Natural...Beyond food.

It wasn't until recently that I fully understood what it was to be all around "holistic". I pride myself in eating organic produce, eating raw whenever possible, eating natural foods without additives, preservatives or food colorings, eating the best choices when out with friends, but all that can be in vain if I don't take care of what is going on the largest organ of the body: the skin.

Skin absorbs everything that is placed on it, almost as if it were food. Toxins and chemicals, as most of us know, are in most processed foods, but we don't give it a thought that most of the shampoos, conditioners, soaps, toothpastes, bodywashes and especially hair dyes are the same if not more. We trust that brilliantly marketed products are trustworthy because they're "made for the skin". Newsflash, they're not. In fact, they're more harmful then beneficial.

So where do you start? Here's a brief list of the top 10 synthetic ingredients that are in cosmetics and shampoos. Check your own bathroom and you will notice at least two in each product you own. There are very few organic products without all of them. I'll give you a great alternative later. Here's the list:

1. Methyl, propyl, butyl, and ethyl paraben: Used as inhibitors of microbial growth and to extend shelf life of products. Have caused many allergic reactions and skin rashes. Widely used even though they are known to be toxic.

2. Diethanolamine (DEA) and Triethanolamine (TEA): Used in cosmetics as emulsifiers and/or foaming agents. They can also cause allergic reactions, eye irritation, and dryness of hair and skin. DEA and TEA are ammonia compounds and can form cancer-causing nitrosamines when they come in contact with nitrates. They are toxic if absorbed into the body over a long period of time (they are in most shampoos and soaps)

3. Diazolidinyl Urea and Imidazolidinyl Urea: Widely used preservatives. The American Academy of Dermatology has found them to be a primary cuase of contact dermitites. They release formaldehyde (what they use to embalm corpses) which can be toxic.

4. Sodium Lauryl/ Laureth Sulfate: A cheap, harsh detergent used in shampoos for its cleaning and foam-building properties. Often derived from petroleum, it is frequently disguised in pseudo-natural cosmetics with the phrase "comes from coconuts". It causes eye irritation, scalp scurf similar to dandruff, skin rashes and other allergic reactions (this is usually the second ingredient, after water, in most shampoos - sometimes even organic ones).

5. Petrolatum: Also known as petroleum jelly, this mineral oil derivative is used for its emollient (supposed to smooth the skin and reduce dryness) properties in cosmetics. It has no nutrient value to the skin and can interfere with the body's own natural moisturizing mechanism, leading to dryness and chapping. Practically the opposite condition it claims to alleviate. They use it because it's incredibly cheap.

6. Propylene Glycol: Usually a synthetic petrochemical mix used as a humectant. It has been known to cause allergic reactions, hives and eczema. When you see PEG or PPG on labels, there are related synthetics so beware!

7. PVP/ VA Copolymer: A petroleum-derived chemical used in hairsprays, styling aids and other cosmetics. It can be considered toxic, since inhaled particles can damage the lungs of sensitive people.

8. Stearalkonioum Chloride: A quaternary ammonium compound used in hair conditioners and creams. Developed by the fabric industry as a fabric softener, it is a lot cheaper and easier to use in hair conditioning formulas than proteins or herbals, which are beneficial to the hair. It's toxic and causes allergic reactions.

9. Synthetic Colors: Used to make cosmetics and shampoos "pretty", synthetic colors, along with synthetic hair dyes, should be avoided at all costs (including in your food!!!). They will be labeled as FD&C or D&C, followed by a color and a number. Example: FD&C Red No. 6 / D&C Green No. 6. Many synthetic colors can be carcinogenic (cancer-causing). If a cosmetic contains them, don't use it.

10. Synthetic Fragrances: it's used in cosmetics and can have as many as 200 ingredients. There is no way of knowing what the chemicals are, since on the label it will simply read "fragrance". Some problems caused by these chemicals are headaches, dizziness, rash, hyperpigmentation, violent coughing, vomiting, skin irritaion - and the list goes on.

These are just a few of the main ones but there are so many more. The key is to avoid any ingredients that are unnatural or manmade.

I have an excellent example of something that happened to me only last week. I found a lotion I purchased earlier this year. It was Acai Pomegranate scented lotion from Victoria Secret. I read the label and found parabens, fragrance, and sodium laurel sulfate. I figured since I'd paid $6 for the small bottle, I'd use it. BIG MISTAKE. I rubbed it into my hands and I broke out with a few hives right where I rubbed in the cream. Serves me right.

There's a few excellent lines that are really wonderful with the ingredients:
1. Myshelle Dermaceuticals
2. Aubrey Organics
3. Jasons Naturals (careful with some of their products)
4. Tate's (probably the most amazing and natural line I've found but super pricey!)
5. Dr. Bronner's (great products and affordable - especially their body wash, all natural oils)
6. Weleda
7. Burts Bees

I've used a combination of several of these lines, but here's a cheaper way to be natural that I've used:
  • Olive oil for the skin as lotion, as shaving lotion in the shower, as shampoo (not recommended for oily hair), as face wash
  • Jojoba oil for the skin as lotion, great for cellulite, wrinkles, as shampoo, as face oil. I purchased jojoba oil because I noticed it was included in several products I wanted but were too pricey. This seemed to be a common denominator and I love it.
  • Jojoba Oil
  • Vitamin E oil (Jasons) - I use this twice a week on my face after cleansing it about an hour or two before going to bed so it starts soaking it in. It leaves my face resilient and soft in the morning. 
As far as hair dyes go, I don't think it's necessary to explain the harm of what you can already smell as it's being done. There are great alternatives to this as well: henna. Natural and even comes in color options like you'd get at your local drugstore. There's no amonia, no peroxide, and safe enough to be able to use it if you're pregnant.

Remember, you're not just feeding yourself through your mouth, your skin receives more toxins from the environment and outside influence than any other part of your body, and in addition to that, whatever you're placing on it as food. Just as you need nutrients in your body, so does your skin.
Feed it well =)



  1. Que blog tan espectacular Jenelle!!!Te felicito. Hoy te conoci en la tienda NutriSmart.Estaba con mi niño y me sugeriste algo para calmarlo. Qué bueno haberte conocido!!!Te mando un gran abrazo!!!

  2. So I tried commenting on this back when you originally posted it, but it didn't go through...

    I find it kinda funny that I was JUST talking about all the products that are out there, and how I SWEAR the products are a lot of the reasons people have cancer these days. Your research has proven it!! So... I've really considered switching over to a more "green" way lately... slowly but surely I'm phasing out all the "bad" stuff. I started with the food ages ago. I hardly eat any processed foods unless they're the organic/healthy type. But I definitely agree that it's more than just food that needs to be considered for a better, healthier, more green lifestyle.

    You should consider the book "Skinny Bitch." It's quite funny for one, but it talks about a Holistic, vegetarian lifestyle. It's amazing the things that go on with animals and the crap that we're putting into our bodies. It's a definite read for you! Maybe a next step in your process!

    Thanks for all the useful info, Jenelle!!