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Skin health

Skin health is a good reflection of internal health, especially of the gastro-intestinal system.  However, there are things that directly affect the skin that can also impact deeper, internal health.  The two main issues are sun exposure and skin care products.  Some sun exposure is beneficial, as it helps the skin produce Vitamin D and helps our bodies regulate sleep and wake cycles. 

There are several chemicals commonly found in skin care products that actually harm the skin.  Unfortunately, the FDA cannot require safety studies of cosmetics, and only 11 percent of the almost 11,000 ingredients in skin care products have been assessed for safety.  Some of the most common ingredients are petroleum derivatives (also used in things like auto cleaners), solvents and alcohols, and hormone disruptors, and may have links to various types of cancers.

Mineral oil is commonly found in lotions but it actually dries the skin by leaching out natural oils, as well as vitamins A, C, and E.  Alcohols (found as propyl, isopropyl, or SD40 alcohol), soap, and acetone strip the skin of its protective layer and dry skin.  Several ingredients, including mineral oil, petroleum (petrolatum) and collagen coat the skin like plastic and interfere with normal skin respiration.  Propylene glycol is another petroleum derivative and is also used in antifreeze because of its solvent properties.  These solvent properties can also weaken the cell structure of skin by breaking down proteins.

Phthalates and parabens may be linked to breast cancer because they are known to alter hormone function.  They may also not be listed as ingredients, but be hidden as  “fragrances”.  Many sunscreen ingredients also have estrogen activity in the body and are known to accumulate in fat tissue.  This is especially risky for breast cancer. 

DEA, MEA, and TEA are often found in foaming cleansers and are hormone disruptors as well as suspected in promoting liver and kidney cancer.  Sodium lauryl or laureth sulfate are also found in foaming cleansers and also dissolve proteins.  The eyes are particularly sensitive to these chemicals, and unfortunately, they are also very common in baby products.

Lanolin can cause allergic reactions, especially in people allergic to wool.  Grease extracted from dead animals at rendering plants is used in many brands of  cosmetics, and in many cases, if a company doesn’t specifically say that they don’t use animal products, they probably do!  Many of the coloring agents are derived from coal tar and may contain heavy metals; fragrances are synthetic solvents.  You can get more information  through the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the searchable database of the Environmental Working Group (

It is important to check your skin at least once a year and have your doctor check anything that looks suspicious.  Specifically, look for changes in:

Asymmetry: is a mole or skin area now asymmetrical when it used to have symmetry? Borders: are they clear around moles or blurry? Color: has the color changed?  Is a mole darker? Diameter: has a mole or area increased in diameter? Elevation: is a mole higher in elevation?

Have your skin checked if a mole or area of skin itches or bleeds, especially if any of the other characteristics have changed.


© Kimberly Hindman, 2006



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