Are Your Products for Personal Care Safe?
If you use conventional make-up on a daily basis, you can absorb almost 5 pounds of chemicals into your body each year -- and that's without adding in body lotion, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner and other personal care products!
Many of these chemicals have been directly linked to cancer or are known to cause damage to your brain, reproductive system and other organs, and this is no exaggeration. Though it may sound hard to believe, the FDA does NOT systematically review the safety of personal care products.
It is important to understand that of the 10,500 ingredients used in your toothpaste, sunscreen, nail polish, and so on, only 13 percent of them have been reviewed for safety in the last 30 years, according to an Environmental Working Group (EWG) analysis -- and those that have were reviewed by the Cosmetics Ingredients Review, which is run by the cosmetics industry!
On average, you likely apply 126 different ingredients to your skin daily and 90 percent of them have not been evaluated for safety. The FDA even states:
"Cosmetic products and ingredients are not subject to FDA premarket approval authority, with the exception of color additives … Cosmetic firms are responsible for substantiating the safety of their products and ingredients before marketing."
What are You Really Putting On and In Your Body?
Only the cosmetics companies know for sure, as all ingredients are not even required to be on the label.
Most personal care products are therefore nothing more than a product of marketing success, formulated to smell good, look good and feel good when your rub them on your skin, with little regard to their impact on your health.
The list of dangerous ingredients used in cosmetics is quite long -- the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health has stated that nearly 900 of the chemicals used in cosmetics are toxic.
Here are some of the major ones that are very common, but that you will definitely want to avoid:
- Paraben, a chemical found in underarm deodorants and other cosmetics that has been shown to mimic the action of the female hormone estrogen, which can drive the growth of human breast tumors.
- Sodium lauryl sulfate, a surfactant, detergent and emulsifier used in thousands of cosmetic products, as well as in industrial cleaners. It is present in nearly all shampoos, scalp treatments, hair color and bleaching agents, toothpastes, body washes and cleansers, make-up foundations, liquid hand soaps, laundry detergents and bath oils/bath salts. The real problem with SLES/SLS is that the manufacturing process (ethoxylation) results in SLES/SLS being contaminated with 1,4 dioxane, a carcinogenic by-product.
- Phthalates, plasticizing ingredients (present in nearly three-quarters of 72 products tested by the Environmental Working Group), which have been linked to birth defects in the reproductive system of boys and lower sperm-motility in adult men, among other problems.
- Musks, used as fragrances, can accumulate in your body, and have been linked to skin irritation, hormone disruption, and cancer in laboratory studies.
- Artificial fragrances, which are among the top five known allergens, and can cause asthma and trigger asthma attacks.
- Methylisothiazolinone (MIT), a chemical used in shampoo to prevent bacteria from developing, which may have detrimental effects on your nervous system.
- Toluene, made from petroleum or coal tar, and found in most synthetic fragrances. Chronic exposure linked to anemia, lowered blood cell count, liver or kidney damage, and may affect a developing fetus.
- Mineral Oil, Paraffin, and Petrolatum, these products coat your skin like plastic, clogging pores and creating a build-up of toxins. They also slow cellular development, which can cause you to show earlier signs of aging, and are a suspected cause of cancer and disruption to hormonal activity.
You Can Absorb MORE Toxins from Skin Care Products Than Food
Your skin is your largest organ -- and also the thinnest. Less than 1/10th of an inch separates your body from potential toxins. Worse yet, your skin is highly permeable. Just about anything you put on your skin will end up in your bloodstream, and will be distributed throughout your body.
This is why I'm so fond of saying "don't put anything on your body that you wouldn't eat if you had to..."
Putting chemicals on your skin or scalp may actually be worse than eating them. When you eat something, the enzymes in your saliva and stomach help to break it down and flush it out of your body. However, when you put these chemicals on your skin, they are absorbed straight into your bloodstream without filtering of any kind, going directly to your delicate organs.
Once these chemicals find their way into your body, they tend to accumulate over time because you typically lack the necessary enzymes to break them down. When you add up daily exposure over the course of a lifetime, this adds up to an untold amount of chemical exposures.
You Deserve Safe Personal Care Products
Most of the personal care products in supermarkets and even high-end department stores contain toxic ingredients that can harm your health. You and your family deserve better, and there are other options.
One of the easiest ways to ensure that you're not being exposed to potentially hazardous agents is to simply make your own personal care products, using simple all-natural ingredients that many of you may already have in your home.
Here are a few of my recommendations:
- All-natural moisturizers -- Pure emu oil is a great alternative to facial- and body moisturizers and lotions, as is pure coconut oil. It's a fantastic moisturizer and a potent source of the beneficial fat lauric acid.
- All-natural acne fighter -- Rubbing just a drop of oregano oil on a breakout can speed up the healing and prevent unsightly scarring without resorting to harsh commercial acne medication (remember to wash your hands thoroughly afterward).
- All-natural deodorant -- I advise avoiding ALL antiperspirants. Common soap and water works fine. If you still need further help then try a pinch of baking soda mixed into water as an effective all-day deodorant.
If you'd rather find ready-made products, be sure to read labels and check products out before buying them. EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database is an excellent resource for finding and evaluating healthful personal care products.
Finally, if you're perusing your local health food store for some safe, natural options, here are my top guidelines to keep in mind:
- Look for the genuine USDA Organic Seal.
- If you can't pronounce it, you probably don't want to put it on your body. Ask yourself, "Would I eat this?"
- Look for products that are fragrance-free. One artificial fragrance can contain hundreds -- even thousands -- of chemicals, and fragrances are a major cause of allergic reactions.
- Pay attention to the order in which the ingredients are listed. Manufacturers are required to list ingredients in descending order by volume, meaning the first few ingredients are the most prominent. If calendula extract is the last ingredient in a long list, your calendula body wash isn't very natural.
- Stick to the basics. Do you really need 20 products to prepare for your day? Simplify your life and rescue your bank account.
- Buy products that come in glass bottles rather than plastic, since chemicals can leach out of plastics and into the contents. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a serious concern; make sure any plastic container is BPA free.
- Look for products that are made by companies that are earth-friendly, animal-friendly and green.
Natural health expert Dr. Joseph Mercola
Sources and References:
Organic Consumers Association March 14, 2008
Time April 5, 2016
New York Times January 18, 2014
Journal of Applied Toxicology January 12, 2012: 32(3); 219-232
ABC News April 27, 2015
Environ Health Perspect. 2003 Jul;111(9):1148-51.
EWG, Heavy Metal Hazard: The Health Risks of Hidden Heavy Metals in Face Makeup
Carcinogenesis 2015 Jun;36 Suppl 1:S254-96
NRDC, Toxic Chemicals
FDA Authority Over Cosmetics
Congress.gov, S.1014, Personal Care Products Safety Act
EWG.org Skin Deep Database
Tree Hugger March 4, 2014