In 2004, a six-month study involving more than 10,000 personal care products and 2,300 participants was conducted. Researchers found that the average adult uses on average about nine personal care products each day, containing 126 different chemicals. The study also found that more than 250,000 women, and one out of every 100 men, use an average of 15 products daily. Shocking statistic?
Putting chemicals on your skin or scalp is not as benign as you think. In fact it may actually be worse than eating them. When you eat something, the enzymes in your saliva and stomach help to break it down and flush it out of your body. However, when you put these chemicals on your skin, they are absorbed straight into your bloodstream without filtering of any kind, going directly to your delicate organs. Once these chemicals find their way into your body, they tend to accumulate over time because you typically lack the necessary enzymes to break them down.
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The Problem With Soap
A common ingredient in personal care products, sodium lauryl sulfate, or SLS, is an additive that allows cleansing products to foam. Sodium lauryl sulfate is a surfactant, detergent, and emulsifier used in thousands of cosmetic products, as well as in industrial cleaners. It is present in nearly all shampoos, scalp treatments, hair color and bleaching agents, toothpastes, body washes and cleansers, make-up foundations, liquid hand soaps, laundry detergents, and bath oils/bath salts. According to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database, SLS is a “moderate hazard” that has been linked to cancer, neurotoxicity, organ toxicity, skin irritation and endocrine disruption.
We know that sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is one of the most sensitizing cleansing agents used in skincare products. In fact, it’s considered a standard comparison substance for measuring the skin sensitization of other ingredients. In scientific studies, when the researchers want to establish whether or not an ingredient is problematic for skin, they compare its effect to that of SLS.
16,000 Studies About SLS
According to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep: Cosmetic Safety Reviews, studies on SLS have shown links to irritation of the skin and eyes, organ toxicity, developmental/reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, ecotoxicology, and biochemical or cellular changes, even possible mutations and cancer
According to Environmental Working Group’s (EWG), there are nearly 16,000 studies (in the PubMed science library) about the toxicity of this chemical. Clearly, there are grounds for concern about using products containing SLS.
While high levels of SLS intake, either orally or through the skin, are not the norm in daily cosmetics use—it’s the gradual, cumulative effects of long-term, repeated exposures that are cause for concern. It’s not just repeated exposure to one chemical—it’s the combined effect of thousands of little chemical exposures, day in and day out, that is of concern.
What’s Your Total Toiletry Toxicity (TTT)?
Did you know that, if you use conventional cosmetics on a daily basis, you can absorb almost five pounds of chemicals and toxins into your body each year? Daily use of seemingly benign personal care products like shampoo, toothpaste and shower gel can easily result in exposure to thousands of chemicals, with many making their way into your body. Since you lack the means to break them down, they can over time accumulate to toxic levels. This toxic load can become a significant contributing factor to health problems and serious diseases, especially for the predisposed.
Women, who are more predisposed to autoimmune disorders such as thyroid disease, fibromyalgia, and multiple sclerosis may find these findings troubling. Perhaps one of the major contributing factors to their higher incidence of autoimmune disorders is that women tend to use far more personal products than men? Is your make-up cabinet a toxic wasteland? It is especially challenging to establish a link between these routine chemical exposures and health problems down the road, because the adverse effects might not show up for years. While there is no concrete link, the possibility of a causal link cannot be denied.
How to Lower Your Total Toiletry Toxicity (TTT)?
We are not saying you should use absolutely nothing on your skin. We recognize the value in modern day skincare—- applying sunscreen, recharging our skin with vital antioxidants and nourishing it with essential moisturisers. What we are saying is that we should make a conscious decision to avoid ingredients that can do more harm than good.
Here are some ways you can lower your TTT while still enjoying the benefits of quality skincare.
- Back to the basics. Instead of applying 30 products on your face each day, be a label reader and find out what ingredients are on your products. Choose the ingredients that you need and stick to that.
- Wherever possible, go soap-free. It isn’t true that your skin has to feel tight to be squeaky clean. Your skin probbaly feels tight because the soap has stripped it of its normal lipids, compromising your skin barrier function. Try using gentle soap-free cleansers such as Skin Gym or Warm Vanilla.
- Buy products that come in glass bottles rather than plastic, since chemicals can leach out of plastics and into the contents. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a serious concern; make sure any plastic container is BPA free.
- Drink water: Consuming plenty of filtered or distilled water each day can assist your body in flushing out toxins. What an inexpensive way to stay healthy?
- Rainbow selection of veggies: Eat lots of vibrantly colored organic vegetables (and fruits, in moderation) to keep your body well stocked with antioxidants.
- Be selective: Just as no two vitamin serum is the same, be aware of the quality of the products you are getting. Look for products that are made by companies that are earth-friendly, animal-friendly and green.
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