Avoiding toxic body care

How many different personal hygiene products do you use each day? For most people, especially women, the list is long. Shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, lotion, perfume, hair spray, deodorant and hand sanitizer are examples.

Have you ever thought about how these products may affect your health? While we are a nation that puts a high value on looking and smelling good, is it worth it if the products we use to achieve these states have the potential to make us sick?

Chemicals are used in beauty-care products to make them smell good, to make them creamy and foamy and to preserve them so they have a long shelf life. A large portion of the toxic chemicals found in body-care products are preservatives. There are safe alternatives to all of the chemicals that are found in common body-care products you just have identify the bad ones and find healthier options.

But our bodies are designed to eliminate all types of chemicals, right? Yes, your body is very good at getting the bad stuff out. But the problem is that we are bombarded with harmful chemicals from our food, air and water from sources that we cannot control. So doing what you can when you can to avoid putting more toxins into your body is very important.

One crucial fact to understand is that your skin acts like a big sponge. The things that we put on our skin get absorbed into our blood. The liver and kidneys play a big role in taking toxic stuff out of the blood, but they are already working very hard and it is important to protect them by decreasing their workload however you can.

Here are just a few examples of common toxic ingredients that are used in personal-care products that you want to avoid:

Phthalates a toxic chemical group used in body-care products to moisturize skin and to keep ingredients mixed together. Phthalates are found in after-shave, cologne, soap, shampoo, skin moisturizers, hair spray and nail polish. Phthalates have been found to be reproductive and developmental toxins, particularly in men.

Paraben used as a preservative in many cosmetics, shaving gel, lotions and creams. This chemical has been linked in research to cancer, endocrine disruption, reproductive toxicity, immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity and skin irritation.

Coal tar used in shampoos and soaps to treat dandruff and itchy skin. Contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which have been proved to increase cancer risk.

So what to do? A great start is to get a rating on the products that you are currently using. The Environmental Working Group has a site called Skin Deep that does just that for more than 79,000 products (www.ewg.org/skindeep).

There is a better way to be beautiful. It is not necessary to use toxic beauty- and body-care products, because there are plenty of good alternatives available these days. Choosing safe health and beauty products will support your health instead of degrade it.

drnancy@durangonaturalmedicine.com. Nancy Utter is a naturopathic doctor who works in Durango with people of all ages and varying illnesses.