Nourish and Protect Your Biggest Organ: Your Skin

On August 15, 2012, Johnson & Johnson, makers of Aveeno, Neutrogena, and Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, announced that it will be removing carcinogens and other toxic chemicals from its baby and adult products globally.

According to Women’s Voices for the Earth, J&J told the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics it will reformulate its hundreds of cosmetics and personal care products in all the markets it serves in 57 countries around the world by the end of 2015.

•    Reduce 1,4 dioxane to a maximum of 10 parts per million in adult products;

•    Phase out formaldehyde-releasers in adult products;
•    Limit parabens in adult products to methyl-, ethyl- and propyl-;
•    Complete phase-out of triclosan from all products;
•    Phase out Diethyl Phthalate (DEP) from all products (no other phthalates are currently used);
•    Phase out polycyclic musks, animal derived ingredients, tagates, rose crystal and diacetyl from fragrances.

This is all great news, but as with their announcement in November 2011 agreeing to reformulate baby products to remove carcinogens 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde by the end of 2013, it seems to be a little late for my comfort level.  Particularly when the harmful effects of these chemicals have been known for a long time.  Even more frustrating is that many of these chemicals have been banned in Europe for years and J&J has formulated products for Europe without the banned chemicals.

But you don’t have to wait for J&J or any other large company to shape up to start limiting your exposure to these toxins and carcinogens.

Your Skin and Your Immune System

Your skin is an organ.  It is an organ like your brain or your liver or your heart.  And your skin has an important job to do just like these other organs.  But it’s job is not simply to hold your body and your guts and your other organs in place, your skin’s biggest job is to serve as your first level of protection against germs and bacteria and viruses.   It is part of your immune system.  In a sense it is one of the most important parts of the immune system because if it is in tact and doing its job well, it keeps out the bad stuff. Like a soccer goalie.  It doesn’t matter how fast a runner your front line is if there is no one keeping the ball out of the goal. Your skin protects the goal.

“One day walking around a city could expose your skin to more pollutants than those your grandmother was exposed to in her whole lifetime.”

If you want a healthy liver, you stop drinking alcohol and eating artificial sweeteners and you increase your intake of green leafy vegetables, beans and purified water.  If you want healthy skin, you stop using chemical skin care, you stay out of the harsh sun, you avoid smog filled pollution and you increase your intake of healthy nutrients.  With your skin, you can realize fast and dramatic changes; faster than you can with any other organ, because you can have direct access to the organ.  In addition to eating the right foods, you can apply nutrient based skin care products directly to your skin.

“Air pollution, fluorescent lights, some computer screens, even tap water with iron in it — all of these expose skin to more free radicals than any generation before us. And since skin can no longer keep up with these assaults, a chain reaction of oxidation is happening right on it.  It’s like your skin rusting.”

The damage isn’t just on the skin you see today, but also to the to skin that will emerge as you age as most damage is on a cellular level. The key to improving your skin is to protect it from toxins and to nourish it properly.

According to Organic Authority, Beautiful skin starts from the inside out, and eating these six foods could help your body’s largest organ avoid sun damage, stay moisturized, fight wrinkles, and even prevent cancer.

Best nutrients for your skin:

Vitamin E – Almonds

Vitamin C – Papaya, Sweet Potato

Omega 3 Fatty Acids – Flax Seeds

Vitamin A – Carrots

Omega 6 – Safflower Oil

Folate – Spinach, leafy greens

Worst toxins to avoid:

  • Free-Radicals – Are unstable and try to break down cell structure.  Vitamin E and anti-oxidents help protect against free- radicals
  • Parabens -Chemical preservatives. Mimic estrogen. Found in breast cancer tumors.
  • Iron – in water
  • Phthalates – Phthalates are endocrine disrupting chemicals that are commonly found in personal care products such as moisturizers, nail polishes, soaps, hair sprays and perfumes.
  • Propylene Glycol – preservative used in cosmetics, personal products and food. Propylene glycol has physical properties similar to those of ethylene glycol (also referred to as monoethylene glycol). However, ethylene glycol is classified as toxic.
  • FD&C and D&C dyes – controversial red and green food dyes.
  • Formaldehyde (preservative) and 1,4-dioxane  (stabilizer) cause cancer in animals, and formaldehyde was recently classified as a known human carcinogen by the U.S. National Toxicology Program. Phthalates, parabens, triclosan and polycyclic musks are all considered to be likely hormone disruptors and have been linked to a variety of health problems ranging from birth defects to diabetes, obesity and breast cancer.

