I lift weights. I run. I cycle. I practice intermittent fasting. I do yoga. I even meditate for 18 minutes every single day (more on this soon). I try to only eat organic, real food with no toxic preservatives or artificial flavors or colors. Water is pretty much the only thing I drink. I avoid sugar that is not naturally occuring at all costs. Yet, until very recently, I have been damaging my health, potentially quite seriously, on a daily basis. I simply missed something. I failed to consider the commonly applied toxic beauty chemicals I was rubbing all over my face and body on a daily basis.
In fairness to myself, it’s incredibly challenging to navigate through all this stuff. Who has the time to figure out what’s healthy or harmful in a world in which we are surrounded by harmful things, including the very air we breath? We implicitly trust our government and business leaders and it’s just easiest to do whatever everybody else is doing. Afterall, who wants to be a weirdo?
It first dawned on me that I might have overlooked something while showering. As I lathered up my head of thinning hair, I just happened to glance down at my bottle of shampoo and read the label on the back. What immediately struck me was the sheer volume of ingredients. The list was about 2.5 inches long of small print. “Wow,” I thought, “some of this can’t possibly be good.” The ingredients included: Sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium chloride, Tetrasodium edta, methylparaben, propylene glycol, Yellow #5, phenoxyethanol, and Red #33. “Holy sh%t!” I thought, “That sounds awful!” I recognized some of these terms from the post titled “Your Plastic Water Bottles and Food Containers are Killing You.” “I’m rubbing this excrement all over my head for a few minutes every single day!? This warrants further exploration,” I decided. So, I looked at the back of my body wash to inspect the ingredients. I used what I thought was a high quality, name brand body wash. The exact same thing applied with respect to its ingredients which include: Sodium laureth sulfate, PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate, PEG-200 hydrogenated glyceryl palmate, sodium hydroxide, phenoxyethanol, methylparaben, ethylparaben. Again, I uttered to myself, “Damn, I rub these chemicals all over my body on a daily basis!”
Many of you are thinking, “John, there are giant, federal organizations with billion dollar budgets that exist for the sole purpose of protecting us, so why should I bother researching or reading about what simply ‘might’ be harmful?” You’re right, there are multiple agencies with enormous budgets. Furthermore, you’re thinking on this matter likely reflects the thinking of 99% of the rest of the country. We have left this task to our governmental and business leaders. After all, don’t they have our best interests in mind? They wouldn’t hurt us for profit? Would they? If there were studies indicating a commonly used ingredient is harmful, it would undoubtedly be front page news and outlawed? Or at least given a label indicating it is potentially harmful? Right???
As we learned in a previous post, “Sleep More; Live Longer” the skin actually absorbs light. Do you think it also absorbs chemicals you rub all over it? Well, it turns out, you betcha, it sure does! The CDC states clearly that toxic chemicals are absorbed through the skin.1 In fact, several medicines today are delivered via the skin in the form of transdermal patches. I used a nicotine patch many years ago. Some women use a birth control patch. Some guys wear testosterone patches. It’s a great way to deliver medicine. It is, unfortunately, an equally effective way of delivering toxic chemicals that can give you cancer, ADHD, brain damage, and yes, even slowly kill you.
I can hear some of you thinking, “Oh John, you’re so silly! There you go again, peddling fear porn. You’re such an exaggerator! There’s nothing wrong with my body wash, or shampoo, or sunscreen!” Well, the fact of the matter is that there are many studies indicating that countless chemicals commonly used in personal care products are incredibly toxic and remain perfectly legal. I know many of you lack the time to inform yourself about this stuff. Well, you’re in luck. You don’t have to research these matters because I’ll do it for you. Read on…
Historically Dangerous Chemicals
Here’s the trick. There has never been a study that definitively proves smoking causes cancer. So, you see, a given industry just has to spend a few million dollars a year to confuse people, buy some “scientific” studies, and “donate” money to friendly politicians. They can easily afford to do this for decades to maintain a cash cow. Nicolas Pineault reveals in The Non-Tinfoil Guide to EMFs that it took between 50 and 99 years from when the first health warning signs appeared before government moved to ban the sale of asbestos, lead in gasoline, trans fats, and PCE in tap water.2 Why does it take so long for government to act? Money? Power? Influence? Advertising? It’s still perfectly legal to buy cigarettes. At least now, it comes with a warning. The same warning label should, and will, I strongly suspect, apply to chemicals in household personal care products in the future. Most of us are unaware of the carcinogenic chemicals that are lurking in these products. We’re just too busy to keep up with these things. We are trained to think, “How could anything truly harmful be in there? Oh, the government would never allow that!” Or would it? Make no mistake, harmful chemicals are not only in many products you likely use, but also rubbing these carcinogenic, toxic chemicals on your skin is no different than ingesting them. They end up in your bloodstream. They become part of you.
