Cosmetics companies are polluting the environment with toxic chemicals they put in our products

There’s a dirty little secret that our nation’s cosmetic companies are keeping.  They don’t want you to know that the products they make contain toxic chemicals.   And we are not only impacted by these chemicals when we use their products, we are also affected by them in the pollution that their plants give off.  How do they get away with it?  They are an industry worth $50 billion a year in sales, and with all that money, they have a lot of power.  In fact the cosmetics trade association employs lobbyists who make sure that only the laws they want are passed.  These powerful lobbies have fought against laws that would monitor pollution at their plants, require additional safety labeling on packaging and insist on recycled materials in packaging.  They say that they are able to regulate themselves, which sounds a little like have the lions shepherd the lambs.  And do you know who currently reviews the safety of new cosmetic products?  Think it’s the FDA?  Or maybe another government agency?  Wrong!  It’s a cosmetic industry funded panel.  If you think it’s like letting kids monitor themselves, you’d be right.

Some people may ask, “What’s the harm?  Is anything bad happening because of it?”  Here are some scary facts.  Every day we use personal care products with a plethora of toxic chemicals in them.  How can this be?  The laws that govern the industry were passed over seventy years ago.  Think of how many new chemicals have been created over the past seventy years.  Those obviously aren’t included in any laws.  In Europe, the EU has listed over 1,000 chemicals which it considers toxic and that are banned from being included in products.  How many chemicals are banned in the U.S.?  Ten.  Yes, that is not a type- it is just ten chemicals which are considered too dangerous to use in our personal care products.  This means that even chemicals which are known to be toxic are allowed to be used in our products, and they are.  They also leech into our rivers and landfills in the form of pollution, so even if you buy organic products, you are still exposed to these toxins.

So what can you do if you want to protect your family and the environment?  You must vote, and you can do this in two ways.

  1. First, vote with your dollars.  Every time you purchase a product you are casting your vote for the company who manufactured it and the product itself.  The more votes, the more a product will be produced.  If we stop buying toxic products and demand organic ones, companies will be forced to stop producing them.  They are reasonable entities who first and foremost want to make a profit.  Make a product unprofitable and we make it go away.
  2. Second, vote with your vote.  What does that mean? Elect government officials who support anti-pollution laws and regulation of the cosmetics industry.  We have seen that the industry cannot regulate itself, so we need to step in and make sure that they are not irreversibly polluting the environment.

Remember that we are now powerless.  In fact, no one is more powerful than the American consumer.  So flex your power and let’s clean up the mess that the cosmetic industry has left.

Can using a cell phone cause skin problems?

Cell phones have been indispensible today- we just cannot function without them.  Do you remember the last time you left home and forgot your cell phone?  You probably had a sinking feeling in your stomach when you realized that you were incommunicado.  But as useful and convenient as cell phones are, they also come with some health risks.  Mobile phones can cause everything from skin problems to cancer, so some precautions must be taken.

Skin Problems Caused by Cell Phones

People who talk on their cell phones a lot and hold their phones up to their faces can get something called mobile phone dermatitis.  This is a real condition and has been studied by the British Association of Dermatitis and consists of a rash on the chin, ears or cheeks.  It is caused by the nickel in many phones, which a lot of people are allergic to.  This problem can be particularly prevalent in people who don’t switch which side they talk on the phone.  If the phone is constantly on one side of your face, there’s more of a chance that your skin will be irritated by it.

Ways to Prevent Skin Problems

There are few different things people can do to prevent skin irritations from their phones.  The first is to use an earbud or Bluetooth headset.  If the phone isn’t touching your face, then it can’t cause problems on your skin.  Another option is to check with the phone manufacturers and find cell phones that don’t contain nickel.  And of course reducing the amount of time that you talk on your cell phone will help.

Cell Phone Radiation

There’s been a lot of back and forth in the medical community regarding whether or not cell phones are safe.  A Danish study back in 2006 claimed that it was completely safe to use cell phones, but recently the study has been criticized as being flawed.  There is no doubt that in our current technological world, we are exposed to vast amounts of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) from our appliances, devices and power lines.  Cell phones are no exception, and the threat comes from both the handsets as well as the cell towers.  Studies have connected brain tumors and genetic damage to cell phone radiation.

