Body and Skin Care
Pain medication, contraceptive hormones and nicotine can all be absorbed through patches placed on the skin. Since the skin can take up many kinds of chemicals, personal care products such as creams, lotions, shampoos and soaps should be as free of toxins as possible. Cosmetics applied to the lips may also be swallowed and absorbed through the intestinal tract.
According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, the FDA has no authority to require pre-market safety assessment for cosmetics as it does for drugs, and does not review what goes into them. Many ingredients have never been evaluated for safety.
Some body care product labels claim that they are “natural” or “organic,” words with no legal meaning when used to describe cosmetics or body care products. Products may contain mostly synthetic substances with only a few drops of an herbal preparation, but be labeled as “herbal” and “natural.”
As with foods, it is necessary to read labels and judge what is best of the products available. You can also make your own lotions and bath products; these skin care product recipes have been reviewed by a former staff member.
Some resources to help evaluate products:
Campaign for Safe Cosmetics: general articles and resources about cosmetic safety.
Skin Deep: the Environmental Working Group’s database allows you to review their assessments of products and ingredients, with suggestions for less toxic alternatives.
Organic Consumers Association’s Coming Clean Campaign: a discussion of fraudulent claims by makers of certified organic body care products, with a discussion of fraudulent claims.
Terressentials’ The Healthy Person's Guide to Personal Care Ingredients: a review of natural and synthetic ingredients used in body care products.