THE WISDOM OF NATURAL SKIN CARE
Written by: Eve Stahl
Each evening when you use your regular facial product, you may be applying toxins to your skin that actually age you much faster than normal. Even though consumer awareness of beauty product chemicals has been growing as scientific scrutiny reveals the harmful effects of toxic ingredients, cosmetic and body care products containing "suspect" and known toxic ingredients continue to flood the natural product industry at an astounding rate. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health reported that nearly 900 toxic chemicals are used in cosmetic products.1. According to a June 2000 Cancer Coalition press release "Cancer and health risk experts recently concluded reviews that indicate mainstream cosmetics and personal hygiene products pose the highest cancer risk exposures to the general public, even higher than smoking."2 Additionally the overwhelming amount of misinformation and contradictory information only heightens consumers' confusion and inability to get to the "bare facts" which can guide them to make the healthiest choices.
Whatever we put on our skin enters the body through our pores, then travels through the entire body via the circulatory system. Therefore it is especially important to scrutinize ingredients when selecting body care products just as we do when choosing our food.While many companies claim their products are "all natural" and of the "finest quality," a close look at the ingredients reveals they contain toxic synthetic preservatives, 'suspected' carcinogens, drying alcohols, and perhaps synthetic fragrances and dyes. All of which potentially contribute to allergies, headaches, rashes, asthma, hormonal imbalances, cancer, reproductive complications and a myriad other physical and emotional concerns.
Plants are living substances. They contain a vital life energy. It is what differentiates living matter from synthetically derived matter. Plants are composed of the same vitamins, minerals, amino acids, essential fatty acids, enzymes and hormones that we are. Our body recognizes plants as nutrition. We can safely eat most of them, use them in body care products and diffuse their oils for their therapeutic benefits. By using natural ingredients you will benefit your health. On the contrary, synthetic ingredients are "man made" chemicals devoid of life. The body recognizes that they are different from nature's plants and one's own chemistry. The immune system registers this as foreign, possibly toxic matter and may respond with an allergic reaction.
Everything we ingest orally, absorb through our skin, or breathe into our lungs, the body will either metabolize in support of building healthy cells or attempt to eliminate as non-food. What the body does not perceive as nutrition it must eliminate. What is not eliminated efficiently may cause disease. "…when toxins are being assimilated or created in the body faster than they can be gotten rid of…the toxic accumulations in the body create the necessary preconditions for disease." 3
When synthetic ingredients are ingested, the body spends a great deal of its vital energy to eliminate them from the body. This can be very stressful to the immune system and depletes our vital energy. The liver takes most of the brunt of processing and eliminating the foreign toxic ingredients. "…the liver serves as a blood filter and cleanser…(it) helps to reduce the work of the immune system, and when it becomes overloaded and unable to function as it should, your health probably will suffer. A poorly performing liver will have a ripple effect on the immune system, increasing the likelihood of allergies, sinus problems, asthma, auto-immune diseases and recurrent infections."4
That is why it is critical to scrutinize every ingredient in the foods you eat, the products you put on your skin and hair, the household cleaning products and air fresheners you use. If you want natural products you need to be willing to search them out…read labels and not settle for half-natural skin and hair care products. Ideally natural skin care products are made with whole plant ingredients. Anything you put on your skin you should be able to eat…you actually are eating it! This is why many of the ingredients in natural skin care products are the same wholesome foods included in a holistic health plan e.g. vegetable oils, pure water, honey, oats, herbs, seaweed. The best way to read a label on a skin care product is to read each ingredient as if it were something you might eat or cook with. They should all preferably be certified organic. The following are a few key ingredients to look for on skin care labels:
Natural vegetable oils have many beneficial properties for the skin. Coconut oil, sweet almond oil, apricot kernel oil, sesame oil, and wheat germ oil are a few.
Water is a major contributor to the moisturizing process. Distilled and Deionized water are protected from the hundreds of chemicals in public water. Botanicals should comprise the therapeutic value of the product. There are numerous botanicals that have been proven throughout the ages to be beneficial for the skin e.g. chamomile, comfrey, lavender, frankincense, rose, myrrh, melissa, geranium, seaweeds and many more. They may be incorporated into products in several different forms - herbal extracts and infusions, essential oils and hydrosols. Since these are used in concentrated forms it is particularly important that they are derived from organically grown plants.
The essential oils of plants have been known throughout the ages as the most potent beautifying agents for the skin. They have a unique lipid structure that allows them to penetrate cell membranes and transport oxygen and nutrients to each cell of the body. Essential oils are some of the highest known sources of antioxidants that can prevent free radical damage and thus have an anti-aging effect on the skin.
"The beauty in using essential oils as medicines is that they don't have negative side effects like the synthetic drugs and chemicals of modern pharmacology."5 Each essential oil has specific properties. Some oils are particularly hydrating while others have properties that tone the skin, seeming to work magic with wrinkles. Still others have antimicrobial and astringent properties that address the bacteria associated with acne. They all deliver nutrients and oxygen that improve circulation to give the skin a healthy glow. The oils can be carefully chosen for their nourishing properties and ability to balance chemistry in a manner that supports the required skin care. "Applied to the skin these essences regulate the activity to the capillaries and restore vitality to the tissues. We might almost say that they make the flesh more succulent."6
It is critical that the essential oils used are a pure steam distillation of organically grown plants. Commercial products are often made with poorly distilled or solvent extracted oils. Perfume oils should be avoided. They are not essential oils and are a frequent cause of toxic reactions.
The following are the names of a few common toxic ingredients used in body care products that should be avoided: parabens (methyl, poly, butyl), propylene glycol, petrolatum, mineral oil, alcohols (cetyl, stearyl, cetearyl), perfumes, fragrance dyes & color, pthalates, TEA, and lauryl sulfates.
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