Is your Beauty Regimen Making you Sick?
NOVEMBER 11, 2016 by DR. HEATHER MODAY, MD
I spend a lot of time talking with my clients about how toxins in our environment cause damage to our bodies. This damage can manifest as all sorts of symptoms including headaches, weight gain, rashes, brain fog, fatigue, body aches or even issues such as cancer, hormone imbalances, autoimmune problems and gastrointestinal problems. Often we focus on what we are eating and drinking to avoid these toxins – avoiding pesticides and hormones by eating organic, avoiding genetically modified foods, not drinking out of plastic containers, placing filters on our water faucets to filter our chlorine and fluoride. All of these are important to do to lower our toxin burden.
However, what about what we are placing on our skin every day? Even for myself, this was something I struggled with. More than 80,000 chemicals are registered for use in the United States. Every year about 2,000 new ones are introduced for use in everyday items as foods, personal care products, prescription drugs, household cleaners. Most of these are never tested for safety by any governmental agency. The U.S regulates chemicals via the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Dating from 1976, it is generally considered a huge failure because it leaves to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the burden of proving that a chemical poses an unreasonable risk before being able to apply a restrictive rule to it. It’s impossible for the EPA to do this effectively to the thousands of chemicals being introduced annually. Also, it “grandfathered” in all 62,000 chemicals that were already in use in the US, without testing them. In other countries such as the European Union, the burden lies on the chemical companies to prove its safety before the chemical is released. Currently there are only 9 chemical substances that are banned in the U.S. whereas the EU has banned close to 1300.
Chemicals are used in every aspect of our lives from cleaning products, construction materials, food dyes, and pesticides. Perhaps the most insidious and direct route however is through your skin. Your skin is very adept at absorbing chemicals – hence why everything from nicotine, hormones and pain medications are often formulated into patches or creams for medical use. You also absorb all the chemicals that you place on your skin in the forms of lotions, deodorants, lip balms, shampoo, and sunscreens etc. And these multiple non-banned substances are known to interfere with fetal development, disrupt hormones, cause cancer and damage the brain and nervous system amongst other things.
According to the Environmental Working Group, women use an average of 12 products a day, containing 168 different chemicals. Men use fewer products, but still put 85 chemicals on their bodies. Teens on average use 17 personal care products a day. That’s a lot especially on a still developing body.
So without going crazy and paranoid, what can you do about this?
Here are some tips to help you lower you and your families toxic exposures through personal care products:
First evaluate these higher risk products which will expose you to higher amounts of chemicals.
Anything you soak in like bath salts, oil or bubble bath.
Anything you apply on your skin but don’t wash off such as lotion, face and body creams, and oils
Any product you put on your child
shampoo and conditioner
Skin primers made with silicone
Identify the highest risk chemicals: source: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/issues/health/science/toxics/dirty-dozen-cosmetic-chemicals/
1. BHT and BHA
2. Coal tar dyes: p-phenylenediamine
3. DEA-related ingredients
4. Dibutyl phthalate
5. Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives
8. PEG compounds
11. Sodium Laureth Sulfate
Luckily there are some amazing watchdog groups that can help you navigate the maze of avoiding the dangers lurking in your medicine cabinet.
I recommend that everyone take some time to pull everything out of your medicine cabinet and look up the product on the Environmental Working Group website – Skin Deep. They also have a handy phone app that you can use to scan products while you are out shopping.
The website: www.Safecosmetics.org also provides a lot of information about what to avoid and how to get involved.
There are many cosmetic companies that have taken it upon themselves to police their own products and provide to you, the consumer, a high quality, safe and well-performing product.
Here at the Moday Center, I get asked frequently what make-up and skin care line I recommend. Again, many companies have individual products that fit the bill, but one company I have discovered has the one of the highest health and safety standards of any cosmetic company I have seen.
Beauty Counter was founded with mission to “get safer products into the hands of everyone”. To this end, they have banned 1500 chemicals from all of their products while still managing to provide exceptional quality and results. They have a “Never list” which outlines the chemicals that will never be in their products. We believe so much in their philosophy, skin care and make-up, that we have partnered with Beauty counter to provide their wonderful products to our clients. You can learn more about Beauty Counter and order their products here.