After I was diagnosed with Cancer in 2012 I subsequently began researching the ways I could bring my body back into balance, including ways to support my body’s innate healing processes. A shocking realization for me was the impact that toxins have on our bodies. A 2009 study from the Environmental Defense Group shows that we are exposed to over 200 toxins daily, specifically from pesticides, personal care products, plastic and pollution. While our bodies are well equipped to eliminate toxins, our livers are often over burdened, making toxin elimination a slower process.
I immediately began removing the P’s listed above to help my body and liver with the process of detoxification. My research led me to some of the beauty products I was using. It’s been said that 60% of what you put ON your skin is ABSORBED by it!
On average, people use nine personal care products daily, while one percent of men and 25 percent of women apply 15 or more products daily. These products contain an average of 126 unique ingredients. That’s 126 opportunities for ingredients and toxins to be absorbed into your body.
Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel
Cosmetics and personal care products do not require health studies or pre-market testing by the government for the industrial chemicals that go into them. Instead, the cosmetics industry is self-policing through its Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel. Cosmetic companies can actually use any ingredient or raw material they want in their products, except for colour additives and a few prohibited substances, without government approval.
While the European Union has banned hundreds of chemicals in cosmetics, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel has assessed less than 20 percent of cosmetics ingredients and only rejected 11 ingredients or chemical groups over the last 36 years.
We are exposed to the chemicals from personal care products when we breathe them in via sprays and powders, when we swallow them by getting them on our lips and when we absorb them through our skin and mucous membranes.
Cancer Causing Ingredients in Beauty and Personal Care Products
Many of the chemicals used in personal care products are cancer-causing and endocrine disruptors. Endocrine disruptors, such as BPA, pesticides and phthalates, mimic estrogen and interfere with the body’s hormone and cell signaling system. This can cause adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological and immune effects.
BPA is a common compound used to manufacture polycarbonate plastics that are used in packaging. Low-dose exposure to BPA may cause prostate and breast cancer; infertility; low testosterone levels and sperm production; obesity; early onset of puberty; and aggressive behaviour. Avoid purchasing plastic containers with the #7 or #3 on the bottom.
Phthalates are found in bottles, shampoo, cosmetics, lotions, nail polish and deodorant and exposure can lead to thyroid dysfunction in adults. Avoid plastics with the recycling code #3, use PVC-free containers and purchase phthalate-free beauty products.
The good news is, BPA and phthalates quickly exit the body when exposure is removed or decreased. A 2011 study found that removing BPA and phthalates for three days decreased BPA levels in urine by 66 percent and phthalate levels in urine by 53-56 percent.
It can be overwhelming to trash every item you’re currently using, but even switching out one or two items will add up in the long run. Start with one product at a time, especially the ones you use the most often.
When it’s time to replace an old product, use the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database to learn about safer products.
What Personal Care Products Do I Use On A Regular Basis?
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) plays a prominent role in my household. Here are some of the uses of ACV:
- As a deodorant (the vinegary smell dissipates once it dries). Most drugstore deodorants and antiperspirants contain aluminum.
- As a household cleaning spray – ACV has anti bacterial properties. Just mix equal parts of ACV with water and use as a spray for countertops and other areas.
- As a rinse for your hair – making it smooth and shiny. Just mix about 2 T of ACV with water to use as a rinse after shampooing.
As for body washes and shampoos, I often buy organic products from Whole Foods such as The Honest Company line. They have a great shampoo, conditioner and hair detangler.
For face and body, I buy organic oils and moisturizers. Some of the products I am currently using are:
- Face: Organic Rosehip BioRegenerate Oil by Pai Cosmetics.
- Face: Superfood Serum and various creams and mineral mist by Graydon Clinical Luxury.
- Body: Organic Body Oil by The Honest Company.
- Body: All Over Elixir oil by Graydon Clilnical Luxury.
- Makeup: I don’t use much, but when I do, I have Face Glow by Graydon Clinical Luxury, Zuzu brand lipsticks and glosses (from Whole Foods) and Gabriel makeup (from Whole Foods) to name a few.
For toothpaste I use the Kiss My Face line (fluoride free).
Common Beauty Care Chemicals to Avoid
Fragrance may include 3,163 different chemicals that have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress, and potential effects on the reproductive system.
Toluene is a potent neurotoxin found in paint thinners, moisturizing creams and nail polishes that can impair breathing and cause nausea. It is also associated with immune system disruption and cancer.
Parabens are used to preserve and scent many beauty products. They mimic estrogen and are considered by many experts to be endocrine disruptors.
Oxybenzone is a common ingredient in sunscreen and acts as a UV light absorber. Oxybenzone may cause photoallergic reactions and can act as an endocrine disruptor.
There are hundreds of other chemicals and ingredients to avoid. EWG has created a list of top tips for safer products organized by product type, by age group and by ingredient so you can navigate store aisles and understand labels.