Two days ago I had to change shampoos, because my scalp had blistered. Only in a small area, thank goodness, but it brought home for me something I have been thinking about for awhile. Just how many chemicals do we absorb through our skin on a daily basis?
Consider this: Dr. Christiane Northrup, in her 2012 book The Wisdom of Menopause, recommends taking baths with epsom salts, so that you can absorb magnesium through your skin. Likewise, Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple talks about applying magnesium oil or lotion to your skin at bedtime to help you get a great sleep. So…what about all the body washes, shampoos and liquid hand-soaps we use every day that are filled with chemicals instead of useful minerals? If we can absorb magnesium through our skin, it would seem to follow that we can also absorb all those sulfates, parabens and glycols through our skin as well.
I’m not rich. I can’t afford to throw out every toiletry and cleaning product I own and replace them all with cleaner versions. But my plan is to look for solutions, and begin implementing them as I run out of the chemical-laden gunk. To that end, I recently bought two new bar soaps. One is the lavender soap from Dr. Bronner, and I also bought a bottle of the company’s lavender liquid soap. The other is the lavender-olive oil soap from Kiss My Face.
I had used Dr. Bronner’s soap before and loved it, and the Kiss My Face soap has also turned out to be very pleasant to use. It cleans without stripping my skin to parchment, and I like the scent. The only “flaw” in it is that it needs a proper soap dish for drainage, as otherwise any bits sitting in water turn to jelly. But look at those ingredients! They sound like something you could find in everyday life. Their shampoo doesn’t fare as well on the ingredient list, unfortunately, so I will try the Bronner liquid soap as a shampoo in due course.
As for using the chemical cleaners, I will use them up and not repurchase. And did you know that liquid soaps make perfectly decent cleansers? I have used up bubble baths I didn’t like as toilet bowl cleaners in the past. Put a glug of any liquid soap in the toilet bowl and swish away. As Marla Cilley, the FlyLady, says, “Soap is soap.” She recommends that you put some soap on a sponge and wipe down your bathtub every day while showering, and it will always be clean. I can’t magically eliminate from the planet the chemical-laden cleansers I already own, so I may as well get some use from them. But in future I will be supporting better options with my wallet.
Side note: there is increasing evidence to show that having strong gut microbiome health is critical for our mental and physical health. But scientists are also exploring the role of our skin microbiome. One theory is that we are washing too much, and need tackle only the critical parts on a daily basis (armpits, the “delicate bits”, and feet). I’ve even read a suggestion that our genitals should be washed with water only, as they are sensitive to pH changes. Notwithstanding the clause in our collective social contract which says “Thou shalt not stink,” I think we need to back off on the soapy scrubbing of our bodies. In particular, we need to do this to prepare for future changes in our food security…but that’s a post for another day.