Making Natural Beauty Choices That Support Good Health

July 7, 2010

Do you know what you're putting on your hair and skin?

Health and beauty are intricately tied, not just because our health can affect how we look, but because the beauty products and practices we use can affect our health. Indeed, natural beauty no longer applies just to the looks we’re born with, but to the choices we make to maintain and alter those looks. If you’re a health nut, and you’re taking the time to choose natural and effective supplements, to eat right, and all the rest that goes with your health, then you should also be particular when it comes to beauty and hygiene products that you use as you are rubbing them on your (oh so absorptive) skin, incidentally consuming them, breathing them in, etc.

In general, you can apply the same rules to choosing beauty and hygiene products as you do to choosing food products:

  1. Can I identify the ingredients?
  2. Are there any known health warnings against these ingredients I should consider, particularly in relation to my own needs? (allergies, medications, etc., discussed further below)
  3. Do I know where this came from? (Does the company have a specific mission statement to make natural, organic, or non-toxic high-quality products?)

Fortunately, there are many independent certifications for beauty and hygiene products, a trend that is slow to catch on with food due to FDA governance. These can help you identify products that are living up to label claims (non-toxic certifications are probably the key thing to look for for the health-conscience).

What to look for:

  • Vitamin E. Vitamin E is great for making your skin and hair look healthy and shiny. You can buy Vitamin E oil, but it’s thick and hard to work with, you can also get capsules, and try to break them into conditioner (as fashion magazines recommend at least once a year), but the easiest (although longest) solution is to include Vitamin E in your diet or supplement regime, so that your hair and skin are naturally beautiful as soon as your body maintains them. A good multivitamin will contain Vitamin E. When buying lotions and other skin or hair products, Vitamin E is a good ingredient.
  • Antioxidants. Many fancy lotions include antioxidants, but the truth is they will have more of an effect if taken orally (not the lotion, the antioxidants!). Not only do they have a positive effect on your health, but on your beauty too.
  • Protein. Eat enough protein makes your hair and nails grow richly (some doctors are able to identify, at a glance, a protein or nutrient deficiency by the state of hair and nails).

The bottom line is, just like with your health, with beauty prevention has more of an impact than fixing something that’s become a problem.

What to avoid:

  • Antiperspirant, specifically aluminum. Most antiperspirants work by blocking your sweat glands (leaving lots of chemical behind that can be hard to wash off, especially if it’s super-strength and/or used daily, or twice daily, depending on your habits). This can cause toxins that would have naturally been expunged by sweat to build up. Further, aluminum is (controversially) linked to health conditions such as Alzheimer’s and breast cancer (it can mimic estrogen and react with it’s receptors in your body). Since much of your underarm is breast issue, this is worth considering, even if there isn’t concrete proof either way. Most grocery stores carry at least one brand that uses natural ingredients and no aluminum (after quitting a heavy duty antiperspirant, your skin may take a week or two to adjust to normal). If you can’t live without sweat control, make sure to exfoliate when you shower, and to take antiperspirant free time working out, sitting in a steam room, sauna, or doing something else that will cause you to sweat out toxins (health permitting). (Other common products that contain aluminum: antacids, water bottles–even if they’re labeled steel check the fine print for an aluminum lining–and some canned beverages–unfortunately, there seems to be a pendulum swinging between aluminum and BPA, a common plastic that can mimic estrogen too, so that whenever there is a public outcry against one, cheaper products switch to the other).
  • Parabens. Parabens are another substance that can mimic estrogen, and for this they have been (controversially, as with anything commonly used, especially by large companies) linked to breast cancer, early onset of puberty, and other reproductive issues (especially in women where it’s more common and noticeable, but men and young boys can also be affected, we’re just not looking closely and it’s harder to tell)

Things to Consider:

  • Fluoride. Although some studies are now saying that long term effects of drinking fluoride are negative, it is still useful in dental health, so while you may want a water filter, continue to choose tooth paste with fluoride.
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (and its derivatives). Although some people find this drying for their skin or hair (it’s included to make a rich lather) there aren’t any reports claiming an intense toxicity for it, so choosing products without this is entirely optional.

For women:

  • There are now many natural feminine hygiene products available, ones that do not contain chlorine and other chemicals that can be easily absorbed by sensitive, extra absorptive vaginal tissue. For the extra price, it’s a worthy consideration for the health conscious.

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