My grandmother always taught me, if you can’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin. Good advice. After all, we’re probably all at least vaguely familiar with the strange and dangerous cosmetic habits of our ancestors: arsenic in face powder, copper or lead to color the eyes, not to mention lead-based face masks used by the Greeks to ‘improve’ skin condition. Yikes, right?
Not surprisingly, these cosmetics led to madness, infertility, scarring of the skin, illness and, eventually, death. According to journalist Diane Mapes, “Some beauty products of yesteryear contained high concentrations of lead, mercury, arsenic, even radiation, thanks to ignorance, indifference and narcissism.”
Well. Thank goodness we don’t suffer from ignorance, indifference, and narcissism anymore.
Okay. To give ourselves some credit, there has been a big push for natural health, natural cosmetics, and education about such dangers as parabens and phthalates. But, how safe are our so-called natural products? I mean, I work with a community of pretty hip and healthy cats, and almost daily I’m approached by someone who has some sort of issue with infertility, cysts, and any number of reproductive and hormonal complaints.
The truth of the matter is, our skin is one big absorptive organ and everything we spray, apply, slather, or walk on makes its way through our hormonal system (especially the thyroid–hypothyroidism is on the rise, as is infertility and other reproductive and hormonal problems). Are these issues connected? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say, yes.
We’ve been hearing about BPA (bisphenol-A, or the material in plastic bottles and can linings) and its dangers: depression, irritibility, sleeplessness, weight gain, excess estrogen, and maybe (in animals, anyway) insulin resistance. And what about the anti-bacterial craze? Triclosan, the chemical found in most anti-bacterials, can interfere with testosterone and the thyroid.
So, what the heck can you do? A few things, actually. First: grab every skin-care, cosmetic, and hair care product you have. Dial up the Skin Deep Cosmetic Database and start typing in your products, searching for their level of safety; they rate on a 1-10 scale. I threw out everything that was above a 4 (btw many of my ‘natural’ products were coming up with scores of 6 and 8). And make some tea. You’ll be here a while.
Then, head to the kitchen. You probably have plenty of stuff in there already (or that can be purchased easily and cheaply) to make your own skincare apothecary.