Skin Deep: How To Avoid Toxic Skin Care

I’m always amazed how so many high end/high price skin and hair care products claiming all manner of nourishing and rejuvenating benefits,  contain so many ingredients toxic for your skin and hair. Often the toxic chemicals they contain are actually the cause of dehydration, dermatitis or other skin problems.

Skin Deep: How to avoid toxic skin care products

Often products we use to prevent skin problems actually cause those same skin problems, so why do we continue with this crazy behaviour?

We’re all susceptible to great advertising campaigns and because most rarely know what those long chemical names actually are we’re all quick to accept the recommendation of the advertisers.

Of course even if you do know which chemicals are harmful it can be impossible to read ingredient lists printed in microscopic script, if indeed they’re included on the product at all. Legislation only requires the list of ingredients be displayed but not necessarily on the product – it can just be a card sitting at the point of sale, which you may not notice or stop to read!

We’re also easily seduced by nice smells, creamy texture, pretty packaging in our favourite colour, prestige brands, outrageous claims, or simply brand loyalty.



Organic Skin Care Claims

natural non-toxic skin care
Photo courtesy: Shawn Campbell

In Australia a product can be labeled ‘organic’ if it contains any carbon in it at all. Given that there’s carbon in all plant and animal matter it’s pretty well a ‘free-for-all’. Technically, the inclusion of any vegetable oil or herbal preparation renders the product ‘organic’.

The word ‘organic’ on its own means zilch.

If the product contains ingredients grown according to accepted organic farming practices it will be labeled ‘Certified Organic’ or ‘Australian Certified Organic’. If ‘Containing Organic Ingredients’ is emblazoned on the packet be careful! There may only be a few drops of one certified organic essential oil in the largish container, while all the other ingredients are not organic and may be quite nasty chemicals.

Companies are ‘put on trust’ and don’t even have to substantiate any of their claims about a product unless they’re challenged. Can you afford the legal fees to prove that you really will look younger when you use their product? It rarely happens.


Getting Round The Hurdles

You do need to learn to read the label, even if just to know the main things to steer clear of. If you want natural, beneficial products then you need to be able to search for them. It’s up to you whether you want to settle for products just a little “cleaner” or get one that is really top-quality.

It’s also important to remember that although there may be only small of amounts of each of the harmful ingredients in the product they are cumulative and are present in every product you are using. You use many of these products every day, as well as other products around the home that contain these toxic additives – which all adds up to quite a significant toxic, damaging load.

Small exposures add up and may result in disease later on in life.



Chemicals To Avoid

The first few ingredients on the label are the most important. All ingredients must be listed in the order of quantity, that is, the one that there’s the most of is listed first and the one there’s least of is last.

The Worst Ingredients

The most problematic ingredients, and thus the ones you DO need to avoid, found in almost all skin/hair care products are these:

1. PETROLEUM PRODUCTS: (Mineral oil, Paraffin, Petrolatum): They coat the skin like plastic which clogs the pores, and interferes with the elimination of toxins allowing their build up and leading to acne and dermatitis. They slow skin cell development which results in premature ageing. They are often used in lip products to protect chapping and sun damage but as mineral oils promote skin photosensitivity (sun damage) and interfere with the body’s own moisturisation, they actually lead to dry and chapped skin.

2. SYNTHETIC FRAGRANCES: They can cause skin irritation, rash, headache, dizziness, vomiting, coughing, and hyperpigmentation. They can also affect the central nervous system and cause depression, hyperactivity and irritability. Because they contain up to 4000 ingredients, many toxic or carcinogenic, there is no way to know exactly what they do contain. If you want products with a fragrance then look for ones that use essential oils instead.

3. PARABEN PRESERVATIVES (Methylparaben, Butylparaben, Ethylparaben): Widely used and known to be highly toxic, they are a preservative used to inhibit microbial growth and extend shelf life. They cause many allergic skin reactions and skin rashes, irritate eyes and respiratory tract, and are connected to cancer. They also disrupt homrmonal process in the endocrine system as they mimic oestrogen

4. PROPYLENE GLYCOL:  A synthetic petrochemical, it inhibits skin cell growth, weakens cell structure, causes allergic reactions, dermatitis, skin irritation, conjunctivitis, and kidney/liver abnormalities. It is used as a ‘moisturizer’ and also found in fragrance oils. It is toxic and dangerous and the EPA requires workers handling it to wear protective gloves, clothing and goggles and to dispose of it by burying it in the ground. In spite of this, there is no warning label requirement for products like stick deodorants even though the concentrations are higher than in most industrial applications.

