In Feng Shui we talk about the importance of setting your outer environment up in a way that supports your health, wealth and relationships. Supporting a positive flow of energy (qi) in your home is paramount in making the most out of the energies you have around you and creating a healthy home. Today I want to talk about something else you can do to specifically support your health – choosing the best form of personal care products.
Commercial personal care products are not good for you
It might come as s bit of a shock or surprise that most, if not all, mainstream commercial personal care products contain various substances that are anything but good for your health. Most of these substances are chemically created and/or petroleum based. Petrochemicals are all derived from petroleum and hide in our personal care products under various fancy names, such as diethanolamine (DEA for short), paraffin and mineral oil to name but a few. So the stuff you are using to make your skin look younger, feel softer or smoother is probably casing some unwanted effects on the inside.
What you put on your skin matters
Your skin is your biggest organ, it covers all of your body. And research now shows that whatever you put on your skin is absorbed into your blood stream faster than things you eat. So what you put on your skin is very, very important for your health. Many modern day personal care products also contain penetration enhancers to help drive whatever ingredients are in that product deeper into your skin for a “better effect”. If the original ingredient is not good for you, then the penetration enhancer will make the problem worse faster.
It surprises me that so many people today are very conscious about what they eat, and yet keep using commercial personal care products without even reading the labels. To be healthy in today’s world we have to look at everything we put in and ON our bodies. Without being conscious of what you put on your skin, you are running a big risk of contaminating your body from the outside in. I don’t want to be a spoil sport and scare you – I do want you to wake up to the fact that commercial personal care products are rarely (if ever) good for you and they are not safe to use!
Many diseases are linked to substances found in personal care products
Many commonly used ingredients in personal care products have been linked to cancer and other diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. The accumulative effect of these various ingredients when used together has not really been researched, so we don’t actually know what happens in our bodies when we mix a number of ingredients that on their own have adverse effects on our health. This is one of the things that really made me think twice about what personal care products I use. Am I willing to experiment on my own body? For me, the answer was no.
Something that really hit home with me when I started learning about personal care products was what is in commercial deodorants, especially antiperspirants. What is used to prevent the natural way for the body to regulate its temperature, i.e. perspiration, is various forms of aluminium compounds. These chemicals are plainly neurotoxins and have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, among other things. When I found that out, I went out and bought a natural, certified organic deodorant straight away. In the beginning I felt really awkward and was afraid of spreading BO. And I did smell a bit more to begin with. Now I have found a few natural deodorants that really work for me. It took some time and experimentation. And I think it’s definitely worth it. I don’t smell and I also don’t put any neurotoxins under my armpits any more. An interesting fact to be aware of when it comes to deodorants is that the adverse health effects of the unnatural ingredients in commercial products have a bigger effect on women overall. Why is that? Women tend to shave their armpits to a higher extent than men. Having the hair left on your skin actually helps prevent the absorption of toxins into your body.
Another thing to be aware of is the fact that absorption of any unhealthy chemicals is made easier in the shower and bath. The warm water will open up the pores on your skin and hence make the uptake of whatever you are using a lot quicker. When washing your hair for example, the uptake of any chemicals present in your shampoo is made nice and easy by the warmed up, open pores of your scalp. Normally we will help these substances along the way with some nice massaging too and then we have the actual strands of hair helping with the transport of any substances into the follicles where absorption is even quicker.
The cosmetic industry is self-regulated
Another piece of information I think is worth mentioning here is the fact that the cosmetic industry is self-regulated. There is no authority looking after your interests as far as product safety is concerned. No one is regulating how much of this and that is safe to use and no one is officially checking for compounding effects of several different substances being used together. One of the biggest unknowns (and therefore possibly biggest risks too) I see here is the perfume industry. Due to “secret recipes” there is no way to even know what types of chemicals are used to create your favourite fragrance. Once I found that out, I stopped using perfumes all together. The only thing that I now use to smell nice is various types of essential oils. Yes, they evaporate quicker than a perfume would. That’s because they are all natural and have no chemicals in them to make the fragrance stay on my skin for longer. So I just put them on a little more frequently. In my opinion I smell better and I’m not putting unknown, potentially health hazardous substances into my body. Knowing that makes me feel a lot better.
