Healthy Skin, Healthy Body | The Paleo Diet®
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Healthy Skin, Healthy Body

By Nell Stephenson, B.S.
July 26, 2016
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If you’re someone who has followed a real Paleo diet for a while, then you’re likely not going to buy something labeled as an ‘energy bar’ and eat it without checking the label first. Nor will you reach for an unmarked bottle of salad dressing at a buffet luncheon and pour it all over your veggies without checking to see if it had soy or dairy in it.

Chances of doing anything like that is slim to none, right?

We have learned, as part of the Paleo lifestyle, not to be haphazard about what we put in our bodies. But are we as in tune with what we put on them? This is an important question because understanding what we’re putting on our bodies can be as important as what we put in them. And picking the “right things” may be harder than you think.

But I must confess: for years, I didn’t understand this.

Blog readers and clients would often ask me to recommend the ‘most Paleo moisturizer’ or the ‘best type of sunscreen.’ My reply was often whatever I happened to be using at the time. My dermatologist recommended an 80 SPF, so I used it during my races. The spa I went to for facials recommended an ‘essential oil based night balm’, so I used that faithfully each evening before bed.

Yet I never checked to see what I was actually applying to my skin.

I didn’t think twice about these “expert” recommendations. But just as we don’t necessarily question what we’re told are healthy eating options, such as whole grains being a great source of fiber or needing dairy for strong bones, we also, as a society, don’t tend to question the recommendations from a dermatologist or an aesthetician about what to put on our skin.

And then there’s the products that weren’t recommended to us from experts such as all the personal care products we choose ourselves from the health food store, our favorite online makeup supplier or the spa we’ve been going to for years?

Do we really and truly know what they’re made of?

I certainly didn’t. A few months ago, however, I became aware of some shocking statistics which proved to be just the wakeup call I personally needed. For example:

  • It has been nearly 80 years since the FDA has made any changes to the laws that govern what we can safely put into our personal care products.1 This is not just make-up we’re talking about, either. It’s everything: shampoos, lotions, sunscreens, even products meant for children and babies!
  • In that time, the EEU has taken 1,400 chemicals off the market while the US has removed 11 of those, and added 85,000. None of which have been tested for safety.2
  • On the FDA’s website,3 the statement, “The law does not require cosmetic products and ingredients, other than color additives, to have FDA approval before they go on the market” sums it up quite nicely.

In other words, there are no regulations as to what is deemed safe to put on our faces, our hair and even on our children’s skin.

So how bad could that be?

Worse than you might think and unfortunately, we’re not just talking about a slight skin irritation. The facts are available through a free resource called the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database.4 Through this site, we can look up any personal care products and see how they are ranked from 1, or safe, all the way up to a 10, which is hazardous. Several of the common ingredients we put on ourselves each and every day (the average American uses 126 chemicals before they leave the house each day; men included)5 are toxic.

To give just a few examples, the common sunscreen ingredient, Oxybenzone, acts like estrogen in the body altering sperm production in animals and is associated with endometriosis in women.6 Another ingredient found in one of the top selling baby bubble baths,7 Quaternium-15, is a FORMALDEHYDE RELEASER associated with allergies, immunotoxicity, eye, lung and skin irritation, organ system toxicity, cancer and ccontamination concerns.

So what do you do when you find out the lotion you’ve used for years contains an ingredient which could cause cancer? Sure, you could switch to organic coconut oil, but what about some good options for makeup or personal care products we can’t necessarily find in nature?

One good solution is to find companies that are reliable and trusted for products that are not only safe, but that perform.

But perhaps what’s most important is that we are as mindful about what put on our skin as what we put in our bodies. In fact, we may need to be more mindful. As much as I disagree with the laws which are in place for what goes into our food, at least there are some! But it has been nearly 80 years since the last changes were made to determine what is safe to put on our skin. And worse, under the law, cosmetic products and ingredients do not need FDA premarket approval!8

Just like with food, we need to have better standards in place with more accurate information available to us so that we can know that the sunscreen we put on our kids, or the body wash the whole family uses in the shower is safe. We need to bring about these changes so we can keep ourselves as safe and healthy as possible- both in the body and on it!

For more information on safe skincare options, visit


[1] "The Story of the Laws Behind the Labels." The Story of the Laws Behind the Labels. USDA, n.d. Web. 14 July 2016[2] "International Laws - Safe Cosmetics." Safe Cosmetics International Laws Comments. Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, n.d. Web. 14 July 2016.[3] "U.S. Food and Drug Administration." FDA Authority Over Cosmetics: How Cosmetics Are Not FDA-Approved, but Are FDA-Regulated. USFDA, n.d. Web. 14 July 2016.[4] //[5] "Exposures Add up – Survey Results | Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database | EWG." Skin Deep Exposures Add up Survey Results Comments. EWG, n.d. Web. 14 July 2016[6] EWG's 10th Annual Guide to Safer Sunscreens." The Trouble With Oxybenzone and Other Sunscreen Chemicals. EWG, n.d. Web. 14 July 2016.[7] "Johnson's Baby Bedtime Bath, Bedtime." || Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database. EWG, n.d. Web. 14 July 2016[8] U.S. Food and Drug Administration." FDA Authority Over Cosmetics: How Cosmetics Are Not FDA-Approved, but Are FDA-Regulated. FDA, n.d. Web. 22 July 2016

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