This post is copied from our older, original blog. Original post date 2/12/14.
By Marcie Bower, Lic.Ac.
Lots of us health-conscious folk pay LOTS of attention to what we put into our bodies – think of all the talk about eating organically. Now, I am a big proponent of limiting processed foods whenever possible, eating organic produce, and eating only grass-fed meats or wild caught fish. But I’ve noticed that while we as a health-conscious culture put a lot of emphasis on what we put into our bodies, we don’t spend as much time talking about what we put on our bodies.
Why should we? Because the skin is the largest organ in the human body, and materials put onto the skin are absorbed into the bloodstream – this is why topical applications of medications are effective. In fact, materials enter the bloodstream in a less diluted state when applied to the skin, as they don’t go through the same detoxifying process that materials we consume are, in our digestive tract and liver.
And if we aren’t paying attention, our health may pay the price.
A 2009 study in the UK found that women may put up to 515 chemicals on their skin each morning before leaving the house. Other studies have concluded that on average, women in the developed world put about 250 chemicals onto their skin each morning. One in eight of the over 82,000 ingredients used in over the counter personal care products are industrial chemicals, which include known carcinogens, hormone disrupters, and pesticides. Europe prohibits 1,342 toxic chemicals in personal care products, while the US prohibits only 9. Toxic chemicals have been shown to be in the bloodstream of adults, teens, and even newborn infants.even newborn infants.
How does this happen? Because, historically, there has been very little oversight about what goes into our personal care products. Plus, it is cheaper for companies to use many of these chemicals than it is for them to use safer, more natural alternatives. Also, terms like “natural” are not regulated in this country when it comes to personal care products – so just because you buy your shampoo at a health food store doesn’t mean that it is free from troublesome ingredients.
So become a label reader.
Here is a list of some of the harmful ingredients to STAY AWAY FROM in your personal care products:
Fragrance (a catch-all term for lots of potentially dangerous chemicals and endocrine disruptors)
Parabens (known endocrine disruptors)
Triclosan (antibacterial agent in many soaps and products, registered with FDA as a pesticide)
Oxybenzone & Octinoxate (endocrine disruptors in major sunscreens)
PEGs, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, or ingredients ending in -eth (petrochemicals, which create a known carcinogen 1,4 dioxane during manufacturing)
Retinyl Palmitate (known carcinogen in many sunscreens and moisturizers)
Nanoparticles (present in some mineral sunscreens, nanoparticles can cross the blood/brain barrier and cell membranes and cause cell death and changes to DNA. Be sure to buy non-nanoparticle mineral sunscreens.)
Aluminum (stored in the fat cells, hard to get rid of).
It is important to pay attention to what you are putting on your skin – for your own individual health, and those of your children (or future children). But it is also important because your habits as a consumer are what drive the personal care product industry. If people stop buying certain products because they contain toxic chemicals, those companies will have to start providing safer products. So be a label reader – for yourself, for your family, and for all of us in the future.