Tips for Safer Cosmetics

My own personal research into the effects of chemicals on our health–this is decades of research into effective methods to remove chemicals and address residual affects–has only strengthened my resolve to find pure, effective skincare products that are a good value for money. I’m tired of seeing $50 price tags on 2oz of “night serum” or “daily moisturizer” made from cheap and harmful chemicals just put in a pretty wrapper.

Contrary to popular belief, the U.S. government doesn’t regulate cosmetics for safety, long-term health impacts or environmental damage. Many common cosmetics ingredients are harmful to people and the environment. 

Just like in our food supply, there are the pretenders: labels say “all natural”, “infused with herbs” or even “made with organic” or worse yet simply stating “organic” on the label when this is a figment of the manufacturer’s imagination but is an allowable marketing ploy because cosmetics labels are not regulated.

A little more ethical are those companies that do include small amounts of organic ingredients, just enough to legitimately say that on the label, but also use chemicals–most of which are harmful.

Then there are those excellent companies who look beyond the profit margin to earn bonafide certifications for being organic or free of animal cruelty or otherwise careful with their ingredients and manufacturing procedures.

There are two key ways to avoid toxic ingredients and other unethical practices: 1. read the ingredients labels; and 2. buy only those with the “badges” you find important, minimally the USDA Organic certification if you truly want to avoid chemicals. Only when a 3rd party governing body certifies the entire product, can you be sure of a genuine claim:

USDA Organic seal

If it carries the USDA Organic badge then it meets those standards. Ingredients are grown in unadulterated soils, free of pesticides or chemical fertilizers, harvested cleanly, minimally processed without risk of contamination and stored correctly to maintain their nutrient value.

The Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics' (CCIC) Leaping Bunny Program

Some of the more reputable companies also refuse to test on animals. The Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics’ (CCIC) Leaping Bunny Program administers an internationally recognized cruelty-free standard providing the best assurance of no animal testing used in any phase of product development.

recycled packaging

The Recycled label ensures packaging is made with at least 25% post-consumer recycled content, and everything is recyclable. On a day-to-day basis, I hope everyone makes a conscious effort to recycle, re-use, and re-think the use of resources used in consumer products.

Gluten freeThe gluten free label is important to those who have Celiac’s disease or other gluten sensitivities or allergies. Gluten-containing, grain-based products may react when used on your skin.

 

Vegan means no animal products or testing

The “vegan” logo identifies products that do not contain animal products or byproducts and that have not been tested on animals.

As for the labels, everything that applies to your food applies here:

  1. The ingredients are listed by content: The first 3 to 4 ingredients listed on the ingredients label make up between 90% and 95% of the entire product. The last 3 to 5 ingredients on the label amount to approximately 1% to 3% of the entire product. Takes a little thinking though: if a (usually very concentrated) herbal infusion is the 2nd on the list, which is usual, after water, the product is probably 95% water.
  2. Can you even read the label? If you can’t, if it is a bunch of biochemistry mumbo jumbo–and especially those key first 3-4 ingredients, then skip it and buy something else. The organic primrose oil promoted on the pretty packaging is overshadowed by the PEG, parabens, pthalates and other harsh chemicals that make up the bulk of the ingredients.

With this in mind, you can choose a really great brand that works for you.

I don’t usually promote specific brands on this blog, but the one I use just went on sale–and who doesn’t love a sale? Thought you might like to know. Nourish Organic long ago met my standards including its high quality/low price; but now it’s 40% off. Plus, with any order over $50 and shipping is free.

Nourish Organic 40% Off

What you really need to do about radiation…

While it is true that several United States EPA air monitors, including Anchorage, are now detecting above normal radioactive iodine levels following the Fukushima nuclear plant incident in Japan, these levels are still far below the levels of public health concern and we do not expect harmful levels of radiation in our state. For a full map of detection sites and reports please visit here: (http://www.epa.gov/japan2011/)

As explained in an earlier report, taking iodine as a preventive measure is not a wise choice and can cause serious health problems, even though some fear-driven reporting has recommended doing so. Not to make small of the Japan incident, it truly has affected an enormous number of lives.

At current levels of detection the best preventive approach is to make sure your body has the tools it needs to resist environmental stressors of all kinds. Your body should be able to withstand minor amounts of radiation and there are ways to improve your resilience.

