When we hear or read about ‘environmental toxins’, we usually think of industrial chemicals, toxic metals, herbicides, pesticides, household chemicals (unless you’ve ‘gone organic’ of course), and even sunscreens (more details on sunscreen toxicity can be found in the April 2012 issue of Nutrition & Healing). But you likely don’t even give the products you use every day a second thought.
The fact is, there are many toxic chemicals hidden within the products you… and millions of others use… every single day. Hidden, because the manufacturers of these products rarely print the ingredients on their product labels! By now, you may have guessed that I’m talking about the make-up and other skincare products, used mostly by women, but also by a growing minority of men.
Just a few months ago, many women were shocked to learn that some lipsticks actually contain lead. Although lead in paint was made illegal decades ago because children might eat it, lead is still ‘allowed’ in lipstick! Inevitably, some of that lipstick – complete with lead content – is swallowed, and the lead is absorbed into the body. It’s hard to believe, but neither the medical authorities nor State governments in the US have any laws or regulations against using lead in lipstick – or any other cosmetics for that matter, either.1 In the UK, lead is banned from all cosmetics but is still permitted in hair dyes.
Your skin product could be legally loaded with toxins
Here are some toxic chemicals allowed by law and commonly present in many cosmetics and skincare items:
- BHA (for the technically inclined, butylated hydroxyanisole) – a proven carcinogen in animals, and a human thyroid disruptor
- Triclosan – an anti-microbial pesticide often found in soaps, another disruptor of thyroid and sex hormone function
- Parabens (several types) – oestrogen-mimicking chemicals found in a very high percentage of breast cancers, and also can cause reproductive disorders
- Phthalates – more reproductive system disruptors
- 1,4 dioxane – a probable carcinogen
- Isothiazolinones – skin irritants, sensitisers, and causes of allergies
The list goes on and on and would fill most – if not all – of this newsletter. (One source2 has found 3,163 distinct chemicals in just the fragrances contained in cosmetics and skincare products!). In the US, there are no labelling requirements and the manufacturers either aren’t responsible enough to voluntarily list all the ingredients in their products or they don’t want you to know. (Hmmmm, which do you think is the case?)
Current EU laws state that all cosmetic and personal care products must contain a list of ingredients, the purpose of the product (unless obvious), any warning statements, precautionary information and restrictions. Perfume compositions and their raw materials do not need to be declared and can be simply described by the word perfume. If it’s not in or on the box, the manufacturer is legally obliged to provide a list of ingredients on request. The product does not have to show substances used during the production if they are no longer present, nor impurities in the raw materials such as pesticide residues, chemical byproducts formed accidentally during manufacture or substances used as a carrier for fragrances. Ingredients do not have to be listed on free samples or small courtesy bottles.
Most skincare products are never evaluated for safety
Not only are the ingredients of most skincare products not listed in the US, but there are very few requirements by the US medical authorities and the various States to even test the ingredients for safety. The large majority aren’t even ‘reviewed’ or ‘approved’ (or not) by the medical authorities! The cosmetics and skincare industry itself is no help, either. In over 30 years, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (the industry’s own ‘safety’ review) has actually evaluated less than 20% of cosmetics ingredients and found just 11 of them – that’s 11 of literally thousands – unsafe.3 Even worse, the recommendations of this board are just that… recommendations… and they are not binding on the industry.2
In the UK, The Cosmetics Toiletries and Perfumery Association insists that each product undergoes a rigorous safety assessment and that any chemicals are present in safe doses that can’t harm us. However, there is some disagreement over what constitutes a ‘safe’ level.
For young people and children, or sensitive adults, these levels may not be safe at all. And even if the relatively small amounts in individual products don’t hurt us, there is growing concern over the number of products people use daily, and the cumulative effect of so many chemicals being used all over our bodies every day, for many years.
Take charge of your own health… choose organic chemical-free products
Despite all this, the rest of this article will not be an argument for ever more regulation by the medical authorities. If you use cosmetics or skincare products – or want to stay healthy – personal responsibility is the ‘way to go’. As you know, relying on the medical authorities or even governments is definitely not the path to optimal personal health. For that, as with so many other things, the person most concerned about your own health and well-being must be you! Of course, if you’re a reader of Nutrition & Healing, you’ve very likely taken charge of your own health already, so I’ll get off this point.
Where can you find out what’s in the cosmetics and skincare products you’re using now? And if they contain toxic chemicals, how can you find ones that don’t? If you’re not using this resource already, please visit and ‘bookmark’ this website: www.ewg.org/skindeep. Even though I disagree with many of this group’s ‘big government’ political views, it’s the most reliable and complete database on this topic I’ve found.
However, there is one more alternative, and that’s a small line of cosmetic products started by my wife Holly in 2011. As you may have read before, she’s very thrifty, and always asks for those ‘senior discounts’, and usually is forced to show her driver’s licence to get them. The usual ‘guess’ at her age is low by 15 or 20 years. For decades she’s ‘eaten organic’ (when home), and avoided sugar, processed foods, and food chemicals when travelling. She takes her vitamins, minerals and botanicals, several – including Centella asiatica, hyaluronic acid and Toki® – specifically for her skin. She started bio-identical hormone replacement promptly when the need arose, and gets a special low-dose prescription hormone-containing skin cream (see page 4) from her compounding pharmacist.
