Read the Label…Not Just on Food

When we think about being conscious as to what we put into our bodies, most of us focus on food and rightfully so. However, items we put on our bodies such as deodorants and cosmetics must also be taken into consideration. While we don’t necessarily “consume” these items in the traditional sense of taking them in through our mouth, stomach, intestines; we apply them to our skin and thus they are absorbed into our blood stream, which is the same place most of the content from our digested food winds up as well. With all the emphasis that is placed on utilizing a keen eye to discriminate food labels, it is only right to devote some attention to these other daily “consumed” products as well.

As with all issues regarding consumer awareness and personal changes, we will start small and with a few basic things that you and your loved ones should be aware of. I’m talking about products that most of use on a daily basis. Some of the ingredients used in these formulas can pose negative cumulative effects on the body.

A major one we are talking about here is deodorant. I’m assuming most of you use deodorant, although sometimes I wonder. There are a few ingredients that you may want to look out for next time you pick up your favorite stick. First off, it is almost imperative that it does not contain aluminum. Outside of the fact that aluminum is continuously linked to Alzheimer’s (which should be enough within itself), its use in deodorant in particular is now being linked to breast cancer. Aluminum is used mainly for its antiperspirant qualities, keeping you dry. However, if we break down how it actually does this, the potential problem is quite easy to grasp. In your arm pits you have glands that secrete oil and fatty toxins from your body. This is a necessary evil as it is the body’s designed mechanism for eliminating many of these waste products. Antiperspirants like Aluminum are used to block these glands from eliminating the toxins. These toxins now back up in the lymph nodes of your axilla (arm pit). Now we have numerous toxins blocked from exiting the body, backed up in your lymph system and into your breast. Not a good situation to say the least.

A couple of other potentially problematic ingredients you may want to scan for on that label are propylene glycol and triclosan. Propylene glycol is a chemical used in food and body care products. In deodorant it used to soften the product and make it more applicable to the skin. While it is disputed whether or not it is hazardous in small amounts, studies have shown that in large quantities it can cause damage to your central nervous system (BRAIN and spinal cord), liver and heart. I include this mention because deodorant isn’t something that we use in small amounts. This is something we apply directly to our skin and thus consume through our pores every day. If possible, efforts to minimize exposure should be made.

Triclosan is an odor killing antimicrobial agent found in cosmetics, anti-bacterial soaps, wipes, gels, and deodorants. This chemical is officially classified as a pesticide by the FDA and as a probable carcinogen by the EPA. It has the tendency to accumulate in the body and has been linked to hormone disruption and the emergence of certain “super-bug” bacteria.

Last thing about deodorants or any product for that matter is the use of artificial coloring. These are the ingredients that are simply named a color followed by a number. While it is true that some have been shown to be more problematic than others, many have been identified as being or being contaminated with carcinogenic chemicals or hyper-allergenic. Attempting to steer clear of these as much as possible is a solid approach. The list of banned or recognized as harmful colorings continues to grow as the human experiment continues to unfold.

Next daily utilized product I’d like to touch on is mainly for the females, hopefully. The use of lip care products has come under more scrutiny due to the presence of lead being discovered in these products. This is the same lead that has been banned in paints since 1978 due to its toxicity at low levels. Exposure to lead is linked to cancer, birth defects, and reproductive harm, amongst other things. While lead being absorbed through skin does not appear to pose as great a risk, it must be acknowledged that when you apply a substance to your lips, it is inevitable that will ingest some. Again, this becomes problematic when you are exposing yourself to these things on a daily basis. Lead also has the nasty ability to accumulate in the body, making the damage from its exposure cumulative in nature, no matter how small the dose. Christian Dior, Lancome, Clinique, Y.S.L., Estee Lauder, Chanel and Red Earth are just some of the more popular companies that have had lead found in their lipstick or gloss. That convenient long lasting quality is usually attributed to a higher lead load.

Last fall, my wife and I had the pleasure of attending a seminar called “The Y-Files,” which I highly recommend. We were enlightened as to a simple way to test your lip care products for lead content that I’d like to share with you all. You take the lip stick or gloss and draw a line across a clean, dry hand. After that take a gold ring and scratch the lipstick line you drew on your hand. If the color of the lipstick turns to grey or black, it signifies the presence of lead and you may want to think about switching brands.

These are just a few items that will hopefully create an awareness for each of you going forward. Taking the time to scan that label and maybe even look up an ingredient can have potentially life saving effects. Check that nail polish for formaldehyde, skin crème for mercury, cleaning products for various ingredients, etc. This is especially pertinent if you are trying to conceive or are around children as they are more susceptible to chemical hazards than adults. Go beyond simply reading the label on the front. Natural is pretty much meaningless, but misleading nonetheless. When it comes to cosmetics, organic refers to being pesticide free. This still leaves room for other problematic ingredients including many of those described above. Companies that advertise on their labels that they give money to breast cancer research ironically also make products that contain carcinogens.

So there you have it. Yet more burden of knowledge. Personally I was all about the food route and never gave much thought to these other products. But if you think about it, what we continuously apply to our bodies and thus into our bodies can be just as damaging. I know it can seem overwhelming, but that’s why I made mention of a couple daily offenders that we tend to use in high volume. I was a faithful Old Spice user for years until I flipped it over. As heart breaking as it was, I decided we needed to part ways. You can find alternative products at most health food stores. The list of ingredients is shorter and usually leaves off many potentially harmful culprits. Limit your exposure the best you can and continue moving in the right direction.

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