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Beauty at what price?

  By Judith Coleman Cohen
  Discovery Research Co.

For years, many men and women have attempted to improve their appearances. But, in their quest for perfection, they have not stopped to consider the consequences of routinely using their shampoos, moisturizing creams, toothpastes or cosmetics. Could the tube of lipstick, moisturizing lotion or baby shampoo be exacting a price on our health?

This very well may be the case. While environmental pollutants and toxins can be easily absorbed through the air, our water and our food, they can also come from other unlikely sources. Launching an investigation of the chemicals found in cosmetics and personal care products, researchers have reported some shocking discoveries. Industrial chemicals, long banned and at 100 times the allowable amounts, can be found in many of the products we use every day.

Cosmetic chemistry is nothing more that a blend of industrial chemicals. Propylene glycol, a humectant found in most moisturizers, is an industrial anti-freeze and is also used for deicing airplanes. The Material Safety Data Sheet, issued by the chemical's manufacturer, states that it is systemic, and "through skin contact, it causes liver abnormalities and kidney damage in laboratory animals."

Other ingredients have also raised cause for alarm. Dioxane, found in baby shampoos, has been determined by the FDA to be an animal carcinogen. In a 1978 study done at the Unilever Research Laboratory (present owner of Elizabeth Arden), a common surfactant, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) found in most cleansers, toothpastes and shampoos was found to irritate the skin, corrode the hair and contribute to significant hair loss. Further tests indicated that it can keep children's eyes from developing properly and contributed to the development of cataracts in some adults. In children under the age of six, SLS prevents proteins from linking up properly. Furthermore, it was found to mix with other chemicals present in shampoos to form nitrosamines, a human carcinogen. This very same ingredient is used in research clinics to irritate skin for healing tests. It is also used to degrease automobile engines and clean garage floors because of its corrosive nature.

Another common ingredient in most moisturizers, mineral oil, comes from crude oil (petroleum) used in industry as a metal cutting fluid. It may suffocate the skin by forming an oil film. Healthy skin needs oxygen, and to release carbon dioxide it should not be inhibited. Holding large amounts of moisture in the skin can "flood" the biology and may result in immature, unhealthy, sensitive skin that dries out easily. Glycerin (synthetic/non-natural) acts in a similar fashion, drawing moisture from inside the skin and holding it on the surface for a better feel. While these two ingredients may not necessarily be toxic, they can dry the skin from the inside out, and ultimately cause premature aging.

There is cause for concern. The average woman applies more than two hundred chemicals a day to her body, (men, somewhat fewer), most of which initiate an immune response. In this day of chemical overload, it is ridiculous to think that this toxic abuse is not affecting our health.

So what do we do now? Throw away our make-up and go "au natural?" No, alternatives are out there, we just need to take the initiative to educate ourselves in a little biochemistry, read labels, learn about ingredients, scan a few reports and attend a few lectures. Then when it is time to replace those products, it will be done with knowledge. No, we don't have to give up our skin care products, we just need to be informed and choose wisely. We then need to teach this valued information to our children and others we care about.
 
 

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