The only thing I ever want is for people to do the best that they can, no matter what it is. Try and fail? It’s better than not trying at all, right? We plod along, we dip and we weave, we rise and fall, and most of all, we learn what works for us along the way. It’s something that wasn’t always fostered in me when I was growing up and I’m still figuring out how to move through my fears to give something a go rather than let it hinder me trying. It’s incredibly important to me, so, I’m going to just do my best anyway.
Recently, I’ve had something on my mind that I didn’t quite know how to talk to you about, because, for starters, I’m not about to get all preachy about anything – yuck! – but also, when I apply this to my own life, I do the best that I can. I take the information that I have with a grain of salt, weigh up the risks with the benefits and figure out the best way it can fit in best with my life.
What am I talking about exactly?
Skincare, the liver, and reducing our toxic load.
I have to be honest (classic Mira!) and start by saying that, when it comes to toxins, at the moment, I rarely buy organic, I drink alcohol from time to time, I tried my first cigarette at 26 (I’m not a smoker, just FYI) and do my housework with whatever product is handy. I do my best to buy the products low in chemicals when I can, but I live in a sharehouse; not everyone I live with shares my values about these products, and I have to be (and totally am) ok with that. I drink tap water, I have junk food occasionally, I only talk on my phone hands-free, maybe half the time and I have bleached my hair twice since November.
So I do the best I can with what I’ve got, I do my best to be a healthy person, but, I really don’t have enough shits to give by sweating the small stuff.
Having said that, I still make an effort when it comes to toxins and reducing my “toxic load”. So, let’s get a bit sciencey, shall we?
In the coming months, with spring rolling around, you may start to see an increase in articles about detoxing; why you should detox, why detoxing is a load of crap, which new fandangled products are going to help you detox the best, how hot you’re going to look if you do this detox that this famous celebrity has tried, etc. I’m giving you the warning, because your feed will be all about the detox. But, do you actually know what detoxification means?
Your liver is the organ in charge of the process known as detoxification. Not only does the liver process the chemicals and medications that we consume, but it has chemicals normally produced by the body in everyday processes from living, breathing and existing in general that it needs to process too. The basic way to think of detoxification, is that the liver takes these chemicals (foreign or produced by the body) and chemically changes them into a form than can be excreted (we’re talking poop, pee, sweat and water vapour from the breath).
The problem with detoxification comes when we add to these processes (and often quite excessively) with things like alcohol, medications, recreational drugs, sugar (especially too much fructose), environmental chemicals (ie. pollution), chemicals absorbed from skincare and beauty products, pesticides on our food, perfumes, caffeine, cigarettes, cleaning products and the like. As in, we add more toxins to the body, so the liver needs to process more of them; we have an increased toxic load.
It’s like taking someone who is incredibly efficient at their job and dumping the work of three or four other people onto them – it’s bound to slow them down. The liver gets overworked and struggles to get through its usual workload (the usual byproducts of the body) and you start to feel sluggish, tired, sensitive to bright lights, chemical smells, and sometimes even develop acne or notice changes in your digestive function and colour of your stool.
There are many factors that can have this effect on the liver; the usual contenders of poor diet, excess alcohol, cigarettes, sugar and drugs certainly have a huge impact on the function of the liver. But no matter how healthy your diet may be, if you are exposing it to a crazy amount of toxins, your liver will be feeling the pressure. That’s one of the reasons why today, I wanted to talk about skincare.
Skincare products (makeup, deodorant, cleansers, bodywash and shampoos) are often full of chemicals, some which come with a known health risk. Parabens, for example, you may have noticed have been phased out of skin care products lately, with your favourite products now boasting they are “Now Paraben Free” – meaning that a lot of them, once upon a time, did include parabens. Parabens have been phased out because they have been found to mimic oestrogen and are of concern for the formation of oestrogenic cancers, such as breast cancer.
