Natural Alternatives: Why Are My Beauty, Makeup, & Personal Care Products Bad For My Health?

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Cancer Prevention?

Most beauty, makeup, and personal care products are made with toxic chemicals that disrupt hormones and metabolism, and according to numerous scientific studies, can cause cancer.

A few years ago, I would have glossed over words like cause cancer (aka “carcinogenic”) or disrupt hormones (aka “endocrine disruptor”).

But now that I have heavily invested money and time into detoxing and chelating chemicals out of my body and brain, I see the importance of paying attention to what I use. And it is surprisingly simple to swap out products with toxins for healthier options.


Why Are Toxic Chemicals Used?

Many companies that manufacture and sell beauty, makeup, and personal care products often add chemicals for numerous reasons, including:

  • Some chemicals help preserve products and extend the shelf life. Longer expiration dates means that more can be sold and less thrown out.
  • Many chemicals make manufacturing less expensive. e.g. a synthetic imitation rose scented fragrance vs. adding essential oils from real cold-pressed roses.
  • And other chemicals can make products look “good” or work “better” so consumers will purchase them, become brand-loyalists, and buy more.

Lipstick and lip gloss are good examples. In a study by The University of California (1), nine toxic heavy metals, including chromium, cadmium, manganese, aluminum and lead were detected in the eight lipsticks and 24 lip glosses that were tested. Because the metals are contaminants from the pigments and base materials, not actual ingredients, they are not disclosed on the product label. However, these contaminants get absorbed through the lips and consumed orally with every application:

Cosmetic ingredients do not remain on the surface of the skin. They are designed to penetrate, and they do. Scientists have found many common cosmetic ingredients in human tissues, including phthalates in urine, preservatives called parabens in breast tumor tissue and persistent fragrance components in human fat. (2)

In the U.S., the FDA does not regulate the toxic chemicals much. From the Environmental Working Group:

Myth – The government prohibits the use of all dangerous chemicals in personal care products, and companies wouldn’t risk using them.

Fact – With the exception of color additives and a few prohibited substances, cosmetics companies may use any ingredient or raw material in their products without government review or approval (FDA 2005). Whereas the European Union has banned more than 1,000 ingredients from use in cosmetics, the FDA has only prohibited the following (FDA 2000a): BIthionol, Chlorofluorocarbon propellants, Chloroform, Halogenated salicylanilides (di-, tri-, metabromsalan and tetrachlorosalicylanilide), Methylene chloride, Vinyl chloride, Zirconium-containing complexes, Prohibited cattle materials…


Endocrine / Hormone Disruptors

Unfortunately, most of those cost-saving chemicals can harm or disrupt health by impacting the endocrine system. But what does that mean and why does it matter? Here is a brief recap of the endocrine system and hormones:

The endocrine system is a collection of glands that secrete hormones directly into the circulatory system to be carried towards distant organs. The major endocrine glands include the pineal gland, pituitary gland, pancreas, ovaries, testes, thyroid gland, parathyroid gland, hypothalamus, gastrointestinal tract and adrenal glands. (3)

Hormones are used to communicate between organs and tissues to physiological regulation and behavioral activities, such as digestion, metabolism, respiration, tissue function, sensory perception, sleep, stress, growth and development, movement, reproduction, and mood. (4)

I believe that our bodies gently let us know there is something wrong with symptoms like dry skin, rashes, weight gain or PMS. And when the toxins accumulate and fill up in our tissues and organs, our bodies start yelling with serious illnesses, diseases and even cancer (as many of these chemicals are carcinogens and that means they can damage cells and cause cancer).

Even if we did not wear makeup or use personal care products, we all still breathe polluted air and consume polluted water and food from manufacturing bi-products. And then some of us actually pay to put more chemicals on our bodies, which are inhaled or absorbed through the skin.


The Price Of Beauty

Most of us will never connect the dots as we walk for a breast cancer cure while wearing pink ribbons and carcinogens, a.k.a. “anti-aging” “beauty” products, often made by the find a cure for cancer sponsors.

Television commercials, glamour magazine marketing campaigns, actresses in television shows & movies, and YouTube tutorials may also indoctrinate women and girls into believing that painting our faces and slathering or spraying products onto our body and hair equals beauty.

