It’s not just about what we eat or what pills we pop; human health is also affected by what we put on our bodies. Our skin is capable of absorbing a great deal of anything we slather on it. In the case of users of mainstream cosmetics and personal care products, that means we regularly soak up cancer-linked sodium lauryl sulfate, phthalates associated with reproductive disorders, and mercury. Some products, like skin whitening cream, have been spotted with up to 300,000 parts per million of mercury, a known poison.
Mercury, however, has been banned in such products by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The following chemicals are banned in the European Union, Central America, and/or Japan, but, as you can see, are readily available on the shelves of those countries and the United States.
Phthalates, found in nail polish, hair products, body lotions, and deodorants, can result in endocrine disruption, birth defects, premature developments, lowered sperm count, atherosclerosis, diabetes, cancers of the lung, liver, and kidney.
Sodium/Lauryl/Laureth Sulfates, found in dental and shower products, is a suspected carcinogen linked to kidney and liver damage, nervous system and vision damage, and dermatitis.
Parabens are known hormone diruptors linked to breast cancer, and are found in shower and styling products, deodorants, lotions, creams, mascara, concealers and foundations, and sunscreen.
Formaldehyde and related chemicals are known human carcinogens, and they still appear in shower products, nail polish, antiseptic products, dental products, deodorants and antiperspirants, skin lotions, mascara, and make-up remover.
Propylene/Butylene Glycol (PG) have been linked to brain damage and abnormalities, kidney and liver disorders, and disruption of the nervous system. They are still found in deodorants, body lotions and washes, hair and skin care products, and lipstick. (Ick, they’re even found in fast food.)
Living with Chemicals
It might also have come to your attention that an awful lot of these products are used by all sexes, but in particular by women (lipstick, mascara, foundation, etc.). Women generally put over 500 chemicals on their bodies daily through the use of these very products, where the chemicals are absorbed by the skin into the blood stream.
The speed and amount absorbed depends on the length and degree of exposure as well as the composition of the ingredient itself (molecule size and solubility, for example), but why take the chance? That’s been the motto of many consumers who have switched to “natural” and “organic” products, but many are the victims of greenwashing and unknowingly continue to poison their skin and their bodies with each use.
Equally vexing is that the very water we bathe in—not just drink!—is also absorbed to a degree into our bodies through skin absorption. Polluted tap water evaporates at high temperatures, releasing harmful gases for us to inhale, too. Thankfully, a good quality shower filter can help correct the problem.
Homemade Natural Remedies Can Work
What’s truly unfortunate about our era is that corporations using questionable—if not downright poisonous—ingredients in merchandise have, through ubiquitous advertising, allowed us to forget that nature provides answers for many health woes. Honey, for example, can help cure myriad skincare woes ranging from dry skin to acne, scars to psoriasis. White or apple cider vinegar and water can clean just about any surface of your shower or house. Vegetable-based soap and warm water can clean your hands well enough without the aid of synthetic antiseptics or antibacterial aids.
If you’re wondering if your products are doing more to harm your body than help, check out the Skin Deep Safe Cosmetics Database, an Environmental Working Group campaign. There are undoubtedly other health hazards in your home that you can remedy, and you can even take in a few air purifying plants to help clean up your home of indoor air pollution.