Sunday, August 21, 2011

Should You Avoid Conventional Lotion?

This post is the first in a series on healthy skincare for the whole family. For more about healthy skincare, check out the Pregnancy and Parenting Index.

Your skin is not an impenetrable barrier. Chemicals in contact with your skin can be absorbed into your body. For instance, a recent study showed that bisphenol A can be absorbed through skin. Take a quick look at the ingredients in a bottle of lotion or body wash, and you'll likely find a very long list of synthetic chemicals.

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Skin Deep website,
The government does not require health studies or pre-market testing for [personal care products]. The Cosmetics Ingredients Review (CIR), the industry's self-policing safety panel, does not make up for FDA inaction. In 2007 EWG analysis found that over 30 years, the industry panel has reviewed the safety of just 13 percent of the 10,500 ingredients in personal care products.
What's in Your Lotion?

Lets take a look at some conventional lotion (and this is not even a sunscreen or anti-aging product):
Vaseline Intensive Care Cocoa Butter Deep Conditioning Body Lotion: Water, Petrolatum, Glycerin, Stearic Acid, Isopropyl Palmitate, Glycol Stearate, Dimethicone, Theobroma Cacao Seed Butter (Cocoa), Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Helianthus Annuus Seed Oil or Glycine Soja Oil (Sunflower, Soybean), Glycine Soja Sterol (Soybean), Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E Acetate), Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A Palmitate), Sodium Stearoyl 2 Lactylate, Collagen Amino Acids, Urea, Glyceryl Stearate, Cetyl Alcohol, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Carbomer, Lecithin, Mineral Water, Sodium PCA, Potassium Lactate, Lactic Acid, Fragrance, Stearamide AMP, Triethanolamine, Methylparaben, DMDM Hydantoin, Disodium EDTA, Caramel, Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891)
The Skin Deep database gives this lotion an overall health concern rating of HIGH, which includes a high concern for developmental and reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, and organ system toxicity.

What about baby lotion?

Even baby lotions can have ingredients to be concerned about:
Johnson's Baby Lotion, Original: Water, Propylene Glycol, Myristyl Myristate, Glyceryl Stearate, Oleic Acid, Stearic Acid, Polysorbate 61, Dimethicone, Isopropyl Palmitate, Stearoxytrimethylsilane, Sorbitan Stearate, Cetyl Alcohol, Synthetic Beeswax, Stearyl Alcohol, Benzyl Alcohol, Carbomer, Fragrance, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Butylparaben, BHT, D&C Red 33.
The Skin Deep database gives this baby lotion an overall health concern rating of HIGH, which includes a high concern for allergies and immunotoxicity, persistence and bioaccumulation, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, and organ system toxicity. This is not a lotion I would want to apply to my baby!

What can you do?
To avoid using products that are potentially unsafe, check the Skin Deep database to find products that have LOW health concern ratings.  You can search for specific products, brands, or even broad categories of products.  For instance, my family has been using California Baby products for several years.  The Skin Deep database shows that all 53 products from California Baby have a LOW health concern rating.

Skincare products are used often, and can be a vehicle for introducing toxins into your body.  Pregnant and nursing mothers as well as children should be especially careful of the products used on their bodies. In addition, skincare products could have negative consequences for people with health problems. It may take a little time to research products and determine what healthy alternatives are available where you live, but this time is worthwhile. 

Future posts in the healthy skincare series will include homemade alternatives to store-bought products and ways to reduce the need for lotions.

This post is part of Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet, Real Food Wednesday with Kelly the Kitchen Kop and Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist!


Anonymous said...

Hi Sarah,

If you or your readers decide to take the step and not use Industrial Cosmetics, I have a recipe for Healing Cream:

Here is a posting called Healthy Household that goes over other homemade household products to help make your home safer. You will save money too:

Caroline Cooper

Laura said...

I love the skin deep website! I started using it a while back to help me determine what products to use for our family. I would go to a category, say baby shampoo/body wash for example, and start with the ones with a zero rating. Then I would look up each one to see if they carried it on amazon and see which one I could get the best deal on. I also used the site to choose my face wash, face lotion and toner. Once I switched these items over, the skin on my face also became so much more clear and even toned! It was amazing. Eating clean really helped clear my skin up, but switching the skincare products really took it to another level. I now use the skin deep site to help me choose any skin products that we use.

It's scary what they put in some of those products and how many unsuspecting consumers are putting them into their bodies not even realizing the havoc they may be causing.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this. Wow, I have that lotion. That makes me sick feeling.

rosiemomma said...

What a great topic. We hear so much about what we put IN our body but not so much about what we put ON it. I wonder if you could touch on sunscreens and ideas for alternatives there? We live in Phoenix and try to avoid using it but sometimes I'm not sure what else to do to prevent sunburn. Thanks for writing, I really enjoy your blog!

Sarah Smith said...

Hi rosiemomma,
Yes, many sunscreens are filled with undesirable ingredients. It is very sunny here in southern NM, too, so this is something we deal with as well.

My approach is, by-and-large, to avoid using sunscreen. Sunlight is wonderfully healthy if not overdone; it makes your body produce Vitamin D. We are fair-skinned (my husband and son especially). I exposed the kids to the sun a little at a time until they got a nice base tan, and then they never burn at all. On occasions when there will be a LOT of sun exposure (at the pool, or if we'll be spending several hours in the sun) I do use California Baby sunscreen. (It has great ratings on the Skin Deep site.) I also use clothes and hats to reduce sun exposure somewhat (the baby always has a hat on his little head if we'll be in direct sun since his hair it still pretty thin and I don't want his scalp to burn). I also make sure shoulders are covered if we'll be in the sun for any length of time.

One other thing: when we started eating "real foods" back in 2005, I noticed right away that I started to sunburn much less. The same is true for my husband. Even times when we do get a little too much sun, it very quickly gets better and turns into a tan. Don't know why this is, but it is great!

I hope this helps.

Kris Johnson said...

I too have noted that I don't sunburn as easily, thanks to eating more animals fats and cutting way down on the highly reactive polyunsaturated vegetable oils. I'm sure it's too many PUFA's that contribute to easy burning.

Wilderness Family Naturals and Tropical Traditions both have nice skin products made with food grade ingredients, including coconut oil. I use them both. Dr. Ron also has some wonderful products. The Alpha Lipoic lotion is more complex & expensive, but a delicious fragrant lotion.