Does it matter what you put ON your body?


Does what we put on our bodies matter as much as what we put in our bodies?

We all know that we need to eat healthy foods and follow a healthy lifestyle if we want to be well. Healthy food gives our bodies the nutrients and building blocks to perform optimally. If we don’t eat the right foods our bodies become inflamed, and we can develop chronic diseases.

In the same way, we need to be aware of what we apply to our bodies, what we breathe into our bodies and what gets absorbed through channels other than our digestive tracts.

The skin is a large porous organ with a huge surface area that can absorb toxins and harmful substances.

We can apply those toxins ourselves by using lotions, shampoos, fragrances, colorants, and other chemicals in our everyday body care products or we can be exposed to them in the form of pesticides or solvents that are sprayed into the environment around us.

Studies show that women use an average of 12 products daily containing 168 different chemicals. Men use fewer products but can still use up to 85 chemicals on their bodies and teens use around 17 products so are also exposed to an array of chemicals. It’s important to pay attention to this since many of these chemicals are toxic and disrupt hormonal function.

Other compounds that can be absorbed through the skin include mercury, isocyanates, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), acrylates, steroids, hormones, and nicotine.

Absorption through the skin occurs when chemical compounds travel through the skin into the body via the bloodstream and lymphatic system. 

Whatever we put onto our skins has a good chance of landing up inside our bodies.

Babies and children, whose organs and systems are still developing, are especially sensitive to the chemicals in personal care products so it’s vital to choose safe products for them.

Many body care products contain a cocktail of harmful chemicals, allergens, and irritants, some of which are carcinogenic. Petroleum is commonly used in many body care products

To avoid exposing yourself to harmful and toxic chemicals opt for products made from natural ingredients.

The Natural Standard for Personal Care Products defines natural products as those that use ingredients that can be sourced from any renewable resource found in nature, be it from flora, fauna, or mineral, with no petroleum compounds.

Natural ingredients from plant extracts are safe and cost-effective, but they are also beneficial to the skin and our general wellbeing. 

Products can also be made from coconut, beeswax, aloe, essential oils, and olive oil and these can be great alternatives to chemically-laden products.

Natural can mean one of three things so it’s important to read your labels to make sure you are getting what you are looking for.

  • Naturally occurring. For an ingredient to be naturally occurring it must be able to be used in its natural form as it is found in nature. It should not need to be treated or refined to make it usable. Raw honey and crushed flowers are examples of naturally occurring additives.
  • Naturally derived. These ingredients need to be treated so that the properties in the raw materials can be accessed. For instance, extracts of raw fat or coconut oil, often used in moisturizers, are often treated before being added to a product.
  • Nature-identical. This means that the ingredient has been produced in a lab and is chemically identical to a natural product.

Many natural ingredients are easy to source and easy to make yourself at home if necessary. There is also a much greater awareness commercially so read your labels and decide for yourself what you are willing to apply to your body every day.

Listen to my interview with Brad Kirsten from Radio Cape Pulpit on 28 April 2022 to learn more. Listen to my next interview on Thursday at 7.45am