Introduction

In a time when chemicals abound it is also worth considering the ingredients of the products we put on our hair and apply to our skin. We should be using the most natural and healthful products on our bodies. We encourage you to consider the ingredients of your shampoo and conditioner, deodorant, body lotions, creams and soaps. Our skin absorbs what is placed on it, so we should not put harmful chemicals on our skin as these will enter the blood stream and cause unwanted effects in the body.

Another area of concern is the safety of women’s sanitary products, like so many other aspects of our lifestyle, we really need to ask questions and make sure that we are using safe products. When we think about women’s sanitation, we normally think of pads and tampons. However, as we will find out, there is another alternative that is not only healthier, but cheaper in the long run and much more environmentally friendly.

Hair Care

“But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.” 1 Corinthians 11:15

There are many natural ingredients we can use to care for our hair. Below we will cover the benefits some natural substances can have on the scalp and hair. We will also include a recipes for you to try.

Benefits of avocado

Topical application of avocado has a number of beneficial effects on the hair and scalp, including:

  • Hydrating
  • Rejuvenating
  • Makes the hair silky, shiny and soft
  • Seals and heals split ends and rough hair cuticles
  • Deep conditioner
  • Nourishing
  • Contains antioxidants and amino acids, which help in removing toxins from your skin

Benefits of egg

Topical application of egg is often used to draw toxins and acts to tighten the skin. It is also used in face masks and hair care products such as conditioner as outlined below:

“Use the egg yolks on your hair as you shower in the place of man made conditioners to prevent split ends, and dull lifeless hair. The protein strengthens the follicle and adds body and shine to hair of any type. Allow the egg yolk to set in the hair for three minutes and rinse with cool water. Rinsing with cool water helps to ensure that the natural vitamin and protein ingredients from the egg don’t get washed out.

If you are uncomfortable using egg yolks in the hair, substitute the egg yolk with a teaspoon of mayonnaise. Mayonnaise contains the same proteins as egg yolks with the added benefits of nutrients from vinegar, lemon juice and vegetable oil.” – source

Avocado and mayo hair conditioning

For shoulder-length hair, you will need:

One large avocado or two small avocados

Two tablespoons real mayonnaise. (Adjust more or less of ingredients according to the length and thickness of hair.)

  1. Peel the avocado(s) and cut into small pieces. Blend with mayo and about a teaspoon of water to make a creamy consistency.
  2. Shampoo hair and towel dry.
  3. Using circular motions, work mixture onto your scalp and hair, starting from the nape of your neck and working your way to the crown and to the end of your hair.
  4. Cover your hair with a shower cap or a layer of plastic wrap and go about your chores or relax, leaving it on for at least 25 minutes.
  5. Rinse well and shampoo. Using a conditioner is optional.
  6. If possible, it is best to only towel or air dry hair afterwards to get the most benefit.

Repeat once a week. This will make your hair softer, fuller, shinier and it repairs split ends.

Soaps

Most soaps available in the shops today are not really soaps, but detergents. Commercially made soap usually contains detergents, fillers, chemicals, petroleum, high animal fat content and irritants. While commercially manufactured soap generally costs less, the impact on our skin and the environment is less than desirable. Ingredients in mass-marketed soap have been proven harmful to human health and can cause severe skin irritations in some people.

The skin is the largest organ of the body as well as the body’s first line of defense against dehydration, temperature, infection and harmful substances. Handmade soaps give your skin the care it needs by gently cleansing and locking in moisture. Many people are now choosing natural soap or making handmade soap to replace the harsh soaps commonly available today. The table below gives a summary of why we should be choosing natural rather than commercial soaps.

Commercial Soap
Natural Soap
Can be harsh to the skin, leading to dryness, itching and cracking. Does not strip your skin of its natural oils, very mild and soothing to the skin and can be healing.
Contains potentially harmful chemicals, which often strip away moisture and cause skin disorders. Does not contain harmful chemicals, but is often made from vegetable oils.
Often has the glycerin removed which is then sold as a by-product for higher priced beauty products such as skin creams and lotions. Contains glycerin, a clear liquid that absorbs water from the air and is a key factor in keeping skin soft and healthy, especially for sensitive and delicate skin.

 

Natural handmade soaps are made with natural oils, have a high glycerin content, are better for the environment with no detergents or phosphates, and are not tested on animals. They are generally made from oils such as olive, palm or coconut and contain other natural ingredients which are beneficial to the skin. Natural handmade soap can be purchased from health food store or market stalls.

