How to reduce your exposure to chemicals

In the last decade there has been a real proliferation onto the market of ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ skin care products, and we often are drawn to brands that promote properties such as ‘phthalate free’, ‘paraben free’ or ‘fragrance free’. But have you stopped to consider why such chemicals are damaging and what the impact of toxins in the environment are?

It is estimated the average female puts around 300 different chemicals onto her skin every day. From makeup to shampoo, washing detergent to perfume, chemicals have become a part of how we conduct daily life, and if you are in an industry such as hair dressing or beauty the number and toxicity of chemicals can exponentially increase.

In addition to chemicals being found in the products we use, they have increasingly infiltrated our lives in the air we breathe, on the foods we ingest and in the industries we work.

Many of these chemicals act as ‘endocrine disruptors’ in that they work against the normal function of our hormones. Often they share structural similarities with the enzymes and receptors involved in the synthesis, release and degradation of hormones and in doing so can alter the innate level of hormones in the body. In turn thyroid function may be affected, as well as the amount of circulating male and female sex hormone.

In particular, BPA (found in many of the plastic products in our homes) and phthalates have been directly shown to act as a xenoestrogens, a subset of compounds that can alter the levels of oestrogens (estrodiol), progesterone and prolactin. Furthermore, heavy chemicals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury (found readily in many homes and industries) can interfere with absorption of nutritionally essential metals such as iron, calcium, copper and zinc. Able to be ingested, inhaled and absorbed via skin, heavy metals influence the risk of diabetes, hearing loss neurobehavioural disorders, developmental abnormalities, cardiovascular disease, blood disorders and various types of cancer… not to mention their effect on the microbiome.

So what can you do? Ultimately chemicals have become a part of every day life and so complete avoidance is unlikely. That said, a consciousness around exposure is something you may wish to adopt for general health and wellbeing. Practices that may help to reduce the impact of toxins and chemicals include

  • Making wiser choices about cleaning, laundry and hygiene products

  • Avoiding BPA and consumption of food and goods from plastic containers. Look for alternative food coverings such as glass containers, wax paper and/or brown paper for keeping food to avoid cling wrap

  • Using PPE i.e. gloves and eye protection when doing household tasks such as handling weed killer or using insecticides *though consider that use of these products generally results in environmental absorption which increases population exposure, so where possible consider adopting practices such as intercropping, agroforestry practices, and autonomous entomological control where your knowledge allows

  • Wash fruit and vegetables prior to consumption in a solution of baking soda for 15 minutes. Interestingly it has been shown that less than this has little effect on removal of chemically-sprayed produce

  • Wash all clothing and linen before use

  • Aim to swim in salt water vs chlorinated

  • Aim to buy organic and cook/prepare your own foods

  • And remember! Small changes are still changes, a complete life over-haul is unrealistic and potentially expensive for most of us, so start with consciousness and aim to improve on each day/week/month

Interested in knowing more about lifestyle and how this effects your skin and health? Book with an Aescend artisan today, or shop some of our more conscious skin care brands here

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