5. SODIUM LAUREL/ LAURETH SULPHATE (SLS or SLES), AMMONIUM LAURYL SULPHATE (ALS): The synthetic substance that builds the ‘foaminess’ in shampoos, they dehydrate skin and inflame and separate the skin layers. They cause eye irritation, skin rashes, hair loss, scalp scurf like dandruff, allergic reactions, they break down the moisture barrier in the skin, and they turn into a carcinogen. They are found in over 90% of personal care products that foam including shampoos, skin care and even toothpastes as well as engine degreasers and garage floor cleaners. Don’t be deceived into thinking it is ok if it says ‘comes from coconut’.

6. TRIETHANOLAMINE (TEA) – (it will often have a number added): It is a synthetic emulsifier which is severely irritating to body tissues and can cause allergic reactions, eye problems, dry skin and hair, and can be toxic if absorbed into the body over a long period of time. Over 40% of cosmetics containing it have been found contaminated with nitrosamines (potent carcinogens). The Material Safety Data Sheet actually advises wearing a face shield if there is danger of eye contact.

7. POLYETHYLENE GLYCOL (PEG) – (sometimes with a number added): They reduce the skin’s natural moisture factor and leave it vulnerable to bacteria. They also contribute to the appearance of ageing. Very commonly used and connected with liver and kidney damage and a carcinogen, you will also find them in caustic spray-on oven cleaners.

8. STEARALKONIUM CHLORIDE: Highly toxic, it can cause allergic reactions. Originally developed as a fabric conditioner it is now used in creams and hair conditioners because it is cheaper than herbals or proteins. Over time it causes hair to become dry and brittle

9. DIAZOLIDINYL UREA: The American Academy of Dermatology established it as the primary cause of contact dermatitis. It is the most commonly used preservative after parabens. It contains formaldehyde which is toxic if inhaled. It causes skin nose, eyes and throat irritation coughing and difficult breathing. It is toxic.

10. SYNTHETIC COLOURS: They are used simply to make products pretty. Avoid anything with these added as animal studies show almost all are cancer-causing agents and serve no beneficial purpose in the product at all.

Here are a few more to avoid, although they’re just a few of the huge problem.

Toulene – (benzoic, benzyl) A well known poison affecting many organs and found in synthetic fragrances, it is fatal if swallowed and harmful if inhaled or absorbed through the skin.

Oxybenzone – (or benzophenone-3): It is found in any product offering sun protection – it inactivates the skins own antioxidant system (which leads to premature ageing),disrupts hormones, and causes cancer.  Ironically, it reacts under UV light (ie: in the sun) to potentially damage DNA and affect development.

Retinal Palmitate – decomposes under UVA rays into chemicals that cause cell mutations. Being photo-toxic it causes skin ageing but is often found in anti-ageing products!

Skin Deep: Avoid toxic skin care products

Children Are At Greater Risk

The EWC (Environmental Working Committee) offer this advice  on how to read a personal care product label. They recommend paying particular attention to products for children and babies which contain the same harmful ingredients but pose a greater risk. Children are so much smaller than adults so they’re relatively far more exposed to the dangers of the contaminants. Their organs are immature and far less capable at dealing with the assault.


Other Ways These Chemicals Affect You

The effect these toxins have on you isn’t just about how your skin or hair looks and feels. Many people also have a huge improvement in other health problems after they change their hair, skin or cleaning (personal and clothes) products. Switching from products containing the above ingredients to more natural products that don’t contain the nasty chemicals can have a huge impact on their health.

If you do seek out products made from more natural, healthy ingredients you may find that problems like allergies start to go away. Even simply changing to products that don’t contain artificial colours or synthetic fragrances makes a significance difference and is a great place to begin.