Sometimes a calamity like illness or cancer will debunk deep-seated cultural beliefs and behaviors. In my case, I my body was mercury poisoned and radiated. Because my body and brain were full of the heavy metals, my liver could not detox other additional toxic chemicals or metals without affecting everything from my sleep, to hormonal imbalances, and weight gain.

It took guts to give up makeup (and gluten and the cell phone!) Thankfully my SO has always preferred how I look without makeup. But it was uncomfortable to go out with friends and not apologize because I was not wearing makeup. And I definitely did not want to take photos with anyone capturing imperfect skin.

(Have you seen Inside Amy Schumer’s funny parody – Girl, You Don’t Need Makeup? ?)


Replacing Toxic Body Products

Even though I knew I could no longer use them, I had a hard time throwing out hundreds of dollars worth of department store cosmetics and more “natural” lotions, shampoos, and makeup that I had purchased (see appendix) — even ones from health food stores.

Did you know that organic and natural do not always mean healthy?

Products labeled natural or organic often contain synthetic chemicals, and even truly natural or organic ingredients are not necessarily risk-free. The global market for organic personal care products was valued at more than $7 billion in 2012, capturing the attention of consumers who prefer more natural or plant-based products (Cosmetics Design 2013). Products labeled “organic” or “natural” can contain petrochemicals, and those certified as organic can contain as little as 10 percent organic ingredients by weight or volume (Certech 2008). (6)

It took time, effort, and more money to find non-toxic, or less toxic, replacement products. Unlike my frantic gluten-substitution search, I tried not to stress as much about personal care products. I replaced the necessities, postponed researching the nice-to-have products, and ditched the rest.

Thankfully, there are more companies and entrepreneurs catering to the growing number of enlightened consumers. So do not fear — you can still wear makeup!

In general, I try to use single ingredient products when possible and sometimes refer to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics ratings database for new products. I will change things out on my essentials list as I continue to find new or better products:

Essential Products

  1. ToothpasteRedmond Earth Paste (unfortunately it has xylitol and clay may have metals).
  2. FlossDr. Tungs Smart Floss. I need a thicker floss than dental tape (fluoride free).
  3. MouthwashSalt water w/high quality essential oils.
  4. Shampoos&ConditionersUnscented Every Day Shea. Sometimes I add in high quality  essential oils like Tea Tree. I also use Moroccan Method shampoos, however, it is expensive and literally takes a quarter of a bottle to wash my long hair and not the quarter size suggestion.
  5. Bar SoapKiss My Face Aloe Vera Soap.
  6. Skin Moisturizer – 100% Organic, Virgin, Unrefined Shea Butter and 100%Pure Body Cream.
  7. Face MoisturizerShea butter, Jojoba oil, and Eminescence Facial Recovery oil (given as a gift).
  8. Lip CareShea butter.
  9. Makeup – Recently purchased liquid eyeliner and blush for special occasions from 100% Pure. but do not like some of the ingredients so still looking for non-mineral-based options. I have a list of companies from other health advocates that I will research when I get the time.
  10. Feminine Products – Avoid conventional pads and tampons made with chlorine, synthetic material, and toxic chemicals (like BPA, BPS, phtalates, and DEHP), GMO cotton, or bleached with chlorine is important.
    • Switched to organic cotton re-usable pads and organic cotton Organyx disposable pads (or Natracare disposable pads but the adhesives are not as sticky)
    • Tried a DivaCup but did not fit even after cutting the stem. May try Intimina Lily Cup (made from 100% FDA approved medical-grade silicone) and sea sponges.
  11. Food Grade 3% Hydrogen Peroxide

Personal Care Products I Avoid

  • Deodorant – Clean out bacteria in the body instead.
  • Liquid Hand Soap & Hand Sanitizer (avoid triclosan and triclocarban).
  • Perfume (avoid fragrance or diethyl phthalate).
  • Nail Polish & Nail Polish Remover.
  • Sunscreen – Wear hats, sunglasses, and clothing to prevent burning if I am in the sun for longer than an hour. The body needs direct exposure to make vitamin D.
  • Hair Dyes (and straighteners), Gels, and Sprays.