There are a ton of products that I could cover that contain chemicals that we absorb through our skin. In this post, I am only going to cover a few products I, and I assume many of you, use on a daily basis. Be patient. I will, no doubt, cover more products, in some cases individually (deodorant), in the near future.
Sure enough, just as I suspected, some of the chemicals listed on the label of my shampoo are seriously problematic. Shampoos often contain parabens, which are widely used preservatives that prevent the growth of bacteria, mold and yeast. Parabens are endocrine disruptors that possess estrogen-mimicking properties that are associated with increased risk of breast cancer.3 My shampoo also contained synthetic colors. Synthetic colors are suspected to be a human carcinogen, a skin irritant and are linked to ADHD in children.4 The European Classification and Labeling considers it a human carcinogen and the European Union has banned it.5
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and/or sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) can be found in more than 90 percent of personal care and cleaning products including my former body wash. SLS’s are known to be skin, lung, and eye irritants. A major concern about SLS is its potential to interact and combine with other chemicals to form nitrosamines, a carcinogen.6 These combinations can lead to a host of other issues like kidney and respiratory damage.
Phthalates are a group of chemicals used in hundreds of products to increase the flexibility and softness of plastics. We covered phthalates, along with BPA, when we discussed drinking and eating out of plastic containers. They are known to be endocrine disruptors and have been linked to increased risk of breast cancer, early breast development in girls, and reproductive birth defects in males and females.7 You can have your BPA and phthalates levels tested, but it’s not cheap.
The most important thing to know about fragrances is that if you can smell it, you ingested it. You may as well have drunk it. “Oh, but it was just for a second?” That second may be all it takes to begin a chain of biochemical events that will kill you in 40 years. Think about the devastating effects of a single asbestos fiber lodged in one’s lung.
Fragrances are further alarming because the term was created to protect a company’s “secret formula.” But as the consumer you could be putting on a concoction of chemicals that are hazardous to your health. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), fragrance mixes have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system.8 Aside from perfume and cologne, fragrances can be found in many additional products such as conditioner, shampoo, body wash and moisturizers.
Sunscreen chemicals absorb ultraviolet light, keeping you from getting sunburned. These chemicals are often endocrine disruptors and are believed to be easily absorbed into the bloodstream. They may also cause cellular damage and cancer in the body. Common names are benzophenone, PABA, avobenzone, homosalate and methoxycinnamate.9 Parents around the world slather gobs of popular sunscreens all over there kids’ faces and bodies all summer long. They have no idea the risks they are rubbing all over their kids! It’s really not their fault. They trust their family practice doctor who told them to do it. Their dermatologist not only said the same thing, but stressed that daily sunscreen is essential. But did anyone think to consult an endocrinologist? He/she would likely say, “God no, don’t put that stuff on your kids or yourself! But here are a few equally effective, much safer alternatives.”
Sunscreen chemicals are so toxic, Hawaii recently outlawed some of the chemicals often found in sunscreen. They did it, however, not to protect humans, but to protect the coral reef. According to Slate Magazine,
“since research now suggests that oxybenzone and octinoxate, which show up in almost all major sunscreens, are harmful to the marine ecosystem, we seem to have a moral dilemma on our sunscreen-coated hands: ruin your skin, or ruin the environment. In a 2015 study, oxybenzone and octinoxate were found to contribute to coral bleaching (the scourge that has more or less destroyed the Great Barrier Reef), slow new coral growth, and disrupt marine life. Now Hawaii, seemingly unwilling to go down the same path as the Great Barrier Reef, has become the first state to ban the sale of sunscreen containing the coral-killing chemicals. The legislation, which still awaits the governor’s signature, won’t come into effect until 2021, giving sunscreen producers plenty of time to switch over to a safer formula. Hawaii’s ban leaves producers with two options: continue offering chemical sunscreens without oxybenzone and octinoxate or switch over to natural, mineral-based sunblocks.9
If these chemicals decimate coral reefs, what do you think they do to the human body? I believe nothing good, though it may not affect us for a few decades, at which point we will be incapable of determining a source of our health issue.
