Friday, February 20, 2009

Skin & Hair Nutrition: Are your beauty products toxic?

There are alot of blogs talking about nutrition this way or that way, but how many blogs talk about skin and hair nutrition? Or, let me ask this, how many nutrition blogs talk about skin and hair nutrition?? How about mine!

Your skin is the largest organ of your body -- did you know that? Your skin is "eating" things every time you wash your scalp, put on lotion, deodorant, perfume.. basically everything that touches your skin. That covers makeup, shampoos, conditioners, body lotions, body wash lotions, makeup removers, cleansers, sunscreens, soaps, etc. The list is long! So, what are YOU feeding your skin?

As one of my homework assignments from my herbal class, I had to compare a natural beauty product against a commercial product. This research led me to a website at the Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database. It is run by the researchers at the Environmental Working Group, a group that felt that the public needs to know what is in health products that are not regulated or tested. There are more than 41,000 products available in the database, with a breakdown of over 8000 ingredients.

Just because your products says it's "natural" or "organic" does not make it safe for you to use! For example, I use JASON Lavender Natural Shampoo. I thought that because it had lavender in it as well as organic and natural ingredients, it would rate a 1 out of 10 (10 being the worst possible stuff on the planet). Nope, it rated **6** out of 10 and is considered a "moderate hazard." 83% of shampoos tested actually performed better than this one.

My sunscreen moisturizer, Avalon Organics Vitamin C Suncreen Moisture Plus Lotion SPF 15, scored a piddly **7** out of 10 and is considered a "not recommended" option. Ingredients contained have been linked to: cancer, developmental/reproductive toxicity, allergies, organ toxicity, skin/eye irritations, neurotoxicity, etc. Ugh! The key ingredients in most sunscreens do seem to be particularly bad. My guess is, if you can be in the sun for less than 30 hour and do not have fair skin, it's probably safe to not use sunscreen. Our skin needs some amount of time in the sun (15 or so minutes every day if possible) to create our body's vitamin D, but beyond that, cover up with clothing and being in the shade.

I am not telling you to throw away bad stuff you own, unless you can afford to do so (and want to do so!). The other side of the coin is that you shouldn't waste things either. If it's something you can donate or reuse in another way, do so. I am hoping to switch out my highly unsafe stuff for safer products as I run out of things because I don't want to just throw things away. That would lead to an even bigger problem with our Mother Earth! But that's my MO. Yours is up to you...

I am hoping you find this informational and possibly even eye-opening. I am not claiming that all their data is absolutely correct and irrefutable, but it is worth taking a look to see if what you are feeding your skin matches what you eat.. for the better!

If you have any suggestions for natural skin care (that doesn't show up above a 1 or 2 out of 10 on that scale), please comment and I'll post! Thanks!


  1. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  2. Thanks Elaina! It's a work in progress, especially since I have to fit in between studying. :P See you around! ~Erica

  3. Hi,
    Just discovered your blog - I like it! I would love to get a degree in holistic nutrition. Where are you going to school?

    I checked out my favorite all purpose soap, Dr. Bronner's (peppermint 'flavor'), in the database you gave but unfortunately it wasn't listed. There WERE some other Dr. Bronners products though and they got the 'moderately hazardous' rating as well-not good!

    Keep up the good work! I'll be following you on Twitter.

  4. Hi S.Ellison!

    You should check a section of the website where they ask for recommendations for items not currently listed. You can always offer information there.

    I think I am going to replace as many of my products as possible with herbal remedies, or at least try new herbal things out until I can find safer commercial products.

    Thanks for following me on twitter!

  5. Sorry, I forgot to add that I am going to Clayton College of Natural Health to obtain my degree. They have multiple programs to choose from: Http://

  6. Ann Marie from could not leave a message here, so I'm forwarding what she wrote. I will definitely have to look for this brand! I am definitely looking for products that are safe enough to eat.

    Hi, Erica, nice post. I love Terressentials.

    Collectively their 44 products rate 0-3.

    They are the only truly organic beauty/personal care product company. You can read about it on their website. You could eat their products!

    I like all their products but love their lip balm and their shea butter the test. Heavenly!

    Ann Marie

    For the love of cheese. And butter. And bacon...

  7. Thanks for the great reference site!

    I've started making my own face cream in order to eliminate chemicals. Although I do use a small amount of cosmetic borax. I wonder how that would rank? I've also started using a small amount of coconut oil for my moisturizer. A little goes a long way. After learning about the carcinogenic properties of sunscreens and getting tired of the bad taste (it would sometime get close to my lips), I decided I needed to make a change. Now I like the taste of my moisturizer.

  8. Hi Spinner!

    Rosemary Gladstar, a well-known herbalist, mentions in one of her books that borax can be used in herbal beauty products. It is a salt that she uses in her bath products. If she thinks it's safe, I'm willing to try it! Good for you for using coconut oil. I use it in my teas, but not for my skin, as least not yet!

    I'm going to make my own herbal shampoo soon. My current one is not making my scalp happy. We'll see how this one turns out!

  9. I'm glad to know the borax is okay! I'm definitely going to see if the library has one of her books now. I want to learn more about which oils/ingredients do what for the body. Thanks!

  10. Spinner,

    The book I have is Rosemary Gladstar’s herbal recipes for vibrant health: 175 teas, tonics, oils, salves, tinctures, and other natural remedies for the entire family (2008). I really enjoyed reading this book and plan on making some shampoos/hair rinses from here.

    Oddly enough, when I looked at the Skin Deep website, it rated borax a 4 (moderate hazard). This make take some more research... but in the end, I think you have to let your body tell you whether it's good or not.

  11. I have found that if a person takes care of their nutritritonal needs at the cellular level from the inside out with the correct balance of vitamins and minerals the body will take care of itself wether it be your skin, hair, etc. Cellular nutrition is the key and water

  12. I agree Michael.. no matter what we eat or drink or put on our skin, if the components are not being used on a cellular level, what's the point? The problem is, most people are still confused on what feeds the body at the cells.