Appendix

We detected 16 potentially toxic chemicals — phthalates, triclosan, parabens, and musks — in blood and urine samples from 20 teen girls. Studies link these chemicals to potential health effects including cancer and hormone disruption. (5)

Here are 6 examples of chemicals in personal care products that disrupt the endocrine system:

1. Phthalates

  • Use: Plasticizing agent used in a lot of personal care products.
  • Impact: “A growing number of studies indicate that chemical family damages the male reproductive system.”

2. Triclosan & Triclocarban

  • Use: Antimicrobial pesticides in liquid soap (triclosan) or soap bars (triclocarban).
  • Impact: Triclosan disrupts thyroid function and reproductive hormones. Overuse may promote the development of bacterial resistance. Hard to avoid if you want to wash your hands in a public restroom.

3. Parabens

  • Use: Preservative to extend the shelf-life of products for the benefit of the manufacturer.
  • Impact: Xenoestrogens, meaning they mimic estrogenic activity in the body. (Think estrogen dominance problems like PMS, menstrual cramps, etc.) They can cause reproductive and developmental disorders according to the EWG.

4. Fragrance / “Perfume” (Note: Many chemicals are not listed on products because they can be hidden under this umbrella term.)

  • Use: Synthetic chemicals added to our personal care products to make them or us smell “nice”.
  • Impact: Hormone disruptor

5. Formaldehyde releasers

  • Use: In most nail products, and in around 1/5 of cosmetic products.
  • Impact: This preservative is often inhaled and is a known human carcinogen (can cause cancer), neurotoxin, and can also cause DNA damage, and allergic skin reactions.

6. Ethanolamines such as DEA, MEA, TEA

  • Use: Make lotions creamy and cleansers foamy but don’t have to be there.
  • Impact: Become carcinogenic when reacting with other chemicals. e.g. DEA linked to bladder, esophagus, liver, and stomach cancers.
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Epigenetics: What To Do With 23andMe Raw Data

23andmeGenetic Testing

There is a wealth of genetic information one can learn from just a single tube of saliva.

However, I have found that understanding the data is complex.

At some point I would like to work with a genetic expert and apply more specific nutritional supplementation for healing.

For now, here are the steps I have taken to understand my genetic profile:

  • Test with 23andMe.
  • Interpret My Raw Data.
  • Get Additional Reports.
  • Protect My Privacy.

Testing With 23andMe, Raw Data, And Reports

I chose to do my genetic testing with a company called 23andMe. Mostly because I could get information about certain genes I was interested in knowing for less than $100 at the time. And I did not have to pay for a doctor’s appointment to order the test through a doctor like most other tests.

Unfortunately, the day I ordered my test, the FDA decided that 23andMe could no longer provide reports interpreting the raw data for customers. They could only provide the raw data without any interpretation. So I had to go through third-party companies in order to get interpretations.

23andMe has worked with the FDA and now is allowed to give customer’s a report with less information. I have not found it to be as helpful compared to the original intent.


Interpreting 23andMe Raw Data

There are a handful of places to go and a growing field of experts who can help interpret genetic predispositions. To start, I used 3 external companies to interpret my data:

1. Genetic Genie asked for donations but in essence is free. It is helpful in getting information on methylation and detoxification (e.g. MTHFR status):

2. Prometheus costs $5 and you can pay through your Amazon account (privacy concerns so I read some set up fake accounts. After running and downloading all of the reports, I had to go back into 23andMe and un-allow this company access to my raw data). The reports are definitely not as good as receiving the original interpreted data report from 23andMe but there is helpful info using the snp data base and being able to sort and search in an excel spreadsheet).

3. Dr. Amy Yasko is another free resource for interpreting raw data. I ran my raw data through her site, but think it was a subset of info I had already received from genetic genie. Dr. Yasko is well-known in the autism community and prescribes a very long list of her own branded supplements based off genetic info. While it made sense to me to supplement based off genetics (PLUS blood work, hair and stool tests, aka genomics), I chose not to pay for this protocol as I personally do not like too many additives in supplements.

I considered translating my raw data through other websites. When I have more time I will circle back starting with Metabolic Healing ($29). Then maybe MTHFRSupport ($20) or Livewello ($19.95).

