Safeguard Your Skin and the Environment

By Alica Diehl

Better living through chemistry seems to be a concept adopted into the American dream. Countless skin care products promise a “miracle cure” or “magic fix” to improve our wrinkles, acne, mood, or life. But, if we take a closer look at our skin care products, we might realize they aren't making our lives better. In fact, some of the chemicals in them are harming us.

According to a personal care product use survey conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the average American uses nine personal care products each day. Many of them are laden with surprisingly under-regulated chemicals that are absorbed into our bloodstream. It's often assumed that's not a problem because each individual application only exposes us to trace amounts, However, our bodies don’t have a good mechanism to get rid of the toxic substances, so they accumulate within us after multiple uses.

In addition, many of the chemicals in these products are washed down the drain and are not biodegradable. Because our sewage treatment systems don’t have a way to handle them, they end up in our drinking water, and in streams and the ocean, where they disrupt life offshore.

We brought this to light in a program for Baltimore Green Week. The Eco-Healthy Skin Care workshop alerted the audience to dangers lurking in their lotions and offered tips on navigating the skin care aisle to find safe products. I demonstrated how to create healthy, natural substitutes using ingredients from our kitchen cupboards, and participants made samples to take home. 


Here are some tips for eco-healthy skin care. Do you have some to share? Please let us know in the comments.

  1. It’s what’s on the inside that counts – What you put into your body is reflected on the outside of your body. Just like with most other body-related concerns, the best way to take care of your skin is to eat well. Include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet, from all colors of the rainbow. Cut down on excess consumption. Listen to and watch your body. If eating a certain food gives you a stomachache today and a new pimple tomorrow, your body is asking you to stop eating it.  Drink lots of water too!
  2. Bring a side-kick to the skin care aisle – The EWG has done its homework so you don’t have to.  Their Skin Deep Database is an amazing tool and one-stop-shop for questions regarding more than 68,000 skin care products. Type in the name of a product and instantly get a hazard rating from 0 (low) to 9 (high).  You can also break it down further, to see each ingredient and its hazard rating.
  3. Go for the minimalist approach – Even though the personal care product industry makes you feel like you need a fancy new product for every age, every season and every issue, you don’t.  It’s possible that the product you’re using for one issue is actually causing another. Maybe the shampoo you’re using to volumize your hair is related to the eczema on your hands. Try a product ‘detox’ for a few days. Some of your issues may clear up, and you may realize that you don’t need to rely on expensive and harmful products after all.
  4. Go au naturale, for real – Claims like “natural,” “hypoallergenic,” and even “unscented” are unregulated and often misleading. More times than not, these products are expensive too! Truly natural skin care can be as simple as using honey as a facial cleanser or coconut oil as a body moisturizer.

View pictures from the Eco-Health Skin Care workshop.