We often think of our skin as being a protective layer that keeps out toxins and other substances that are bad for us. In actuality, it acts more like a filter, keeping some things out but allowing others to permeate through the skin and into the bloodstream. While this means we can apply certain medicines to our skin to effectively address health issues, it also means we could be absorbing toxins from personal care products without even realizing it.
Think of everything you apply to your skin: soaps, lotions, cleansers, aftershave, makeup, sunscreen, topical medications, and toothpaste to name but a few. Any and all of the ingredients in these products has the potential to be absorbed through your skin and into your body. And the scary thing is that skincare products and the ingredients in them are not regulated by the FDA, which means that it is up to companies to regulate what goes into these products themselves.
Here are just a few examples of commonly used ingredients that can be absorbed by the skin and cause significant health problems:
- Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen (cancer-causing substance) and yet is commonly used in hair products such as hair dye and smoothing or straightening products and nail products such as nail polish and hardeners.
- Phthalates, parabens and ingredients labeled as fragrances are chemicals that have the potential to disrupt the balance of your hormones, interfering with fertility, and damaging DNA. They can also disrupt the immune system, making allergies and even cancer more likely. We also now know that babies are often born with high levels of these toxins due to exposure while in the womb. This toxic exposure can affect the baby’s health for the rest of its life.
- Gluten in personal care products can trigger a gluten response in your body, which is why it is so important for people who are sensitive to gluten, and those who have Celiac disease, to choose gluten-free skin care products. Click here to find out if you have a gluten sensitivity.
How to avoid toxins in skincare products
If you are experiencing unexplained health issues, whether on your skin or anywhere else in your body, it is worth looking into what is in the products you apply to your skin and the best place to start is the ingredients list on the label.
Do you see a long list of ingredients including some that you don’t recognize or that sound like chemicals? That is the first hint that this may not be a good product for you to use. Here are some words to watch out for and avoid:
- Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)
- Propylene glycol (PEG)
- Mineral oil
To make sure you are buying products that are not going to damage your health, look for products that say paraben-free, phthalate-free, and gluten-free on the label.
Here are three of the companies I turn to for safe personal care products:
Resources: Where Can I Find Out More?
In my book, The Stress Remedy, I point out that toxins in our environment are a source of stress for our bodies, and in the chapter on the Stress Remedy Master Plan I show you how you can minimize your exposure to toxins on a daily basis.
One of the many resources I provide in the book is a report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) on the foods most contaminated with pesticides. In listening to a presentation by the executive director of EWG, Heather White, recently I was excited to hear that they have now come out with a Guide for Toxic Exposure through Skin Care Products, including an app called Skin Deep that can help you navigate the ingredients listed on bottles.
You can also find a complete list of ingredients to avoid at CincoVidas.com.
Becoming aware of the toxins you are exposed to in your daily life, and reducing that exposure by making different choices, is one of the greatest controls you have over your own health.
It may be hard to imagine that a drip of this or a drop of that could add up to trouble, but the research showing that this is the case is beginning to stack up.
Whether you work your way through your cupboards one product at a time, replacing it with a toxin-free option or if you empty out the medicine cabinet and start from scratch right now, in the long run you’ll be decreasing your toxic exposure and benefiting your health.
For further information including recommended products and books about toxins and your health, be sure to refer to the resources section of The Stress Remedy.
I’d love to hear your comments and questions as well as your recommendations of any toxin-free products you’ve discovered – please submit them below.
11th Sept 2014