Interest is growing globally in a more natural approach to cosmetics and the effect of care products on our health.
Organic care products are those made without what is know as ‘nasties‘, ingredients which are known to be harmful or have been shown to affect the internal functions of the body in research trials. There is constant debate over how much influence cosmetics can have on our metabolic function; however, recent studies of teenage girls in the US found significant levels of these chemicals in their blood stream.
Our skin is a semi-permeable barrier, which offers protection to our internal organs and acts as part of our primary immune function. The word semi-permeable means just that, it can be permeated. And what do we most put on our skin? Yes, beauty products. So, we can see that what we put on our bodies is as important as what we put in them!
Many people I’ve spoken to regarding beauty products express concern about three areas – the effectiveness of the products, the cost, and their availability. But there is also concern regarding the ingredients and what makes them so bad! There are too many constituent parts that need to be discussed when demonstrating the effects of ‘nasties‘, so, I will focus on just a few to demonstrate.
Silicones are the ingredients in shampoos and conditioners, that contribute to that extreme shine, slip feeling, and ease of brushing wet hair. However, in reality we are just coating our hair in plastic. This might not seem all that bad, and some have said it actually protects the hair from heat styling. But the truth is, we are using continually these products, sometimes on a daily basis, so our hair is constantly covered in plastic, thus hiding the natural condition of our hair, which could be less than healthy.
The damage is due to the prevention of deep nourishing treatments, moisture, and nutrients from penetrating the hair shaft. You may have noticed the market is flooded with hair masks, which could be the answer. Two problems with these though – firstly, they also contain cones, so this means even more plastic, and secondly, if our hair is already coated, as mentioned, how does it get any further nourishment? Many converts to the OCM, the organic cosmetics movement, are horrified when they stop using cones as their hair can seem ruined! Be warned however, there is a transition period but all is not lost!
The other ingredient to watch (and this goes for all washes) is sulphates, products, which if smelt in crude bulk form, would nearly burn your nostrils. Sulphates are the strongest of cleaning agents for cosmetics, removing all dirt, dust, dead skin cells, and oil. Sounds good, right? Theoretically yes, but as mentioned before, our skin is a protective barrier.
The production of sebum is one such method of protection. Sebum makes our hair glossy and skin soft. Sebum production is also self-regulating. However strip this, and our skin is vulnerable to pathogens such as bacteria. This causes the body to produce more sebum, leading to an increased need of sulphate-based cleaning products, for so called “greasy” skin. It is for this reason that “greasy” skin can be a sign that your skin is actually dry and undernourished!
Many OCM converts often say that changing their cleaning regime leaves their skin feeling not as “clean” as before, it lacks the squeak! Truth is though, our skin is not supposed to squeak like a musical instrument! A baby’s skin is closest to how our skin should be, and a baby’s skin does not squeak or shine! So when converting, remember – no squeak! – this is how you skin is supposed to feel!
The other issue with sulphates is increase it causes in our skin’s permeability, leading to even more ‘nasties‘ leaking into our system. This along with propylene glycol, a preservative also found in anti-freeze, makes us more vulnerable to the effect of ‘nasties‘!
The main reasons the proponents of the OCM are passionate about spreading the word about a more natural approach to cosmetics are the dangers of the key ingredients used by mainstream brands. Ingredients such as parabens, phenoxyethanol, sodium benzoate, propylene glycol, FD&C colourants, and mineral oils, are just some of the long list, many of which you may have heard of recently in the media. At best, the adverse effects of these ingredients are skin irritation and allergies, or contribution to the aging process.
Alcohols in cosmetics further dehydrate already dry skin after the use of sulphates. However the most disturbing side effect of these substances, is the effect they have on our metabolic function. Ingredients such as parabens are known endocrine disrupters, meaning they interfere with our body’s hormones. Everyone, especially women know about hormones! Critis of OCM say the levels used in beauty products are negligible and do not raise any cause for concern. My point is, if we take a look at all the products we use, both men and women alike – shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, moisturizer, deodorant, toothpaste (yes, a lot of these products are in this), mouthwash, perfume, and for women, make-up, nail varnish, hair styling products. Logically we can see how this adds up over time. Is has been estimated that our bodies may absorb as much as 3kg per year of cosmetics! There is also a question as to the role cosmetics have to play in the increase of obesity, diabetes and fertility issues.
So, whether you are questioning your beauty regime for health concerns or you now see your anti-aging cream is causing you to age, there are so many fantastic brands a products out there that offer an safer alternative. With a steady increase in the demand for bio cosmetics, as much as 30-40% per year, research and development means the products are fantastic. Brands such as Lavera, NVEY, Melvita and Santé are just some of the lines which are available in our local health stores.
Prices can vary as with any cosmetics brands, from reasonable to splurge prices! The fun part though is finding the products that suit you, researching and comparing products with your friends, and trying out fantastic new products! Your body will thank you!
Lead image credit: dgm / 123RF Stock Photo; image of shampoo bottle courtesy Bubblegarm Blog
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