Natural chemical free products leave your skin younger and healthierNo doubt in the past you’ve found some products were good for your skin and others not so good. Natural skin and hair care products are no different. If you find one isn’t good for you then try another. The right one for your own individual skin and hair will be there and it’s simply a matter of finding which it is. I tried many different natural, healthy shampoos and conditioners before I found the one that suits my hair and leaves it beautifully soft.


Not  All ‘Natural’ And ‘Organic’ Products Are Ok

Here is a great article by the Wellness Warrior, Jess Ainscough, called ‘8 Beauty Brands You Would Think Are Natural’ where she challenges the ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ claims made by big companies. She examines one randomly chosen product from each range for just how many toxins it contains. She reinforces just why you do need to know your stuff and should really get you asking questions.


A List To Use When Shopping

To make it easier to navigate your way through the jungle of scientific names here’s a list of the ingredients above. Copy it and keep it in your bag. Then you can check the ingredients in products before you buy them.

PETROLEUM PRODUCTS: (Mineral oil, Paraffin, Petrolatum)


PARABEN PRESERVATIVES (Methylparaben, Butylparaben, Ethylparaben)–








skin deep 4

Personal care products are supposed to enhance our skin and hair. Make sure that the ones you use are in fact food for your skin and not toxins for your skin.


Toxic ingredients in skin and hair care products often cause dehydration
Many toxic ingredients in skin care products cause dehydration


All information and opinions presented here are for information only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before trying any of the treatment suggested on this site. 

Source articles:

The Campaign For Safe Cosmetics

Organic Consumer’s Association: Ten Synthetic Cosmetic Ingredients to Avoid

EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Base

Miessence: Ingredients We Shun

Superfood Sprouts

Superfood sprouts are wonderful little powerhouses of goodness and contain the highest intensity of nutrients a plant ever has. The seeds are storehouses containing all the nutrients the plant needs to start growing. Once the plant gets growing it’s able to draw what it requires from the soil and air around it, but in that first burst of life it needs a giant boost to get it going. So all the treasures held in the seed are released in a burst to do just that.

In that first tiny stalk and root are the highest nutrient density of any stage of that plants life. Once the seed sprouts the nutrients in the seed increase dramatically, with some nutrients increasing up to 2000%, and this magnified benefit is passed on to you when you consume it.

Superfood sprouts, a nutrient powerhouse


Superfood Sprouts

Suprisingly sprouts are a great source of protein. Sprouts grown to the chlorophyll rich two-leaf stage have been shown to be effective in overcoming protein-deficiency anaemia.

Unless you’re a vegetarian you’re probably getting most of your protein from fish, meat, dairy and eggs. Legumes and seeds are another great source of protein often used by vegetarians. Seeds and legumes in sprout form are actually up to 35 percent protein. Plus they have the added bonus over all the animal proteins that they don’t contain high cholesterol, fat or kilojoules. Plus they’re high in fibre making them an awesome food for weight control as well as health control.

High levels of enzymes in sprouts makes them really easy to digest, so they are perfect if you suffer from bloating or any other digestive issues.

When you eat a handful of sprouts you are eating hundreds of tiny plants instead of just one or two larger ones. With the power-pack of nutrients they deliver it means you are eating the equivalent of many more vegetables.

Unlike veges bought at the greengrocer or supermarket which start to deteriorate after they’re harvested (and often left sitting on shelves or in storage for long periods), the nutrients in sprouts continue to increase after you pick them.

“There is strong evidence that just two or three tablespoons of broccoli sprouts a day can help prevent breast cancer, gastric cancer, and other diseases.” Dole Nutrition News Story

It has been known for a long time that sprouts are a great source of nutrients but more recently it was found that they actually have therapeutic benefits that help to protect us from certain diseases as well.

Research shows that some of the substances in broccoli sprouts become isothiocyanates which may help to fight cancer. Bean sprouts have also been identified as potent anti-tumour agents. The phytochemicals in alfalfa, radish, broccoli and clover have great curative ability to protect us from disease, including from cancer.
Alfalfa sprouts are a wonderful source of saponins to help lower bad cholesterol and fat but not HDL (the good) fats.

