By Elizabeth McMillan, MS, CNS, LDN
The skin is the largest organ and is constantly being exposed to toxins. Research from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) states that on average women in the U.S. use at least 12 personal care products a day containing over 160 different chemicals. Men typically use less products, however they are exposed to about 85 chemicals just in their morning bathroom routine.
Unfortunately, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only evaluates about 10 percent of these chemicals before they hit the market. Many of these chemicals absorbed through the skin have drastic effects on our body systems. Two areas of concern are the digestive tract and the endocrine system.
The skin has a similar composition at the gut lining and it is packed with bacteria that make up the microbiome. Under the right conditions, this microbiome is mostly filled with beneficial or ‘friendly’ bacteria and protects the body from other harmful pathogens. There is a synergistic link between the skin and gut microbiome that can lead to cyclical problems varying from skin issues like eczema, rash, acne as well as digestive issues like IBS, leaky gut, constipation, weight gain, etc. Detoxing our cosmetics can help preserve the gut microbiome thus helping resolve any gut health issues.
Interestingly, many food and chemical sensitivities absorbed in the skin effect gut health as well. One of the most common food sensitivities is gluten. Gluten is found in many personal care products, like make-up, Chapstick, shampoo, lotion and over-the-counter medicines.
Some of the chemicals found in makeups are also absorbed as xenoestrogens. These are metabolites that act like estrogen and cause havoc on our estrogen pathways. A 2015 study published in the journal PLos ONE found that women who were exposed to more chemicals experienced menopause symptoms at least four years earlier and with greater severity than women who were exposed to less chemicals. Many of the toxic chemicals in cosmetics have also been linked to breast and ovarian cancers.
Reading labels and choosing cosmetics without such chemicals is key to preserving your health. Some of the more toxic chemicals include: paraben, sodium lauryl sulfate, phthalates, methylisothiazoline and toluene. The EWG website is a great resource that evaluates ingredients, specific products and much more.
There are many fun do-it-yourself recipes for skin care available. Most personal care products can be replaced with a jar of coconut oil. Coconut oil is antibacterial and antifungal and is an excellent moisturizer. A favorite whipped lotion recipe from Wellness Mama consists of equal parts shea butter cocoa butter, coconut oil, almond oil and a few drops of essential oil. Possibilities are endless when creating your own skin care products.
Creating your own skin care products and finding organic cosmetics empowers the consumer to take charge of their health. Since anything placed on your skin will eventually be absorbed in the bloodstream it is important look at all aspects of health and wellness, starting with the morning bathroom routine.
Elizabeth McMillan, MS, CNS, LDN, is an integrative nutritionist at Rose Wellness in Oakton. For more information, visit RoseWellness.com.