Alternative Beauty: Looking good Long-term

empty bottlesWe were all born natural beauties, but most of us now use a few body care products to keep up appearances. Yet many of the products we use on our skin, hair and fingertips can lead to ugly health consequences down the road. But with a few simple changes, we can have our looks and our health too!

Coming clean

While we may be seduced by the foam, mile-high lather is a good indication your shampoo or soap contains sodium laurel sulfate, a foaming agent that strips natural protective oils from skin and hair. It would have to be strong, since it’s also used to degrease car engines and clean garage floors. Continuous use of SLS leads to a pronounced increase in moisture loss from skin, a real concern for people with dry skin or conditions like eczema or psoriasis. But the real danger in SLS is that it can combine with other ingredients in your products – or with ingredients in the variety of products you use on your body in a day – to create cancer-causing nitrosamines.

Get over your addiction to foam, and experience what healthy clean feels like with natural saponins like soap nuts, vegetable glycerine and even tea. For oilier skin, Castile soap is a simple combination of olive oil and salt. Those with dry, dehydrated or sensitive skin can clean with coconut oil or olive oil straight from the container; simply apply, gently massage with a cotton wash cloth and rinse. This is also the perfect make-up remover.

Self-preservation

Any chemist will tell you the importance of a having a good preservative in a body care product. Otherwise, mould and bacteria can start to spoil your purchase as soon as you take off the lid. Unfortunately, some chemical preservatives bring a whole new set of problems to the potion. Parabens, for example, are ubiquitous in body care products because they are cheap, plentiful and don’t seem to trigger skin reactions. It’s the fact that they seem harmless that makes them so dangerous: readily absorbed into the skin, parabens are known to mimic estrogen in the body of both males and females, and a study published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology reports that parabens are found intact in human breast tissue.

Better safe than sorry. Non-toxic, natural choices will preserve your purchase and your health. Opt for body care products made without water, as H2O is essential for the growth of bacteria and mould. A combination of natural oils including ingredients like lavender, tea tree, lemon, vitamin E, grapefruit seed extract, rosemary, neem, oregano, cinnamon and vanillin provide broad-spectrum preservative protection for beauty and body care products.

Strike oil

Who didn’t grow up with a tub of petroleum jelly in the bathroom? While no one can argue petroleum jelly’s ability to trap moisture, it also prevents the elimination of toxins and waste products from skin, and prevents the absorption of oxygen and moisture from the air. That means that if you keep using it, eventually your skin will be drier than when you first rubbed it on. Petroleum jelly, along with paraffin and propylene glycol, are derivatives of mineral oil, which is known to cause cancer. It also becomes toxic in sunlight, causes skin discoloration and can promote acne. So why use it?

If you like the feel of petroleum jelly, opt for similar texture in products made with cold pressed oils, vegetable butters, beeswax and jojoba wax. Castor oil and coconut oil also remain on the skin longer than other oils, helping to trap precious moisture while still allowing your skin to breathe. Not surprisingly, these are the same ingredients you’ll find in a pucker-saving lip balm. Sweet almond oil is a beautiful skin moisturizer, and jojoba oil has many of the same properties as human sebum (oil), making it the perfect non-clogging facial moisturizer.

Nail tips

If you like to extend color to your toes and fingers, you’re likely quite practised at holding your breath. Otherwise, you’d subject yourself to inhalant toxicants like toluene, linked to central nervous system damage, dizziness, drowsiness, unconsciousness and liver damage. A 2009 animal study also links inhaled toluene to poisoning of embryos. Acetate is another inhaled poison in that little bottle, which is known to trigger eye, nose and throat irritation as well as nausea and vomiting.

Give your nails – and lungs! – the occasional break, and opt for a natural pedicure on occasion. Healthy, buffed nails are a shiny extension of your good looks. When you feel the need to paint on a touch of color, look for water-based polishes. With each stroke of that brush, the only thing that will evaporate in the air is water. Good for you and the environment!

The best way to keep a healthy glow is to be healthy. Choose safe and natural personal care products that will help you look good today – and every day after that.

By Lisa Petty
Originally published in Remedies

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