Lotions and Creams

It is known that chemically enhanced skin care products can harm the body by releasing harmful substances into the blood stream. In order to minimize these risks, we should consider using natural creams and lotions on our skin. They stand as a very effective and healthy alternative to synthetic products.

Harmful ingredients

When choosing lotions or creams, we should avoid products that contain harmful substances such as alcohols, mineral oil, dioxane – a synthetic derivative of coconut and synthetic fragrances.

Parabens

Read the labels before you purchase. You will notice many words which are hard to pronounce, such as phenoxyethanol and methylisothiazolinone. These are preservatives which give commercial products their long shelf life and are not the type of substances we should be putting on our skin. Parabens are another common ingredient in skin care products which we should avoid for the following reasons:

“Parabens are xenoestrogens or endocrine disrupters. They disturb the hormone balance in your body. They are also skin sensitizers and have the potential to cause allergic reactions. They have been found in breast cancer tumors, but it is not known if they cause breast cancer.” http://www.naturalingredient.org/Articles/farlow2.html

Mineral oil

Mineral oil is used in many products, it can also be found under the names liquid paraffin, paraffin wax, and petrolatum. Mineral oil is used extensively in skin care products because it’s cheap. When mineral oil is applied to the skin it clogs the pores preventing the skin from breathing, interferes with the skin’s natural ability to eliminate toxins and can lead to acne flare ups. It can also be irritating to the skin and if used for any length of time the skin can become dependent on it, causing dryness and chapping.

Dioxane

Dioxane, a synthetic derivative of coconut, is another substance widely used in skin care products. It often contains high concentrations of 1,4-dioxane, which is readily absorbed through the skin. 1,4-dioxane is considered a chemical “known to the State of California to cause cancer”.

Alcohol

There are many alcohols used in skin care products including ethanol, ethyl alcohol, methanol, benzyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol and SD alcohol. Not all alcohols have the same properties, but these, which are commonly found in skin care products, are very drying and irritating for the skin. Alcohols such as these strip away the skin’s natural acid protection, making the body more vulnerable to bacteria, molds and viruses.

Beneficial ingredients

Now that we’ve looked at some of the bad ingredients found in lotions and creams, let’s look at some good ingredients that we should be looking for in lotions and creams or that we can use to make our own skin care products.

Aloe Vera gel

Aloe Vera improves hydration, is soothing and healing to the skin. It has renowned healing properties, is anti-inflammatory and helps to heal cuts, grazes, burns and insect bites. Its active constituents speed healing by accelerating tissue repair and encouraging normal cell growth. These properties make Aloe Vera ideal for use on sunburns, acne, dermatitis, and sensitive or irritated skin. It is therefore an excellent addition to any skin care product.

Apple cider vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar restores the skin’s natural pH balance. It also cleanses and disinfects acne-prone skin. Unlike the alcohol used in most commercial skin toners, Apple Cider Vinegar will not irritate sensitive skin or over strip skin of beneficial oils.

Avocado

Unrefined Avocado oil is a highly therapeutic oil rich in vitamins A, B1, B2 Panthothenic acid, vitamin D and E, protein, lecithin and fatty acids. It is very good for dry skin and eczema. This oil is highly compatible with human skin and offers some natural UV ray protection. The fruit of the avocado is also very good for the skin. It can be mashed with a little olive oil and applied to the skin then washed off with warm water after about 15 minutes.

Honey

Honey has natural antioxidant and anti-microbial properties. It also has the ability to absorb and retain moisture and is therefore considered to be an excellent moisturizer. It is often added to skin care products to help protect the skin from the damage of the sun’s rays and to rejuvenate depleted skin.

Shea butter

Shea butter is derived from the kernel of the “Karite” tree. It is known for its cosmetic properties as a moisturizer and emollient and is widely used in natural skin care products.

Coconut oil

Coconut oil is a white, sweetly scented, super moisturizing oil, which is solid at room temperature but easily melts on the skin. The consistency of coconut oil helps to bind and emulsify natural formulations. It protects skin from the elements by forming a thin film which is not absorbed. Coconut oil is useful as an after sun oil and is revitalizing to dry, damaged hair.