Endocrine Disruptors

Endocrine disruptors have been in the news a lot lately.

Your endocrine system includes:

  • Hypothalamus
  • Pituitary Gland
  • Thyroid
  • Adrenal Gland
  • Pancreas
  • Ovaries
  • Testicals

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interfere with endocrine (or hormone system) in animals, including humans. These disruptions can cause cancerous tumors, birth defects, and other developmental disorders. Specifically, they are known to cause learning disabilities, severeattention deficit disorder, cognitive and brain development problems, deformations of the body (including limbs); sexual development problems,feminizing of males or masculine effects on females, etc. Any system in the body controlled by hormones, can be derailed by hormone disruptors. Many endocrine disruptors mimic estrogen, which is also listed as a known carcinogen.

Non-toxic skincare

Enfuselle by Shaklee

Ava Anderson Non-Toxic

Non-toxic Make-up

Tarte Cosmetics (available at Ulta)

Research your brand on the Environmental Working Group’s Skincare Database, Skin Deep

Moldy Front Loader Washing Machine

I got my high efficiency, front loader washing machine 9 years ago when I moved into this house and my daughter was 3 months old. I was pretty thrilled with my new washer, which was top of the line at the time. It didn’t take long for my love affair with my new laundry machine to sour. And it wasn’t just the endless loads of laundry I found myself doing as a new mother. It was the dark mold that was starting to stain all my pretty pink and purple bibs and jammies.

The mold was developing in the rubber seal. I scraped it out with paper towels, sprayed it with bleach, hand dried the glass door and the rubber after every load and left the door open to air dry in between loads, just like everything I had read on the internet instructed me to do. But the mold came back anyway. It wasn’t as plentiful as before, but it was still there… stinking up the towels and occasionally leaving a dark stain strip on a pretty shirt or sheet.

20120707-215716.jpgLook at how gross my washer was getting!  I was starting to consider selling the damn thing on Craigslist and getting a top loading, old fashioned washer to be honest. Then I started using Shaklee’s laundry detergent. I was using it because I had purchased a Get Clean Starter Kit in the hopes to help my kids health. I’d read about the chemicals in many store bought detergents and their links to asthma and allergies. As both of my kids had been diagnosed with asthma and suffered many bouts throughout the year, including multiple missed days from school and activities (including missing their own birthday parties!) I was eager to do anything to help them out.

Removing all toxic cleaners and air fresheners and replacing with all natural products had helped immensely with my kids health, but that is another story. The surprise benefit in all of this is that the mold stopped appearing. As it turns out, the phosphates in many store bought detergents don’t just encourage algae growth. It encourages mold growth as well, apparently.

After I noticed that the mold wasn’t really coming back, I decided to do a deep clean on the machine so I could start from scratch. I used Basic G to spray out the rubber, and then I poured a little diluted basic G into the detergent cup and ran a load. Since then, about 15 months ago, I have not had another problem with mold stains or odor! Not only that, but I’ve even gotten a little careless with the machine and left a load in overnight with the door closed and still nothing!

The liquid detergent also works fabulously as a pre-treater. Really a great product.

Phosphate Free Dishwasher Detergent that Works!

As of July 1, 2010, sixteen states have banned phosphates in detergents. Phosphates are harmful to the environment because phosphorous is like a fertilizer. It increases algae and aquatic weed growth in water bodies. Too much algae depletes oxygen needed for healthy fish and aquatic life. In short, the fish and aquatic life are being suffocated in their own homes.

While this is a great milestone for the environment, many consumers are unhappy.  In the May 18, 2011, article titled “Dishes Still Dirty? Blame Phosphate-Free Detergent” by Elizabeth Shogren,  NPR reported that consumers were disappointed with the results of their new eco-friendly detergents and were going to great lengths to find alternatives, even if it meant ignoring the ban and seeking out toxic ingredients.

So why aren’t these cleaners actually doing what they are meant to do? Why aren’t they CLEANING?