So what can you do?  Luckily some of the solutions for reducing cell phone radiation are the same as the ones to reduce skin irritation from cell phones.  The first thing to do is to get an ear bud or headset.  This puts real physical distance between your head and the radiation, thereby protecting you.  There are special headsets designed to reduce radiation, so look for these.  There is also something called ferrite beads which you can add to regular wired ear buds to help absorb radiation. It’s not recommended to get a Bluetooth headset if your goal is reduce radiation, since it will emit its own type of radiation.  Also, never use your phone when the signal is bad.  Your phone will use a lot more power trying to get a signal strong enough to talk on, and while it does this, it is emitting more radiation.

Of course getting off your cell phone is probably the best way to reduce radiation.  The less time that your cell phone is on and close to your head, the better off you’ll be in terms of reducing your risk of illness due to radiation.

Small manufacturers are producing green, clean personal care and household cleaning products

It should come as no surprise that it is the small, entrepreneurial manufacturers who are leading the way in the green revolution of personal care products and household cleaning products.  The large conglomerates like Johnson & Johnson and Proctor & Gamble turn out thousands of products each year, but have you ever really stopped to see what’s in these products?  All one need do is to read the label on any of the products and you will see that it is a toxic soup of a multitude of chemicals.  It literally takes a chemistry degree to decipher the ingredients and understand what’s in them.  And why?  Only a generation or two ago, our parents and grandparents used to use effective but simple products to clean their homes.  And these products contained ingredients we know and understand like baking soda and white vinegar.

Big business has industrialized both the home cleaning products industry as well as the personal care industry.  These products aren’t better than the natural ones, they are just toxic.  Every year the rates of cancer are increasing, and is it really any wonder? We slather chemicals on our skin and scalp and then leave it to our bodies to detoxify the chemicals.  And it’s not just the personal care products we use directly on our bodies.  It’s also the cleaning products we use in our home.  Take laundry for example.  Whatever laundry detergent, whiteners or fabric softeners you use on clothes then get put on your body.  And you skin absorbs the chemicals.  Or think about the chemicals you use to clean your home and the fumes they give off- we breathe them all in.  It’s even worse for your pets since they are down low on the ground coming into greater contact with the chemicals.

But luckily there is change coming, much in the same way change has come to our food industry.  Small manufacturers are starting to make their own natural and healthy products which work better than the traditional chemical ones.  Some are organic certified and some just use wholesome, good ingredients.  How can you tell which products are good for you?  Turn over products and start reading labels.  A good rule of thumb is, if you know what it is, and it’s something you can eat, then it’s probably OK.  Don’t be confused by the Latin names under which many ingredients are listed.  Usually the common name will put in parenthesis as well since few us speak Latin.  For example, if you see “Helianus Annuus” you may think that it’s a chemical because you don’t know what it is, but in fact it is just sunflower seed oil.

By supporting entrepreneurs in your area, you are supporting not only your own health, but a healthy eco system.  In America we vote with our dollars.  So by buying organic products from small producers, you tell the large conglomerates that they better change their ways or risk losing money.  And as we’ve seen with the food industry, big business will listen.  So visit your local farmers markets, shop online, or actively seek out small producers and support a healthier way of living.

Can cardio exercise be good for your skin?

We all know that we should exercise.  We hear from our doctors and the medical community about how critical it is for weight loss and health that we get our bodies moving and stay active.  But did you know that there is another benefit to cardio exercise?  It can actually improve the look and feel of your skin!  It’s not a benefit that people normally associate with exercise, but it’s a great one.  Women in particular spend millions of dollars a year on anti aging products trying to get rid of wrinkles, but instead, they should just strap on a pair of running shoes and go for a walk or a jog.

It’s important to remember that our body functions as a whole system, so what is good for one system is likely beneficial to the others.  That’s why eating the right foods can also help your skin but providing the body with the correct nutrition and immune function.  But what specifically about exercise helps our skin?

Improved Circulation

Doing exercise, particularly cardio, literally gets your blood pumping and moving around your body.  This helps to deliver nutrients to the skin such as fatty acids and antioxidants.  The skin uses these nutrients to stay supple and smooth, so more of these little goodies will help you stay looking younger.  The increased blood flow also stimulates cell renewal.  This is important because as we age, our cells don’t renew as quickly as they used to in our youth.  The result is older, drier, more wrinkled looking skin.  Look at the hand of a twenty year old woman next to the hand of a fifty year old and you’ll see the effects of slower cell renewal.  By speed up this process, you can take years off your skin!


