Skin, Our Biggest Organ

May 3, 2012

I hope this post shows! I have to take a customer service class today, and therefore had to try the Publish feature for the first time. At any rate, I will check on it later today! Now onto facts about our skin!

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Vegan loose powder by Alternative Outfitters. (Click photo to reach site.)

Last week, just before I began doing my research on coconuts, a girlfriend of mine whose studying to be a cosmetologist suggested that I write a post on cosmetics. This came on the heels of the sudden out-of-business status from her favorite brand for buying non-toxic foundation (I believe). She immediately messaged me and said, “Help! People ought to know that there are better, and safer, choices out there!”

She’s right, but with commercialism being what it is and throwing the fears of “fine lines and wrinkles” and acne in our proverbial faces all the time, sometimes other facts are overlooked. Facts like, if you cannot pronounce it, it probably should not go on your skin–something I learned while studying chemistry in college; there are a lot of bad, bad chemicals used in our hair and skin products today because, well, frankly, it makes them cheaper to make. Or facts like, the more unpronounceable, hyphenated things in a product, the more likely it is to be damaging. Or facts like, slathering your skin with thick creams prevents it from breathing properly…or, drinking water also plumps up skin cells…or, well, the list goes on.

Now, I am a firm believer in the healing capabilities of the human body. I believe that what you put into your body reflects on its surface. Our body’s biggest organ needs proper nourishment just like our internal body as it is responsible for protecting against external-to-internal pathogen transfer, loss of water, insulation, temperature regulation, sensation, vitamin D synthesis, and protection of vitamin B folates. Naturally, the skin is also responsible for aesthetics and communication, otherwise known as mood assessment, physical state, and–ding, ding, ding!–attractiveness.

Additionally, it is responsible for melanin production, or melanogenesis, which is stimulated by DNA damaged by ultraviolet B (UV-B) radiation. The result, of course, is a tan, which in recent years has become an standard of attractiveness. (For thousands of years before, peoples across the globe believed that pale skin was a sign of beauty, as it represented delicacy, civility, and wealthy. Even today, some areas in Asia strive to whiten their skin with creams and layers of clothing.) It is a photoprotectant, responsible for transforming UV radiation into harmless heat.

So, on the whole, most people know that eating vitamin-rich foods and good fats helps repair damaged skin and keep it healthy. It is becoming more well-known that simple beauty treatments like a homemade sugar-and-extra virgin olive oil scrub adds nutrients and moisture to skin. (Coconut oil is also very good for both skin and hair.) Some, like me, even seek out skin care products that are non-toxic, natural and/or organic, cruelty-free, and even vegan.

Enter the Environmental Working Group. More specifically, they set up a cosmetic database. Their mission is as follows:

…to use the power of information to protect human health and the environment. EWG’s Skin Deep database gives you practical solutions to protect you and your family from everyday exposures to chemicals. We launched Skin Deep in 2004 to create online safety profiles for cosmetics and personal care products. Our aim is to fill in where industry and government leave off. Companies are allowed to use almost any ingredient they wish. The U.S. Government does not review the safety of products before they’re sold. Our staff scientists compare the ingredients on personal care product labels and websites to information in nearly 60 toxicity and regulatory databases. Now in its eighth year, EGW’s Skin Deep database provides you with easy to navigate safety ratings for a wide range of products and ingredients on the market….[it] is the world’s largest personal care product safety guide.

In their About section, they list a whole slew of toxicity and regulatory databases, as well as a detailed description of how they rate the products. They also debunk cosmetic myths, including the fact that skin products do enter into the body and are often more harmful than we think. They also said, rightfully, that products labeled “natural” and “organic” often contain synthetic chemicals and petrochemicals.

Their subtopics include:

  • Sun
  • Makeup
  • Skin care
  • Hair
  • Eye care
  • Nails
  • Fragrance
  • Babies and Moms
  • Oral care
  • Men’s

I highly recommend taking some time and reading through the EWG’s articles (particularly on sunscreen since summer is fast approaching–rather, it is already here in the desert) and researching any/all products you use. For a donation of $5+, they will also send you a guide for safer cosmetics. Ava Anderson, a company my girlfriend has chosen to represent, began researching the issue of chemicals and your health when she was 14 and, when she became disturbed by the general lack of public knowledge, began her own business.

As interest for healthier options increase, a slew of advice and products are hitting the internet and stores near you. Take your time and research your options. There is a lot of hype out there. Cross-reference with the EWG’s database. Talk with company representatives whenever possible. Read, read, read!

Speaking of reading, here are some great sites with tips:

Non-toxic eyeshadow by Tarte. (Click picture for page.)

Your Guild to Safe, Non-toxic Makeup

Paige Padgett (Jillian Michael’s makeup artist)

No More Dirty Looks

One Green Planet: Guide to Vegan Makeup

Veggie Beauty

Vegan Beauty Review

Essential Organic Living

What are some of the things they (and others) suggest you watch out for? Talc, mineral oils, petroleum, dye, parabens and phthalates. If you want vegan products, you need to watch out for things such a beeswax, pearl and silk powders, and elastin (derived from cows). And, of course, cruelty-free means no animal testing.

Here also are a few other sites you might like to visit during your research:

PETA.org (Search for cruelty-free companies and products)

CosmeticsInfo.org (information on what and how the FDA checks cosmetics)

Good Guide (rates almost every household good out there)

On a side note, from what I have learned from other research and schooling, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does regulate every aspect of food and drug testing, manufacturing, labeling, advertising, marketing, efficacy, and safety. With cosmetics, on the other hand, they focus on labeling and safety. Personal products are not subjected to premarket approval unless they make “structure or function claims,” which then classifies the cosmetic as a drug. Also, all dyes/color additives must be specifically approved by the FDA. Labeling regulations state that if a product has not undergone thorough safety tests, it must state thus on the product.

Wikipedia goes on to state under “cosmetic products” (FDA page):

Experts in cosmetic ingredient reviews also play a role in monitoring safety through influence on the use of ingredients, but also lack legal authority. Overall the organization has reviewed about 1,200 ingredients and has suggested that several hundred be restricted, but there is no standard or systemic method for reviewing chemicals for safety and a clear definition of what is meant by ‘safety’ so that all chemicals are tested on the same basis.

If you wonder why this even matters at all, check out this instructional article from the EWG. A downside to non-toxic, natural/organic, and vegan products is that they tend to be more expensive. However, I peeked around and there are places to find good, quality product for a decent price.

There is no reason why you cannot enhance your natural beauty. As Paige Padgett says, every person is beautiful. I, too, believe that phrase very strongly. So, be beautiful, be fashionable, be ethical and environmentally friendly, be healthy, and shop around!

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Please note: It is not my intention to sell you anything! I searched quite a while to find websites that did not sell products, though I might have included one or two because I thought the information on them was valuable. Again, always, always, always do your research! And if you find some amazing information you’d like to share, good or bad, post it below!

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