Saponins also stimulate the immune system. As the saponin content in sprouted alfala is over 450% more than that in the unsprouted seed it’s quite obvious why sprouts are so much better than unsprouted seeds!

The abundance of antioxidants in sprouts prevent DNA destruction and help to protect against the effects of aging. Could it be that sprouts are the legendary ‘fountain of youth’?

In addition sprouts contain an abundance of phytoestrogens which help in preventing osteoporosis, and of benefit in heart disease and with the symptoms of menopause.

Raw foodies say all sprouts should be eaten raw, but some legumes, even when sprouted, need to be cooked and so can be lightly steamed. Cooking destroys the live food enzymes but makes them far easier to digest. Sprouts like radish, clover, broccoli as well as sunflower and pumpkin seeds are fine raw, and in fact may be better for you when raw.

grow superfood sprouts from seeds in jars


Benefits Of Sprouts

• Extremely alkalising, they help to balance out the harm done to your body by the typical Australian acid-forming diet. Remember, a healthy body is an alkaline body.
• Rich in essential nutrients – Vitamins A, C, B1, B2, B5, B6 and K; many minerals plus omega-3, bioflavonoids, anti-oxidants, plus more!
• Deliver a concentrated serve of vegetables
• Great vegetarian source of protein
• Easily digested
• Great low-kilojoule food for weight loss as they make you feel fuller longer and are low in fat and cholesterol. Bean and alfalfa sprouts are among the best for weight loss.
• High in oxygen for healthy cells
• Have therapeutic properties to help fight disease
• They can be grown on your bench so they’re always perfectly fresh
• Very low cost


Grow Your Own Sprouts

Last week I bought a Sprouter and I can’t wait to use it. It’s simply three plastic stacked dishes with covered holes through which the water can slowly seep. The seeds go in the top two dishes where they sprout in the damp conditions while the used water collects in the bottom dish to be discarded.

Very simple! I could have used a jar with a similar result but this is more convenient and isn’t that what we’re all looking for these days. My favourite seeds are mung bean sprouts (the iconic 70’s Hippy!) and I can’t wait to get some seeds and get started.

sprouter with a variety of sprouting seeds

If you’d like to try sprouting for yourself here is a great little video with written instructions as well, showing you how to sprout seeds in a jar. Be sure to read the ‘Important Principles’ section. Or else you could go and find a sprouter (mine was only $8). The Biosnacky is a good one.


Seeds For Sprouting

A variety of suitable seeds are available from Health Food Shops. Try out alfalfa, mung beans, broccoli, radish, mustard, fenugreek, lentils, chickpeas, soybeans etc. You can also get ‘mixes’. Make sure the seeds are ‘For Sprouting’ – this is really important as those prepared for planting in the garden may have been treated with toxic fungicides.
If you’d like some ideas for using sprouts in your cooking apart from simply in a salad or sandwich here are some ideas.


Sprouts Galore!

It’s a week since I wrote this and I now have a beautiful crop of lentil and alfalfa sprouts and am starting those mung bean sprouts today. Looks like salads for dinner tonight.

So have fun and get sprouting. With the warmer days here what better time to add an abundance of healthy sprouts to your diet.


superfood sprouts salad


All information and opinions presented here are for information only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before trying any of the treatment suggested on this site. 

Source articles:


Time For Some Monkey Business

I came across a picture the other day that has me totally intrigued and here it is.

Whiten your teeth the safe way

It has me so hooked because it is such a simple and ‘healthful’ idea and I will never find out for myself whether it is true or not. This is because bananas are one of those foods that I simply can’t bear. I have seen them called ‘everyone’s favourite food’, but unfortunately not in my house! Only one person and the dog can abide bananas, and if that one person should ever peel one in the car then immediately three windows are thrown open and three heads lean out looking for fresh ‘banana-free’ air, while anyone else who might be in the car complains loudly.

