Friday, February 5, 2010

All in the Name of Beauty

Have you ever watched a spring rain fall and seep into the soil? The ground appears so thirsty as the gentle drops settle on blades of fresh grass, travel down the blades and soak into the sponge-like soil. Everything that is in the water ends up in the soil. The same thing happens with your skin.

Beauty is more than Skin Deep
Every lotion, perfume, cosmetic and cleanser that you use is absorbed by your skin. Just like the food you eat ends up in your body, so it is with what you put ON your body. So why would you want to put something you can't pronounce on the surface of your skin? Most people probably never even think about that. Look at the ingredients in your favorite lotion...petroleum products, scents of unknown origins, various man-made shelf stabilizers and a host of inventions that science has come up with to extend the life of your skin or make you "glow"(therefore you look healthy?). What about your make-up? Products that might protect you from sun damage could be linked to cancer or other cellular changes. Your anti-wrinkle cream could cause reproductive damage. The implication of all this chemical exposure is staggering, but does anyone really think about it? Just recently, in December of 2009, chemicals from cosmetics, perfumes and other fragrances were detected along with dozens of other industrial compounds in the umbilical cords of African American, Asian and Latino infants in the United States. Is this a surprise?

Safety in Question
Products are usually tested for a limited time on animals and/or humans but these lab tests are never long term. When you use a product, you most likely use it daily. Those tiny bits of chemicals that cause no problems in a six-week study, add up over the long term. Three years down the road, you could have toxic levels in your system. And how does your body react? Depends on what you are using. Your body doesn't know what to do with the synthetic products you are slathering on your skin, all in the name of beauty or cleanliness. Your liver and kidneys try desperately to deal with all the junk that enters your body through diet, environment and skin exposure, but at some point your system gets overloaded. It can manifest itself as something benign like a headache or it could alter the structure of just one cell and become the start of a malignant cancer that kills you ten years from now.

A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
We can all nod our heads in agreement when we say that an acid peel for your face is probably full of chemicals that might be dangerous. And the smell of a home permanent or hair color alone tells us its probably not a good idea to ingest it. But what about something seemingly benign like a baby wash? BABY MAGIC CALMING MILK BATH, a product from Playtex could be a good example.

Baby Magic says safe name right? Calming is always good for babies...they will sleep good if you use it, right? Milk Bath is a great set of words...clean, healthy and milk is good for you...Yes, this is a good product...

Here are the ingredients for this calming concoction:
Water, PEG-80 Glyceryl Cocoate, PEG-30 Glyceryl Cocoate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Glycerin, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, PEG-7 Glyceryl Cocoate, PEG 120 Methyl Glucose Dioleate, Polyquaternium-7, Polysorbate-20, Styrene/Acrylate Copolymer (and) Laureth-23, (and) Carbomer, Quaternium 79, Quaternium 79 Hydrolyzed Milk Protein, Aloe Barbadensis (Leaf Juice), Fragrance (Lavender, Chamomile), Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Imidazolidinyl Urea, Citric Acid.

There are only a few recognizable words on this list(milk was one of them). I looked a few up:
Cocamidopropyl Betaine is considered a "known human immune system toxicant" by the national Library of Medicine and the Cosmetic Ingredient review assessments say that while its safe to use in cosmetics, it is "subject to concentration or use limitations and safe to use with some qualifications" There are also concerns that it can be contaminated with Nitrosamines, which is linked to cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity and neuro-toxicity. This one ingredient is in shampoos, body washes, acne treatments and several other products.

Polysorbate-20 has not been studied very well, but has been shown in animal tests to cause endocrine system disruption. Your endocrine system regulates your hormones and when this system is disrupted, it can affect the absorption and transport of hormones, it can mimic the actions of hormones and cause your body to produce less and it can block receptors, which can cause your body to over-produce.

PEG-80 Glyceryl Cocoate is not safe for injured or damaged skin and is restricted in cosmetics. It also has restrictions in manufacturing and concentration rules from the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Assessments. It has been shown to cause skin irritation and has been shown to increase skin absorption; which means it speeds up your skins abilities to absorb all these ingredients.
Keep in mind that this is a product for NEWBORNS.

Out of Necessity?
Do companies need to have these toxic chemicals in their products? The answer is no. There are a number of ways to avoid the toxicity found in some products. Johnson & Johnson came under attack several years ago when toxic levels of 1,4-Dioxane were found in many of their baby products. This was also found in Clairol Herbal Essence Shampoo and Oil of Olay body wash. 1,4-Dioxane is a cancer causing petro-chemical, and it appears in the products as a result of the process used to make the other chemicals in their products less toxic. This chemical bi product is also found in some "natural" cosmetics as well as those touting the "organic" label. This is because the organic standards do not apply to non-food items. This battle has been going on for sometime as more companies try to hop on the popular organic trend bandwagon in the US. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics addressed the 1,4-Dioxane issue with Johnson and Johnson and in retests done in March of 2009, found these same chemicals to be at much lower levels; proving that products can be made safer. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has a Compact for Safe Cosmetics that they ask manufacturers to sign. A pledge that they will follow more stringent rules than given by the FDA. You can see this compact here. The companies that pledge to make these efforts can be found here.
In my research I discovered that the levels of chemicals in products appear in a wide range of levels and some of the ingredients might surprise you; lead in lipstick and mercury in mascara? Its true! Another trend, nano-technology is emerging and the toxic ramifications of this technology are mind-boggling.
To me, the problem with the concept of it being okay to use a chemical in any product, at any level, is that when you have repeated exposure over years in combination with other products with the same chemicals or actions, you are getting much larger doses of toxic substances. Go one step further and combine it with the multitudes of foods that have negative effects on the body, and its no wonder cancer and hormone-related problems are such a huge problem in the United States. Our bodies are under attack!
We are responsible for our bodies and our health. Continuing to rely on the government agencies and the manufacturers to tell us what is 'safe' is unwise and proven to be unhealthy. Just because a product is on the shelf, doesn't mean you have to use it.

You can download a FREE cosmetic safety guide here:

No comments: