Skin Deep

2 Oct

I always wanted to really detox my body before I had a child. Lose weight, get really fit, eat well, maybe do one of those detox diets where all you can eat is lemon juice and tabasco. Well…that didn’t really happen. But after I became pregnant, I did think about everything I ate and whether I wanted my baby to eat that too. But in addition to the food that you put in your mouth, the products that you put on your hair and your skin are also readily absorbed into your bloodstream. I mean, think about the nicotine patch or birth control patch, these drugs only work because they are absorbed through the skin. So would you eat your facial moisturizer? Or even worse, do you want your baby to eat your shampoo? Turn that bottle over and take a look at the ingredients…

Parabens (and all longer words ending in -paraben) are commonly used preservatives with estrogen-like properties that can influence sex differentiation in fish, causing more to be females (Mikula et al., 2009)! Sounds fishy, right? And like estrogen, parabens also increase the growth of breast cancer cells (Pugazhendhi et al., 2007).

Phthalates are used in cosmetics as a solvent and are also used to make plastics (weird!). Well these nasty chemicals have also been shown to mess with sex hormones and are considered a “testicular toxin”. One study actually showed  that levels of phthalates in the mother’s breast milk were correlated with levels of circulating hormones in 3 month old baby boys (Main et al., 2006).

Sodium Laureth Sulfate is one that I am familiar with because it is frequently used in the lab…but we make sure to wear gloves! This foaming agent and detergent is a serious skin irritant, and one study shows that young skin is the most sensitive to this chemical (Cua et al., 2006).

The list of other chemicals in beauty products that pose a threat goes on and on…fragrances, triclosan, EDTA, mineral oil, petroleum byproducts, mercury, lead, sunscreens…but to make things much easier a group called the Environmental Working Group has started a site called Cosmetics Database where you can search for the name of the product in question and decide whether it can stay in the medicine cabinet or is destined for the recycling bin. This site is not foolproof though, because one of my favorite new brands that is reasonably priced and free of almost all the bad stuff is Yes to Carrots, and they are not listed in the database (yet). So you also have to learn to just look out for some of these chemicals when shopping on the fly!

Although this video is a little long, I found it very informative and explains why the cosmetics industry has let things get so dirty. But as I approach the end of this post, I want to say that you can’t make yourself crazy about these things. We could nitpick every little bit of food we eat and cosmetics we use and make our lives a living hell. Look, you probably aren’t going to be eating organic vegetables when you go to a restaurant and sometimes you are going to inhale some chemicals that aren’t good for you. But it’s all about moderation, and doing what you can do to make the world a safer place for your baby. Now, go forth and clean out your bathrooms!


3 Responses to “Skin Deep”

  1. Working Mama October 2, 2010 at 1:48 pm #

    Hey Girlie- I couldn’t agree more! I actually a little more careful with what I bathe my children with, than what I put in their mouths sometimes. I always buy “organic” shampoos and scrubs, etc. I say organic, which may not techincally be correct, but I know you know what I mean. My reasoning is that at least the FDA is somewhat monitoring food, there is really no one monitoring soaps, etc.

    Here are some products I like a lot: JASON, California Baby and Sweet Knee. I will check out Yes to Carrots.

    Interestingly, Burt’s Bees, does not rank high, or low as the case may be, on the Cosmetic Database- particularly the “Baby Bees” which smells great.

    Also of note, I think people should consider that if something smells “good” then it probably has frangrance in it, unless it has plants (which often are irritating to sensitive skin. Also, there is no need for all the lather- it’s drying and unnecessary to get clean.

    So, that’s my two cents. LOVE the blog! xoxxo

  2. Working Mama October 2, 2010 at 1:49 pm #

    FYI- it’s early and I’m sorry for the typos.


  1. Tweets that mention Skin Deep « -- - October 2, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tim Hurst, Tara and Mae McGrath, Kate Martin. Kate Martin said: Skin Deep: It's not only food that gets absorbed into your bloodstream… via Mom Lab: RT @ecopolitologist @mae37 […]

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