Another great benefit of exercise is that it stimulates detoxification.  This is the body’s opportunity to get rid of the toxins floating around and to sweat them out.  As the skin is one of the major organs involved in eliminating toxins, there is a tight connection to skin health and toxins.  If the body cannot eliminate the toxins, they are going to sit in our systems causing damage, including damage to the skin.  But in order for the skin to function effectively, the pores cannot be blocked.  This means that it’s better not to exercise with makeup on.  Makeup often clogs pores and prevents proper sweating or elimination.  Also, after you work out, it’s a good idea to wash your face and body to get rid of the oil, sweat and toxins you’ve produced during your work out.  There’s no point in doing all the work to get rid of the toxins just to let this sit on top of your skin for hours.

Stress Relief

The last benefit exercise gives to our skin is through stress relief.  It is proven that exercise helps lower stress hormones and helps us relax and lower our stress levels.  So how does our emotional state affect our skin?  Quite directly.  Have you even seen pictures of the U.S. presidents when they first come into office and when they leave after four years?  The pictures are quite dramatic and including both graying of the hair and a significant increase in wrinkles.  We wear our stress in the wrinkles on our faces.  And by exercising and reducing our stress we literally can prevent wrinkles from forming.

So now we have another reason to exercise- get moving and get rid of wrinkles!

How to stay healthy when you travel

Having just returned from a fabulous trip to Africa, I thought this would be a good time to write a blog about how to stay healthy when you travel. Depending on where you travel to, this can be quite a challenge. And getting sick abroad is not just inconvenient, it can be downright dangerous. So what can you do?

Do your research before you leave

Some countries suggest vaccinations before you visit, and the course of vaccinations can take several months, so it’s best to start early. You can consult with the CDC (Center for Disease Control). They have sections of the website which are dedicated specifically to traveler health. You can also visit your doctor, but note that he or she may not be familiar with the country you are traveling to, so it’s best not to rely solely on their opinion. Special traveler health clinics have popped up, and they should be well informed regarding travel to both popular and more exotic locations.

Some vaccinations are suggested, but some may be required. You may also want to keep your flight path in mind. For example, if you flying to South Africa via Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, you will need to show proof of yellow fever vaccination, even if you just stopped over and never left the airport. It would be a terrible way to start a trip getting denied entry for a technicality.

Some countries recommend that you take medication while you are visiting to prevent getting ill. The most common prophylactic course probably relates to malaria prevention. While some travelers believe that malaria is not a serious disease, it is in fact a leading cause of illness and death in Africa, and should not be taken lightly. You will need to research the malaria infested areas you will be traveling to in order to see which medicine is appropriate. There are different strains of malaria and some areas no longer respond to treatment from certain types of medication, having developed immunity.

Be mindful of the water

Most of us just drink tap water at home and don’t give a second thought to water borne bacteria and illness. This makes sense, as we are used to the pathogens in our water sources and likely have developed immunity. But when you travel to another country, you must be mindful of drinking water that hasn’t been boiled or drinking beverages with ice.

So what water can you drink? Boiled water is always safe. But if you can’t boil all of your water, try purchasing bottled water. Just make sure that the cap is sealed when you buy it as some countries may refill the bottles with tap water to save money. You can also buy iodine pills, but you probably won’t want to use these as your primary drinking source. There are now sterilization wands which use UV light to purify water. These are light and portable and could be a cheap, effective solution for getting clean water.

Be careful of the sun

For people who live in temperate zones, it can be a shock to your skin to suddenly travel to tropical or equatorial regions where the sun is much stronger. It is important to protect your skin both before and after sun exposure. Before sun exposure you’ll want to wear a hat and sunglasses and decide if you also want to cover your legs and arms. Of course using sunscreen will protect your skin, just make sure that you are reapplying it every few hours. But it’s also important to treat your skin after sun exposure, even if you haven’t burned. Using a natural oil such as olive oil, grapeseed oil or sesame oil will put antioxidants and fatty acids back into your skin. They can help to counteract some of the UV effects of the sun and actually prevent wrinkles and aging.

