By Kristin Lehar –
The skin, like many other organs of the human body, performs several crucial roles in keeping the body functioning in balance including excreting wastes, synthesizing hormones (vitamin D), regulating heat, and protecting the body from the elements. It is our largest organ with a delicate pH and a unique micro-biome and, as the most visible of our organs, we do what we can to make it look its best and feel its healthiest—but often these measures result in troublesome consequences, many of which are not immediately obvious.
We have embraced conventional skin care products and other cosmetics, most of which we often regard as necessary for radiant health and integrate as part of our daily self-care regimes. This is thanks to brilliant advertising and sensory appeal the multi-million-dollar cosmetics industry employs. We have embraced this way of beauty and self-care and as a result have exposed ourselves and those around us to certain substances that are wreaking havoc on our bodies and the environment while doing very little to promote truly healthy skin and hair.
Unfortunately, the cosmetic industry is largely unregulated. Last year, Environmental Commissioner Julie Gelfand released a report addressing hazardous chemicals in everyday products and in it noted, “Health Canada does not regularly test for prohibited or restricted ingredients in cosmetics and cannot assure consumers that these products comply with the Food and Drugs Act and are safe.” This is like the situation in the United States, where the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only bans 11 ingredients in cosmetics while hundreds are banned in Europe.
If you have ever glanced at any of the ingredient lists on a shampoo or moisturizer label you may have noticed they can be quite lengthy and extensive. According to an article by author and environmental scientist David Suzuki, “US researchers report that one in eight of the 82,000 ingredients used in personal care products are industrial chemicals, including carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins, and hormone disruptors.”
Many of the substances found in cosmetics are actually absorbed through the skin and make their way into the bloodstream. This is how nicotine skin patches and hormone creams work. Furthermore, several products include penetration enhancers thus facilitating the absorption of these harmful substances. This is problematic when it comes to products we use everyday, like deodorants, lotions, and face creams, because the chemicals in them begin to accumulate in tissues. Researchers at the University of Reading in the UK carried out tests on samples of 20 different human breast tumours, all of which were found to contain traces of parabens—commonly used preservatives in deodorants and moisturizers that have been found to mimic estrogen hormones in the body aka endocrine disruptors. This is not to say that these substances cause cancer, but can be accumulated within the body.
The reality is, there is no research on any one of these questionable ingredients or on combinations of them, to confirm they are safe for long-term daily use. We essentially are the long-term study and we will see the results of the choices we make now further down the road.
How are we to take care of our skin if nearly all our products are laced with these questionable ingredients? A wise rule to follow is to put nothing on your beautiful skin that you would not put into your mouth. This not only prevents chemicals from entering your body, but from entering our water systems and the environment. Skin and hair care products claim to nourish your skin with plant extracts, antioxidants, and nourishing oils and butters. Yes, they may contain traces of actual avocado and aloe extracts but they come with all the unwanted chemicals, as well. So, if avocado is so beneficial for the skin, why not simply puree half an avocado, add some skin-loving essential oils, and pamper your face with a mask containing all the good stuff and none of the bad? Why not moisturize with pure coconut oil, jojoba oil, sweet almond oil, olive oil, or shea butter? Why not cleanse with antioxidant-rich, micro-biome friendly honey?
Enhancing the appearance of the skin from the outside is the focus when concerned with skin health but the nutrients that build and nourish your skin are the nutrients that also build and nourish the rest of your body and they come from what we put into our bodies. Thus, true skin health is rooted from within—a diet high in refined grains, refined sugars, and unhealthful fats or even void of fats will work against you on your quest for that radiantly youthful skin glow (and those luscious locks!) Conversely, drinking plenty of water everyday and eating real, whole foods of all colors will get you far on this quest.
Conventional, even proclaimed organic and natural products contain harmful substances that have the potential to be absorbed through the skin deeper into bodily tissues. Once we realize we’ve normalized slathering untested, potentially carcinogenic, and hormone disruptive substances over one of our most beautiful organs, it is hard to continue doing so. It feels amazing to take a big step away from conventional laboratory made skin-care products and grace your skin and hair with the powerful nutrients of food. It is empowering to say the least.
My favourite source of pure essential oils and beauty care products, ethically sourced and globally responsible, is the Living Libations store online at the web address below. I haven’t come across a purer source in my search for clean products. Find them at www.livinglibations.com/default/.
Kristin is a holistic nutritionist whose main goal is to live a simple and awesome life. She loves to inspire others to realize the power of the body and its amazing capabilities to restore and maintain health, and to realize we each have the power to bring our bodies back into well-being. Having love for and being connected to the language of the body is the first step on the path to a thriving life and planet.