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By Lee Euler
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The Dirt on Shampoo
You've taken steps to eat healthier... buy more organic foods... and exercise more...
But how about the way you treat your body's largest organ?
You see, your skin is your largest organ -- and plays a major role in your well-being.
If you lose any of these functions you also sacrifice your highest level of health, and you may age faster.
So you want to guard the health of your skin as vigorously as you guard your internal health.
I regret to say you have a formidable enemy here...
How the personal care industry exploits your desire to be attractive...
Epidemiological studies estimate that 80 to 90 percent of all cancers are related to environmental factors.1 This includes not only the quality of the food you eat, but also the air you breathe and what you allow your skin to absorb.
Almost anything you put on your skin can get absorbed into your circulatory system — where it is eventually stored in fatty tissue and critical organs like the liver, kidneys, reproductive organs and brain.
Some scientists believe your scalp is the most absorbent part of your skin.
Meanwhile, the cosmetics industry manipulates your dreams of looking younger — or different — than you are...
It's a $50 billion industry — and they spend a whopping $2 billion per year in the U.S alone to convince you their product will be your magic bullet to looking like the beautiful people in their ads.
That wouldn't be so bad — if the cosmetics industry had greater concern for you than for their profits. But sadly, that's not the case.
To make matters worse, there's an inherent conflict of interest in how the industry is regulated… or not.
Cosmetics (including shampoos) are not considered medicines and therefore are not subject to FDA approval for safety. Instead, the FDA allows the industry to self-police and focuses its enforcement on drugs and foods.
So the only systematic testing is done by manufacturers themselves or by the industry's trade group, the Cosmetics, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association. Research is reviewed by an industry-funded panel, which generally does a lousy job of protecting you, the consumer. The panel's safety recommendations are routinely ignored.
Environmental Working Group's (EWG) Vice President for Research, Jane Houlihan, says, "It's an anything-goes system. The companies making money off these products define what 'safe' is. They define what it means to 'substantiate' a product's safety. The public's safety net is full of holes."2
You as a consumer have no way to know what safety testing — if any — is conducted on products containing known cancer triggers — products you might use daily for years, posing a very large risk.
I recognize it's next to impossible in our society to avoid all toxic substances. My approach is to try to reduce my toxic load by getting rid of as many carcinogens as I can, without driving myself nuts. Switching to a safe shampoo is a fairly easy way to avoid some chemicals that may be harming you.
A couple of weeks ago, I switched to a nontoxic shampoo not because of the cancer risk but because I thought conventional shampoos might be giving me dermatitis. I'm happy with the switch.
As I'll explain in a moment, finding a nontoxic shampoo isn't easy because most of the shampoos in health food stores aren't safe, either. But I kept at it until I found something satisfactory. Now my shampoo doesn't contain dubious junk like this. . .
Does Your Shampoo Contain Any of These 5 Toxins?
All told, there are 10,500 potential ingredients in personal care products. EWG has only analyzed 11% of those.
Go get your shampoo bottle right now and read the label.
Does it contain any of these "big 5" toxins?
Ingredients ending with — eth — in addition to PEG, polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, polyoxyethlene, or oxynol — are invariably contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4 dioxane — volatile carcinogens that are readily absorbed through your skin.5
Ethylene oxide is a potent carcinogen that brings on brain, breast and lung cancer in rodents... and has been incriminated as a cause of lymphomas in exposed workers.6
But wait — there's even more...
How Endocrine Disruptors Finish the Job The 'Big 5' Started...
The EPA has discovered synthetic hormone-disrupting chemicals in shampoo preservatives — including in many shampoos that claim to be 'natural' and 'organic'.
Perhaps the most disturbing are antimicrobial preservatives called parabens — which have been proven to disrupt your endocrine system.
Why should that bother you?
Because these ingredients mimic, disrupt and block the actions of your hormones, and interfere with your body's hormonal pathways.
You may not know this, but your endocrine system regulates every function in your body and gives your cells vital instructions. Even small disturbances in endocrine function are believed to have profound and lasting health effects, according to the EPA.
Furthermore, there's a high potential for multiple contaminants to reinforce one another in a synergistic way.7
The EPA says that hormonal disruption may be linked to cancer, especially breast, prostate, and testicular cancers.8
So check your product labels for these dangerous endocrine disruptors:
While you're at it, check for the preservative butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), said by some to be a carcinogen, and the carcinogenic pesticide DDT (common contaminant of commercial-grade lanolin derived from sheep's wool). They are both absorbed through your skin very quickly.