There is and always have been background levels of radiation, toxic substances, and infectious disease here on planet earth. We are constantly bombarded by stressors. The difference between people who get sick and those who don’t is whether or not their bodies have enough key building blocks and not too many stressors, environmental stress as well as emotional stress. A person living off caffeine and fast-food to “get up the energy” for a job that they hate will be more susceptible than the person who has a wholesome diet and a purposeful life.

To put the radiation in perspective, the nearly 2000 experimental nuclear detonations between 1945 and 1998 by the US, Russia, and a good number of other countries produced far greater increases in levels of radiation throughout the world—levels that can still be detected. We can’t rule out negative health effects from the increase resulting from the Japan incident, but any media focus on iodine and thyroid is misguided.

All radiation changes the way atoms move around, the way they vibrate. In other words, there are changes to the physical properties of substances when under the influence of electromagnetic fields, microwave, visible light, heat, etc. One type of radiation, ionizing radiation, has so much energy that it can break chemical bonds. When this happens, parts of the original substance break away from the atom and those parts travel across a distance. We have heard how this sort of radiation can mutate DNA. More commonly, the energy from ionizing radiation causes harm by producing “free radicals”—this occurs when an atom loses an electron and makes that molecule very chemically reactive.

Free radicals are associated with an increased risk of many chronic diseases and also come from smoking, pollution, poisons, fried foods, and as a by-product of normal metabolism. Free radicals cause harmful chemical reactions that can damage cells in the body, making it harder for the body to fight off infections. They also damage organs and tissues.

The important building blocks to help manage free radical damage are your antioxidants. These are the nutrients your body uses to replace those lost electrons so the compounds are not so chemically reactive.

Good sources of antioxidants are whole foods that contain real (not synthetic) vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E and selenium plus a powerhouse compound known as alpha-lipoic acid. Synthetic vitamins can actually cause nutrient imbalances and you often need mega amounts of them to create an effect because they are not actually the bonafide, whole vitamin.

Some of these antioxidants we hear about every day: vitamins A, C and E. While they are great, alpha; lipoic acid deserves your attention. Vitamin C works only in water, vitamins A and E help mostly fatty tissues. Alpha-lipoic acid is both fat- and water-soluble. Alpha-lipoic acid is an antioxidant that is made by the body and is found in every cell, where it helps turn glucose into energy. That means it can work everywhere throughout the body.

Alpha-lipoic acid is a “universal” antioxidant. Why? Because it helps recycle other important antioxidants. As your vitamin A, C or E neutralizes the free radical by replenishing those lost electrons, the vitamin itself now becomes non-functional. Alpha-lipoic acid restores functionality by restoring the lost electrons.

Although our bodies can make lipoic acid, the best way to get it is from our food. You can obtain alpha-lipoic acid as a supplement but most of the over-the-counter products are the inactive S-Alpha Lipoic Acid, a synthetic version that is inactive. The richest source of alpha lipoic acid is red meat (especially organ meats) and green leafy vegetables such as spinach, chard and kale, as well as broccoli. In the case of spinach (one of the Environmental Working Group’s “dirty dozen”) and meats, it is important to purchase only those produced under organic standards.

As for meats, the typical feed lot product on the meat shelf is laden with antibiotics and hormones that produce free radicals while in the animals as well as in your body after your consume them. Plants that are not organic, or are not fresh, likely have their own contaminants including pesticides, herbicides, and/or may be genetically modified, to produce pesticides or resist herbicides (meaning they can grow in soils doused with powerful plant killers, thus absorbing them before they become your food).

Again, the bottom line to maintain health is to give your body the genuine building blocks it needs and minimize the stressors. While we may not be able to control the small elevations in radiation that are due to the unfortunate situation in Japan, we certainly can give our bodies antioxidant-rich whole foods and put in place effective stress management strategies; especially those that emphasize our unique purposes and goals—whatever they may be.

If you are in the Anchorage area, come see us to find out your unique  needs. After all, we all have unique lifestyles and individual situations. Nutrition Response Testing and Designed Clinical Nutrition are the perfect tools to answer what your unique body actually needs to have the health you deserve.