This is pretty unfortunate because bananas offer so much inside that humble jacket. Firstly their convenience makes them very appealing as a snack-on-the-go. In addition they are nutrient-rich, containing Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, manganese and potassium as well as being high in fibre. On top of this they are low in kilojoules. Their texture and sweetness makes them the ideal ingredient in many foods. There is a wonderful ‘ice-cream’ that is often sold at weekend markets made entirely of fruit, delicious and healthy, but unfortunately for me, one of the ingredients is always banana, and I can taste that flavour overwhelming all the others. They are so simple to throw into a smoothie for a nutrient boost or into a cake if you love baking. Most kids love them and with the sweet taste and easy eating they are a pretty reliable way to have your children eat the fruit in their lunchbox.

Spotty bananas are the healthiest

For my family this aversion offers a huge health loss as bananas have heaps of health benefits. They are high in fibre. They can help protect against heart disease, osteoporosis, blindness and diabetes, they combat depression, help digestion, they can reduce PMS, build your immune system, even polish your shoes! And this is just the start. Here are some of the benefits that make bananas such a great health package:

Potassium rich, they are well recognized as playing a role in preventing high blood pressure, atherosclerosis and reducing the risk of stroke

  • They are high in fibre which keeps you regular, helps to maintain low blood sugar and stop you overeating – great if you are trying to lose weight
  • They also help if you suffer from diarrhoea as they help with fluid balance and replace lost electrolytes also. In addition, the fibre in bananas helps keep you regular if you are constipated.
  • They build strong bones by reducing the amount of calcium that is lost to your bones because it is excreted in your urine due to the western diet
  • Help stop muscle cramps – eating one or two before you exercise as it will also boost your energy or before bed if you suffer night cramps
  • Aid digestion by stimulating production of the mucous that coats and protects the stomach lining and they are a natural antacid. They are the only fruit you can eat raw if you have stomach ulcers already.
  • Help to prevent stomach ulcers as they contain protease inhibitors to break down the stomach bacteria that cause ulcers
  • Contain Tryptophan which converts into serotonin and helps fight depression. Eating a banana might be just what you need to lift your mood if you suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)
  • Potassium also keeps you more alert, so eating bananas helps when you are studying
  • Your immune system loves bananas because they are high in antioxidants to fight free radicals
  • They contain iron to help prevent anaemia
  • They help combat PMS by regulating blood sugars and raising your mood
  • They help balance fluid in your body to reduce swelling from fluid retention
  • They are a prebiotic and help your digestive tract by increasing the numbers of friendly bacteria so that you can absorb nutrients better
  • Contain Vitamin B6 which helps fight off Type II Diabetes
  • Vitamin B6 also helps ensure white blood cell production to protect you against infection
  • Bananas seem to play a significant role in preventing kidney cancer when you eat them four to six times a week
  • It turns out that while carrots are great for good eyes in children, fruit is a better way to protect against Macular Degeneration in adults and bananas are an easy way to keep up your fruit intake

So, unless like me you also have a strong aversion to bananas, how can you possibly not be eating lots of bananas.

But it matters quite a lot just how ripe they are. The more dark, brown patches there are on the skin the higher the health benefit. Yellow bananas with brown spots are eight times more effective at enhancing your white blood cells than green skin varieties, and with higher TNF (Tumour Necrosing Factor) have a better anti-cancer quality.

Elkhorn Fern

For many years I have been putting banana skins (yes we do have bananas in the house) in the top of my Staghorn and Elkhorn Ferns as they absolutely love the potassium in the banana skin. But apparently the inside of banana skins is also an excellent way to relieve itchy insect bites or hives. And it seems the enzymes in the peel will dislodge splinters if you tape a small piece of peel over the splinter. The inside of the peel will also give your leather bags and shoes a great shine if you polish them with it and then buff with a soft cloth. You could try it on your leather furniture too.

Which brings me back to where I started, whitening your teeth by polishing them with a banana peel. There are dangers associated with Cosmetic Teeth Whitening procedures so this seems like a perfect alternative. Here are the instructions about how to do it. So please, go ahead and give it a try and then come back here and post your results in the comments space below. I am dying to hear how well it works.

And if you know of any more bizarre uses for the humble banana skin add those below too.


All information and opinions presented here are for information only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before trying any of the treatment suggested on this site.