Eucalyptus oil

Stimulating and antiseptic oil valued for its penetrating fragrance with a medicinal note to it. Most people are familiar with this scent as it is often used in cough and cold remedies, for example, Vick’s Vapor Rub. Inhaling its camphor-like smell opens up sinuses and clears congestion. Often used to fight colds and coughs, as it has strong antibacterial, expectorant and cough-suppressant properties. Insects are repelled by the smell of Eucalyptus oil. It has been used in lotions designed to relieve joint pains, muscular aches and the swelling of arthritis. Also used for its soothing and refreshing properties.

Jojoba oil

Jojoba’s strong antibacterial and antifungal properties have been shown to destroy some of the most common skin bacteria and fungi making it helpful for the treatment of acne, psoriasis, eczema and dermatitis. This natural liquid plant wax extracted from the jojoba bean is excellent for the skin and hair. It is a natural moisturizer that absorbs quickly into the skin.

Oats

Kind and soothing to the skin, oats can relieve the irritation of dry, itchy skin. It helps absorb oils, leaving a silky smooth feel to the skin. It also acts as a gentle exfoliant. For a soothing bath, place a cup of rolled oats into a natural fabric bag such as a cheesecloth bag and place it under the faucet as you fill the tub. The running water will disperse the goodness throughout the bath.

Olive oil

A carrier oil best used with the stronger smelling essential oils such as rosemary or tea tree to mask its inherent odor. It has been used by Mediterranean people for centuries both as a food and as a treatment for damaged, dry hair. Soothes, heals and lubricates the skin. Used in many face creams as an emollient with superior penetrating power.

Sea salt

Concentrated mineral salt from the sea. Softens skin and acts as a detoxifying cleanser that draws impurities out of the body through the skin. Sea salt can be used as an exfoliant to remove dry, flaky, dead skin.

Recipes

You can try making your own creams or lotions using a combination of the above or other natural ingredients. Below you will find some examples of natural home made skin care products.

Moisturizer
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon coconut or olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Mix together well. You can keep any unused mixture in the refrigerator for several days. Before retiring at night rinse your face with warm water and pat dry, then apply moisturizer.

Avocado mask
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 tbs yogurt

Puree an avocado in the blender and add the yogurt. Apply liberally to your skin, avoiding the eyes. Prop your feet up and relax for fifteen to twenty minutes before rinsing with warm water and a soft cloth.

Sea salt exfoliation

Wet face or anywhere on the body with warm water to open the pores, apply a couple of tablespoons of sea salt, then gently massage with a wet washcloth or fingers. Focus on the T-zone and cheeks, but avoid the eye area. After one or two minutes, rinse with warm water followed by cold water to tighten the pores. You can do this maximum once per week.

Oat Wash

Makes 25 ml or 1 fl oz

  • 6 tsp flaked oats
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 drops lavender essential oil (optional)

Blend the oats to a fine powder and mix the oil in well. Press this mixture into a small jar.

To use: Take a small amount of the mixture in your hand and work in a little water to a paste. Rub into the skin and rinse off with plenty of water.

For a purifying mask: Smear the paste onto the skin and leave for twenty minutes. Rinse well and pat dry.

Deodorant

Most commercially available deodorants and antiperspirants contain ingredients which are harmful to the body. It has been found that some ingredients can have an estrogenic effect in the body. Dr. Philippa Darbre suggests that there is a strong link between breast cancer and the use of antiperspirants or deodorants. She believes that the aluminum-based active ingredient used in deodorant and antiperspirant products mimics estrogen in the body.

“”Lifetime exposure to estrogen is the risk factor which is tied most strongly to breast cancer,” Darbre said. “If the aluminum salts in antiperspirants enter the body and mimic estrogen it stands to reason that constant exposure over many years may pose a risk.” Aluminum salts are the active ingredients in most deodorants and represent the single biggest exposure of the body to this metal. Darbre stresses that her research shows that aluminum acts as a trigger for increased estrogen activity, a major risk for breast cancer. “If a product is labeled antiperspirant it probably contains aluminum salts,” she said.” – source

A study lead by Dr. Philippa Darbre, a cancer researcher from the University of Reading, UK, looked at 20 human breast tumors and found parabens in 18 of them. Parabens are synthetic antimicrobial agents used as cosmetic preservatives. Dr. Darbre wrote, “Finding these chemicals in human breast tumors does matter, because we know from other studies that they can mimic the way estrogen works to drive the growth of cancer.” She also stated that “one would expect tumors to occur evenly, with 20 percent arising in each of the five areas of the breast”. “But these results help explain why up to 60 percent of all breast tumors are found in just one-fifth of the breast–the upper-outer quadrant, nearest the underarm.”

