I hope everyone has had a chance to read my post and practice sun charging! Since I wrote about the benefits of soaking up sun rays, I felt it would be helpful to also write about how to how to properly moisturize and maintain healthy skin. With the sun being a powerful source of energy, I also want you to be prepared for the less desirable side effects. It is imperative that we start by keeping in mind that our skin has the largest surface area of any organ within our bodies. That is to say, whatever comes in contact with your skin, can have direct contact with your bloodstream. This is why I do not use store bought soap, cream, lotion, petroleum jelly, etc. on my skin.
I suffered from dry skin and eczema for years and really trusted that my skin care products were made to help alleviate those issues. However, once I decreased my processed foods, I began to take notice of all the other harmful processed products in my life. Previously, I used something like Jergens or Vaseline brand lotion, until I found out that those are full of harmful things like parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate, mineral oil, and diazolidinyl urea (DU).
Let’s discuss what some of these ingredients are and why they are harmful. Parabens have been linked to cancer, they are known endocrine disruptors, and are known to cause allergic reactions and skin rashes. I used to think mineral oils were a good thing, I was probably confusing them with essential oils: they are not. Either way, petroleum-based products are bad for the skin because, they do not moisturize it. Petroleum made products actually suffocate the skin by trapping toxins and free-radicals, often leading to acne. You may have heard late night lawsuit infomercials about diazolidinyl urea, that should suggest how harmful this stuff is. DU is used for embalming, so you clearly should not be lathering in it. Furthermore, if the federal government can admit that DU is a “probable human carcinogen” then you know it is, for sure. Does it make sense that the products marketed to “moisturize” and nourish our skin, is actually made to dry and damage it? Of course not, but that’s how manufacturers make their money.
On the other hand, natural oils and butters do actually nourish, moisturize and protect your skin. There are two important parts of maintaining healthy skin: moisturizing and exfoliating. Moisturizing includes hydrates internally and externally, and then sealing in that moisture. I think we all know the importance of hydration but sealing moisture into the skin, is a little less common; this is what keeps the skin from drying out over time. Moisturizers and sealants work together but are not the same. Exfoliating is imperative because it helps constantly renew your skin by removing dry and dead skin cells. Exfoliation helps with your skin but also promotes blood circulation and glowing skin.
Soaps are a similar culprit to lotions; marketed to be helpful and cleansing but are not. Growing up, I was raised in a Dove soap household, so I will focus on that particular brand. Recently, Dove has done a great job with their marketing; using women of color and highlighting the “everyday” looking woman in their commercials, while boasting about “pure” ingredients. Realistically, the FDA has admitted that it does not have any jurisdiction over these manufacturers or their products and that “their ingredients are not subject to FDA premarket approval”. That means, cosmetic companies can use whatever ingredients that they want, with no repercussions! Even if the FDA does deem a product unsafe, they have no power to recall the product…but how would there be a recall, when most of these products are not even tested before distribution? The Environmental Working Group (EWG), is a non-profit group that provides some transparency about beauty and personal care products, regarding their risk to humans, animals and/or the environment. According to their report on Dove products, the EWG lists “enhanced skin absorption, biochemical or cellular level changes, ecotoxicology, endocrine disruption and neurotoxicity” as clear side effects.
We have all heard Dove boast about the “¼ moisturizing cream”, that can give you “softer, smoother and more radiant looking skin vs ordinary soap” so let’s look at a few of the active ingredients that Dove contains. Cocamidopropyl Betaine is a synthetic sudsing agent associated with irritation and allergic contact with the skin, in addition to being a well-known “possible carcinogen” with strong links to causing cancer. Fragrance can be any myriad of things. Commonly this includes diethyl phthalate, a synthetic liquid commonly used in insecticides and aspirin. These anonymous fragrances can cause allergies, skin irritation/rashes, respiratory difficulty, cancer and even disrupt functioning in the reproductive system.
Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC) are especially harmful for humans as well as the environment. Such chemicals interfere with your endocrine system by 1- binding to and activating various hormone receptors, then mimicking natural hormones, especially estrogen and androgen, 2- blocking the activity of your natural hormones and inhibiting their functions and 3- interfering with the synthesis, transport, metabolism and elimination of hormones, thus decreasing the amount of natural hormones. These chemicals have effects on both male and female reproduction and breast development as well as being linked to prostate cancer, dementia, cardiac disease, diabetes, cardiovascular endocrinology, thyroid overstimulation, neuroendocrinology, metabolism and obesity, according to a study by The Endocrine Society. When EDCs block the connection between hormones and their receptors, they reprogram parts of the endocrine system that regulate metabolism, energy balance and appetite. The EDCs actually change the body’s sensitivity to glucose (sugar) and how it breaks down or metabolizes lipids (fatty acids), thus predisposing that person to weight gain. EDCs are so powerful, they can alter the way our bodies process food and store energy, as well as creating cross-generational implications. Studies have found that exposure to certain EDCs in the womb (from things like water bottles) can lead to later life obesity for the baby. I’m not a mom yet, and that concerns me enough to be much more aware of what is going near, onto and into my body. Furthermore, a study published in the International Journal of Andrology stated that exposure to endocrine disruptors is “feminizing boys” …literally.
Fortunately, there are much healthier options for skin, beauty and personal care. Most natural soap is made from vegetable oils and plant butters, using sodium hydroxide or lye to convert the oil. Personally, I cleanse primarily with African black soap which is made of plants like plantain, cocoa pods, palm tree leaves and shea tree bark. The plants are sun-dried, then roasted and combined with water, oils and shea butter. No ingredients that I cannot pronounce, no harmful additives, nothing that I would not consume otherwise. Due to the texture of the soap, it naturally provides a light exfoliant that helps thin fine lines, fade blemishes, even out dark spots as well as treating and easing razor bumps and eczema. Real black soap, is actually brown, has no smell to me, lathers easily and is by far the best soap I have ever used. I use it all over, on my face, body and in my hair. It comes in liquid and bar forms. Other varieties of soap that I use frequently are oatmeal, hemp and activated charcoal based soaps.
I have experienced amazing, healing great results since switching my soaps. My skin is much clearer on my face and body. I used to suffer from dry skin and eczema, but diet and skin care changes have helped to heal those. I talked about how my skin improved, so much, that I got my parents to switch their soap. My dad also has trouble with his skin, so for Father’s Day I purchased him a few varieties of handmade, all natural and organic soap. My dad is 68 years old, and this is the first time he has not used Dove soap, since he can remember. I was extremely apprehensive about giving this gift because my dad notoriously hates gifts and is extremely picky about his skin, due to extremely sensitive and chronic psoriasis. Trying a new soap would be a major milestone for him. When I called to ask how if he was using or enjoying his gifts, he was very appreciative and said that he has been noticing a difference already. I don’t know if I was more surprised or proud but either way…shout out to my dad!
There are numerous small soap businesses that you can support, just be sure you know the ingredients they are using and make sure they are of quality. As a general rule: if you would not put it in your mouth, do not put it on your skin.
Comment below with your favorite skin care products!