So have fun on vacation, but be prepared. Bring a basic first aid kit and any medication which you think you may need. And after you get back, if you find yourself getting sick, make sure to tell your doctor that you’ve just been abroad. You may have picked something up overseas that took time to incubate, and your doctor needs to know.

Home remedy to treat eczema (part II)

Today we continue our discussion about natural home remedies for eczema and we will focus on herbs and oils.  It’s worth restating that there is no known cause of eczema and no known cure as of today.  So at this point, the best we can do is try to help the body relieve the symptoms of eczema.

Herbs and Oils to Treat Eczema

Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA) to treat Eczema

Nature is a vast storehouse of treatments and cures just waiting for us to discover it.  But while we search for a cure for eczema, we can at least use natural products to help us deal with the uncomfortable symptoms.  One very promising ingredient is called gamma-linolenic acid (GLA).  It may sound synthetic, but it’s a naturally occurring essential fatty acid.  GLA is an Omega-6 fatty acid has been found to help with epidermal proliferation, which is basically an overproduction of skin cells.  This is what happens in a person with eczema.  The scaly patches are a buildup of an overproduction of skin cells.  GLA has been found to help halt this process.  Borage seed oil and evening primrose oil are both high in GLA and clinical trials have shown that they can both aid people with eczema.

Essential Oils & Exotic Oils to help with Eczema

eczema home remedyThere are numerous essential oils which can help with the symptoms of eczema.  Essential oils have numerous fatty acids, phytosterols and polyphenos which can help with the symptoms of eczema.  Some of the ones which may be helpful include:

  • Borage seed oil- as discussed, borage seed oil is high in GLA which has been shown to help eczema suffers with controlling epidermal proliferation.  But it also has stearic acid which can help with moisture retention and oleic acid which can soften our skin and help with cell regeneration.  It also contains ferulic acid which is a powerful antioxidant and can help with reducing itching and inflammation.
  • Evening primrose oil- also high in GLA.  Evening primrose oil is very high in linoleic acid which means that is can reduce inflammation and the itch of eczema.  It also helps to soothe dry skin and restore a healthy barrier function to skin.
  • Rosehip seed oil- is rich in linoleic acid and linolenic acid and can help to increase wound healing and  reduce scarring, which can be an issue for longtime suffers of eczema.  The one warning is that if you suffer from acne, you may want to avoid rosehip seed oil as it can make acne worse.  Otherwise it is a wonderful oil to help regenerate new skin, heal wounds and diminish scars.
  • Sea buckthorn oil- this has recently gained some press as being a wonderful and exotic oil.  Sea buckthorn berries grow in harsh environments and have developed some amazing chemicals to help its growth.  It is high in palmitoleic acid and palmitic acid which are building blocks of healthy skin.  It is also exceedingly high in phytosterols and has some of the highest vitamin e levels known in plants.  It’s rich orange color also signals us that is very high in beta carotene.  It is very soothing to red, inflamed skin and is known for its healing and regenerative capabilities.
  • Pomegranate seed oil- contains almost 75% punicic acid which is a rare and wonderful fatty acid known as an Omega 5 fatty acid.  It helps to regenerate skin and has anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties. It is also rich in gallic acid and ellagic acid which can help with collagen production and are also anti-inflammatory.  The phytosterols in pomegranate seed oil also help with reducing inflammation and redness, two things which are of great help in fighting eczema.

Carrier Oils to help with Eczema

  • Meadowfoam seed oil- is very high in gadoleic acid and euricic acid which help to provide a protective layer for skin.  It is very moisturizing and can help heal dry, cracked skin.  It’s properties help it adhere to and stay on skin.
  • Macadamia nut oil- is particularly rich in oleic acid which is great for moisturizing, regenerating skin and as an anti-inflammatory.  It is also high in palimitoleic acid (like sea buckthorn) which is a building block of healthy skin.  Macadamia nut oil has catechins which are antioxidants and also have anti-bacterial properties, and it contains squalene which helps cracked and chapped skin.

Ricinoleic acid and Skin

What is Ricinoleic Acid?