The parabens found in the tumors were ester bearing indicating that they came from skin absorption, such as from underarm deodorants, creams or sprays.

Parabens can also be found in cosmetics such as:

  • foaming cleansers
  • body mists and lotions
  • lipsticks
  • body, hand and facial creams
  • shower gels

In the light of this information it is worth considering some natural alternatives such as:

  • Biologika Deodorant
  • Erbaviva Deodorant
  • Sanctum Deodorant
  • Aubrey Organics Deodorant

Tampons

As many as 43 million women use tampons in the US each year alone. Women usually wear tampons because they are discrete, more comfortable than pads and odorless. However one only has to read the label of each packet of tampons to realize they can be very dangerous, even life threatening due to toxic shock syndrome (TSS).

Toxic Shock Syndrome

Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is “thought to be caused by a toxin secreted by a strain of Staphylococcus aureus.” Encyclopedia & Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, & Allied Health, sixth edition. “The syndrome effects almost exclusively menstruating women using tampons.” ibid. “The centers of Disease Control and Prevention suggest that TSS can be almost entirely eliminated if the use of vaginal tampons were stopped.” ibid. “Most Authorities do recommend that women who have had TSS and are at risk for recurrence not use tampons at all. Any woman who has had the infection should at least refrain from using tampons until three months after the attack or until she has a negative vaginal culture for Staphylococcus aureus.” ibid.

Many authorities today are suggesting that tampons are now safe to use and the risk of getting TSS is much lower than back in the early 1980’s. If this was true, how do we explain the plain warnings on each pack of tampons? If it is true, why are we told that women who have had TSS should no longer use tampons. For example, the McKinley Health Center says on a hand out:

“You can reduce the risk of TSS by alternating your tampon or internally worn products with pads. Use a tampon with the minimum absorbency needed to control your flow. Review the information on absorbency of your tampon brand. Change the tampon or internally worn product as directed. If you have ever been diagnosed with TSS, you should not use tampons” – http://www.mckinley.uiuc.edu/handouts/toxic_shock_syndrome.html

“In a study conducted by Gilles R. G. Monif in 1993, published in the Infectious Diseases in Obstetrics and Gynecology Journal, tampon users were shown to be 18 times more likely to develop TSS as non-users. In the same journal a year later, James McGregor and James Todd found that of all TSS cases occurring in menstruating women, up to 99% were using vaginal tampons.” – http://cookiepuss.tripod.com/tampons.htm

Staphylococcus aureus is normally present on the skin, in the vagina, groin, nose or armpit of one in every three people. The symptoms of TSS are caused by the effect of the toxin on the body, rather than the bacterial infection itself. The symptoms include:

  • Sudden high fever
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness (from low blood pressure)
  • Fainting
  • Muscle aches
  • Rash that looks like a sunburn during your period or a few days after

Although tampons are promoted as being a convenient way of collecting the menstrual flow, there are some potential side effects we need to be aware of. We encourage you to do your own research into this topic as there are conflicting views regarding the rayon material used and the presence of a toxin called dioxin. We will briefly look at these issues below.

“Actually, tampons do contain two things that are potentially harmful: Rayon, used for absorbency, and dioxin, used in bleaching. The tampon industry is convinced that women need bleached white products in order to view the product as pure and clean. The problem is that the dioxin produced in this bleaching process can lead to very harmful situations. Dioxin is potentially carcinogenic, and it is also toxic to the immune and reproductive systems. It has also been linked to endometriosis and lower sperm counts for men.” – source

Rayon

Rayon is a synthetic fiber made from wood pulp. During processing, a toxic by-product known as dioxin is created. Very small amounts of dioxin are in the rayon fiber. In addition, until the late 1990’s a chlorine bleaching process that also produces dioxin, was used on both the rayon and cotton used in tampons.

