Here we are in the first week of 2017 and we are officially entering "Detox Season". The new year always brings resolutions or new intentions for healthier living and this is a good thing! Detoxification and cleansing programs are a critical part of disease prevention and health maintenance and it is something we all must be doing a couple of times a year to keep our cells "purring like kitten" so to speak. But here's the thing...we can do cleansing and detox programs for our body all we want, but if we're not cleaning up our environment we will never truly make any progress in cleaning up our bodies. One of the most toxic environments in our lives is our bathroom and the personal care products that we pump, lather, smear and brush over our bodies each and every day. That's right, we take in and pump out a heck of a lot of pollutants in the name of looking and feeling good, and it's causing a host of health problems.
There is a lot of pressure, especially on us women, to look and smell a certain way. All you have to do is open up a magazine or surf around the internet and you're bombarded by advertisements for the latest and greatest moisturizers, shampoos and hair styling products, deodorants, exfoliating scrubs, anti-cellulite creams, firming lotions, perfumes limp plumpers, bronzers and more. And men cannot escape the insanity either. The pressure put on them is just as intense as it is for women, although they're fortunate enough to not have to work with quite as many products as women are expected to.
In a perfect world we could walk into any drug store, pick up a product and take it home with a sense of security that it is free of harmful ingredients. Unfortunately, this is not the case and, sadly, Health Canada isn't doing a proper job in looking out for the health of Canadians as it is supposed to do when it comes to the products we use on a daily basis. While they have put together a "List of Prohibited and Restricted Cosmetic Ingredients", no one is actually policing it. Health Canada does not pre-screen products to make sure that they are free of cancer-causing or long-term health ravaging chemicals. Even if a prohibited ingredient shows up in a product, Health Canada won't say a word to the public and will simply suggest to the manufacturer of that product that they consider marketing the product as a drug or natural health product. SAY WHAT?!! Nice to know we're being protected (**insert sarcasm**).
Just like the food industry, the beauty industry is a sneaky and clever bunch. They know the key words to slap on the front of packaging to entice consumers to reach out and add products to their shopping baskets. Even more clever are the manufacturers who will specifically label their products as paraben or SLS (sodium lauryl sulphate) free. This makes them better right? Not so fast! What have those parabens and SLS been replaced with? Just because a product is labeled "paraben-free" or "SLS-free" doesn't mean that it is automatically safe and clean for use. You need to KNOW your ingredients and know how to read the labels of products in order to protect you and your family members.
The Offenders (source - Ecoholic Body by Adria Vasil)
The following is a list of the 15 worst offenders when it comes to personal care products. If you see these ingredients on a label, put the product back and keep looking for a less-toxic product.
#1: BHA and BHT - preservatives, suspected endocrine disruptors and potential carcinogens (California actually warns its consumers about the potential link between BHA/BHT and cancer).
#2 - DEA (diethanolamine) - reacts to preservatives in cosmetics to form nitrosamines, which may cause cancer. This ingredient is banned in Europe. Also avoid MEA (air pollutant in ammonia-free products) and TEA since both can be contaminated with DEA.
#3 - Formaldehyde-releasing preservaties - Yes, FORMALDEHYDE - a known carcinogen. These ingredients have been banned in Europe. Look for ingredients labeled as:
#4 - Oxybenzone (BP-3/benzophenone) and Octinoxate (octyl methoxycinnamate) - two of the worst sunscreen chemicals. Oxybenzone is found in 97% of the human population, is a potential hormone disruptor linked to lower birth rates in baby girls as well as allergic reactions. Octinoxate is another suspected endocrine disruptor and mild estrogen mimicker linked to thyroid imbalances.
#5 - Palm Oil (or anything with "palm" or "palmate") - this is a substitue for petroleum-based ingredients and is not so much health concern but a major environmental nightmare. Rainforests and savannahs are being dessicrated in Malaysia and Indonesia for these products. The health of the planet is not worth sacrificing for our looking good!
#6 - Parabens - preservatives that mimick estrogen. One study found parabens in breast cancer tissues and several other studies have found that various parabens may interfere with male reproductive functioning. Look for things like "methylparaben", "propylparaben" and "butylparaben" on labels.