Many of you concluded I was fear mongering in the first paragraph or two of this article. How do you feel now? Is my title an exaggeration? It seems demonstrably true that there are known carcinogens and toxic chemicals in our shampoo, soap, body wash, moisturizers, fragrances, and sunscreen. The CDC informs us that we do, in fact, absorb chemicals through our skin. So, tell me, if we use these products containing these chemicals daily, how are you not rubbing deadly chemicals all over your face and body?
Most importantly, the changes you can make to protect yourself from these insidious chemicals is really simple. Familiarize yourself with EWG’s Skin Deep. EWG empowers people with information to protect themselves and their families from potentially dangerous chemicals. It will make this stuff super easy for you. As you’ll learn from EWG, all these popular products that are loaded with chemicals and constantly being aggressively marketed to us have alternatives. When I began exploring this topic, my first thought was getting a safe, healthy, effective alternative will cost a fortune and be nearly impossible to find. The fact is, there are a ton of healthy alternative options that in some cases are even cheaper and more effective than their toxic counterparts. They just aren’t marketed as effectively because, we, the consumers, are uninformed and do not demand the gargantuan corporations sell us products without these chemicals.
I won’t tell you exactly what brand and product I’m using to replace the aforementioned dangerous products, but I will give you a good idea and steer you in the right direction. I’ve chosen not to name specific products whenever possible because I got accused of being a deceptive advertiser over my whey protein post. I earn zero dollars from this site. In fact, it costs me money to maintain and operate. I do it because I enjoy it.
I use argan oil for both my shampoo and nightly moisturizer. I only recently started using moisturizer during this quest. I no longer wear cologne. I am hoping my natural pheromones are powerful enough to attract the ideal mate. They haven’t helped me much thus far, but I believe I may now be vibrating at a much, much higher frequency, so time will tell. For sunscreen, I look for products with zinc oxide. For body wash I inadvertently purchased a product designed for children. It works. I get clean. But forget what I am doing. Maybe you can figure out a better plan at EWG. Here are some sample screen shots to guide you.
I believe my policy regarding chemicals is the prudent one: “If a chemical that has been proven to be toxic or carcinogenic at any dose could have long term negative effects, why take a chance?” One thing is certain; the more pollution you ingest, whether you breath it, drink it, eat it, or rub it on your skin, the shorter your telomeres will be. As such, I choose to avoid these types of demonstrably harmful, commonly applied toxic beauty chemicals whenever I can. I hope you now do too.
1 SKIN EXPOSURES & EFFECTS. (2012, April 30). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/skin/
2 Pineault, N. (2017). The non-tinfoil guide to EMFs: How to fix our stupid use of technology. Charleston, SC: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
3 Cunningham, V. (2014, January 23). 10 Toxic Beauty Ingredients To Avoid. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/vanessa-cunningham/dangerous-beauty-products_b_4168587.html
4 Cunningham, V. (2014, January 23). 10 Toxic Beauty Ingredients To Avoid. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/vanessa-cunningham/dangerous-beauty-products_b_4168587.html
5 Cunningham, V. (2014, January 23). 10 Toxic Beauty Ingredients To Avoid. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/vanessa-cunningham/dangerous-beauty-products_b_4168587.html
6 Cunningham, V. (2014, January 23). 10 Toxic Beauty Ingredients To Avoid. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/vanessa-cunningham/dangerous-beauty-products_b_4168587.html
7 Cunningham, V. (2014, January 23). 10 Toxic Beauty Ingredients To Avoid. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/vanessa-cunningham/dangerous-beauty-products_b_4168587.html
8 FRAGRANCE. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/702512/FRAGRANCE/#
9 Withers, R. (2018, May 07). Hawaii Bans Coral-Killing Chemicals Because Sunscreen Producers Won’t. Retrieved from https://slate.com/technology/2018/05/hawaii-bans-coral-killing-chemicals-because-sunscreen-producers-wont.html