Nataural Awakenings September 2013 Issue Cover

The benefits of drinking pure water, eating organic produce and consuming meat of grass-fed animals have been clearly established. Our bodies work most efficiently when fuel sources are free from preservatives and chemicals. However, in a quest to control what they put in their body, many people overlook what they put onto their skin, the body's largest organ

The skin, which protects everything inside the body from potential toxins, is also the thinnest organ, at less than a tenth of an inch thick. Skin defends us from a wide variety of influences, including environmental temperature extremes, wind and ultraviolet sunrays, and exposure to harmful bacteria and infections

Skin is highly permeable and can absorb chemicals, especially in a nanoparticle form. Consider the patches used to aid cigarette smokers kick the habit. Those chemicals go directly into the bloodstream to deter the craving for nicotine. Likewise, birth control patches disperse chemicals into the blood to interrupt hormonal activity that affects ovulation patterns.

Skin lacks a filtering system. When we eat, enzymes in saliva and hydrochloric acid in the stomach break down and flush out many toxins before real damage can be done. But chemicals applied topically will not only find their way into our internal organs, they accumulate over time to disrupt skin metabolism and cause eruptions

Skin is an immediate responder to stress. Its inner layers are filled with nerve endings and blood vessels, so when chemical poisons are introduced through topical application or via airborne bacteria and allergens, histamines are released into the blood and the areas of attack are reflected by itching and burning on the skin's surface

Skin absorbs UV radiation. According to the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, many researchers believe that the effects of chemically based skin products, especially petroleum-based products, interacting with UV-A and UV-B radiation, are destructive on a cellular level, penetrating deeply into our skin and initiating oxidation processes. This can lead to pigmentation changes, accelerated skin wrinkling from collagen damage and irreversible skin damage, including melanoma. The use of sunscreens to protect skin has been challenged as ineffective and potentially toxic, because it can prevent the skin from properly metabolizing.

How do we select safe and effective skin care products? A simple rule of thumb is that if we would not eat it, then we should not put it on our skin. Here are six chemical ingredients commonly found in many skin care products. Read labels carefully and avoid them when possible.

Petrolatum, which also goes by the following names: mineral oil, baby oil, petroleum jelly, paraffin and Vaseline. These are all by products of processed crude oil. They coat the skin like plastic, clogging pores and creating a buildup of toxins. A recently published article in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology found that using moisturizing creams with petrolatum caused tumors on sun exposure-related skin cancers.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) can also be referred to by the following names: Sodium laureth sulfate, ammonium laurelsulfate, sodium dodecyl sulfate, sulfuric acid and sodium salt sulfuric acid. This salt-based chemical compound is known as an efficient detergent and degreaser. It is ubiquitous in products such as floor degreasers and hair shampoo. According to the Environmental Working Group, research studies on SLS have shown links to skin and eye irritation, organ toxicity, endocrine disruption, cancer and more.

Parabens are heavily used in the cosmetic and skin care industry as a preservative and can be found listed as an ingredient under many hard-to-pronounce names such as propylparaben, parahydroxybenzoic acid, parahydroxybenzoate, methylparaben, ethylparaben, and butylparaben. Studies noted in the Journal of Applied Toxicology implicate their connection with cancer because their hormone-disrupting qualities mimic estrogen that could disrupt the body's endocrine system.

Propylene Glycol, or PG, is an active synthetic chemical found in engine coolants, paints, adhesives and other products, such as solvents. It is a common cosmetic moisturizer that has been linked to kidney and liver problems and appears on the New Jersey's Department of Health's Right to Know Hazardous Substance List

Diethanolamine (DEA) readily reacts with nitrite preservatives and contaminants to create nitrosodiethanolamine (NDEA), a known and potent carcinogen. DEA seems to block absorption of the nutrient choline, which is vital to brain development.

Dioxane has been identified as one of 216 chemicals linked to breast cancer in rodents. Its carcinogenicity was first reported in 1965 and later confirmed by the National Cancer Institute in 1978.

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) can also be disguised under several other names on an ingredient list: amino acids, yeast extract, glutamic acid and nayad. According to the FDA, side effects include numbness, burning sensations, tingling, facial pressure, headaches, nausea, drowsiness and weakness

For additional scientific research and documentation on these chemicals, visit PubMed.gov. Organic Biochemist Michelle Y. Graves has specialized in tropical fruit seed oil research for more than two decades. Her organic skin care formulations bring relief from eczema, rosacea, sunburns and skin inflammation.