A preface note from Bryce Wylde: Many years ago, unsatisfied with the ingredients in our hand cream and other topical products, my wife and I were once again on the hunt to find safe, effective, all natural and organic, cream that the entire family could use. But, we didn’t want them to smell like a health fair (you know what I mean!). Once I tried “key lime organic body balm” and “vanilla orange lip chap” there was no going back. I still consider myself lucky to have found Lisa Allison and the Sweet Cream line. Lisa is the CEO, creator, and formulator of Sweet Cream Organic a company dedicated to simple yet effective smelly-good, all natural, organic, vegan/vegetarian, biodegradable, eco-friendly, fair trade cream, balm, soaps and other wonderful products. I interviewed her on my show Wylde On Health. More recetnly, I asked her to write an article for the site. Since I have very dry hands – like many of you – and because we’re about to face yet another winter season of chap-chafing-dried out skin, I had Lisa weigh in on the matter of moisturizers. Here’s what she had to say…
When it comes to choosing safe bath and body products for ourselves and our families, it can be a jungle out there. Often times, highly toxic products are marketed to appear safe and natural. Earth tones of oatmeal and sage green with a soft pattern of wheat sheaths in the background leave a customer believing that surely this must be a great product – I mean, look at the leaves on the packaging! It even says it’s 96% natural. That’s a lot, right?
Unfortunately we have to be smarter than that these days. What about the other 4%? Does that make much of a difference? The answer is a resounding YES! Think about your milk for a second. How much of a difference is there between skim milk and homo milk? When it comes to taste, texture, colour, and fat content, there is a huge difference. Yet the percentage difference between skim and whole milk is only 3.25% milkfat. Similarly, those 4% or even 2% UNnatural ingredients can create serious health hazards when absorbed into our bodies on a daily basis. Illnesses such as cancer, infertility, allergies, organ toxicity, immune toxicity, neurotoxicity, and obesity have been linked to the increasing use of toxic ingredients in our bath and body care products. So how do we navigate the vast sea of options and find healthy alternatives that actually work?
There are all kinds of buzz words flying around the world of personal care these days. Pthalates, sulfates, parabens, polybisphenol A, the list goes on and on. Often these words don’t appear so clearly in the ingredients list, making it even more difficult to make good choices. The ingredients on today’s products are paragraphs long, and they read like some sort of chemist’s instruction manual that requires a master’s degree in Latin to comprehend.
Here is a simple list of the top 3 ingredients to avoid when shopping for moisturizers, and why to avoid them.
Parabens: Parabens are a group of chemicals used for their preservative properties in nearly every kind of personal care product from toothpaste to makeup. They are cheap and efficient preservatives, so they are widely used by commercial manufacturers. Parabens have been found is the tissue of breast tumors and seem to mimic estrogen in the body, which is believed to be linked to early onset of puberty in young girls and well as hormonal imbalance and possibly infertility in both men and women. Parabens are listed in the ingredients under more specific groups of the paraben family, so you will find them as butylparaben, propylparaben, methylparaben, ethylparaben, etc. Any ingredient ending in the “paraben” should be avoided.
Fragrance: Let’s face it, we all like to smell good. But at what cost? Synthetic fragrance is made almost entirely of petrochemicals, including pthalates, which are a group of plastics used for stabilization. Your skin literally absorbs these plastics. Exposure is linked to endocrine disruption, allergies, migraines, immune damage, asthma, and even anaphylactic shock. More and more work places are determining to be “fragrance free zones” because of the increased sensitivity of many individuals to these harmful chemicals. Fragrance is highly toxic and should be completely avoided.
Alcohol: Alcohol in your moisturizer won’t cause cancer or infertility, but it will have the reverse effect that a moisturizer is supposed to impart. Alcohol dries out your skin, which leads you to use more product, which further dries out your skin. Contrary to popular belief, acne prone skin most often does not need to be “dried out”, but in fact it needs pure and clean moisture. When problem skin is dry, it becomes irritated and breaks out in oils in an attempt to self-moisturize. It becomes a vicious cycle and never addresses the root cause, which most often is a build up of toxins from bad products. There are many naturally clarifying options that moisturize well without aggravating problem skin.
So what SHOULD we use?
A hundred and fifty years ago (stay with me, this won’t be a history lesson) our great-great-grandmothers used coconut oil, shea butter, and olive oil to moisturize their skin and hair. These are naturally occurring, richly moisturizing oils and butters that work wonders. Incidentally, our great-great-grandmothers had far fewer battles with cancer, infertility, obesity, and allergies than we do today. Taking a lesson from the past would serve our health greatly, and thankfully there are now more and more options of truly natural and organic moisturizers, especially in the area of small local businesses. Look for ingredients you can read and pronounce, such as cocoa butter, shea butter, beeswax, and coconut oil, which are beautifully scented by nature and don’t require the use of chemical fragrance. Cocoa butter smells like chocolate. Beeswax smells like honey. Coconut oil smells like… you guessed it… coconuts! And if you are interested in something more sophisticated in the natural scent department, there are safe options such as lavender, rosewater, or essential oils in hundreds of scents ranging from earthy sandalwood to spicy frankincense to sweet orange.
Shopping smart when it comes to your moisturizer isn’t rocket science. Just don’t be fooled by the big brand names who don’t seem to care that their packaging is misleading and their products are toxic. Keep it simple, read labels, and if you don’t know what it says, don’t put it on your skin. Lastly, my favourite resource for smart shopping is the Skin Deep Cosmetic Database. You can search thousands of products by brand name and get a safety rating that includes information on which ingredients in that product are toxic. Check it out at www.cosmeticsdatabase.com.