There are also more recent apps like HealthWatch360 that may help with deciding what to eat based on one’s genetic data. I do not use apps because I do not like giving away personal data and losing my privacy but also because I do not use a cell phone anymore due to high RF radiation exposure.


Privacy Concerns

It is hard to say how genetic information can or will be used for or against people in the future. Recently, a court of law allowed the use of genetic information in a trial (client was forced to share data — will add link here later).

And who knows what 23andMe (founded by ex-wife of a large silicon valley company CEO) or any of the third-party companies really do with this information?

I try as much as possible to leave less of a digital fingerprint. In this situation, I downloaded my raw data, made a copy of the file, and changed the name of the file before uploading the raw data to a third-party site. No personal contact info is listed in the raw data file so the third-party companies are less likely to know who the raw data belongs to (unless they track email addresses, IP addresses, etc.)


Epigenetics = Genes + Environment

Epigenetics has since evolved since I started this post and continues to change quickly. So far, I have learned quite a bit of interesting information from my genetic reports that may or may not be helpful in healing.

The two most important things I can share from getting my 23andMe genetic info is 1. I need to supplement vitamin D and make sure to get out in the sun during the mid-day without sunblock (VDRTaq mutation) and 2. my body methylates well (no MTHFR gene mutations) — I just had more mercury flooding into my body from my dental amalgams and cell tower radiation than possible to detox or store in organs, tissues, and bones.

But genes can get turned on and off based on how we interact with the environment, chemicals, toxins, etc. So while knowing some of my genetic make-up has been helpful in understanding how my body is able to handle things like vitamin D or methylation, it is just one piece of the wellness puzzle. As I mentioned above, using other tests like blood work and hair or stool tests to confirm supplementation has been just as if not more important in my healing journey.

To read more about the rest of my healing protocol, I’ve provided an index with links below.

In good health!

Healing Naturally = Nutrients In + Toxins Out

1. Nutrients In

2. Toxins Out

What about you? Have you found any other helpful ways of using the 23andme raw data results or better genetic tests (even if they cost more?). Please let me know in the comments below.

My Experience Treating Social Anxiety Symptoms: Copper Toxicity Or Pyroluria?

Anxious & Depressed?

After much research and experimentation, I do not think my body has pyroluria.

However, understanding the science behind treating pyroluria has been helpful in alleviating mild anxiety naturally, without the complications and side-effects typical of pharmaceutical drugs.

Below is my take on pyroluria, copper toxicity, zinc deficiency, diagnosing pyroluria, and my anxiety theory. I share how I supplement in the next post.


Pyroluria, Copper Toxicity, Or Zinc Deficiency?

“Low levels of the mineral zinc and vitamin B6 are frequently associated with a type of anxiety characterized by social anxiety… and bouts of depression.” – Trudy Scott

Briefly, pyroluria is a genetic chemical imbalance that results in faulty red blood cell synthesis and metabolism. In those individuals with pyroluria, the excessive amounts of the faulty bi-products (pyrroles) created when red blood cells are made circulate in the blood in the body and bind to or inhibit zinc, pyroxidine (vitamin B6), and other important compounds. The depletion of zinc and B-6 impacts the nervous system and brain which can then lead to anxiety. (See bonus info below for the long science version of what happens in the body).

So with pyroluria, too much zinc is depleted which can lead to copper toxicity. That is because copper and zinc have a relationship where the increase of one causes the other to decrease: when there is too much zinc in the body, there can be a copper deficiency. Inversely, when there is too much copper in the body, this can lead to zinc deficiency.

Copper is an essential trace mineral. This means copper is essential for our bodies to function. Copper aids in the formation of red blood cells, bone, and hemoglobin, and is essential to nerve health, elastin, healing, melanin. Copper toxicity can result in a number of problems including: estrogen dominance, PMS, candida yeast infections, depression, anxiety disorder, chronic fatigue, migraines, liver toxicity, thyroid conditions, and much more, including pyrrole disorder. (Vicious cycle!)

Zinc, also an essential trace mineral, helps cells in the body communicate with each other, and activates hundreds of enzymatic reactions fundamental to life, including brain and nervous system functions, as well as hormone regulation. All of these areas are effected when there is a zinc deficiency.

