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Going non-toxic with personal care products, by Sharyn Wynters

As a former actress, and as someone who is still very much in the public eye, it’s important for me to look my best. But looking good doesn’t mean I succumb to mainstream personal care products filled with toxic ingredients. In today’s world there are dozens of alternatives.

As a former actress, and as someone who is still very much in the public eye, it’s important for me to look my best. But looking good doesn’t mean I succumb to mainstream personal care products filled with toxic ingredients. In today’s world there are dozens of alternatives.

The average individual uses nine different personal care products every day. I use more than that. The difficulty lies in the fact that traditional personal care products are loaded with toxic ingredients—everything from lead and formaldehyde (which arenot required to be included on the list of ingredients)—to solvents, plasticizers, pre- servatives, antimicrobials, dyes, and bonding agents. No matter how small the amount, many of these substances mimic hormones and they accumulate with daily use.

Most people never give a second thought to the things they put on their bodies. Yet you should be aware that your skin is your largest organ. Applying products such as lotions, deodorants, moisturizers, fragranc- es, lipstick, and shampoos is really the same thing as ingesting these products through your skin. They are carried to your bloodstream even though they do not go through your digestive system. Consider the ingredients in your shampoo or in your moisturizer? Would you want to eat them?

The personal care industry is allowed the broadest “playing field” of any industry when it comes to its choice of ingredients. They have the fewest restrictions and they are notorious for concealing hazardous ingredients. In 2000, a group of researchers began a quest to discover the hidden ingredients in cosmetics. Their search led them inside the offices of the largest cosmetics companies in the country. Three discoveries topped the list of their findings:

1. The cosmetics industry has known for over twenty-five years that many of the chemicals used in personal care products cause cancer, birth defects, and reproductive damage.

2. The cosmetics industry is the least regulated of all the FDA-regulated industries.

3. The cosmetics industry is allowed the freedom to make recommendations to the FDA, telling the FDA what is safe and what is not. (Sort of like the fox guarding the henhouse.)

You and I would like to believe that the ingredients in the products on our store shelves are safe, but the truth is, often they are not. For example, did you know:

• The term fragrance indicates the possible presence of up to five thousand different chemicals. Many compounds included under the term fragrance are human toxins and are suspected or proven carcinogens. Exposure to fragrances can affect the central nervous system, causing depression, hyperactivity, irritability, and other behavioral changes. You can avoid these chemicals by choosing products fragranced with pure essential oils.

• Artificial colorings are certified colors listed on labels as FD&C or D&C. The letters F, D, and C stand for food, drugs, and cosmetics, indicating their approved uses. Besides being made of coal tar and petroleum, artificial colorings may contain heavy metals such as lead and mercury.

• The paraben family of chemicals (including methyl paraben, ethyl paraben, propyl paraben, butyl paraben, and isobutyl paraben), are used as preservatives and are included in a wide range of products. These chemicals have been nicknamed gender benders because they mimic the female hormone estrogen and are thought to be partly responsible for the decrease in male fertility and an increase in early puberty for young girls. Grape seed extract and rosemary extract are natural alternatives to the paraben preservatives.

• The same germ killers used in bathroom disinfectants (phenol, cresol, and ethanol), are often used in mouthwash. Some mouthwashes and toothpastes list a 1-800 number to a poison control facility in case of swallowing—a good clue to the toxicity of the ingredients.

• The term nontoxic can mean that less than half of the laboratory animals died within two weeks when exposed during laboratory trials. The term hypoallergenic only minimizes the occurrence of well-known allergens. The word natural is meaningless. The term is entirely unregulated.

Most people are still unaware of the hazards of the toxins in health and beauty products. There are lots of things to watch for and it can be overwhelming. To make it easy for people, I have provided a list of companies and products for the discerning consumer in the sources section in my latest book, SURVIVE! A Family Guide to Thriving in a Toxic World. The chapter on personal care products contains information on skin and hair products, cosmetics, deodorants, sun protectants, insect repellants, exfoliants, feminine hygiene products, wrinkle treatments, and more. When it comes to looking and feeling my best, personal care products can make a big difference. I look for the very best and so should you.

Sharyn Wynters is a naturopath and author. Her book can be purchased from her website at www.wyntersway.com