Written by Elizabeth McLean @ Health Wiz
As a society we have become complacent about what we put on our skin, without stopping to question what is actually in the products we use. Many of the ingredients in moisturizers, shampoos and body wash are harmful chemicals, so it is worth reviewing the products in your bathroom cabinet – you may be unknowingly poisoning your body on a daily basis!
When you use cosmetics and many other skin products, a small proportion of what you apply to your skin is absorbed through the skin into the blood. This is wonderful if you are applying healthful, nutritive substances, but what if the products you are applying contain toxic ingredients?
Your digestive tract, liver, kidneys, skin, lungs and immune system are all responsible for removing toxins from your body. Due to the modern lifestyle these elimination systems are quite often under a great deal of stress. Not only do these bodily systems help to eliminate bacterial and viral pathogens from the body, they also eliminate the toxins we inhale from the air and those we ingest from foods including pesticides and fertilizers. Adding further toxic burden via the chemicals in skin care products can be problematic, and in the long term may contribute to health problems.
Top 5 ingredients to avoid when purchasing cosmetics and skin care products…..
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate
These chemicals are used as detergents and foam-producers in a wide range of beauty products including shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, bubble bath and cosmetics. Disturbingly they are also used commercially in car wash soaps and in products used to degrease engines! These chemicals can cause eye damage when used in shampoos, and once absorbed through the skin can accumulate in the tissues of the body, particularly the liver. They have been found to be highly carcinogenic (cancer-causing) and when combined with other chemicals can form nitrosamines – a potent carcinogen.
This class of chemicals is widely used as a preservative in pharmaceutical and skin care products such as moisturizers. Parabens prevent the growth of micro-organisms and increase the shelf life of products once opened. However, their use is becoming increasingly controversial as parabens have been linked with development of breast cancer in women.
Mineral oil is a petrochemical derived from petroleum that is commonly used in moisturizers and soaps. Mineral oil coats the skin blocking the body’s normal ability to release toxins via the sweat glands. It is alarming to note that baby oil contains 100% mineral oil! There are a number of other healthful alternatives – read on for my top 5 safe and natural skin care alternatives.
This chemical is used industrially in solar water heating systems as an anti-freeze chemical, and is also added to hand sanitizers, pharmaceutical products and cosmetics. This chemical has been found to cause brain, liver and kidney damage in industrial environments. As a result the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires all employees working with Propylene Glycol to wear protective gloves, clothing and goggles.
Deodorants containing aluminum have become controversial in the last ten years, with claims that they can cause breast cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease. While the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries are quick to defend these claims stating that there is sufficient evidence to substantiate the accusations, it has been shown that aluminum in high doses can lead to brain damage and kidney disease.
Top 5 healthy skin care alternatives…..
Coconut and Almond Oil
The age old natural health philosophy applies here – if you can eat it, then it’s safe to put it on your skin! Try sweet almond oil or coconut oil as a light, natural alternative to commercial moisturizers. High in vitamin E, these natural oils protect against free radical damage and oxidative stress while softening the skin.
Almonds are nutritive and when ground to make almond meal are a wonderful way to gently exfoliate your skin. To make a scrub, add some almond meal to a bowl with a small amount of milk or water. Stir to make a paste and use as a face and / or body scrub.
Tea tree oil
Diluted tea tree oil from the plant Leptospermum scoparium is a natural antibacterial agent that provides a wonderful alternative to spot creams for acne. Add 3-4 drops to 50mls of water and apply to the affected area twice daily.
The paw paw fruit lip balms are my favorite natural alternative to other lip balms that contain synthetic flavoring and coloring. Ensure you purchase an all-natural brand free from petrochemicals.
Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is a wonderful herb with naturally astringent properties – it both tones and tightens the skin as it removes oil. Try purchasing a facial cleanser from your local health food store that contains witch hazel, or purchase a herbal extract of witch hazel from your herbal store and dilute prior to use.
Additional skin care tips….
1) Have a little fun experimenting with alternatives to your skin care regime. Change may be daunting so remember to take baby steps – you don’t have to change all of your products at once.
2) Beware of the marketing trap – just because something is labelled as natural, healthy or green doesn’t necessarily mean that it is! Always read the label.
3) Look out for Australian-made products, cruelty free / vegan / not tested on animals, certified organic and those containing herbal extracts (check ingredient lists for the botanical names of herbs e.g. Prunus Amygdalis Dulcis (sweet almond oil). These are often indicators of a superior product.
4) Remember that the best way to care for your skin is to eat a healthy diet. Reduce your intake of saturated and trans fats, sugars and processed foods. Eat more whole foods, such as whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fish, lean meat, fruits and vegetables. Lastly, ensure your intake of water is adequate – the average adult requires 1.5 litres of water per day to encourage a healthy, glowing complexion.
“Wishing you health, happiness and success in all that you do” Elizabeth McLean