Well guess what micronutrients are used to treat pyroluria? Zinc, gamma-linolenic acid, (e.g. primrose oil which helps with the absorption of the zinc), and vitamin B6.


Diagnosing Pyroluria

To rule out if my body had pyroluria, I looked into testing via urine lab tests. However, many practitioners I listened to online said they often found false negative results from those tests because what is tested is fragile / unstable.

I listened to The Anxiety Summit hosted by Trudy Scott and read her book. In lieu of pyrole testing, she recommends 1. taking her revised questionnaire from Carl Pfeiffer to help diagnose pyroluria and 2. taking a zinc challenge test.

I took the questionnaire and scored relatively high. But in hindsight, I believe that the questionnaire is more helpful at identifying anxiety, introversion tendencies, and a need to further test. e.g. copper toxicity / zinc deficiency, heavy metals burdens, EMF radiation, and mold exposure.

Pyroluria Questionnaire Example Indicators:

  • For women, belonging to an all-girl family or having look-alike sisters.
  • Poor dream recall, stressful or bizarre dreams, or nightmares (low B6).
  • Joints popping,cracking,or aching; pain or discomfort between the shoulder blades; or cartilage problems (low zinc).

My small wellness support group happens to be all women from all-girl families. I asked Trudy why all-girl families are an indicator of pyroluria and she said that one of the early researchers, Carl Pfeiffer, made the observation: “We now know that in pyroluric families boys are often miscarried.” I don’t think my mother ever miscarried so maybe there is more to it?

UPDATE: This year, Dr. William J. Walsh, PhD, FACN, author of Nutrient Power was interviewed on The Anxiety Summit. I found his information to be very helpful and wish I had learned more from him before prior to using any Pyroluria protocol.


My Anxiety Theory

At the height of chronic mercury poisoning, I experienced some mild depression. I felt sad, cold, and lonely — and yet I did not want to socialize. In fact, it was difficult to leave my house on my own some days. This is sometimes referred to as “sickness syndrome”. Like when an injured animal finds a safe cave to hide away in while it heals.

My working theory now is that electromagnetic radiationheavy metal poisoning, and mold exposure from food were the root cause of my mild depression and anxiety symptoms and not pyroluria:

  • Cell tower RF radiation can cause mercury (and copper) to leak out of dental fillings in teeth and into the body and brain at least twice as fast.
  • Excess copper from amalgams also galvanize mercury in “silver” fillings and thus flood both metals into the body and brain faster. (As a result, my shiny black hair started turning a copper brown color. I learned that this is a signal that my body was having a problem with excess copper and insufficient zinc.)
  • High levels of mercury in the body causes copper retention. As mentioned above, excess copper can lead to a zinc deficiency.
  • Heavy metal exposure (along with stress, poor digestive health, alcohol, smoking, drugs) can increase blood pyrrole levels. One reason is red blood cells become defective because mercury sits on the same receptor sites as oxygen. This prevents red blood cells from working at full capacity. The body has to degrade those red blood cells AND create more which in turn produces extra pyrrole by-product.
  • Mercury also damages cells, and chews through vitamins, minerals, and co-factors in order to detox it from the body, and creates a problem called deranged mineral transport (mercury sits on receptor cells preventing minerals from working in the body). This hampered my body’s immune system and caused leaky gut cells & a leaky blood brain barrier — allowing things like mold and parasites to go where they should not go. Parasite herbal cleansing helped.
  • Both zinc and vitamin B6 are important cofactors in the methylation cycle. Deficiencies reduce levels of glutathione which is important for the detoxification of heavy metals. So when zinc and B6 are depleted, the detoxification pathways can be overwhelmed and ineffective.
  • Supposedly, pyroluria requires supplementing zinc, GLA, and B6 for life. However, I quickly ended up with B6 toxicity and my zinc RBC and ceruloplasmin have tested in range without continued supplementation. And copper tested very low for several years on my hair tests after all the zinc supplementation and that I believe caused other problems:

Symptoms of Cu deficiency include: elevated cholesterol, increased inflammatory responses, anemia, bone and collagen disorders, reproductive failure, and impaired immunity. Possible reasons for a Cu deficiency include: intestinal malabsorption, insufficient dietary intake,molybdenum excess,zinc excess, and chelation therapy. Cu status is adversely affected by excess of antagonistic metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, and manganese. (From Doctor’s Data Heavy Metal Hair Test)

Who knew avoiding EMF would help reduce anxiety and depression symptoms!@#$ And as much as I love technology, I learned that there are much safer and healthier ways to use tech in the home.


