What are you eating through your skin?Aug 16, 2021
How much attention do you pay to the things you put on your skin? It is estimated that the average woman puts over 200 synthetic chemicals on her skin every day before she has even left the house.
When I say that to people, the common response is "not me, I don't use perfume and make-up".
Ok, but what about:
- shampoo and conditioner
- body wash
- hair styling products
- laundry detergent and fabric softener in your clothes, bedding and towels
- lotions, including medicated lotions and ointments
- hand cream etc
I think most of use at least a few of these. But why does it matter?
The cosmetics industry is very poorly regulated and literally thousands of man-made chemicals can be hidden away in the illusive "fragrance" and "parfum" labels.
Many of these synthetic chemicals are known endocrine disruptors, meaning they interfere with all your hormonal messaging. Imagine a postal service where all the addresses on the envelopes got erased...how would the postal service know which letter to send where? This is what happens in your body when endocrine disruptors accumulate.
Not only that but many of these man-made chemicals are also known carcinogens.
When we are looking to build vibrant health, avoid disease and prevent chronic illness, we cannot afford to ignore toxins...but we do. Its one of those areas its all to easy to dismiss as not going to have an impact. How can my anti-perspirant be making my fatigue worse? Well, its all contributing to the toxic cellular environment which makes it really difficult for the body (especially the immune system) to regulate itself.
Almost everything we put on our skin makes its way through the skin layer and into the blood stream, except for a few paraffin-based products like Vaseline and E45. We literally eat through our skin. Think about that the next time you are rubbing lotion into your skin - would you be willing to eat it?
Once its in the blood, these chemicals are delivered to every cell of the body. Every cell literally receives a constant flood of junk mail. Oftentimes the junk mail blocks the way for nutrients and hormones to reach their destination. At some point all this junk mail will end up in the liver for processing.
The overworked liver does its best to change these toxins into other chemicals it can either pee out of the body or store in fat cells, out of harm's way....and it can quickly get exhausted and unable to perform its many other roles, like neutralising oestrogen and cholesterol when they are done, which can further exacerbate poor health.
Still not convinced that what you put on your skin ends up inside you? Try this little experiment: peel a garlic clove and pop it in your shoe against your bare skin. Notice how long it takes until you can taste garlic and others can smell it on your breath!
So, what's the solution?
Step 1: Ditch and Switch
Trade in your commercial products for brands which use fewer chemicals and scents. Particularly avoid the big offenders which are:
- Parabens - a group of compounds widely used as antifungal agents, preservatives and antimicrobials in cosmetics and toiletries. They are linked to hormone disruption, reproductive toxicity, immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity and skin irritation.
- Triclosan - this has been restricted in the EU but not banned completely. It can be found in toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorants and hand soap.
Triclosan, which is classified as a pesticide, can affect the body’s hormone systems, especially thyroid hormones, which regulate metabolism and may disrupt normal breast development.
The EU classifies triclosan as irritating to the skin and eyes and as very toxic to aquatic organisms, so not good for the Oceans.
- Phthalates - these are a group of hormone-disrupting chemicals which give artificial fragrances their staying power - if you can still smell an artificial scent you are still breathing these phthalates into the lungs - another way they get into the blood stream as well as via the skin. These are the ones that lurk behind the vague labels "fragrance" and "parfum" and should be avoided. A single synthetic "fragrance" can be a cocktail of 200 different chemicals.
I am really averse to synthetic fragrance - it literally makes me gag. It not the "lemony" scent so much as the chemical soup behind and supporting that scent.
We travel a lot and find ourselves periodically in a new rental home. The scent is almost always vile. I open all the windows, hide all fragranced products in a cupboard I am not going to open again and let the smell disperse.
Once it's gone, if I want aroma I set up my diffuser with some essential oils and use non-toxic and non-fragranced cleaners around the home. Essential oil have only nature-made aromas, no phthalates or toxic ingredients and they are beneficial to your physical and emotional health - so a double win. More on household chemicals next time!
- SLS and SLES - these are two of the most widely used detergents and foaming agents in shampoo, liquid soap and soap bars: sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulphate (SLES).
SLS is known to be irritating to the skin and can cause scalp problems when frequently applied as part of a shampoo. It is recognised as being one of the most irritating of the foaming agents used in shampoos.
Switch your brands and check your labels to ensure none of these ingredients are part of your daily "diet".
In a 2017 paper which came out of Germany, we are given a clear perspective when it comes to preventative health: "from a preventive medicine perspective, exposure to foreign substances should always be kept as low as reasonably achievable".
Step 2: Make Your Own
Marketing has been incredibly successful at convincing us that a commercial product is going to be far superior to anything you can make yourself from pantry ingredients. I have 3 issues with this:
1. Oftentimes it just isn't true - you can make very effective toiletries and soaps at home that are JUST as effective AND a fraction of the cost. They will have a shorter shelf life, but this can be aided by keeping some things in the fridge or making them in smaller quantities. You can lick your fingers after making them!
2. Those products which are more effective come at a price - not only a financial price because they are more expensive but a price to human health.
3. And then there is the environmental impact of all the throw-away packaging. I make a deodorant with 6 natural ingredients (bicarbonate of soda, arrowroot powder, coconut oil, essential oils of: lavender, tea tree and purify blend - theses are all ingredients I have in my kitchen for multiple uses) and I use the same container over and over again. Its so quick to make - I literally knock this up whilst the kettle is boiling, it costs pennies and I could eat it...if I chose to. And its more effective than any commercial deodorant I have tried.
So, if you want an action plan to begin step by step cleaning up the diet you put on your skin, this is what I recommend:
1. Ditch and switch - use the same things but source cleaner versions - one great resource you can turn to if you want to check out how toxic your skin products are, is the Environmental Working Group.
2. Switch anti-persiprant for deodorant (fewer ingredients) then make your own.
3. Switch commercial toothpaste and mouthwash for natural, fluoride-free versions.
4. Once we no longer have to hand-sanitise everywhere, ditch hand sanitiser for soap and water (SLS-free of course). Hand sanitisers wipe out the skin micro-biome, so its not a good long-term habit.
If you are serious about alleviating symptoms of chronic illness or you wish to prevent chronic illness that may run in your family, decreasing your toxic burden is just as important as eating an anti-inflammatory diet.
If you feel overwhelmed about where to begin drop me an email: [email protected] and I can share with you with some of my favourite products and where to get them.
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