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By Nadia Marshall
Between 40-60% of what we put on our skin is absorbed directly into the body. Unlike the digestive system, however, the skin does not have the same lines of defence – molecules small enough to be absorbed directly into the blood stream will do just that. This can be a positive thing (e.g. in the case of self-massage with certified organic oils) or a negative thing (in the case of exposure to synthetic, harmful chemicals in personal care products and household products such as cleaners etc).
Toxic residues (or Ama) in the body that contribute to the onset and progression of disease (and weight gain) are caused not just by poorly digested food - they are also increased by our exposure to synthetic chemicals. These chemicals are found in nearly all cosmetics and skincare products, including many that are promoted as ‘natural’ or ‘organic’.
Thanks to the cosmetics that we all use (but particularly women), it is estimated that in a lifetime, over 200kg of toxic waste can enter our bodies through the skin alone!
Considering that almost 90% of the more than 10,000 ingredients used in personal care products have NOT been properly evaluated for safety, this is a little concerning. What is more concerning is that even ingredients that are known or suspected to be carcinogens, mutagens, irritants or reproductive toxins are commonly (and legally) used in personal care products!
Breast cancer incidence rates in the United States have increased by more than 40 percent between 1973 and 1998. In 2008, a woman's lifetime risk of breast cancer is one in eight. So what does breast cancer have to do with cosmetics? ONE THIRD of all personal care products now contain chemicals linked to cancer!
Does this lipstick make my bum look fat?
Toxic synthetic chemicals are highly fat soluble and when we are exposed to them the body creates fat to safely store these toxins it cannot process and eliminate safely!
Carbamates, a group of insecticides and herbicides used in the growing of food and in cosmetics, are used as growth promoters in battery-farm situations because they actually slow down the metabolic rate. So... the same chemicals use on our non-organic fruit and vegetables and in our cosmetics is used to fatten livestock! Carbamates are also used in pharmaceuticals to promote weight gain in humans.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, these synthetic chemicals that we put on our skin can be thought of as ‘Ama... or toxins in a jar’. Yes, our lipstick can indeed make our bums look fat! In a lifetime, your average woman will, in fact absorb 4 kg of lipstick! Yikes.
The only way to be sure that what you’re putting on your skin won’t harm you is to purchase certified organic products (and the whole product should be certified, not just some ingredients). Certified organic stamps are an independent third party guarantee of an “organic” claim.
The certified organic food certification is far more strict that the current certified organic cosmetic certification so it is best to choose food certified cosmetic products. These products must contain a minimum of 95% certified organic ingredients, excluding water and salt (with a 5% allowance for natural, non-organic ingredients that must comply with very stringent processing criteria).
For example, these days you might pick up a shampoo that says “70% organic”. However, if the whole product isn’t certified organic, that 70% usually just refers to the water content of the shampoo. How did they make it organic? They simply threw a few certified organic tea bags into the water when making the shampoo! And you’re paying extra for that while the other 30% of actual ingredients are the same old toxic muck they’ve always put in the shampoo!
What skin products should you use?
When I first began learning about Ayurveda, I was rather concerned by the ‘if you can’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin’ teaching. Afterall, I loved my make-up, skin care routine, hair dye and hair products! After a little searching, I was relieved to find an Australian company producing a range of certified organic cosmetics, body care and skin care products – certified to international FOOD standards (MiEssence products). The products are so fresh, they actually have a use by date. If you want to check them out, go to this website: www.mionegroup.com. If you love make-up, try Couleur Caramel as well - they have a great, extensive range of certified organic make-up including pencils and every shade of eye-shadow under the sun.
In these times of green consumerism, there are more and more organic and certified organic products coming onto the market everyday. Most of the certified brands appear to be pretty good and avoid the big nasties but it is best to read the labels to be sure. If you can’t be bothered with reading labels, you could go for some Ayurvedic brands who stand by the premise ‘if you can’t eat it...’. Some good ranges include: Ayurda, Kama, Rasa Sara Skinfoods and the lovely and super affordable Samanvaya Pure (made in Byron Bay by a friend of ours).
Or, if you’d like to save some money, you can always just use ghee as a moisturiser - it is certainly edible, is easily absorbed and is incredibly good for the skin! This is what I used before discovering Samanvaya Pure. And my husband swears by honey as the ultimate blemish controller and wound healer!
You may find, like me, that your complexion improves enormously from your Ayurvedic food and lifestyle practices. When you strengthen and stabilise your digestive fire (Agni), reduce toxins (Ama), digest and assimilate more fresh foods loaded in antioxidants, and carry out regular internal and external ‘oiling up’ through your diet and self-massage, you will naturally improve the quality of your skin and hair and decrease the affects of ageing as well!
Agni - the digestive fire.
Ama or Aama - undigested food waste, toxins.
Ojas- the foundation of our immune system and longevity.
Dhatus - the tissues of the body.
Srotas - the channels of the body.
Vata - the air/ether
intelligence in the body.
Pitta- the fire/water
intelligence in the body.
Kapha- the water/earth intelligence in the body.
Sattva- the quality of purity, intelligence, peace and love.
Rajas- the quality of
turbulence and activity.
Tamas- the quality of
dullness, darkness and inertia.
Rasa - the taste of a food (Sweet, Sour, Salty, Pungent, Bitter, Astringent)
Virya - second level of digestion (either Heating or Cooling)
Vipaka - third level of digestion, the deep taste of a food (can be Sweet, Sour or Pungent)
Prabhav - the 'special effect' of a food or herb/spice
Rasa - also the name for plasma tissue
Rakta - blood tissue
Mamsa - muscle tissue
Meda - fat tissue
Asthi - bone tissue
Majja - nerve & bone marrow tissue
Shukra - sexual reproductive tissue