, trust your eyes. If you can't read or pronounce the ingredient, then you don't want it in your product.

Second, know what the particular ingredient is, where it comes from and what benefit it is to you.

Third, if a study says a product contains a "miniscule", "tiny" or "minimal" amount of an ingredient so it is safe, run the other way. Miniscule amounts over a long period of time adds up to a greater amount being absorbed by your skin and retained in your body to meet up with other "miniscule" amounts of other potentially harmful ingredients. It is that cocktail affect that you want to avoid!

Fourth, always keep in mind that it won't hurt you to avoid questionable ingredients but it could potentially cost you your life if you don't.