I never gave much thought to what chemicals I was putting in and on my body. It never occurred to me that I could be making myself sick. My daily beauty routine had a solitary purpose; to look, smell, & feel pretty. I would have never thought something as seemingly innocuous as my boxed red hair dye or lipstick could cause me to develop a deadly illness.
After being diagnosed with Non Hodgkins Lymphoma I had all these questions haunting me like “how could this happen?”, “why do I have this?”, & of course the initial pity party question “why me?”. As I began researching potential causes of my disease I had no idea what a rabbit hole I was entering. As I found some answers, the answers seemed to only bring new questions.
I learned that Follicular Lymphoma IS NOT passed down to the next generation. In other words, it isn’t causes by genes but by changes in the genes after birth. According to the American Cancer Society, it isn’t fully understood what causes most Non Hodgkin’s Lymphomas. There are however strong correlations to:
- Being exposed to:
- Hair dye
- Gasoline and Petroleum Products
- Change in immune system caused by:
- Chronic Infection
- Immune Deficiency
- Autoimmune Disease
- Being Male
- Age (50 and over)
Turns out I had quite a few of these links. I had quit smoking a few years prior so the obvious first step was abandoning my signature red hair. This was a difficult to accept. I had dyed my hair bright red for well over a decade. I loved my hair color and did not want to part with it. I would eventually happily learn there are plenty of healthier chemical free alternatives. In fact for every beauty item I would eventually sacrifice to the god of health, I would find there is almost always safer nontoxic substitutes. In addition there are tons of easy nontoxic DIY products anyone can make at home.
Let’s talk “beauty ” products!
According to the trade magazine In-Cosmetics, “the average woman absorbs 4 lbs 6 oz of chemicals from toiletries and makeup every year”. I repeat…ABSORBS! That’s like 3/4 of a gallon. Or like two 40 oz, for those that can picture that image (you know who you are). Combine this with another study by Bionsen Research which found that the average UK woman puts 515 synthetic chemicals on her body each and every day. This study doesn’t even include the 1300 cosmetic chemicals banned by the European Union but still allowed and in full use in the states. Also according to this study, “these chemicals include known and probable carcinogens, neurotoxins, and reproductive toxins that lead to infertility”. Below, I’ve added direct links to the articles I’ve referenced. They note how many chemicals we use, how often, and how little we know about them as a culture…or for that matter, care to know. It is also highlighted how much more elaborate our daily routines have become. In this day of Instagram perfection, consider all the makeup, hair products, and manicure items it takes to reach this new level of “beauty”.
These are things that I personally rarely considered. This post is not intended to be a lecture but to hopefully shed some light on the topic as well as insight others to make more health conscious decisions. For me this process did not happen overnight. There was no dramatic upheaval or garbage bag full of the products I suddenly decided to ditch. Instead, I slowly trained my mindset to view the products that I wash, moisturize, deodorize, & beautify my body with (skin, hair, nails) as part of my health routine. Over the last 4 years, it has become as integral a part as vitamins, exercise, and diet.
So there’s chemicals in my lotion, so what!?
Let’s put it this way. Everyone knows that our skin is the largest organ in our body. Well, it also absorbs anything that we put on it. It is estimated that we absorb 64% of whatever we put on our skin. A perfect example of this the common use of topical creams, & pain/nicotine/birth control patches.
Items we use daily on our skin:
- Moisturizers/eye cream
- Hand soap
- Hand Sanitizer
- Makeup (should be its own category)
- Hair dye
- Hair spray/hair products
- Shampoo/dry shampoo
- Bug spray
- Perfume/body spray
- Shaving cream
- Nail polish remover
- Nail polish
All of these items and more should be considered suspect.
The top deadly 10 in beauty and makeup
- Formaldehyde (carcinogen, neurotoxin, asthma, developmental problems)
- Oxybenzone (endocrine disruptor, thyroid disruptor, allergen)
- Parabens (mimics estrogen, linked to breast cancer & breast tumors)
- Fragrance (unspecified & not required to specify)
- Toluene (toxic, immune system inhibitor, can cause birth defects, avoid especially if pregnant)
- Sodium Lauryl (or Laureth) Sulfate (SLS/SLES) (carcinogen & allergen)
- Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) (contains known carcinogens and linked to respiratory illnesses)
- Phthalates (DBP/DEHP/DEP) (endocrine disruptor, causes hormonal/reproductive problems and birth defects)
- Triclosan (antibacterial agent now banned from use in health care settings yet still in full use in cosmetics. Causes antibiotic resistance, endocrine disruptor, contributes to gut inflammation & possible tumor growth)
- Diethanolamine (DEA) (restricted by the EU but still used in the states. Carcinogen & respiratory toxin)
What can I do about it anyways?
I have noticed that things are slowly getting better. There are companies and watch groups looking out for us these days. However, I believe self regulation is the best thing we can do to improve our health.
- Know your ingredients and what to watch out to for.
- Know your brands and which ones are the cleanest.
- Ignore sayings on labels such as “natural “, “unscented “, “green”, “nontoxic “, etc. Since these things are not regulated,
- companies can pretty much use any wording they want.
- Insist on buying products that use ingredient transparency. A lot of trickery is going on out there. Along with pretty wording, companies use abbreviations to disguise what’s in their products.
- Finally , check out the Environmental Working Group’s “Skin Deep Database” online. They have a very strict rating system for products. In recent years they began putting their seal of approval on some products. On a scale of 1-10, products have to be a 1 or 2 and meet an assortment of other criteria to be approved. Out of 78,000 products listed, so far only 1593 have been given this coveted seal.
This is such a tremendous and vast topic. I’m certain in the future I will write more on specific products I like, items I make at home, etc. Please comment below anything you would like to add to this conversation or anything you would like me to delve deeper into.