Taking A Break on Toxins

Posted by: | July 26, 2011

Whether it’s the birth control patch or the smoking cessation patch, I have often pointed to these patches and said, “See? Our skin absorbs things. What does this mean for us when we wash our dishes, rub moisturizer on our faces, and shampoo our hair?”  With that question consistently linger, I started trying to be more concious about the what chemicals I am rubbing into my body over the last few years.  So I gave up the Ponds moisturizer that my Mom introduced me to when I was fifteen (and had maintained a loyalty to for about a decade), and I switched to a variety of new organic brands.  Although not all the products are organic in my bathroom, I try my best.

I am now considering that I may have fallen victim to a form of what some might call “greenwashing.”  I have recently been introduced, by a colleague at UBC (thanks bobbi!) to the website: www.ewg.org.  It is a database of cosmetics (from sunscreen to deodorant to moisturizer to makeup) and a list of the ingredients and an analysis of the chemicals being used in these products with links to any health implications from exposure to those chemicals.

While at first look, I think of the database as a bit of fear mongering (which I often see in health-related resources [e.g. “Do this or you will die!”]), I think we should all have the right to choose products and understand what that might mean for our bodies.  In much the same way, I read the ingredients labels on my food.  I decide whether to eat the fattening brownie or not, right?

I also thought that I didn’t use a lot of cosmetics.  I’m fairly natural- most days I don’t even wear make up.  Usually it’s just a bit of facial and body moisturizer, shampoo and conditioner, toothpaste, deodorant, sunscreen, lip balm and some hair spray.  But then when I thought about it, the list starts to grow: nail polish occassionally, hand soap, facial cleanser, etcetera.

How did those products get into my bathroom?  I now have to consider that I might be a lot more high maintenance than I wanted to believe.

A lot of the products I choose are what I think of as “natural” but after looking at this database I’m reconsidering my choices.  Honestly, even if the toxicity and health implications aren’t as severe as this website suggests, I think it can’t harm me to use products that have less toxicity. How many years did it take for us to even consider using patches on the skin as a way to take medications? How much longer until we consider stricter legislation about what else is absorbed by our bodies through our skin?

If you’re interested, you can take a peek at the toxicity that lingers in bottles in my bathroom:

Alba Facial Moisturizer

Hawaiian Tropic Sunscreen (I actually use a different version than this, but this is similar. Some Canadian options aren’t reviewed it seems).

Crest Toothpaste

Burt’s Bees Lip Balm

Degree Antiperspirant

Herbal Essences Shampoo

While non of these received the highest ratings, many of them were not in the “low” category, as I would have expected.  I’ll be sourcing some new options, honestly, when I finish each bottle.  The bottle of shampoo is almost done, so it will go first!  I figure I can always improve on my health- the products I use can be an easy way to do that!

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