Final Thoughts

While I always wanted blonde or brown colored hair growing up, I am happy to report that my hair is growing in shiny black again. In hindsight, I believe my body did not have a pyrole disorder.

I actually have some regret about trying the pyroluria supplementation protocol without taking the pyrole urine test first. Recently I learned that Dr. Walsh recommends testing with three other labs in a specific way. (Dr. Klinghardt also recommend pyrole urine testing in a very specific way to address the fragility via Vitamin Diagnostics ~$55). Testing and monitoring RBC zinc and RBC copper, vitamin B6, and essential fatty acids is also a must!

This journey, even as natural as I have tried to take it, seems like taking one step forward, two steps back. Even after several years of not supplementing with the pyroluria protocol, I have to avoid taking B6 to avoid nerve toxicity. That means I have to make my own B-complex with all of the other B vitamins except B6 because all multi-vitamins or B complex vitamins I have looked at have quite a lot. I write more about it in part 2: Supplementation For Social Anxiety + My Lessons Learned.


Appendix

The Science of Pyroluria

1. For perspective, two million red blood cells are made by our bodies per second. Hemoglobin is synthesized in a complex series of steps (1):

a. Heme, synthesized in the spleen, is a component of hemoglobin.
b. A heme group consists of an iron ion bound in the center of a porphyrin ring, which consists of four pyrrole molecules.
c. These pyrroles, involved in this formation of heme, are metabolite by-products, also known as hydroxyhemopyrrolin-2-one (HPL).
• HPL is problematic because it may decrease heme levels. Low levels of heme result in an excess production of nitric oxide — a toxic free radical. Free radicals can damage and destroy your cells — a.k.a. oxidative stress.
• HPL can also damage the brain, nerves, cells, and tissue.
d. Those with healthy genes have few pyrroles in their system at any given time.

2. In people with a faulty inherited condition, too many pyrroles are produced during hemoglobin synthesis.

a. When pyrroles are elevated, the excessive amounts circulate in the blood in the body and bind to or inhibit zinc, pyroxidine (vitamin B6), and biotin (vitamin B7), manganese, archidonic acid, and other important compounds.
b. Pyrroles, zinc, and B6 are excreted in large amounts in the urine, depleting the vital nutrients.
• A depletion of zinc and B-6 has direct implications on the function of the nervous system and brain. (2)
• Zinc, B6, and biotin, are all required for heme production, as well, causing a circular problem.

3. Heme degradation: When red cells reach the end of their life due to aging or defects, they are broken down in the spleen. The hemoglobin molecule is broken up, and the iron gets recycled. When the porphyrin ring is broken up, the fragments are normally secreted as a yellow pigment called bilirubin [~and pyrroles?], which is secreted into the intestines as bile. (1)

Outstanding Questions

If you can answer questions or add to the conversation, please leave feedback below:

1. Are pyrroles elevated in the synthesis of red blood cells only in people with pyroluria genes but not in people without? Or do the toxins like heavy metals turn on the faulty genes?

2. Do the extra pyrroles floating around cause anxiety if there is not enough zinc or vitamin B6 to bind to them in the body or the lack of the micronutrients used up from binding that cause the anxiety?

3. What happens biologically with pyroluria during the menstrual cycle when the body has to make more blood? On a similar note…

4. Should those with pyroluria limit blood draws? Does the body create extra pyrrole by-product when the body has to replace the blood that was taken out? I had a lot of blood draws the month before my hair starting turning copper brown so this could also have been a contributor. However, I did not have any blood drawn for almost a year and also stopped supplementing zinc and my hair started changing colors again.


Healing = Nutrients In + Toxins Out

1. Nutrients In

2. Toxins Out