Ricinoleic acid is a polyunsaturated fatty acid with the lipid number C18:1.  It is an Omega-9 fatty acid, along with Erucic and Nervonic acid.  It’s a hydroxyl acid and is soluble in alcohol, but not in oil or water. When we talk about ricinoleic acid, we are generally talking about castor oil since it is the main source of ricinoleic acid.  Castor oil is obtained from the castor bean of the castor plant.  It is an inexpensive vegetable oil with a very mild odor and taste.

How does Ricinoleic Acid Help Our Skin?

Ricinoleic acid is a humectant, which means that it helps to pull moisture out of the atmosphere and into our skin.  It has analgesic, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial properties.  Castor oil is used in foot care products because of its antifungal properties.  Castor oil is a very thick oil, but it still penetrates the skin easily and can actually help thicken skin.  This is helpful as skin tends to thin as we age.  In fact castor oil is so thick that it has a viscosity rating of 293, as opposed to olive oil with a viscosity rating of 47. It blends well with beeswax and is used in cosmetics such as deodorants, lip balms and lipsticks.  It can go on feeling somewhat greasy and sticky, which is good for lipstick, but maybe not for a body lotion.  In traditional medicine castor oil has been used to treat skin disorders, abrasions, burns, sunburns, and a variety of skin problems.

What Oils are High in Ricinoleic Acid?

The castor plant is most commonly associated with ricinoleic acid and over 80% of the fatty acids in castor oil are ricinoleic acid (it will variety depending on where the plant was raised and how it was raised).castor oil

Some of the oils high in Ricinoleic acid include:

  • Castor oil (85%) Has a shelf life of about 1 year

Punicic Acid (CLnA) and Skin

What is Punicic Acid?

Punicic acid is a polyunsaturated fatty acid with the lipid profile C18:3.  Punicic acid is mostly commonly associated with pomegranate seed oil, and is even named after it.  It is an Omega-5 fatty acid and is a conjugated linolenic acid or CLnA.  Because of the three double bonds and the fact that it is conjugated, oils high in punicic acid tend to go bad quickly.

What is a Conjugated Linolenic Acid (CLnA)?

A conjugated linolenic fatty acid is similar to linolenic acid in that they both have 18 molecules with triple bonds, but the CLnA has trans and cis configurations which makes the fatty acid somewhat twisted in its structure.  This means that the molecules cannot line up evenly so CLA oils will be thicker than linolenic oils.

Conjugated linolenic acid is not to be confused with conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), although they are similar.  Conjugated linoleic acid has only two double bonds, instead of three.  It is found primarily in the diary products and meats of ruminants (such as cows, sheep, goats, and bison).  It is important that these animals are fed a mainly grass diet instead of grain diet if the CLA concentration is to be high.  In fact studies show that grass-fed animals produce 300%-500% more CLA than animals fed a grain diet.

How does Punicic Acid Help Our Skin?

pomegranate seed oilPunicic acid is good at reducing inflamed skin as well as regenerating new skin and improving skin tone and elasticity.  It has been shown to be anti-microbial and effective at improving epidermal differentiation.  Remember that our skin has many conflicting functions such as keeping things in (like moisture) and keeping things out (like germs and bacteria).  There are different specialized cells in the skin which each perform specific functions.  So punicic acid has been shown to promote this differentiation.   CLA has also shown promise in tests in lightening skin and reducing the effects of photo aging.  There is also evidence that it can help with skin that has suffered sunburn as well as with collagen production.  Because of all of its wonderful properties it is often used in skin care, and particularly in lines for mature skin.

Think that punicic acid sounds pretty amazing?  There was even a study in 2003 done by South Dakota State University and published in the Journal of Medicinal Food that showed a link between pomegranate seed oil and a reduction in skin cancer.  In this study, mice were exposed to cancer causing chemicals. Those who received a topical application of pomegranate seed oil had a significantly reduced rate of skin cancer than those who didn’t receive it.

What Oils are High in Punicic Acid?

Punicic acid is named after the pomegranate whose Latin name is Punica granatum.  It is therefore no surprise that pomegranates are rich in punicic acid (or more specifically it is the pomegranate seed oil that contains the punicic acid).  Punicic acid is also found in the seed oil of bitter gourd and snake gourd, but it is most commonly associated with pomegranate seed oil.