But that's not all...
Unmasking the Real Truth About Shampoo Products
Discovering the real truth about what's in shampoo involves some detective work. It truly is "Buyer Beware". That goes for so-called "natural" products. The term is virtually unregulated. Just remember, sugar is "natural." Natural doesn't equal safe.
And quite often "natural" doesn't even mean natural, as a reasonable person would define the word.
The natural products industry has grown 20 percent a year in recent years, which means that "all-natural" is a buzzword equaling big money. It implies wholesomeness and environmental friendliness.
But is that what you really get?
Many 'natural' products are primarily made of synthetic chemicals mixed with a few natural ingredients. Yes, they add one natural ingredient to a chemical brew and call the whole concoction a natural product.
Since the industry has been left to self-police, it's up to you to take responsibility for ensuring your own health.
The FDA only investigates a product and possibly pulls it off the shelf if it receives mass consumer complaints and a huge amount of evidence pointing to its harmfulness.
To date, the FDA has looked the other way when it comes to potential carcinogens in personal care products. As a practical matter, they don't have the time or resources to police every cosmetic product on the market, and they consider it low priority compared to products the law requires them to regulate.
Also, according to Aubrey Hampton, a chemist and the founder of Aubrey Organics, "There is no legal definition for 'natural' — and a chemist's definition of 'organic' simply requires that the molecule contain carbon."
You must read the labels!!
You will very likely discover that the ingredients of the 'natural' shampoo in your health food store include one or more of the 'Big 5' toxins listed above. Or any from that long list of possible parabens...
Where to Go From Here...
Once you decide you don't want these chemicals near your skin ever again, you have two basic options, detailed below...
First a warning... Since the cosmetic industry has brainwashed everyone for so long that rich lather is what cleans your hair, this belief is the first emotional hurdle you have to overcome. It's not true. You don't need suds.
Finding a Truly Natural Shampoo
I admit it's a challenge to locate a shampoo that's totally natural. You have to become a good label reader.
But you can do this from the comfort of your own home. Get on your computer, go to one of the online stores that sell 'natural' or 'organic' products, choose an individual shampoo product, then go to its label. Inspect carefully…
Look first to eliminate the damaging ingredients discussed above — or anything else you don't recognize or know how to pronounce.
The one caveat is that in the U.S. there are loopholes that allow companies to conceal some suspect chemicals under the vague title of "fragrance" — or to refuse to name ingredients they claim to be trade secrets.9
So even when you find a shampoo that looks good, and doesn't contain "fragrance" or any of the above-listed ingredients, you still can't know for sure that it's totally safe. But at some point you have to abandon paranoia and cast your fate to the wind. If you avoid most of the major toxins you've made a big step forward.
Look for ingredients you recognize and can pronounce. Generally, the shorter the list, the better. Bear in mind that a truly healthful ingredient might be listed with its scientific name instead of its common name — making it more difficult to tell what's really in it. For instance, soap made from coconut oil is safe but it has some fancy chemical name that makes it sound evil — hopefully the shampoo label will tell you the ingredients in plain English.
Some quality ingredients to look for include aloe vera, shea butter, horsetail extract, coltsfoot extract, linoleic acid (vitamin F), chamomile, red clover, comfrey, Canadian balsam...
Look for natural preservatives like citrus seed extracts, and essential oils from peppermint, sweet orange, or rosemary, which are completely safe.
You can use Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database for assistance in finding toxin-free products. Here's the link: www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/search.php. Bear in mind that EWG has only evaluated 11% of all cosmetics databases for safety, so don't let everything rest on their word.
Dr. Samuel Epstein, M.D., in The Safe Shopper's Bible: A Consumer's Guide to Nontoxic Household Products, Cosmetics and Food, which he co-authored with David Steinman, lists wholesome products (versus not so wholesome) on pages 230-240 for a beginning reference point.
The Best Way to Be SURE You're Chemical Free...
Health Disclaimer: The information provided above is not intended as personal medical advice or instructions. You should not take any action affecting your health without consulting a qualified health professional. The authors and publishers of the information above are not doctors or health-caregivers. The authors and publishers believe the information to be accurate but its accuracy cannot be guaranteed. There is some risk associated with ANY cancer treatment, and the reader should not act on the information above unless he or she is willing to assume the full risk.
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