What to do?
So what can you do? I recommend using Certified Organic products as much as possible. Note that just because a product is said to be “Natural” or “Organic” it doesn’t mean it’s safe to use. Anything containing a carbon atom can be called organic, and anything that comes from the Earth can be said to be natural. And less serious companies do use this kind of deception when promoting their products. You have to be just as mindful about what is in your personal care products as you are about what is in your food these days! Read the labels and work on finding Certified Organic products.
I particularly recommend to never, ever buy or use any products containing the below:
- Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS): causes skin and eye irritation, suspected liver toxicity, can cause or promote acne, penetrates skin and accumulates in vital organs, cause eczema, is toxic to aquatic organisms.
- Aluminium compounds (Aluminium Chlorohydrate, Aluminium Hydroxide etc.): strong evidence of human neuro toxicity, suspected respiratory toxicity, alters the function of the blood-brain barrier. Aluminium containing deodorants should be avoided at all costs as it is a neurotoxin linked with Alzheimer’s disease.
- Parabens (Butyl, Ethyl, Methyl etc.): petroleum derived. Can cause allergic reactions and rashes. Known to be highly toxic. Has an estrogenic (feminizing) effect on the body. A 2004 study found that 18 of 20 breast tumours contained significant amounts of parabens.
- PEGs (Polyethylene Glycols): derived from petroleum products, can cause eye, skin and gastro-intestinal irritations, allergic reactions and nausea among other things. They are also suspected carcinogens.
- Phtalates: suspected endocrine, reproductive, developmental and neuro toxicity. Further health effects include liver and kidney damage, birth defects, testicular cancer and various reproductive disorders.
Where to begin?
So where to begin now? Should you clean out all your personal care products, pop them in the bin and buy new stuff? Well, that of course would be ideal for your health! Economically though, that’s not very clever. I suggest you start changing to certified organic products gradually when whatever you are using now runs out. So when your current deodorant runs out, buy a certified organic one. Then when your shampoo runs out, buy a certified organic one. You get the drift! Sometimes you can’t find certified organic products, then look for alternatives that are as natural as possible. Your local health food store can probably be a great help, that’s where I first started my explorations.
There is also a great little shopping companion that you can use to quickly check whether an ingredient is safe to use or not, “The Chemical Maze” by Bill Statham. This nifty little book also comes as an i-Phone app and has information on food additives as well as cosmetic ingredients.
Please also have a look at the resources list at the bottom of this article where I have listed the books and websites I’ve used to gather information. They are all worth checking out and there is a lot of useful information in all of them.
I’ve also added a few websites for products that I have used personally and that work for me. I’m not here to promote any specific brands or products (I’m not getting any kickbacks from any of these companies). I’ve just listed them here because I personally like them and to give you somewhere to start looking.
Please add any comments or questions you might have and I will do my best to answer then for you. I hope you find this information helpful and that it might inspire you to start making some changes, if you haven’t already.
To your good health,
Facts and literature
Benis, K. 2009, Sick Building Syndrome – Cosmetics, (DVD), Australian College of Environmental Studies, Melbourne.
Bijlsma, N. 2009, Sick Building Syndrome, Australian College of Environmental Studies, Melbourne.
Statham, B. 2008, The Chemical Maze Shopping Companion, Hyde Park Press, Australia.
Environmental Working Group – Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, availble online: http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/
Truth In Aging – the honest truth about beauty & personal care products, available online: http://www.truthinaging.com/
Australian Bushflower Essences: http://ausflowers.com.au/Products/Skincare/Love-System-Products
Organic formulations: http://www.organicformulations.com/products/18/australian-biologika (this is the deodorant that I use)
(These are all Australian as this is where I’m based)