Triclosan? Paraben? Methylchloroisothiazolinone? Sound delicious?
These are the names of preservatives identified in personal care products, among others, by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) that you might not want to continue to disregard or shrug your shoulders about when selecting and using body and skin care products. EWG describes them as “worrisome” ingredients. Referencing ingredients often found in products used by adults and those found in products used by children to make bubbles in tubs and scrub plump rosy cheeks are included in the article titled “Know the Ingredients in Your Personal Care Products.” EWG might not be tops on everyone’s list as the purveyors of accuracy in all of their research. I believe in empowering oneself with information, at least, to inform one’s ability to make sound and sensible choices. I acknowledge EWG for the awareness raised in this article and for the encouragement, to read ingredients, that is of importance (reading and knowing, understandably not being equal).
If you purchase personal care products that include body and skin care products from the local drug store or from a famous retailer, the recommendation to read the ingredients remains consistent. You’ve probably had the experience before. The base oils that make for the foundation of the product are listed first, then the fragrance ingredients then the strand of three, four, five and six-syllable words that you have to take your time pronounce correctly. The words seem to get longer and more difficult the more you read.
I started reading ingredient panels on food and body and skin care products years ago. I had learned how important it was to buy high quality products, especially those I used on my face. Then I learned somewhere that those products weren’t as good as I thought they were because of the product’s brand name. It was so long ago, I can’t remember when I made the conscious decision to get closer to the ground and to stop thinking that the more I spent on a product made it that much better than something I could mix up from items in my refrigerator, cupboard and my collection of organic essential oils. This is not to discount that some ingredients are more costly and, as such due to relative quantities and other factors are, in fact, worthy and better. An example is the essential oil, Sandalwood. Sandalwood from Mysore, India from my nose’s point of view is the best Sandalwood money can buy, arguably.
Like nutrients in the food we eat go through the digestive tract and then out through the bloodstream to deliver the goods to various parts of the body– the ingredients in body and skin care products go through our skin and scalp and then through the bloodstream to deliver the bad to various parts of the body.
Awareness starts with reading the ingredients and asking oneself what these ingredients really are? If not, then thinking about saying no, learning and choosing to do something different may follow. If it’s not good stuff, it’s avoidable stuff.
If you are wondering why likely harmful stuff, usually listed towards the end of the product label, is in that wonderfully packaged and highly marketed lotion or skin care cream, a definitive answer you won’t find here. I can give you some plausible reasons to consider: to make it smoother or keep it from clumping; to make it fluffy and creamy, give it a tint and make it last without being destroyed by bacteria. There are numerous other reasons related to pricing, competition, availability of ingredients and demand. When a product gets discontinued, a new and “improved” formula may arrive with much of the same ingredients. Perhaps, it’s just a twist on something like new packaging with a new sophisticated name. I’ve wondered, if something might potentially give you a rash is there also something in the ingredients to serve as a counter agent so that you don’t get the rash? The new, more hypoallergenic wonders– “hypo” meaning that it will reduce a potential allergic reaction, offer this. Why not just leave the allergen causing ingredient out? In some instances, it’s not that the ingredient is there– there are levels of toxicity and good versus bad gets weighed in all things (a philosophical point of view here), but since we don’t know how much of a good or a bad thing is in there or how our body is responding to it, especially if it is more of a potentially bad, meaning harmful thing– why go there? Too much of a good thing is still too much!
Recently I went into a big box store where lotions and creams and deodorants are sold in three and six packs. A bargain, you would think? When I read the ingredients of several items, I found that every one contained more than one of the ingredients identified by the EWG as worrisome. Interestingly, they were being marketed with highlighted substances I know from my intensive aromatherapy studies like ginger and lemongrass that are energizing essential oils. They smelled good enough to make you want to take them home, though I could tell they did not contain essential oils and the label verified it. So, if it smells fantastic, asking is it good for my skin may be the next question! Good ingredients don’t cancel out the consequences of the existing bad ingredients dependent upon the amounts present. When teamed together whatever benefits might have otherwise existed can become compromised.
Aromatherapy provides a remarkable alternative to all of the unmentionable, by name products, without the need to cover-up, make tints with questionably safe food color numbers and the like (questionable because the bad news generally follows years later that it wasn’t good for you). Want it to last until it’s all used up? Grapefruit seed and rosemary extracts, plain plant materials work as good and almost as long. If given the choice, I’d rather use something a few times and then throw out whatever begins to spoil naturally than rely upon some gunk that makes me think it’s still “good” and lose some neurotransmitter connections, potentially, down the road. That’s what I do with bread. Eat it while it’s good and toss what remains if I don’t get around to finishing it all. Recently, I observed a loaf of bread, brought into an office, sit around for almost two weeks without beginning to mold. I wasn’t the only one curious about it. A few of us began to talk about it and examine it. It still looked and felt somewhat fresh but it had the “old” smell. I don’t think I’d feed that bread to birds, yet some preservatives still had it appearing to be edible. Another question to ask oneself about skin and body care products might be “if I don’t know what it is, even if it looks and smells good, should I apply it on my skin?” What goes in generally comes out. But, not all of it all of the time. It is the build up of toxins that our bodies either do not or can not handle and excrete that, overtime, can result in outcomes and illness, if allowed to choose, we’d rather not confront.
Truly green products, organically based body and skin care products that include organic or wildcrafted essential oils (not to worry about pesticides or adulteration) and your own homemade organic egg and mayonnaise conditioner with some fresh lemon and honey or organic oatmeal and organic milk and honey as a facial cleanser are where you may want to invest your future skin care options. One drop of organic Rose Bulgaria essential oil in a teaspoon of organic aloe vera gel will make your face feel like its gone to heaven. An ounce of aloe based liquid castile soap and a few drops of Lavender, Tea Tree or Eucalyptus essential oil is a fragrant, refreshing and delightful body wash. Plain and simple works where a long list of long words that are not well received by your skin, don’t.
Like the EWG article suggests, read from the end of the label to the front. That is where the ingredients will be found that are least present in the personal care product you are interested in, but are also the ingredients that are potentially detrimental to you. Get to know what the ingredients are and determine what your tolerance is for them dependent upon the effect you desire from the product. I remain puzzled by the following: everyone KNOWS that smoking is harmful– the question does not even exist anymore. People, who choose to do so, still smoke.
As a final suggestion, the fewer and purer the ingredients– the better for you and your essential, personal body and skin care regimen over time. What is pure? That’s another blog topic for some future time.