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Your skin is not a giant shrink wrap

By Staff | Jun 19, 2009

Our skin looks like shrink wrap, doesn’t it? Some of us look like shrink wrap that has been folded and creased a few times Sorry! That was mean, wasn’t it? I am beginning to put myself in that category, however, especially when I look at the skin of my little grandbaby. Age and the environment are not kind to our outward appearance.

But this column is not about appearances; it is about health. Whatever I rub onto my skin is absorbed into my body. The skin acts as a barrier to repel bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. It is the first line of defense of our immune system. The skin often reflects the health of the entire body. For example, jaundice is an ominous sign that the liver is in serious trouble. Dry, cracked, peeling skin can signal hypothyroidism, essential fatty acid deficiency, zinc deficiency, and other issues. So we need to keep a close eye on our skin.

Tonight when you do your daily pre-bed ritual of cleansing your skin and brushing your teeth, read the fine print on the back of your skin care product bottles. Do they contain ingredients that you cannot pronounce? Are you rubbing chemicals into your skin that you would not think of eating? Have you investigated the possible negative effects of an accumulation of these products?

Do you slather your body with sweet-smelling talc? Think again. My little grandbaby was just diagnosed with a lung disorder caused by breathing baby powder into her lungs. Fortunately, she will be okay but who would think that a product as common as baby powder could be life-threatening? Even though a pediatrician recommended using the powder on her diaper rash, powders are not recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics because they can cause breathing problems and serious lung damage when inhaled. It is difficult to keep the powder out of your baby’s nose when it is flying all around her body.

Adult powders are no better. The offending substance in both forms of powder is talc.

Your general rule of thumb for skin-care products should be that you would not use a product that contains any ingredient you would hesitate to eat, including hair dyes. I was recently tempted to stop dyeing my hair because I felt the noxious fumes were poisoning me, and because my skin developed hideous bumps around the hair line. But the people who love me complained. They hate my gray hair (I call it silvery). I did some research on hair colors that do not contain ammonia or other harsh chemicals, tried some, and found one that I love. It colors my gray nicely, without blasting my lungs with toxic chemicals. It is amazing to dye my hair without feeling poisoned. (Hair dressers, take serious note!)

In this toxic-laden world, one cannot be too careful.

Carol is a certified lifestyle educator at the offices of Dr. Alan Gruning in Fort Myers. She owns the Island Nutrition Center on Sanibel. She can be reached at 472-4499.