“Rayon itself poses another risk. Unknown to most women, rayon and rayon-cotton blend fibers are widely used in commercial feminine hygiene products. Rayon used to make tampons is usually treated with chemicals to increase the absorption capability. These super absorbent fibers then absorb not only the menstrual blood, but normal vaginal secretions as well, causing drying, and ulceration of vaginal tissues. The fibers can also become imbedded in the vaginal walls. Rayon fibers have been scientifically proven to amplify the production of Toxic Shock Syndrome Toxin TSST1.” – http://www.thebody.com/content/art497.html

Dioxin

As mentioned above dioxin is a harmful substance. The National Research Center for Women & Families says:

“The FDA says that the exposure to dioxin from tampons today “is many times less than normally present in the body from other environmental sources, so small that any risk of adverse health effects is considered negligible.” However, according to Dr. Phillip Tierno, director of clinical microbiology and diagnostic immunology at the New York University Medical Center and a leading expert on the health risks of tampons, even trace amounts of dioxin are cause for concern because tampons come in contact with some of the most absorbent tissue in the body. In addition, the effects of dioxin are cumulative and can be measured 20 to 30 years after exposure. That is particularly troubling because tampons are used by up to 70 percent of menstruating women in the U.S., and it has been estimated that the average woman may use as many as 16,800 tampons in her lifetime.” – http://www.center4research.org/wmnshlth/2005/tamponsafety.html

As we can see from the statement below even trace amounts of dioxin can cause damage to the body.

“According to a February 2000 report from the Food & Drug Administration, tampons and feminine hygiene products currently sold in the U.S. are made of cotton, rayon, or blends of rayon and cotton. Even though these products are now produced using elemental chlorine-free or totally chlorine free bleaching processes, these methods can still generate dioxins at “trace levels.” Thus, there may be low amounts of dioxin present from environmental sources in cotton, rayon, or rayon/cotton tampons and feminine hygiene products. By contrast, a report released by The US Environmental Protection Agency clearly describes dioxin as a serious public health threat. The EPA report states, there is no “safe” level of exposure to dioxin – even trace amounts are a risk. Further, the EPA report confirmed that dioxin is “a cancer hazard to people;” that exposure to dioxin can also cause severe reproductive and developmental problems (at levels 100 times lower than those associated with its cancer causing effects); and that dioxin can cause immune system damage and interfere with regulatory hormones.” – http://www.insiderreports.com/storypage.asp?storyID=20001533&ChanID=HQ

Given the comments above it is worth considering if you really need to continue using tampons. There is a natural alternative for the tampon called a menstrual cup, further information is given about this below.

Pads

Sanitary pads are subject to the same considerations as the tampon when it comes to the fibers used and the chemicals used to treat the fibers. Although they are not in contact with the internal vaginal wall, they are still in contact with the external mucous membrane and chemicals from the pads can enter the bloodstream this way. Pads are often made with a dry-weave plastic cover which can cause irritation and localized allergic reactions in some women.

“The best interests of the consumer have not been the greatest priority in the developments and modifications in pads and shields over the last 70 – 80 years. Chlorine bleaching of the wood pulp used in pads exposes both women and the environment to dioxin. Man-made fibres and absorbent chemicals have replaced natural alternatives for the sake of convenience but rayon still has to be bleached to make it fully absorbent.

Modern brands often use a plastic “dry weave” cover sheet this has been directly linked to allergic reactions. [The Canadian Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology]” – http://www.sanitaryproducts.co.uk/

Menstrual Cup

This is a great alternative to tampons or pads. The menstrual cup is a reusable device around two inches long and made from soft silicone or rubber. It is worn internally like a tampon but collects the menstrual fluid rather than absorbing it. Menstrual cups generally hold around 30ml of fluid, which is roughly one third of the average total fluid shed each period. A light seal is formed with the vaginal walls allowing menstrual fluid to pass into the cup without leakage or odor.

Besides being a healthier alternative, menstrual cups are more economical than pads and tampons as they can last for up to ten years if properly cared for. They are great for people who travel as well.

Advantages

  • Contains no bleaches, deodorizers or absorbency gels
  • Does not interfere with your healthy vaginal environment
  • Has not been associated with toxic shock syndrome
  • Will not cause irritation and is suitable for women with sensitive skin, thrush, eczema or allergies
  • Will not deposit fibers in your vaginal wall

Below are some links to sites that sell menstrual cups:

http://www.mooncup.co.uk/languages/es/comprala-ya-mismo/espana.html
http://www.ladycup.eu/
http://www.femmecup.com/thecup.html
http://www.lunette.fi/en/index.php?id=67
http://www.divacup.com/
http://www.mooncup.co.uk/
http://www.thekeeper.com.au/