#7 - Parfum/Fragrance - this is a huge problem with personal care products. There is no regulation when it comes to what constitutes a "parfum" or "fragrance" listing on an ingredient panel. Any synthetic fragrance can contain up to 700 chemical ingredients in and of itself, including hormone disruptors, carcinogens and allergy/asthma triggering compounds. Truly natural products will come with no fragrance at all, or will be scented with pure essential oils (and will say so on the packaging).
#8 -PEGs (polyethylene glycol compounds and anything with "eth" in its name) - these are often contaminated with 1,4-Dioxane which is classified as a parobable human carcinogen.
#9 - Petrolatum/parraffin/mineral oil/petroleum distillates - Just think about it...PETROLEUM. Do you really want to smear this stuff on your face/lips/body/hair? These ingredients can be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and, in Europe, petrolatum is not allowed in cosmetics unless the manufacturer can provide a full refinery history to prove that it is not a carcinogen. Canada doesn't do that.
#10 - PPD - think permanent hair dyes, even the drug-store varieties. This ingredient is a known cancer-causing agent and is linked to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. It can also be listed as:
#11 - Phthalates - this is where manufactures can get REALLY sneeky, often hiding this ingredient behind the term "fragrance". Always look for the phrase "phthalate-free" and then be wary. Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) are two phthalates that have been banned from toys but are still allowed in cosmetics.
#12 - Retinyl Palmitate - this ingredient is often found in anti-aging and acne creams and is particulary dangerous when combined with sunlight. Studies show that Retinyl palmitate seems to speed up the carcinogenic effect of UV rays in mice which is a problem, especially when we know that exposure to UV rays already increase our risk for skin cancer. If you are using a product with this ingredient, be sure to stay out of the sun!
#13 - Siloxanes - Avoid any cyclo-ingredients that contain the word "siloxane" or "methicone" which are silicone-based polymers that are known to be toxic to fish and aquatic life and linger in our environment for way too long. Environment Canada is in the process of restricting these ingredients but, as with all government processes, it's going to take a long time. So look for silicone/siloxane-free products while you're shopping.
#14 - Sodium Laureth Sulphate - a foaming agent which, like PEGs, is quite often contaminated with carcinogenic 1,4-Dioxane. Sodium LAURYL Sulphate has been getting a bad rap in recent years but it's mostly just an irritant. Sodium Laureth Sulphate is the real bad guy out of the two.
#15 - Triclosan/Triclocarban - this is an antibacterial ingredient that you will find in all of those hand-sanitizer squirt bottles that are literally everywhere, as well as acne cleansing products. These ingredients are suspected thyroid disruptors and studies are showing that they may be linked to antibiotic resistance. It is extremely toxic to aquatic life and is showing up in dolphins at levels known to disrupt the development in other animals.
Is your head spinning yet? How on earth do we protect ourselves when it seems like the cosmetic and personal care industry doesn't give a #(%@ about our well-being and there is little to no screening of our products to ensure that they are safe?
What You Can Do to Protect Yourself and Your Family
The one thing to keep in mind is that YOU are in control of what comes into your home and what goes onto your body! To help you stay in control, here are my recommendations for cleaning up what is almost certainly the most toxic room in our homes:
So, as you head into Detox Season with wonderful intentions of improving the health of your cells, your liver, your kidneys and your overall health, don't forget that you can detox your body all you want but if you're not also detoxing your environment, you're not making the progress you actually are wanting to make. We live in a toxic world and, in many cases, we don't have control over the toxins we are exposed to. The one area we DO have control over is our home and what we put in and on our body. Want to detox your environment AND your body? Check out my Blissful 14-Day Detox program to kick start your New Year. Here's to a clean and Blissful 2017!
If you would like to explore how working with a holistic nutritionist can help you achieve your best and most vibrant health, please feel free contact me at email@example.com or by phone at 519.404.9919 to schedule your free 15 minute discovery session to discuss how I can help you reach your goals.
Jill Taylor is a Certified Holistic Nutritionist based in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. She is the mom of two pretty awesome teenagers, s very dramatic dog, a hedgehog and a snake (yikes!). Jill assists her clients in achieving true wellness through thoughtful and compassionate dietary and lifestyle coaching. Feel free to visit the "Contact" page to get in touch. Jill would love to hear from you!