The reason why it is imperative to present this information is because mostly everything that is put on your skin is absorbed directly into your bloodstream. Often what your blood receives can be up to ten times more concentrated than the original ingredients and even higher than that for ingredients applied to the face (because there are more surface capillaries there). So what this means is that you are in essence eating whatever you put on your skin. Once in your bloodstream, the ingredients must make their way through the liver to be processed the same as if you would have eaten them. However, products put on your skin can actually be more toxic to you than if you would have eaten with your mouth because the normal digestion process starts in the mouth and the digestive enzymes start to break things down so that by the time they get it into the blood, it’s already changing form/potency.
Some common ingredients to look for and avoid along with the reasons for avoidance:
1. Methyl, Propyl, Butyl, and Ethyl Paraben - these are known skin irritants but more importantly, there is a growing awareness about them because they have been found in samples of breast tumors. While the significance of this is still not known, avoidance of them makes sense.
2. Diethanolamine (DEA) & Triethanolamine (TEA) - Both of these have been shown in 40% of products tested to be contaminated with nitrosamines, which are powerful carcinogenics. There is an association between DEA and cancer in laboratory rats. These along with Monoethanolamine (MEA) have already been restricted in Europe due to known carcinogenic effects. Dr. Samuel Epstein (Professor of Environmental Health at the University of Illinois) says that “repeated skin applications . . . of DEA-based detergents resulted in a major increase in the incidence of liver and kidney cancer”.
3. Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate- also form nitrosamines, see above.
4. Diazolidinyl Urea- established as a primary cause of contact dermatitis (American Academy of Dermatology). It contains formaldehyde, a carcinogenic chemical, and is toxic by inhalation.
Imidazolidinyl Urea- releases formaldehyde into cosmetics above 10 degrees Celsius.
5. Propylene Glycol or Butylene Glycol, Polyethylene Glycol (PEG), Polypropelene Glycol (PPG) - Propylene glycol (PG) is a petroleum derivative. It penetrates the skin and can weaken protein and cellular structure. PG is strong enough to remove barnacles from boats! The EPA considers PG so toxic that it requires workers to wear protective gloves, clothing and goggles and to dispose of any PG solutions by burying them in the ground. Because PG penetrates the skin so quickly, the EPA warns against skin contact to prevent consequences such as brain, liver, and kidney abnormalities. But there isn't even a warning label on products such as stick deodorants, where the concentration is greater than in most industrial applications.
A good rule of thumb is if you can’t pronounce it, then reconsider putting on your skin.
So what can you use in place of products that contain questionable ingredients? For moisturizer the best thing you can use is pure, organic oils. My favorite for the colder/dryer months is macadamia nut oil, and for the summer, sesame oil. For the face, year-round, I like jojoba or sweet almond oil. You can also use oil in place of Vaseline/petroleum jelly or regular make-up remover to remove make-up. Organic oils are great for your nails and cuticles, as deep conditioner for hair, and for preventing stretch marks during and after pregnancy and other weight-gain or loss.
The best soap for hands and body that I have found is Dr. Bronner’s. Some also use this for shampoo and countless other uses (see back of bottle).
If you feel creatively inclined you can also make your own products using truly “natural and organic” ingredients.
**published November 2008- Sedona Verde-Valley Times and a version of it printed in the Tucson Green Times 2009