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Deborah Burnes Headshot

The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful

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Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of and concerned with toxic chemicals in personal care products. However, we don't only need to know what to avoid but also what to look for in order to get the best results for skin. We need equal information on what to look out for as well as what to look for when choosing personal care products. This empowers us to avoid products that are not only harming our health but are also not good for our skin. It also gives us the information we need to select beneficial products that are healthy and effective.

Recently we've heard a lot about parabens in body products. While it's true that we need more studies to determine the level of concern and the toxicity of them, and I believe best to avoid until we have more information, looking for a product without parabens isn't always the best strategy. (You may have heard they cause breast cancer. While it is true that studies have found and documented parabens in cancerous breast tissue, there are also lots of other things found in cancerous breast tissue as well. We cannot yet make the leap yet that parabens actually cause them.)

The fact is cosmetic companies are smart. When they realize people are avoiding parabens and it is the latest "buzz" in the industry, they use that to their advantage to increase consumer loyalty, trust and sales. They start advertising products that are "paraben free." And (mostly) they are. But that isn't the full story. Often parabens are replaced with other chemicals that are equally bad or even worse for your health. So while it's a good idea to look for products without parabens, don't let catchy tag lines suck you in. Make sure you know what's in there instead and do your research so you're not getting stuck with something worse!

Unless we educate ourselves, we are powerless against a billion dollar industry that will do anything to sell us the latest miracle cure. Of course everyone will have a different comfort zone in terms of the amount of chemicals they feel comfortable having in their beauty products. It's just like food. Some people eat only organic, some a combination of conventional and organic and some only conventional. As long as consumers are informed, there is no right or wrong when it comes to choosing body products.

I do, however, believe that in an industry that is virtually unregulated, consumers should take the stance guilty until proven innocent. I believe we should leave all "questionable" ingredients out until manufactures have the information needed to let the consumer make a choice they feel comfortable with. In order to make choices that fit within your personal criteria of safety, you need to be educated. Otherwise, you risk allowing chemicals and toxins into your bloodstream and affecting your health without your consent or knowledge. I suggest everyone make their own criteria of what they will or won't use and be exposed to.

To get started, take a look at the list of my top 10 to watch out for.

Here is the list of the top 10 ingredients to avoid from my book "Look Great Live Green":

1. PARABENS

2. FORMALDEHYDE AND FORMALDEHYDE DONERS

The following ingredients contain formaldehyde, may release formaldehyde or may break down into formaldehyde: 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol, Diazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, Imidazolidinyl urea, Quaternium 15, 3 1,4 dioxane

3. PHTHALATES

Not listed on label, found in fragrance and other ingredients in your products. A lot of companies are however starting to list phthalate free.

4. DIETHANOLAMINE (DEA) AND TRIETHANOLAMINE

5. DIAZOLIDINYL UREA AND IMIDAZOLIDINYL UREA

6. SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE/ LAURETH SULFATE; AMMONIUM LAURETH SULPHATE

This is the same problem as parabens -- they are getting all the heat while other substitutes that are equally bad or worse are replacing them.

7. PROPYLENE GLYCOL

8. PVP/VA COPOLYMER

9. NANOPARTICLES

10. SYNTHETIC FRAGRANCE

Here is a list of the top 10 things to look for:

1. Pure butters such as shea and coconut

2. Pure oils such as avocado, jojoba and olive

3. Arrowroot (talc replacement)

4. Essential oils (please note not everything natural is good for you and not everything synthetic is bad. Essential oils are a better choice then fragrance, but still caustic when used too often and in high amounts.)

5. Use what you know. Choose ingredients you already know and feel comfortable with. For example, pineapple, oatmeal, honey and salt.

6. Extracts that list what they are extracted in. For example: green tea extracted in pure organic grape alcohol or cornflower extracted in glycerin.

7. Colorants from minerals in place of synthetic dyes

8. Non-foaming facial cleansers, non-detergent body cleansers

9. Fragrance-free products

10. Powdered products, hard bar lotions and scrubs and product without water that require less preservation.

Tips and tricks

1. Use less

2. Multitask your products (a body oil can also be a cuticle oil, bath oil, hair oil)

3. Don't be tempted to buy the new miracle in a jar. Stick with what you know and love.

4. Use what you already have. Smear a bit of your next avocado on your face for a EFA face mask, wash your skin with pure honey, use a drop of olive oil in your bath and on your face, and soak in powdered milk and sea salt.

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