One day, while lying in the bath with nothing in particular to do, I grabbed the bottle and started reading the label. “This bath will gently cleanse your skin, helping to leave it feeling soft and smooth.” Sounds good!
I went on to read the ingredients; Aqua, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Cocamide DEA, Sodium Chloride, Parfum, Glycol Stearate, Tetrasodium EDTA, Citric Acid, Formaldehyde, Polyquaternium-7, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Sodium Hydroxide. Quite a cocktail of chemicals. And then my warning sensors went off.
Below the ingredients was a boldly printed warning advising to “Avoid getting into eyes.” If this soap is so great for the skin, why should it be so harmful to the eyes? I thought I’d investigate. But it is not just in bubble bath that one finds chemicals harmful to the skin. They are also in toothpaste, shampoo, shaving cream and cleansers. In trying to find products that do not contain these harmful chemicals I visited supermarkets, pharmacies, and health food stores. Surprisingly, almost all of them had a lot of chemicals in them. However, it is possible to find alternatives; you just need to check the ingredients label carefully.
Your skin is part of your body’s largest organ – your skin is a living, breathing organ that is constantly renewing itself. You wouldn’t expose an organ like your heart to harsh chemicals, so why your skin? You probably didn’t even know that many of the skin care products you use every day have harsh chemicals that erode your skin. Are you aware that the cosmetics industry in North America is a big business with 50 billion in sales each year? Lots of them claim how good the products are at rejuvenating the skin by reducing wrinkles, lines and working anti-aging etc. But do you really know what the ingredients are in these products? Health Canada does maintain a “Cosmetic Hotlist” specifying ingredients that are not permitted in cosmetics or are subject to certain restrictions. But the list does not have the same authority as legislated regulations and several ingredients that are banned from use in cosmetics in Europe. Dibutyl phthalate, for example, are not on the hotlist.
The US have laws where it is mandatory for companies to provide a label with ingredients, but only chemists understand their purpose and dermatologist their problems. It seems that a large percentage of the population is suffering adverse consequences when using products containing many harmful chemicals and synthetic ingredients.
Companies selling cosmetics and personal care products, hiding controversial or dangerous ingredients under the label of “trade secrets”. Because of intense competition in the industry, if a company believes it uses an ingredient that is relatively new to the industry or make their products unique, it can petition the FDA (or in Canada, Health Canada) to prevent disclosure of that ingredient by granting trade secret status. It is that easy! This spells delight for the company and disaster for you! In North America literally thousands of people are suffering from adverse effects when using cosmetic products and most people don’t associate burning sensations, reddening of the skin or pimples, rashes with a cosmetic product they are using. People simply discontinue using the product but seldom report it to the FDA or Health Canada.
Many chemicals used in cosmetics never cause signs of toxicity on the skin, but contain potent systemic toxins. What can you do to protect yourself and your family? Read all labels and learn to decipher some of the chemical jargon. An explanation of many chemicals that are hazardous and dangerous your skin and health can be found online. Understanding the long-term effects of these chemicals and which products contain them is the first step in avoiding disastrous results for you and your loved ones. If nothing else, this information will make you a more informed consumer, one aware of the potential risks. Most importantly…it could save your life!
Bob Mehr, BSc (Pharm) CEO, Pure Integrative Pharmacy