Monday, June 15, 2009

Your Skin: The Other Nutrition Gateway

Your skin is like a secondary entrance into your body. It is selective (aka keeping bacteria and other pathogens out) but is also porous and can let both micronutrients (Vitamin D, Vitamin K) and harmful chemicals in. This means that what you put on your skin is just as important as what you eat.

We think about protecting our skin when we work with household cleaners, chemicals in the laboratory or industrial setting, and with fertilizers in our lawn. The warning labels on these products come from requirements by governmental organizations such as OSHA and EPA standards (originating from class action law suits or major incidents, in many cases).

The cosmetics industry (this applies to products used by both MEN and WOMEN), however, is "regulated" by the FDA. They do have some power over safety, but they do not currently require that any of these products be tested for safety before they are sold to us. Unfortunately, this goes for supplements as well. Although they seem to be gaining more regulatory power recently, we have to remember just how long it took Congress to pass any sort of bill that allowed the FDA to regulate tobacco. Imagine how long it will take for drugs or for cosmetics (which has only begun to be illuminated to the public).

However discouraging this may seem, there are many resources that we can turn to in order to educate ourselves and prevent harm to our bodies. Today's article in the New York Times highlighted the Good Guide, one of the great resources you can use to learn what is in all that lotion, sunscreen, makeup, and deodorant you are putting on your body and all those household cleaners, air fresheners, and laundry or dish washing detergent. It is still in an early beta version, but it looks like it will be an amazing resource! You can currently browse through tens of thousands of products. The Good Guide rates 0-10, 10 being the best for your skin and body.

Here are some others you can use right now:

Cosmetics Database: Learn what your deoderant, cosmetics, lotions, etc. are rated and search for low-rated products (this site uses a hazard scale from 0-10, where 0 means no harm and 10 is the most harmful) *My personal favorite!

California's Prop 65: The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 requires that the California governor updates a list every year of chemicals that are known carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) or that are reproductively toxic. There is a PDF of the latest list.

Design for the Environment: The EPA has really begun to start using their Design for the Environment label, which designates a product is safe for you and the environment. They work mostly with industry, but includes products such as CLR (Calcium, Lime, Rust). They sponsor CleanGredients, which helps the industry make safer, greener chemicals.

Do you know of any other comparable resources? I'd love to know what they are!

*I have placed all links that I used for my research within this blog post. I encourage you to learn more and to share your thoughts in the comments of this post!


  1. Great post! We recently switched to organic/paraben free deodorant, lotion, etc.

    Have you tried Crystal deodorant? I LOVE it!

  2. No I haven't, but I just looked it up. Sounds amazing. I'll have to try it! Thanks for the recommendation :)