This blog post is a little different from everything I have shared here in the past. That is because, strictly speaking, it is not about yoga. Rather, it is more broadly about wellness and well-being. Specifically, it’s about skin care products and how we can avoid harmful ingredients in them. And lastly, it’s about a brand that I’m happy to support: Neal’s Yard Remedies.
I talk a lot about taking the lessons of yoga off our yoga mats and into our lives, because that’s where it really matters. One of those lessons is the increased awareness that comes from practicing yoga. Over the course of the past decade, since the practice found me, I have stopped drinking much alcohol, I have cut most meat out of my diet (I still eat seafood), and I have become increasingly conscious of the kinds of products I purchase.
I have done these things, not because it’s the “yogi” thing to do – in fact, I was quite resistant to doing the “yogi” thing just because that’s what was expected. These choices emerged organically, out of a desire to be my best self and live my best life.
The practice of yoga heightens our awareness of what serves us best; to the point where we cannot ignore it when something does not serve us. We are forced to confront our reality, and to change it for the better.
CONFRONTED WITH REALITY
Three years ago I was forced to confront a different kind of reality when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. We were extremely lucky that they caught it early and and were able to remove it completely. My mom is now cancer-free, but it cost her a breast and many months of lots of pain.
After her diagnosis, I swore of deodorants. I’m sure you’ve heard that deodorant and/or the aluminum in deodorant can cause breast cancer. I had heard this as well, and I went on a rampage, getting rid of all of our deodorants!
Well, we now know that this is untrue. Doctors don’t know exactly what causes breast cancer, but deodorant is not among the causes (neither are underwire bras, implants, mammograms, caffeine, microwaves, or cell phones). So you don’t have to throw out your deodorants (phew)!
But I do invite you to consider what’s in your deodorant, as well as what’s in other skin care products. This breast cancer experience with my mom, combined with my heightened awareness of what serves me best, got me thinking about what, exactly, is in the cosmetic and skin care products I use on a daily basis.
I’ve discovered that it’s a lot of harmful chemicals. And those harmful chemicals don’t just stay on the surface of the skin…
HOW WE ABSORB HARMFUL CHEMICALS
Your skin is the largest organ of your body, and it is porous. This means that it absorbs what you put on it. How much is absorbed is unclear and frankly, depends on what is applied; not all chemicals will be absorbed in the same amounts.
What we do know is that chemicals can absolutely penetrate the skin, and many can also be absorbed into the bloodstream. Think about nicotine and birth control patches. Both are able to administer effective doses of medication through the skin to the bloodstream.
There’s a distinction between penetration and absorption: Penetration is when a chemical makes it into the deeper layers of the skin, while absorption is when the chemical actually makes it into the bloodstream. Both are important considerations when you’re choosing products that go on your skin, but absorption rate is the most important.
Most chemicals, even if they can penetrate to the deepest layers of the skin, are too big to be absorbed directly into the bloodstream. So that’s the good news. The bad news is that they are still making their way into our bodies (yuck!).
In the yoga tradition, the body is viewed as a vessel for the soul. That’s why we practice the postures; it’s why we hydrate and eat nourishing foods. So that our souls have a healthy vessel in which to reside. Why would we then go and slather this vessel with harmful chemicals?
Knowing that some chemicals can and do enter the bloodstream through the skin, why not do our best to avoid all known harmful chemicals? I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to take the chance that any of those chemicals might make their way into my bloodstream.
AVOIDING HARMFUL INGREDIENTS IN SKINCARE
Now, I know that examining every single ingredient on every single product we use is daunting and, frankly, unrealistic. I suggest starting with the products that have the most negative impact, and taking into account the level of exposure you’re getting from the products.
For example, if you use lotion all over your body and it soaks into your skin all day, you’re getting way more exposure to those chemicals than if you were to use the same ingredients in a hand soap that is washed off quickly. So be strategic. Here are some rules of thumb:
Top products to look for cleanest ingredients:
- Anything you soak in (like bubble bath)
- Anything you apply and do not wash off (lotion, face and body creams, and oils)
- Body powder
- Shampoo and conditioner (which is washed off, but has high exposure because of where you use it and the way it “washes” over your entire body)
- Any product you put on your child
Products that have limited exposure (so you can relax your standards if you choose):
- Eye shadow
- Nail polish remover (unless you are changing colors daily)
- Hand soap (excluding antibacterial – antibacterial products can lead to resistant bacteria; avoid these)
- Leave-in hair care products (I know this is confusing, given that shampoo + conditioner are in the first category, but leave-in products are applied out of the shower – so the product is not “washing” all over your body. They are also not applied on the scalp; only on the hair itself where it is absorbed by your hair, not your skin. Additionally, when you rewash your hair a large percentage of the leave-in has been brushed or worn off, allowing for fewer chemicals to be “washed” over your body.)
If you’re wondering what ingredients to avoid, the infographic at the bottom of this post outlines 12 toxic and carcinogenic compounds that are found in many beauty and skin care products. You can take this with you when you shop, and look out for these ingredients in product labels. I won’t lie to you, doing this tough and time-consuming because product labels are not written to be understood easily.
An easier route? Know the companies that make your products. Know their mission and what they value, and know what they are committed to. Which brings me to Neal’s Yard Remedies…
NEAL’S YARD REMEDIES
Neal’s Yard Remedies is a health and beauty brand from the UK. It is privately family-owned and operated, and they pride themselves in producing high-quality, certified organic, fair-trade, cruelty-free products.
NYR is the UK’s first certified organic health and beauty company, and they are the world’s first health and beauty brand to be awarded a 100/100 for ethics in an independent audit by The Ethical Company Organisation.
I already mentioned that Neal’s Yard Remedies is privately family-owned and operated. This means that they are not beholden to shareholders and investors. They can follow their core beliefs and values, which has led them to choose only ethical, sustainable, organic harvesting and fair trade programs.
Products are made in small batches, allowing for the use of high quality natural and certified organic ingredients. And because NYR is based out of the UK, certified organic actually means something (unlike in the US).
For these reasons (and because the products are truly amazing), I have decided to add NYR products to my offerings. Click here to shop NYR products, or click on Shop Neal’s Yard Remedies in the main menu.
If you have any questions at all (like which products are best for which skin type), please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would be more than happy to walk you through the products.
In health and wellbeing,