Most of us put on gloves when we clean our bathrooms, as we’re very aware of the dangers of toxic chemicals coming into direct contact with our skin. But what about all of the synthetic chemicals that we innocently apply to our bodies?
Every day we absorb self-applied toxins, and most are no further away than our bathroom make-up counter. Shampoos, soaps, deodorants, and all the many “de-aging” skincare products we women use. How do we know they are all safe?
According to many scientists and medical professionals, they aren’t safe. Synthetic preservatives used in such products can contain ingredients used to kill bacteria or inhibit growth of molds in the products themselves. They inherently have toxicity to cells and are known to disrupt endocrine function.
The body’s endocrine system consists of glands that produce and release the hormones that are responsible for our metabolism, our immune system, and our growth and reproductive systems. Synthetic chemicals, known as “endocrine disruptors”, can mimic our body’s natural hormones, resulting in our bodies increasing or decreasing production of other vital hormones erroneously. These synthetic chemicals can interfere with hormone signaling throughout our body, even telling cells to die prematurely, or allowing the “imposter hormones” to accumulate, throwing the body’s natural hormones off balance.
These toxins are absorbed by your body’s largest organ – your skin – and they accumulate in your body once they are there. And while manufacturers of these products say the toxicity from any one product is “minimal”, their studies do not focus on the accumulation of dozens of chemicals that we are exposed to each day through persistent use of multiple products.
Recently Johnson and Johnson announced plans to stop using suspected endocrine disruptors, such as parabens and BPA, by the end of 2015. But the industry overall is self-policed. The FDA does not require any approval process for “cosmetics” and skincare products.
While more studies are needed, health-minded individuals are choosing to minimize their exposure. So what are the biggest culprits and what can you do about them?
Parabens - Methylparaben, Propylparaben, and Butylparaben, as seen on ingredient labels, are the most widely used in personal care products. They have been found in biopsy samples from breast tumors.
Bisphenol-A (BPA) – Found in moisturizers and even inside canned foods (applied as a protective plastic lining). It is projected that 93% of Americans have BPA in their bodies, and it has been linked to reproductive issues, breast cancer, and other cancers.
Phthalates – Seen on labeling as DEP, DBP or often not identified on ingredient labeling at all, or identified under the general term, “fragrance”. Used in plastics (shower curtains!), but also in shampoos, moisturizers, and beauty care products. Dr. Sara Gottfried, in her book, “The Hormone Cure”, states that phthalates along with BPA are two of the most common and damaging “xenoestrogens”, endocrine disruptors that mimic estrogen. They are stored in fat in the body, and since the greatest concentration of fat is often in the breasts, quantities have been found in breast tissue. In a Centers for Disease Control study published in 2004, more that 75% of the 2,540 men, women, and children surveyed had measurable levels of seven different phthalates in their urine.
Fragrances - Artificial chemicals that do not have any skin benefits and can be allergenic for people with sensitive skin. Many are derived from petrochemicals or contain phthalates; some are suspected endocrine disruptors and possible carcinogens. Synthetic Musk and Ethylene Oxide may be on the label as well.
Triclosan - Found in anti-bacterial soaps and products, this ingredient is classified as a pesticide! There is no proven effectiveness, and use may encourage bacterial resistance to antibiotics. Triclosan is an endocrine disruptor and has been linked to thyroid issues. In April 2014, Avon announced that the company would remove Triclosan from all products.
So what can you do?
Buy and store products in glass versus plastic containers or metal cans, and ensure that containers are BPA-free.
Use fewer products and more natural solutions. Coconut oil can be used as a moisturizer and a great hair-care conditioner as well as to exfoliate skin Baking soda can be used as a shampoo, face/body scrub, deodorant, and toothpaste.
Look for products that are 100% organic (USDA certified). A not-for-profit organization called the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has a database of personal care products that utilize fewer synthetic chemicals.
Replace household cleaner with baking soda, white vinegar, lemon juice or hydrogen peroxide. EWG also has a healthy cleaning guide.
Research ingredient labels. Avoid parabens, phthalates and synthetic fragrances. One artificial fragrance can include hundreds of toxic chemicals. Check labeling on dryer sheets, fabric softeners, and air fresheners.
Don’t use antibacterial products or soap.
Remember, a little bit of diligence can go a long way to keeping you healthy!