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Cosmetics & Hygiene

Paraben Free Green Cosmetics

By Amanda Quraishi, Austin, Texas

It is amazing how little we know about the products we use. Millions of people put chemicals whose name they can't even pronounce on their bare skin; and then we wonder why cancer, the assault on the cells of our body, has become so common.

Parabens are a group of chemicals that are commonly used as a preservative in the manufacture of cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. They are rapidly absorbed in to the blood stream and eliminated through the body's waste system, but studies show that along the way they may be leaving traces of the chemical in the body.

One of the most interesting traits of parabens is that they actually mimic the naturally occurring hormone estrogen. However, excess estrogen has been directly linked to breast cancer and other health issues. In fact, a study done at the University of Reading in the UK ran tests in twenty different human breast tumors. The result of the study showed parabens present in every single one.

Furthermore, because they are absorbed through the skin, the dose of the chemical is ten times that which would affect the body if it were merely taken orally. Parabens are used in cosmetics, shampoos, hair dyes, hair styling products, and all types of lotions.

What is most disturbing is that parabens are not even necessary for a product to be effective. There are now thousands of companies which make paraben-free cosmetics and toiletries available everywhere, including online.

Some products which claim to be organic or natural may still not be paraben-free. It is important to look specifically at the list of ingredients. Some examples of parabens that may be listed on the package are:

  • Methylparaben
  • Ethylparaben
  • Propylparaben
  • Butylparaben
  • Benzyl-parahydroxybenzoic acid
  • Methyl-parahydroxybenzoic acid
  • Ethyl-parahydroxybenzoic acid
  • Propyl-parahydroxybenzoic acid
  • Butyl-parahydroxybenzoic acid
  • Parahydroxybenzoic acid
  • Parahydroxybenzoate

    The Breast Action Awareness website has a current list of cosmetics companies which offer paraben-free choices. If you're not sure whether or not a specific product contains unwanted chemicals you may also write or email the manufacturer and ask them directly.

    Natural Personal Hygiene

    By Pam Grundy,

    Personal hygiene products are sold for their ability to make us cleaner, sexier, happier, and more energetic, but the truth is that many of them contain chemical ingredients that cause and aggravate allergies, are toxic or unnecessary, or are bad for the environment. Happily, hygiene products are not really as mystifying as their ad campaigns suggest. The following personal products can be made safely and cheaply at home:

  • Toothpaste: Mix one teaspoon or so of baking soda with a little hydrogen peroxide, dip toothbrush into mixture and clean teeth for one minute.
  • Skin toner: Puree one cucumber in a blender, then pour into a sieve and let the juices collect in a bowl underneath. Strain through a cloth to remove small particles and pour into a bottle. Plain witch hazel also makes a great toner, and can be refrigerated for refreshing summer use.
  • Basic foot & hand cream: Melt together in a microwave 1 cup grate beeswax, cup jojoba oil, and 2 tablespoons aloe vera gel. Whisk until cool, then add cup of almond oil and 1 tablespoon vitamin E oil (from capsules). If you like add a drop or two of any essential oil for fragrance.
  • Shampoo & Conditioner: A simple castile soap like Dr. Bronner's makes an excellent shampoo. Add a whole egg for richness and rinse well with water mixed with a little baking soda.
  • Deodorant: Mix two teaspoons of zinc oxide powder (available in most pharmacies), 2/3 cup witch hazel, and 2 tablespoons aloe vera. Pour into an 8 ounce glass spray bottle and use daily.
    Shop Organic & Natural Skin Care @

    Aside from the monetary savings that come from making your own personal hygiene products, other good reasons to do it include keeping fluorocarbons from pressurized spray bottles out of the atmosphere, and keeping formaldehyde (a common ingredient in shampoo) away from your skin.

    A final consideration: When you make your own personal products, you know they are not being tested on animals in ways that humans would find unethical. What's more, by experimenting with recipes, essential oils, and herbs and flowers from your own garden, you can make holiday and birthday gifts that will be remembered and anticipated year after year.

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