What’s lurking on your bathroom shelf?

Forget unclean toilets, hair in the sink and leaving the lid off the toothpaste, there are other factors to consider when in the bathroom. When was the last time you read the labels on your toothpaste, shampoo and soap? If you care about a healthy lifestyle, you may be taking steps to consider what you put into your body, but do you know what you are putting onto your body?

Chemical cocktail anyone?

Every day we use a plethora of body care products from shampoo to moisturizer, deodorant to toothpaste. Unless you are sure that you are using natural products, most of these are packed with synthetic chemicals that our bodies are simply  not designed to deal with. Many of the synthetic chemicals that enter your body through skincare products have the ability to upset the natural hormonal balance, challenge the immune system and burden the liver as it tries to deal with the unnatural chemical cocktail.

If you wouldn’t put it in your mouth, don’t put it on your skin

Everything you put on your skin will eventually end up in your bloodstream, just as if you had eaten it. Start reading the labels to make sure if any of the following chemicals are making it into your bloodstream on a daily basis. So let’s have a closer look at the top 10 offenders


Top 10 chemicals to look out for:

  1. Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate (SLS). Often derived from petroleum, this chemical is cheap and widely used. It provides the foaming action in soaps, shampoos and other products. It is a harsh detergent that causes eye irritation, skin rashes and other allergic reactions, as well as a scalp condition similar to dandruff.
  2. Petrolatum. Also known as petroleum jelly (yes, it is part of the petrol industry) this is a mineral oil derivative that the skin simply does not need or want. The skin literally hates mineral oils. It is used because it is extremely cheap and is used for its emollient properties in cosmetics. Don’t be fooled by the advertising, it can actually create the conditions it claims to treat! It interferes with the skin’s own natural moisturizing mechanisms, contributing to chapping and dryness.
  3. Methyl, Propyl, Butyl and Ethyl Paraben. These parabens are used for their ability to extend the shelf life of a product and inhibit microbial growth. They have been associated with skin rashes and other allergic reactions, as well as having an effect on the body’s delicate hormonal balance due to their oestrogenic action in the body. They are known to be toxic, yet continue to be widely used.
  4. Propylene Glycol. Used as a humectant, this can be a confusing ingredient because it can indicate a natural vegetable glycerin mixed with grain alcohol, however usually it is a synthetic petrochemical mix.  Beware when you see PPG (polypropylene glycol) or PEG (polyethylene glycol) on labels as these are definitely synthetic and have been known to cause eczema, hives and allergic reactions.
  5. PVP/VA Copolymer. Used in hairsprays, styling products and other products, it is a chemical derived from petroleum. The inhaled particles can damage the delicate tissue of the lungs.
  6. Diethanolamine (DEA), Triethanolamine (TEA). DEA and TEA are “amines” (ammonia compounds) and can form nitrosamines (which are cancer-forming) when they come into contact with nitrates. They tend to be used in cosmetics as foaming agents and/or emulsifiers and can cause eye irritation, dryness of hair and skin and allergic reactions. Definitely toxic if absorbed into the body over a long period of time.
  7. Diazolidinyl Urea, Imidazolidinyl Urea. Two trade names for these chemicals are Germall II and Germall 115. These chemicals are used as preservatives in many products. Both of the Germall chemicals do not contain an effective antifungal agent, so must therefore be combined with other synthetic preservatives. The American Academy of Dermatology has confirmed that they are a primary cause of contact dermatitis. These chemicals release formaldehyde into the body, which can be toxic.
  8. Stearalkonium Chloride. Used in creams and hair conditioners, it was actually developed as a fabric softener by the fabric industry. It is an ammonium compound that is cheap to use for hair conditioners. Known to be toxic and cause allergic reactions.
  9. Synthetic Fragrances. Be very cautious of these words on labels as there is no way of knowing what chemicals this ingredient contains, and it can contain up to 200 different ingredients that do not need to be separately listed! The label can legally just read “fragrance”. Health conditions associated with these chemicals vary from dizziness, skin rashes, headaches, vomiting, hyperpigmentation of the skin, among many others. Be vigilant! Many “natural” products also contain “fragrance”!
  10. Synthetic Colours . Usually listed as FD&C or D&C, followed by a colour and a number, e.g. FD&C Red No. 6 / D&C Green No. 6, they are only used to enhance the appearance of a product. Many synthetic colours are known carcinogens.


Empty promises in a bottle

Besides considering whether your products are natural or not, think about whether  you actually need them. The advertising around most of the beauty care products, aimed at women for example, is extremely powerful and tends to focus on people’s fears and insecurities. Look in any woman’s magazine and ask the lady reading it, “Do you feel empowered by the images you are seeing, or do you feel inadequate?”. It’s the fear of not being beautiful that fuels the need for more products.

You’re only as pretty as you feel

Like Grace Slick said in her Jefferson Airplane lyrics back in the 1960’s, beauty comes from the inside. Your skin and your eyes will shine if you shine from within. It doesn’t matter how much you pay for a state-of-the-art skin cream, look into your inner wisdom and you will know that the chemical cocktail of synthetics is not what your skin or body needs to be healthy. The only way to create a beautiful appearance from the outside is to nourish your body from the inside and whichever products you still continue to use, make the effort to put only wonderful, clean and nourishing natural ones onto (and into) your precious self.

Article by Jo Rowkins dipNT MBANT, nutritionist, founder of awakening health and executive health adviser of The Spa Resorts.

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