Many people are becoming more selective about what they put in their bodies. It is becoming more and more popular to shop organic in order to avoid ingesting toxins that are harmful to your health. However, some of even the most health-conscious people fail to realize that we actually acquire more chemicals through the skin than through our mouths. The skin is the largest organ in the body with greater potential to absorb harmful toxins.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit research organization focused on protecting public health and the environment, found that over one-third of all personal care products contain at lease one ingredient related to cancer. Many skin creams and lotions boast of having "deep moisturizing" qualities. In fact, 57 percent contain penetration-enhancing chemicals--these chemicals push the harmful toxins in the product faster and deeper into your skin and blood. A product survey conducted by the EWG in 2004 revealed that more than 25 percent of all women and one in every 100 men use at least 15 products daily that could contain toxins and carcinogens.
Common Toxic Chemicals
According to Northwestern Health Sciences University, butylated hydroxytoluene is found in moisturizers, bar soap, shaving products, deodorants, facial cleansers and body wash and is used to slow the time it takes for products to change color. It is an eye and skin irritant. Cocamide DEA/lauramide DEA is a foaming and cleansing agent found in acne treatments, baby wash, body scrubs and moisturizers. It can create carcinogenic compounds and is linked to certain types of cancers. Formaldehyde is found in antiperspirants, soap, shampoo and shaving products and is considered a human carcinogen. It can damage DNA and has been banned by the European Union. Parabens are found in these products and may impair fertility and cause skin irritation, rashes, and allergic reactions. Studies have found parabens in breast tumors. Talc is a toxic chemical found in many powder products and is a proven carcinogen linked to ovarian cancer.
You may assume that products with the word "organic" on them are safe to use, but they may still contain synthetic chemicals. Rosie Ward, director of health and wellness at Northwestern Health Sciences University, attributes this to the lack of government regulation. "Many companies continue to mislead and confuse consumers by labeling personal care products as 'natural' or 'organic' when they contain just one or two highly processed botanical extracts and the rest is synthetic chemicals." The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has certain requirements for an "organic" label. In order for a food to be labeled "100% Organic" it must contain only organically produced ingredients. To be simply "organic" it must consist of 95 percent organically produced ingredients; and to be labeled "containing organic ingredients" it must have 70 to 95 percent organically produced ingredients. The FDA has no such requirements when it comes to skin care products.
You may think you are protecting yourself by buying a more expensive product, however the EWG found that the five facial moisturizers that cause the most concern cost $12.48 more per oz. than the five moisturizing products that pose the least concern. Another myth is that this is a concern for only women, when in fact men's hair color products, after-shave lotions and colognes are among the products associated with the greatest safety concerns. Lastly, people believe that since they are using the products in small amounts, they are not harming their health. However, using a small amount of products on a daily basis adds up over long periods of time.
Since you can't rely on the government to protect you by regulating skin care products, you have to educate yourself. Ward suggests avoiding synthetic perfumes and cologne, looking for ingredients that are USDA approved as 100 percent Certified Organic, and reading labels carefully. Avoid chemical names ending in "acid" or "alcohol." Avoid anything that contains synthetic colors or fragrances, mercury or triethanolamine. Buy from the 300 companies that have joined a group called Campaign for Safe Cosmetics that pledge to eliminate cancer-causing chemicals from their products. These companies include Burt's Bees, Kiss My Face and Avalon Natural Products.