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  • Writer's pictureJane Wheeler

What is Lurking in Your Cupboard?

It’s here! No not pumpkin spice, rather the dry skin time of year.

The weather gets chilly and drier, and our skin starts to dry, flake and protest!

Before you stock up on your favorite creams, lotions, bath bombs, shower gels, moisturizers, hand sanitizers, and hair dyes, we should have a little chat.

Many, many products you buy to slather all over your body including those to prevent "germs" like hand sanitizers, have some horrendously yucky ingredients in them. When I was teaching soap making and body care making classes years ago it was just gaining popularity to start reading the ingredients on all beauty products to see what was in them.

We have been taught to read our food labels and we have gluten free, sugar free, dairy free food, but what about our skin and body care routines?

Most people do not know what they are reading when they look at the label on their body care products and some of the words are not even pronounceable.

Are you aware that your skin is the largest organ your body has and creams, lotions, soaps and all things you put onto your skin are absorbed and go directly into your body. This is why transdermal patches work very well for medications and other issues because it is absorbed through your skin. It stands to reason that what you put onto your skin affects more than just your skin, it affects your whole body. Please remember this is the same for children and babies as well. Stores with bulk hand sanitizer's usually only go by price on this one.

There is now an app you can download to your phone and you can scan the bar code and the app will tell you if the product is good or if there are safer alternatives. The app is called “Think Dirty App”. It is not a “bad” site it is a place where you can learn about the ingredients in your beauty, personal care and household cleaning products.

A lot of us have been using harsh and dangerous chemicals in products we use regularly and are totally unaware. The products I am going to list below are found not only in body care products, it can be household cleaners, and even some foods. A lot of the products are preservatives or stablizers so they can be used in several different uses.

The Environmental Working Group website (aka EWG) and app you can use to read about ingredients in detail. They give a hazard score for each ingredient with 1 being the best and 10 being the worst. Any products graded 7-10 are considered hazardous.

Here are some examples of ingredients to watch out for in skin and body care items:

Parabens – you will see many creams and lotions with labels that say “paraben free” – that is a great thing. Parabens and there are several kinds of parabens but they will have the word paraben in them, have a bad EGW rating of 9 (hazardous). Parabens can be useful as preservatives because they prevent bacteria and fungus from growing in your lotions and have been used since the 1920’s, however they have been linked to hormone disruption, can harm fertility, and have been linked to cancer.

Parabens have also been used in some foods and beverages, but recent studies have started coming out and companies are turning to other alternatives.

Some forms of parabens have been banned totally in Denmark.

Phenoxyethanol – if a product claims to be paraben free be on the lookout for this alternative. This ingredient prevents the growth of bacteria and fungus as well but it is known to be very irritating to your skin and in some cases can make your skin conditions flair up and get worse. It has also been linked to nervous system effects.

Retinyl Palmitate – Anti-aging…. EWG score 9, Sigh, who does not want that in their face creams and lotions! This ingredient is a form of vitamin A. It has been shown in the National Toxicology Program to result in rapid tumor development in mice.

Mineral Oil – also known as petroleum jelly or vaseline – is not something you ever want to put onto your skin. It actually takes moisture out of the skin instead of helping keep it in. This ingredient cannot be metabolized by your body and so once it goes in, it never leaves. It has been linked to cancer and estrogen dominance.

Sulfates – sodium laurel sulfates, sodium laureate sulfate and PEG. Most mascaras contain sulfates. These ingredients have been linked to cancer and birth defects. Sulfates have been banned in Canada (remember if your product is made elsewhere it may not be under this restriction).

Phthalates – diethylphtalate, monoethyl – EWG score 8 (hazardous) this can be added to plastic to stop it from becoming brittle. In beauty care products it is used as a gelling agent, often used in nail polishes. It has been linked to birth defects and hormone disruption. These ingredients are being monitored by the FDA, some forms have been banned in the E.U.

Fragrance - there are a whole list of chemicals that can be used to make "fragrance" over 3,000 including products labeled "unscented". Shampoos and hair care, all creams and lotions, perfumes, soaps. Fragrances are cause of triggers for allergy's and asthma, many have links to cancer and other health hazards.

Triclosan – often found in toothpaste, antibacterial soaps and deodorants. Studies have shown links to skin irritation, gut inflammation and tumor growth in animals. Restricted use in Canada and E.U. Please check which country your products are made in.

Are there good creams, lotions and body care products? Absolutely, they may cost more because the ingredients can be more expensive to buy. There is an endless list of ingredients, and some are wonderful and others not so much. I would love to get you to start checking your labels and the ingredients that you have been putting on your skin.

Soap can be another of those tricky products. Did you know that most bars of soap sold in all the chain stores have had the glycerin taken out of them. Glycerin is naturally found in handmade soap, the kind grandma used to make. Glycerin makes your skin soft. Handmade, cold process soap is a wonderful thing to cleanse your face and body with, it will clean but not strip your skin of it's natural oil.

I have started to make soap and body and face care products again because I have sensitive skin. I have had 2 chemical burns on my face from products I purchased that were dubbed “miraculous results” for your skin.

I use products right from nature, I figure if you cannot eat it, it should not be on your body and I only use ingredients that you can pronounce.

I was not aware until I got into the health food industry exactly what I was using on my body because I figured surely no one would sell me something that was harmful. I naively thought the government would regulate "all that". I also assumed that if something has been around for years, it must be good! I was so very wrong.

Could it be that our body care products are making us sick? They are something we use day after day, if you are feeling unwell, check your labels.

Be aware that many companies promote their products to be safe while containing some of these harmful ingredients. If a product is not banned or deemed harmful by the FDA, companies feel free to use them because they are usually the short and most inexpensive way of mass producing.

Buzz words to watch out for: “organic” – not everything organic is safe. There is a huge issue with the title “organic” as standards in the industry are not rigorous and straightforward. “natural” does not mean it really is natural. It can be naturally grown and then how is it processed? often harsh chemicals are used in the processing of certain ingredients.

Do some research on companies and check out their websites and check their ingredients on the EWG website or app to make sure it is in a safe zone to use. Sometimes simply googling an ingredient can pull up some great information - I personally would google all ingredients as "is XXX harmful" or "what are XXX side affects".

You have to be your own advocate and do the research work yourself in order to get clean and safe products for you and your family. In the long run, it will be worth the time you took to get safer products.

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