Some of the oils high in Punicic acid include:

  • Pomegranate seed oil (70%) Has a shelf life of about 1 year
  • Calendula oil (64%) Has a shelf life of about 6 to 12 months

Lauric Acid, Myristic Acid and Skin


What is Lauric Acid?

Lauric acid is a saturated fatty acid with a lipid number C12.  Because there are no double bonds in this fatty acid, it can last a long time without going rancid.  In the body lauric acid is converted into a substance called monolaurin.  Monolaurin has antifungal, antiviral, antimicrobial and antiprotozoal properties.  It operates by a mechanism whereby it disrupts the lipid membranes in foreign organisms such as viruses, fungus and bacteria.  While monolaurin kills off these unwanted organisms, it is completely nontoxic to humans and to our normal functioning tissues.

How does Lauric Acid Help Our Skin?

Lauric acid is a great moisturizer for the skin and it can reduce redness and flaking of skin with no adverse side effects.  It is also great for fighting skin infections and its use in fighting acne is being explored.

What Oils are High in Lauric Acid?

Lauric acid is found in high percentages in coconut oil and palm kernel oil, but otherwise is quite uncommon in nature.  The only other place we know it occurs is in mother’s milk, and it comprises 6.2% of human mother’s milk, as opposed to 3% of goat and cow’s milk.  Scientists believe that lauric acid’s presence in milk may be due to its antimicrobial activity.  This may be one way that mothers strengthen their babies immune systems.
Some of the oils high in Lauric acid include:

  • Coconut oil (48%) Has a shelf life of about 2 yearS
  • Palm kernel oil (48%) Has a shelf life of about 1-2 years



What is Myristic Acid?

Myrisitic acid is a saturated fatty acid with the lipid number C14.

How does Myristic Acid Help Our Skin?

Myristic acid is easily absorbed by our skin and acts a lubricant and an anti-inflammatory.  It helps repair the skin barrier and increases moisture and hydration.  There is some evidence that myristic acid can help with flaky skin by signaling skin cells when it’s time to stop growing.

What Oils are High in Myristic Acid?

Myristic acid is found in nutmeg, coconuts, palm kernels and in spermacetin, the oil from the sperm whale.
Some of the oils high in Myristic acid include:

  • Coconut oil (48%) Has a shelf life of about 2 year
  • Palm kernel oil (48%) Has a shelf life of about 1-2 years

Erucic Acid, Gadoleic Acid and Skin

Eurcic acid and gadoleic acid are two of the less known fatty acids.  They appear in high amount in jojoba oil, a known skin care benefit, so it is strange that much occurs in the literature in terms of the role these acids play in skin health.  A lesser known substance rich in erucic acid and gadoleic acid is meadowfoam.  Meadowfoam is starting to get some well-deserved attention as another great skin care ingredient.  Both jojoba and meadowfoam moisturize skin and don’t evaporate off skin like water does.  They mimic human sebum and can control the overproduction of sebum which can lead to acne.  These are both stable oils that have long shelf lives.


What is Erucic Acid?

Erucic acid is a monounsaturated fatty acid with the lipid profile C22:1.  It is also an Omega-9 fatty acid along with Oleic acid.

How does Erucic Acid Help Our Skin?

Erucic acid is used in cosmetic products as an emollient because it provides a protective layer for skin.

What Oils are High in Erucic Acid?

Erucic acid is found widely throughout nature, and it is most prevalent in the brassica family of plants (rapeseed, mustard seed, cauliflower, and broccoli).  When it comes to the essential oils, meadowfoam and jojoba oils are very good sources.
Some of the oils high in Erucic acid include:

  • Jojoba oil (20%) Has a shelf life of about 2 years
  • Meadowfoam oil (13%) Has a shelf life of about 2-3 years


What is Gadoleic Acid?

Gadoleic acid, also known as 9-eicosenoic acid, is a monounsaturated fatty acid with the lipid number C20:1.

What Oils are High in Gadoleic Acid?

It was first found in cod liver oil but is also present in marine fish.  It is found in high amounts in jojoba oil and meadowfoam oil as well.
jojobaSome of the oils high in Gadoleic acid include:

  • Jojoba oil (70%) Has a shelf life of about 2 years
  • Meadowfoam oil (60%) Has a shelf life of about 2-3 years