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Article Archive >> Good Health

The chemicals you put on your skin

The chemicals you put on your skin
By Della Weichert
Contributing Writer

When buying cosmetics, most women don't think about the ingredients. However, cosmetics often contain chemicals that are known carcinogens. Many folks would say, "What does that matter? After all, you're not eating it - it's used on the outside of your body." Well, believe it or not, your skin absorbs toxins that can enter your bloodstream within minutes (an example of this process is the nicotine patch). Lip products work their way into your mouth and are ingested. Cosmetics are not as innocuous as it seems. The really scary thing is that a large percentage of the chemicals used in cosmetics have not even been tested for toxicity.
Petrochemicals, oleochemicals, parabens, synthetic ingredients, and other chemicals abound in skin care products. Studies have indicated that these chemicals play a part in hormone disruption. In 1997, the EPA called for more research in this area. (USA Weekend, Feb. 13-15, 1988) Other studies have shown that chemicals, which are routinely used in cosmetics, have been clearly linked to cancer. It seems obvious that at the very least, the safety of using chemicals on our skin should be examined more closely.
What about skin care products with "organic" on the label? Well, the sad fact is that the word "organic" doesn't mean the same thing in body care as it does in food. Part of the problem is that people cannot agree on the definition of the words "organic" or "natural" in personal care products. There are, unfortunately, many products that use one of those words on their label, but the truth is that the product is a toxic, chemical soup with one or two highly processed organic ingredients thrown in. The FDA does not regulate the use of words like "organic", "natural", or "pure" in personal care products.
So what's a health-conscious girl to do? The first and most important step is to read labels and become more aware of the types of ingredients to avoid. Health food stores do carry some products that have natural ingredients. As previously mentioned, however, just seeing the right marketing words on the label is not a guarantee of a healthy product. If you see a long list of chemicals in the ingredients, put down the item and look for another one. Make-up that has no chemicals is hard to come by, but you can limit your exposure somewhat by choosing products that have a shorter list of chemicals. Make choices that are as toxin-free as possible. Look for oils and extracts that come from natural sources, and remember that organic is better than non-organic. Keep in mind that when the Latin names of botanical products are used, often the common name is put in parenthesis afterward.
For body care, there are a small number of companies that make skin and hair care items out of totally organic, food-grade ingredients. Another option is to use things like 100% coconut oil, olive oil, or cocoa butter as a moisturizer. You can even make your own products by mixing different oils and adding a few drops of essential plant oils. Choose castile soap instead of detergent soaps (which are made of petroleum products). Once you start to "go natural" you'll find it isn't as difficult as it first seems.
To learn more, check out:
www.epa.gov/endocrine
www.perfectorganics.com
www.keys-soap.com
www.ewg.org
www.wwfcanada.org/hormonedistruptors/index.html
www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-organic19apr19001436,1,4797814.story
www.organicconsumers.org/bodycare/index.htm
Or conduct an Internet search for any of these concepts.

Ms. Weichert lives in Washington County, MD.

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