Give Your Bathroom Cabinet a Spring Cleaning: Out with the Old and In with the New!

New year’s is usually a great time to give your bathroom cabinet a makeover. If you didn’t get a chance to do a New Year’s Makeover, it’s not too late to start. You can make it part of your spring-cleaning ritual instead. Start now by taking a closer look at what’s inside your bathroom medicine cabinet as well as what may be lurking under the sink or in an adjacent closet. Even the most seemingly innocuous items can contain a veritable of soup of chemicals that may be doing you more harm than good.

Read the labels and familiarize yourself with the ingredients. Start by sorting products into two bins or groups: products you use daily vs. products that you use occasionally. The ones you use daily are the ones you should be examining very carefully and these typically include but are not limited to, toothpaste, mouthwash, antiperspirants or deodorants, talcum powder, face creams, lotions, cleansers, over-the-counter cold and pain medications, “anti-bacterial” soaps, shampoos, conditioners, hair styling products, and traditional cosmetics.

After all, these are products you routinely apply to your skin or your teeth and gums –both the fastest routes for substances to be absorbed into the bloodstream. When substances are absorbed into the body this way they often by-pass the liver –your body’s principle detoxifying organ– or worse, clog and congest it. That means many toxic substances aren’t properly eliminated and often take up residence in the fatty tissue of our organs where they build up over time, turning into a virtual “thorn in your side” that can compromise your immune system and leave you susceptible to a host of health problems. A congested liver is also one of the fastest routes to inflammation in the body, and inflammation is the foundation for most degenerative diseases.

Ironically, many of the chemical ingredients in personal care products are there to improve the texture and consistency, appearance, or shelf-life stability of the product and have no functional purpose. To add insult to injury, many are primarily there to speed up or enhance the penetration of the other ingredients into the skin; increase the thickness and intensity of the lather (making it harder to rinse off); or make the product more visually appealing.

And while it may seem hard to believe, new evidence has recently surfaced suggesting that exposure to some of these ingredients may even lead to pre-mature childhood obesity! There’s a lot we don’t know yet about how routine and repeated exposures to these substances can affect our health. Given all the alarming information that’s floating around, it seems foolish to wait until there’s proof positive that these substances are indeed harmful. Take a cue from your mom … better safe than sorry!

The Story of Cosmetics: Sometimes the Truth Hurts . . .

Last week was a busy week in the world of cosmetics and personal care products! It started with the introduction in Congress of a new bill: The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010. This ground-breaking legislation proposes an overhaul of the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, giving the FDA the authority and resources it needs to ensure that cosmetics and personal care products do not contain ingredients linked to adverse health effects.

Coinciding with the introduction of this legislation, the Safe Cosmetics Campaign (who was instrumental in pushing this through) released a new video called “The Story of Cosmetics” –a sequel of sorts to Annie Leonard’s 2007 widely viewed and critically acclaimed video “The Story of Stuff.” This is a clever animated video that, like its predecessor, attempts to spell out in the simplest possible way the problems inherent with the status quo –in this case: the way cosmetics manufacturers make products. As you can probably imagine, it’s already rankled the cosmetics industry! I highly recommend it and you can view it below. If this is a subject you want to know more about, I’ll be blogging about it in the coming weeks so stay tuned in to the Aroma Zone.

Much of the work done by the Safe Cosmetics Campaign is based on something called the precautionary principle, which basically encapsulates the essence of the phrase “better safe than sorry.” In other words, if there’s no scientific consensus that an action or policy suspected of being harmful to people or the environment is not harmful, the burden lies with those who want to carry it out to prove otherwise.

There are more interesting “story of” videos at The Story of Stuff Project web site.