Good health, radiant skin and vitality always beginwith what we take out of our bodies as opposed to whatwe put in. This is one of the reasons why many peoplefeel much better, rejuvenated, lighter and brighterafter a proper detox in the form of elimination, fastingor even half-fasting.In our quest for wellness and a path to high energylevels it's important to eliminate what our bodiesdon't need, chemicals/toxins which are part ofeveryday life as they exist in foods, cosmetics, toiletries,soaps, perfume, laundry as well as general householdproducts.
Do you know that what you put on your skin, scalp,eyes and gums is absorbed straight into your body'sorgans/tissues, cells and even the brain? Put simply,we are ingesting and therefore literally eating manysubstances that are toxic to our systems and resultin the body slowing down in its constant attempt torid the toxins or shove them into our fact cells forsafer storage.
Here is a typical scenario of how chemicals pervadeour everyday life. From research in the US (www.ewg.org/skindeep),the average American consumer uses close to 100 toxicchemicals before she/he leaves the house in the morning.In this case, by the time the average consumer leavestheir home in the morning, they've already poisonedtheir liver, pancreas, kidneys, heart, lungs and particularlythe brain.
We have now come to realise that some brand name dogfood is so toxic that is may kill your dog, that toysfrom China contain dangerous levels of lead that perfumeproducts can contain as many as 21 different carcinogenicchemicals and that even popular laundry detergent productswash our clothes in a toxic brew of chemicals and artificialfragrances.
The sad truth is that even walking through the aislesof many health food stores in Australia, there are stillso called "healthy" products that containthe kind of chemicals that are found in more commercialproducts.
So what can we do to avoid the trap of buying productsthat we believe to be ok, and in actual fact, they arenot? Simple, before buying and using these productscheck the ingredients listed. There are numerous consumerwebsites that provide concise, relevant informationon all chemicals typically used and what side effectsare. Here's a selction: http://www.health-report.co.uk/ingredients-directory.htm#toxic%20chemicals
Once you do this exercise, you are on your way to steppingup to becoming a savvy shopper in a world of informationoverload. It is also helpful to bear in mind that evenwith all the knowledge and effort completely avoidingall the chemicals that exist in our world right nowis highly unlikely and impossible, unless we live ona desert island with no fuel or modern technology. Yet,the process of cutting out and cutting down on the useof products that contain chemicals such as those foundin deodorants, toothpaste, shampoos, toilet sprays,washing powders is a great start! The good news thatin Australia we have good alternatives to mainstreambrands and they work well too.
To clarify the situation for you, here is a typicallist of ingredients on a jar of hand cream: Water, StearicAcid, Sorbitol, Glycerin, C-12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, SodiumBorate TEA, Cetyl Alcohol, Dimethicone, Aloe Vera, Phenoxyethanol,Propylene Glycol, Quince Extract, Tocopheryl Acetate,Potassium Sorbate, EDTA, Allantoin, Methyl Paraben,Propyl Paraben, Butyl Paraben, Menthol
The product above is described as containing "natural"herbal extracts. That is misleading marketing as italso contains at least five nasties that really do notbelong in a product that masquerades as being a "natural"herbal.
Let's look at one of the most commonof these nasties – parabens.
Parabens inhibit the growth of bacteria, yeast, andmoulds and have been used in personal care productssuch as shampoos, conditioners, deodorants, and sunscreensfor years. The main reason for use of parabens is becausethey allow these products to survive for months, oryears, during shipping and on store shelves. Parabensare one of the most commonly used ingredients in personalcare products. The only ingredient used more frequentlyis water.
Studies have now shown that parabens mimic the activityof the hormone oestrogen, which is associated with certainforms of breast cancer. http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_6961.cfmand can lead to diminished muscle mass, extra fat storage,and male gynecomastia (breast growth). http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2007/09/25/the-hidden-danger-in-lotions-and-sunscreens.aspx
methyl parabenethyl parabenpropyl parabenbutyl parabenisobutyl parabenE216.
Parabens are regularly found in shampoos and conditioners,creams and lotions, deodorants and antiperspirants,sunscreens and cosmetics. You can identify parabenson the label, where they may be listed as:
Specific chemical ingredients to avoid:1,4-dioxane2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (Bronopol)Alcohol, Isopropyl (SD-40) Ammonium Laureth Sulfate(ALES)Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate (ALS)Anionic Surfactants Benzalkonium ChlorideButylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) Cationic surfactantsCetalkonium chlorideChloromethylisothiazolinone & IsothiazolinoneCocoamidopropyl BetaineCocoyl SarcosineCyclomethicone DEA (diethanolamine)Diazolidinyl ureaDimethicone Disodium Dioctyl SulfosuccinateDMDM HydantoinEthoxylated surfactants FD&C Colour PigmentsFormaldehydeFragrance Hydrolysed Animal ProteinImidazolidinyl UreaIsopropyl PalmitateLanolinLauryl dimonium hydrolysed collagenLauryl or Cocoyl Sarcosine Lauryl SarcosineLiquidum ParaffinumMEA compounds MethylisothiazolinoneMethylchloroisothiazolinoneMineral OilNitrosating AgentsParaben preservatives (methyl, propyl, butyl, andethyl)Paraffin wax/oil Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) compoundsPropylene/Butylene GlycolPVP/VA Copolymer Quaternium-7, 15, 31, 60,Rancid Natural EmollientsSodium Cocoyl Sarcosinate Silicone derived emollientsSodium HydroxideSodium Laureth Sulfate SLESSodium Methyl Cocoyl TaurateStearalkonium ChlorideTalcTEA (Triethanolamine) Laureth SulfateToluene
For an even more comprehensive database visit http://www.speclab.com/compound/chemcas.htm
Are all the chemicals found in cosmetics absorbedthrough the skin?