  1. There is a misconception that to be clean, something has to shine or smell or make a lot of bubbles. Many also feel that you need a lot of detergent to get your dishes clean.  But a lot of detergent can add up to a lot of residue on your dishes.
  2. Many of the companies making phosphate-free detergents as a response to the ban are unfamiliar with really effective green methods of cleaning.  In many cases, they took their usual chemical soup recipe and simply removed the phosphates, without updating the ingredients with green, eco-friendly, effective alternatives. Or worse, they just added bleach which creates a new suite of problems.

I’ve been using Shaklee’s Dish detergent for over a year.  Shaklee has been producing phosphate-free automatic dishwashing detergents since 1991.  These products have a 100% money back guarantee that they are safe, eco-friendly, non-toxic and effective.  My dishes are just as clean as they were when I was using the toxic pods in my dishwasher.  Additionally, I’ve saved money because I only need a very small amount of detergent to get my dishes clean.  As a result, I only buy dish detergent 3 times a year. I used to use Cascade and I would go through a container every two months.  I was spending $60 a year on Cascade and now I am spending $30 a year on Shaklee.  AND, I’m doing something good for the environment.

I’m not the only one who’s impressed with this dish detergent.  It won a PTPA award.  PTPA provides an objective means to discover, appraise and promote new products designed to enrich family living. Awards are presented to companies whose products are deemed exceptional by a knowledgeable and unbiased panel of experts.

Tame the Toxic Trifecta in your Home

Home is supposed to be the safest place on earth, and yet our homes are often the source of the majority of our toxic exposure.  Knowing what contaminants and chemicals are in what products and how to remove, replace or reduce them is key to sustaining and improving your family’s health.

Contaminated Water – Lead, mercury, atrazine (pesticide), and other contaminants are in your water.  According to the water and wastewater authorities, there are less than 100 contaminants that are monitored and regulated by our water authorities, yet there are thousands of contaminants in the supply.  Since only a small percent of the total water supply is used for drinking water, it would not be feasible or economical for the water treatment centers to clean all the water to the level of purity needed for optimum health.  Further, once the water leaves the treatment center, the water passes through distribution systems and home plumbing, which may have flaws. For this reason water authorities and health authorities recommend you purify your water at the source — your faucet.  Not all water purifiers are the same.  Reverse osmosis systems are the best but are not affordable for many families.  A quality pitcher water filter will clean your water and reduce pollution from disposable plastic bottles.  Not all water pitchers are the same.  Choose wisely and look for Gold Seal Certification by the Water Quality Association.  Brita and Pur both lost their gold seal certification years ago for removal of lead.

Contaminated Food –  Pesticides on our foods are linked to several chronic diseases affecting kids at alarming rates.  They have been linked to ADHD, Autism, asthma, several cancers and other chronic diseases.  Washing the foods no longer removes sufficient quantities of pesticides because GMO crops are genetically modified to contain active pesticides.  For example, corn—a product that is great use in our food supply – is regulated as both a food and a pesticide.  And this is what you are eating when you eat processed food!  The only way to ensure you are minimizing your exposure to pesticides is to eat organic, whole foods.  In addition to pesticides, there are several other foods to avoid because they are toxic to your body.  Avoid any artificial sugars, colors and preservatives.  Your body struggles to process them and this is a terrible burden on your liver, kidneys and pancreas.  Avoid real sugar.  Our foods are overly sweetened.  Try to retrain your palate to appreciate flavors in food as nature intended.

Contaminated Air –  While we should all do what we can to improve the quality of our air, driving less, eating less meat, creating less waste, etc. indoor air pollution directly impacts our health and vitality on a daily basis. VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) are found in two to five times higher levels inside our homes than outside.  Use cleaning products without pesticides or harsh chemicals.  There are several natural products available.  Stop using air fresheners and fragranced candles. When the weather is mild, turn off your recirculating air and open the windows.  Indoor air pollution is linked to asthma and allergies and other chronic diseases.  You are in charge of the products you purchase and use in your home.  Use the best without regrets.

Remember, every dollar you spend is a vote in this economy for better health, better ethics and a better future.  Every choice you make can be a choice for a healthy balanced future.