Did you know that 60%* of what you put on your skin gets absorbed into your bloodstream?
So, today we focus on the health impacts of something we rub all over and leave on our skin to soak in really good: lotion.
Store-bought moisturizers contain a lot of synthetic chemicals and petroleum byproducts that have harmful consequences for our health. For example:
- Parabens, synthetic preservatives widely used in personal care products, are linked to endocrine disruption and breast cancer, as well as skin irritation and reproductive and developmental disorders.
- Phthalates, which are used as a plasticizer to help products absorb into the skin, have been linked to reproductive issues including infertility and birth defects and are listed as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” by the National Toxicology Program and “in need of more research” by the CDC.
- Synthetic fragrances are not required to be disclosed to the FDA (they’re considered to be proprietary information), so there’s no way of knowing what chemicals have gone into making that pretty scent you’re inhaling (although we do know that a common ingredient is phthalates–see above). Synthetic fragrances are also linked to allergies, dermatitis, respiratory problems, and headaches.
- Petroleum byproducts such as petrolatum (petroleum jelly), polyethylene glycol (PEG, PPG, Cocoate), propylene glycol, and mineral oil are linked to endocrine disruption and liver and kidney problems.
Ick! These ingredients are clearly not great options for “healthy,” moisturized skin.
Some healthy alternatives:
A good rule of thumb is: if you can eat it, you can safely put it on your skin. You can use coconut oil right out of the jar as an effective moisturizer. It smells great, makes skin super soft and glisteny, and is naturally antibacterial so it helps to soothe skin irritation (like acne!). The downside is that it’s oil, so, uh, it’s pretty oily feeling. Also, not a good idea to slather yourself in it and then lay on nice furniture or put on clothes that the oil will stain.
Rich in Vitamins E, A, and D, almond oil is not only a great moisturizer, but it also soothes skin allergies and inflammation like rashes, chapped skin, acne, and minor cuts. Almond oil is also used to keep skin looking young, due to its ability to tighten skin and reduce wrinkles. Still, it’s an oil, so pretty oily feeling.
Many homemade lotions are based around the beneficial oils above, but also contain beeswax to balance out the oiliness of it all. And you can add essential oils, which smell pretty and have natural antimicrobial and healing properties too. Like a vitamin for your skin!
Wellness Mama’s homemade lotion recipe calls for coconut oil, almond oil, beeswax, and essential oils. It literally takes 10 minutes to make. You can store your lotion in any glass jar, or these snazzy blue glass jars. This recipe makes about 8 ounces.
*This commonly cited number has proven hard to substantiate, but the CDC does acknowledge that absorption of chemicals through the skin is a problem, and the Environmental Working Group published a massive database, Skin Deep, to help consumers understand the toxicity of common personal care products absorbed through the skin. It’s a thing.