Yes, but the capacity for absorption varies widely.Some areas of the body such as lips, gums, underarmsand around the eyes absorb chemicals more readily thanother areas. In addition, many products contain penetrationenhancers, chemicals that allow other ingredients topenetrate skin more deeply and quickly.
Also chemicals in cosmetics and household cleanersare inhaled or ingested during use. The various "fragrances"contain volatile chemicals. For example, nail polishand nail polish remover contain solvents that are problematicby just inhaling them because nail polish is essentiallya solvent-based paint, and nail polish remover is likepaint remover.
Baby powder and other powders, as well as aerosol productssuch as deodorants and hair sprays, may also be inhaledduring use. Products that are applied on or around thelips such as lipstick and lip gloss are ingested duringapplication or afterwards. The colours, fragrances andother chemicals typically used in lipsticks go straightto the organs of digestion. The great news is that thereare good quality chemical free lipsticks ranges thateffectively replace traditional coloured lipstick.
What is the story on phthalates and how canI avoid them?
Phthalates are plasticising chemicals that have beencalled "the everywhere chemicals" becausethey are used in so many types of products such as foodwraps and many pliable plastics and containers. Alsoused in hairsprays and some cosmetics including nailvarnishes from where they are readily absorbed intothe system. Phthalates are implicated with low spermcounts and also causing sexual abnormalities and deformitiesand are also linked with asthma, and kidney and liverdamage. Phthalates are common ingredients in fragrances(such as perfumes and colognes) and many products containingfragrance, as well as nail polishes and treatments.
Avoid fragrances and products listing "fragrance"as an ingredient (this can include a wide variety ofproducts such as deodorant, soap, hair products, skincare products, and makeup). Products that claim to be"fragrance-free" on packaging may containmasking fragrances to cover the odor of other ingredients;make sure that the ingredient list doesn't include"fragrance". Also avoid products that listphthalates in the ingredients: look out for nail polishesand treatments in particular, which often contain dibutylphthalate (DBP).
What can we use instead of fragrances?
The purest of purest organic essential oils make exquisitefragrances. Oils such as jasmine, sandalwood, frankincense,bergamot can all be used as a fragrance, in an aerosolspray for the bathroom, kitchen, and they can be usedas antibacterial agents in soaps, even creams for theface and body.
It is important to be aware that a lot of essentialoils on the market use chemicals and can cause headaches,skin irritations and even toxic reactions so it is reallyimportant to only use the oils that are 100% pure, organic,therapeutic and unadulterated.
Is it true that some hair dyes contain lead?
Yes. Some gradual hair colors contain lead acetate.Lead is an extremely toxic chemical that harms children'sintelligence, and no safe level of exposure has beenfound. In addition, high levels of lead create artificialanemia as lead lowers the bioavailability of iron inthe body. That is we can be eating a high meat intakeand still have an iron deficiency because of the highlevels of lead in our cells.
Hair coloring products are among the most hazardouscosmetics. Least dangerous are probably the temporarydyes. Permanent dyes contain a mixture of potent chemicalsthat can cause skin, eye, or respiratory irritation.Many coal tar colors used in some hair dyes are carcinogenicand products containing them are best avoided.
You can research products that you are using, or consideringusing, in the Environmental Working Group's www.ewg.orgSkin Deep Database. This database ranks thousands ofproducts based on their safety.
Are antimicrobial hand soaps better than ordinaryhand soaps?
Not at all. Washing hands with hot water and plainsoap is just as effective. Antibacterial soaps havelittle effect against viruses and therefore don'tprotect against colds or the flu any more than ordinarysoap.
How do I find better alternatives and safeproducts?
Chemical-free products exist and most of them can bepurchased from online websites. Initially, it mightseem time consuming to search and read all the labelsand to start getting familiar with the chemicals foundbut in the end, it is worth the effort, as it is aboutour health and energy levels.
In conclusion, eliminating products that contain chemicalsis a place to start and helping our bodies to excretethese chemicals also speeds up the process to more energy.Researching chemical-free alternatives before buyingis an important exercise in not only becoming a smarterconsumer but becoming aware of misleading marketingstatements used to sell products that at the end ofthe day are just promoting products with chemicals.In cosmetics particularly, these products promise diminishingsigns of ageing. How is that possible, when in factthe chemicals found in these "youthing"products do accelerate the process of internal ageingof the cells, organs and tissues?
Fortunately, there are companies that employ high ethicsand integrity in formulating and delivering ranges oforganic/chemical-free products and most of them maybe found on the web. Before trying these products checkthe ingredients by referring to the various databases(mentioned above). In addition, ask via email if anyother ingredients are used in their products.
Apart from the convenience of shopping on line, anotheradvantage is that companies are in a position to offergood quality products at a good price and offer loyaltydiscounts on bulk purchases so the products become practicaland affordable for long term use by the whole household.All of this makes a difference to our health as goodhealth is about letting go and releasing, and it startswith what we don't need – toxic chemicals.
M.A., B.A., Dip Health Sciences
Dip Clinical Nutrition
DISCLAIMER : The views expressed in this column arethose of the writer and are intended as an informedcontribution to people seeking to pursue holistic healthand lifestyle. For medical advice, always be guidedby your own healthcare professionals.
Cosmetics Ingredient Review (CIR) (2003). 2003 CIR Compendium,containing abstracts, discussions, and conclusions ofCIR cosmetic ingredient safety assessments. WashingtonDC.
Cosmetics Ingredient Review (CIR) (2004). CIR informationavailable at http://www.cir-safety.org, accessed May6 2004.
Department of Trade and Industry, UK (DTI) (1998).A survey of cosmetic and certain other skin-contactproducts for n-nitrosamines.