Of course Holly’s been as careful as she can be about skincare products, but wasn’t satisfied with what she could find, so several years ago she started looking around for alternatives. She finally identified wholesalers of strictly organic ingredients, and last year introduced Holly’s Organic skincare and cosmetic products. I don’t use cosmetics myself, and will leave the comments from women who’ve used them until last, but I can tell you about the ingredients they contain.
First and foremost, they are purely, purely organic. 100%! (Please see the sidebar for the truth about what’s often called ‘organic’ or ‘natural’.)
Holly’s Organic contains no patent chemicals or patentable extra-terrestrial molecules! The antioxidant content of these products is extremely high. (Despite this, the ‘shelf life’ of these products – unopened – is about one year.)
Holly’s Organic products are hand-picked and hand-made
The ingredients for Holly’s Organic products are handpicked and hand-made. The water contained in them is very small particle ‘structured water’… water clusters with just a few molecules per cluster… which flow and penetrate much more readily than clusters which contain dozens or even hundreds of water molecules per cluster. Holly’s Organic is designed for mature and sensitive skins, but can be used to good effect even if your skin isn’t particularly sensitive. However, Holly’s Organic was specifically designed as an ‘age-combating’ group of products.
As I don’t use cosmetics and skincare products – maybe I’d look better if I did – the rest of this is written by women who actually use them!
First, a description of each product, but don’t worry, there are only eight of them.
Honey Skin Cleanser – has the unique characteristic of a slightly sugary scrub combined with organic milk and anti-ageing herbs. Skin feels clean and nourished without being tight. More benefit is derived by leaving it on the skin for one to three minutes before rinsing.
Amino-Rich Mineral Toner – unscented and contains natural amino acids, minerals, and fulvic acid. It has absolutely no burning sensation on the skin. Use this with all other Holly’s Organic products as an activator for the nutrients. Amino-Rich Mineral Toner evens skin tone and balances the natural pH of your skin. Also great for hair!
Day Moisturiser – fantastic for soothing skin irritations and restoring needed moisture to the face. With orange and ylang-ylang oil, it smells fantastic. True aromatherapy!
Night Cream – with a bit heavier consistency than the Day Moisturiser, Night Cream will help regenerate your skin while you sleep. It is also wonderfully scented with lemon, rosewood and neroli oils.
Citrus Exfoliator – this very mild formula combines organic buttermilk, honey and herbs with papaya and pineapple enzymes for a non-stinging, non-scratchy experience that leaves your skin soft and refined. You will notice the difference! Make-up will glide on smoother and blend better on the new glowing skin revealed by using this exfoliator two to three times per week.
Replenishing Mask – If you have more serious skin concerns you will love the Replenishing Mask. You only need a thin layer to discover the healing and soothing benefits of ingredients such as colostrums and raw honey. This is not your typical mask. It does not get dry and tight on the skin, but stays moist as it hydrates and repairs problem skin. Even those with very sensitive skin will enjoy the experience of revitalisation for the face.
Under Eye Cream – Make those puffy eyes look great! Holly’s Organic rich, luxurious Under Eye Cream reduces puffiness and provides essential moisture to the delicate eye area. Regular use is great for reducing the appearance of ‘smile’ lines and restoring that youthful look to the eyes. Plus it has a fantastic citrus scent!
Anti-Ageing Serum – The highest in skin protective antioxidants, Holly’s Anti-Aging Serum penetrates deeply into the skin to rejuvenate and remove signs of ageing. It is somewhat heavy but absorbs readily into the skin. This should be used in conjunction with Holly’s moisturisers for the most benefit.
What REAL women are saying about ‘going organic’ with Holly
Finally, some REAL comments kindly written by users of Holly’s Organic skincare and cosmetic products:
“I feel good knowing that I am using such effective, high quality, organic products on my skin.”
“Even though my skin is very sensitive, I have used Holly’s Organic products with complete success. My skin feels smoother, more hydrated and my pores are noticeably smaller.”
“After searching for a product that my skin would not react to, I decided to try Holly’s Organic. I was a little hesitant at first because I thought it was rather expensive. I started with just 2 products and completely loved them both, and was surprised at how long they lasted and how gentle they were. Since then, I have purchased every item in the line and I love them all! I even went back to a different product one time, but experienced redness and irritation and so have decided to stick with using only Holly’s Organic. Every item is effective and my skin feels great and looks radiant!”
“The Under Eye Cream is a treat for the eyes. It is super hydrating and noticeably lightened the lines around my eyes.”
Holly’s Organic skincare and cosmetic products are a small line available – at present – only at Tahoma Clinic Dispensary in the US, www.tahomadispensary.com. Holly hopes to make them available more widely, but is going slowly to make sure that their quality is always maintained, for all users, and – of course – herself!
The sad truth is the majority of cosmetics and skincare products contain one or more toxic chemicals. Thankfully, a still small but growing minority don’t and with some extra effort you can minimise your contact with these toxic chemicals.
Wishing you the best of health,
Dr. Jonathan V. Wright
Nutrition & Healing
Volume 6, Issue 6 – June 2012
Full references and citations for this article are available in the downloadable PDF version of the monthly Nutrition and Healing issue in which this article appears.