Because skincare is applied directly to the skin, a lot of it is absorbed into your bloodstream, so all of those unknown chemicals have a direct pathway to your liver. Not only that, but it’s application can disturb the protective barrier on the skin, opening your body up to infection, and the disturbing the protective good bacteria (yes, good bacteria) that live there. Soaps and any other product that foams up are particular disturbing to these protective barriers of the skin, while stripping the natural oils produced by the skin, causing the skin to overcompensate, and produce more oil than usual.
So, how do I reduce your toxin load and protect my skin from damage?
- Firstly, I’d advice not to be so gung-ho about going chemical-free. For starters, I like to use things up before I buy a new product – being wasteful has its own impacts to be mindful of. But also, there are varying degrees of being chemical-free, and they may not work for you.
- Educate yourself. Find out what chemicals you should be avoiding and why and it’ll make it easier for you to avoid them.
Look up recipes to make your own products and give them a red hot go! There are natural shampoo and conditioner solutions, cleansers, masks and even toothpaste you can try if you are keen. They have varying levels of effectiveness depending on the person. I tried the bicarb shampoo/apple cider vinegar conditioner combo for six weeks and ended up with several inches of oily roots and dry damaged ends that only got worse and worse, while other people find it works for them within a week. We’re all different.
- Choose products that have less chemicals; I’m a bit in love with Grown Alchemist and use their body wash, body moisturiser and hand cream very happily, while for my hair I use Natural Instinct shampoo & conditioner and only wash my hair 1-2 times per week.
- Shower differently. This may sound strange, but if you don’t work in an industry where you get physically dirty, you don’t actually need to put soap all over your body. Instead, wash with soap the bits that do need it (like your armpits) and use a moistened natural loofah on the rest. This way, you’re working with your skin to preserve natural oils, but still getting rid of dead skin cells and the like. But if you do have a dirty-work job, or react to soaps in general, trade your body wash for a natural sorbelene cream. The oil in the cream will pick up any dirt on your skin, but there are no harsh soaps to irritate your skin and is protective linings.
- Natural deodorants are on the rise and I’ve been using the Crystal Essence crystal stick and EcoTan spray together for the last year. The EcoTan needs to be reapplied a few times to really deodorise but I’ve got a while until they both run out, so I’ll try another type soon. I have been told that bicarb-based ones will initially cause a rash, but it subsides after a few days when your body is used to it, and is actually the best stuff out there as far as natural products go.
- Choose natural make-up where you can. It’s your call if finding a natural solution means going without or not. I don’t wear it every day, so I have a mix of natural and regular products that I use. Mostly Youngblood for the primer, foundation and mascara.
It’s not perfect, but it works for me. My skin feels healthier at the very least, and considering I’m pretty low maintenance, the natural oils mean that I only ever really moisturise my legs after I shave. I’ve sorted out the stinky-pits situation and breakouts are now pretty rare.
But, I can’t let go of my products – my skin/hair will go crazy!
Unfortunately, because we are all taught that skin can only be healed by applying chemicals to it, we miss the important role of nutrition in the health of the skin. So if you are suffering from acne, I understand if you can’t let go of your products altogether. I continue to use a cleanser and moisturiser for my skin, especially when I wear make-up, because I used to have incredibly painful acne, so I get it.
But I will say this, acne is a big sign that something isn’t going right in your body. It may be hormonal, a nutrient deficiency, dehydration, an imbalance in gut bacteria or a hygiene issue. For me, it was my refusal to give up dairy milk chocolate when I am lactose intolerant. So, don’t discount the role of nutrition in your acne. You’ll be surprised how much of an impact changing your habits can have on your skin.
But like I said, try your best. Perhaps you can try a product range that has less chemicals than the one you currently use, or maybe it works for you best to keep using the range while you adjust your diet and lifestyle. (I’m happy to help you work this out if it’s too daunting)
At the very least you’ll be reducing the amount of chemicals put into our water and doing something kind to the planet.