Thursday, September 17, 2009

Not food.

I could have painted some food, but instead I've decided to go a little off topic. I feel it's important to post about beauty products, many of the natural and organic products out there contain many synthetic ingredients. Chemicals and preservatives that have been banned for use in food are still found in our cosmetics, hair products, and other toiletries. Ingredients that have been banned for cosmetic use in Asia and Europe are used here, the United States has the most relaxed cosmetic standards in the world. In fact, the FDA does not review – nor does it have the authority to regulate – what goes into cosmetics before they are marketed to salons and consumers.

Many relatively safe chemicals have names very similar to the stuff you want to stay away from. It's important to know which is which. I check my products and ingredients at a website created by the Environmental Working Group called Skin Deep.

My Aunt Cathy died from cancer yesterday. I know so many people who have had cancer. I often ask myself "where does this come from? what has changed?" Residents of Marin County, Ca were found to be at a higher than normal risk for developing breast cancer. After extensive studies researches came to the conclusion that the cause was not found in the water, soil, or air. The study found that affluence, education, and life style were the primary reasons behind the increased risk. There are many reasons that women develop breast cancer, but scientists pinpointed higher alcohol consumption and bearing children late in life, as the specific causes of breast cancer in Marin County. These findings were compared with results of studies done in Malibu, Beverly Hills, and the upper-middle class areas of New Jersey, Maryland and New York. Researchers noticed higher rates of breast cancer in these areas too. I believe it's possible that this may be due to higher consumption of beauty products and chemical treatments of affluent women. If I had more money I would buy more products!

Two SF Gate articles about the study:
Breast cancer amid affluence

Marin County rate blamed on lifestyle, demographics

Twenty breast tumors were tested and parabens were found in every sample. Researchers believe the chemicals seep through the skin, especially while bathing when pores are open. Parabens have created a big debate over their safety, they seem to mimic the action of female estrogen which may explain the growth of cancerous breast tumors. The cosmetic industry says their safe, but there is room for doubt. Many women are concerned with deodorant and antiperspirants, presumably because of aluminum content as well as parabens. I use Tom's Of Maine deodorant, the apricot smell is nice and it does a great job.

Another one to watch out for is sulfates. Sulfates are responsible for the bubbling suds effect of soap mixed with water. I was surprised when I read this, it basically reduces every shampoo I have ever used to dish washing detergent. A study at the Medical College of Georgia, indicated that sulfates penetrate the eyes and prevents children's eyes from developing properly and caused cataracts to develop in adults. The main problem with sulfates is that they clean by corroding. This is very damaging to our skin and hair and may lead to skin rashes and chronic acne. Sulfates strip the protective lipids from the skins surface so it can't effectively regulate moisture. Our skin compensates for this harsh dryness by becoming oilier, which perpetuates the problem. Sulfates in toothpaste may lead to ulcers. The scariest problem created by Sulfates is hair loss, follicle by follicle.

Another serious problem is the possibility of nitrate contamination. Sulfates react with other chemicals in your products and form nitrates, cancer causing carcinogens. To compound the problem it appears that sulfates have a higher than normal level of absorption, they can penetrate our skin deeply and are retained in our tissues for a very long time. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Toxicology found that “high levels of skin penetration may occur at even low use concentration.”

Parabens and sulfates aren't the only concern. I've heard of cancer causing sun screen, tooth paste that wears away your enamel, lip stick with lead in it, mercury and formaldehyde in mascara! I encourage you to check everything and research every chemical, you can't be too safe! Cosmetic companies are responding to the demand for cleaner products, although the products I've tried have been hit or miss. Recently I purchased Physician's Formula Organic Wear mascara, and I was very impressed. It smells like oranges and honey and washes off easily. It's certified organic by EcoCert.

New York Times: Natural, Organic Beauty

The Washingtonian: More than Skin Deep

Organic Beauty Magazine

Green America: The Ugly Side of Cosmetics

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, this website has information about the cosmetic laws in Canada and Europe

All Natural Beauty, this website has tons of recipes for homemade beauty treatments.

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