By Janet Levatin, MD
Since the skin is our largest organ, it is important to pay attention to it and care for it properly. Skin can be a good representation of your state of health. If your skin is inflamed, it may reflect internal inflammation or toxicity. Since skin absorbs whatever you put on it, it is important to carefully consider the water used for showering and bathing, and the skin care, cosmetic, and laundry products you use.
Water for Showering and Bathing: I recommend obtaining bath and shower water purifiers. Most city water in the U.S. contains chlorine, traces of pharmaceuticals, and other chemicals that can be inhaled, swallowed or absorbed through the skin while showering and bathing. Over time, this can have serious consequences on your general health. Additionally, chlorine exposure is tough on the skin. I have seen many chronic skin conditions improve just by dechlorinating bath and shower water.
Shower purifiers are cost-effective, simple to install and easy to find online or in hardware stores. Bath water purifiers are especially important for children’s health since children usually bathe rather than shower and since they have proportionally more skin per body mass than adults. Two bath purifier brands I like are the Splish Splash, available at Amazon.com, and the Bath Ball, sold by Gaiam.com. A more expensive but more through option is installing a dechlorinating filter on the cold water supply as it enters your home, which will remove many chemicals from your whole house water supply, including the water that washes your clothes and dishes.
Soap: I recommend using natural soap bars, which contain fewer chemicals than most liquid soaps. Many bar soaps use olive oil as the base ingredient, which is excellent for dry skin. If you enjoy fragrance, get soaps scented with small amounts of good quality, pure essential oils instead of those containing artificial fragrances, which contain chemicals such as synthetic musks and phthalates. These chemicals are unhealthy not only for your skin, but for your whole body and the environment.
Moisturizers: When it comes to moisturizers, keep it simple and use products made from natural ingredients. I wash my face with honey and moisturize with coconut oil and/or shea butter. I also use natural oils and shea butter to moisturize the rest of my skin. Commercially made, petroleum-based products, promoted by the cosmetic and medical industries, may play a causative role in cancer and other chronic health problems. In fact, many petroleum derivatives and a number of other toxic ingredients have been banned for use in cosmetics and body care products in Europe. Since US regulatory bodies do not have the same vigilance, it is up to the consumer to make healthier choices when it comes to the products they use.
Laundry Products: One of the biggest sources of toxic exposure for the skin (and respiratory system) is conventional laundry products. They contain synthetic fragrances and other chemicals that are known to be toxic and that are in contact with your skin 24/7. Dryer sheets, for example, coat your clothes with plastics, phthalates, and synthetic fragrances that can cause skin rashes in addition to systemic health problems. Natural fragrance-free laundry products, soap nuts, or reusable laundry discs are excellent alternatives.
Nutrition: It goes without saying that eating natural, organic whole foods will lead not only to better health in general, but will also allow your skin to achieve the healthy glow it is meant to have.
Following these guidelines will lead to improvements in skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and dry skin. Not only will your skin be healthier, but you will also be healthier overall.