Why Go Organic and Natural? (OPINION)

It may sound like the latest catch phase or marketing hook, but going organic and natural, as much as possible, does make sense if you think about it.  My pet peeve is when I hear or read a comment from somebody stating “nothing topical can affect your body or cause cancer.”   I think this commonly held belief stems from the blind trust that whatever is sold in the U.S. has to meet safety standards (usually via the FDA) before it can be sold.   I wish this were true.  But, after several personal and family experiences with FDA-approved medications, I’ve concluded that you can’t assume everything sold is safe OR effective, even if it is FDA-approved.  That means you have to take more responsibility in selecting the safest and least toxic products for you and your family.  I believe that anything you put on your skin has the potential to penetrate into your body.  That’s exactly how prescription transdermal patches work.  They work by penetrating through the skin and into the body.  There are patches for painkillers, patches for smoking cessation, testosterone patches, birth control patches, and I’m sure patches for all sorts of ailments I don’t even know about.  So, it’s a medically proven fact that topical drugs can penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream, so why wouldn’t skincare ingredients do the same?  So think twice about what you apply on a daily basis.  It definitely can accumulate in the body over the course of time and affect your health.      

I’m not proclaiming that all natural substances are safe.  There are plenty things in nature which can be toxic to humans, like certain parts of mistletoe and oleander plants.  However, there is a higher probability that a natural substance will be safer and less mutagenic than a synthetic chemical, and natural substances have a longer track record of how they affect the body.  Conversely, there are many synthetic chemicals which have been proven over time to be safe and/or identical in molecular structure to a naturally occurring substance.  I have no problem using such chemicals that are proven to be safe.  My point is to do your research on ingredients before using anything.  Just a simple Google search will bring up tons of information, but you do need to be cautious to not believe just one source.  Check out reputable sites and compare notes.  Is there an overall consensus of safety?  Go on PubMed and search for studies on your ingredient.   My general philosophy is that “if I couldn’t eat it, I’m not putting it on my face or body”.  I’m not saying I want to eat soap nuts, but I could and it wouldn’t kill me.  I try to limit the number of substances I apply on my skin.  I approach skincare from the inside-out too.  Eat the right things, live a healthy lifestyle, and your skin will improve and be more resilient to the elements.  What goes in your body will definitely affect your skin in the long run.  That includes medications as well.     

For all the chemical proponents who think, “Well there are no studies or research that proves or concludes this chemical ingredient is dangerous or causes cancer, so I’m just going to use it until proven otherwise”, think about this:  Who is going to fund any studies for research on chemical safety, unless it’s mandated by the FDA.   Cosmetic regulations are extremely lax in comparison to drugs, so it’s practically a self-regulated industry.  Are cosmetic companies going to fund studies to prove their ingredients don’t cause cancer?  Doubt that will ever happen.   There is no financial incentive for any company selling products with potentially toxic ingredients to do a study, or to hire an independent researcher to do one.  Research on cosmetic ingredient safety is practically nonexistent, and it all comes down to profits.  Such studies cost too much, and there is no monetary payoff in the end.  Consequently, you will seldom hear of long-term safety and toxicity studies on very popular cosmetic ingredients.

The sheer abundance of skincare products out there makes the FDA incapable of being the watchdog and safety enforcer for all the skincare ingredients and claims being made.  So, I’d rather be safe and take the position of not using synthetic chemicals or non-organic IF there are safer natural/organic options around.  I don’t want the risk, small as it may be.   It’s not unreasonable to believe that there is a causal relationship between the growing number of toxic chemicals we encounter daily and the rising cancer rates we are seeing today.  Even though I have no formal “study” to prove this, it can’t be ignored.  More and more people are finally realizing this connection and converting to natural/organic products.  Just make sure what you are getting is truly natural/organic by reading the labels.  Look for products containing the fewest ingredients possible.   

And take a good hard look at the ingredients in the processed “food” and fast food you may be eating and giving your family.  If you see things in there you can’t even pronounce, it may be time to re-haul your grocery habits.  I used to routinely eat that stuff myself and buy it for my family….until the day I got my diagnosis of stage II breast cancer, that is.  Weird as it sounds, I’m thankful that I got cancer.  Prior to that, I never gave a 2nd thought to that what I was eating or using in the home…  never thought it could be responsible for my disease.  Like most people, I thought “Well, the FDA will protect me and would never approve toxic ingredients in my food or skincare.”  I just complacently bought what everybody else did or what was advertised to me.  I never took responsibility for my buying decisions.  Never read ingredient labels.  Before converting to organic/natural, my shopping cart was full of prepackaged, processed, or frozen food, with little in the way of fresh fruit and vegetables.  Now, I realize that most of that stuff was “dead” food.  It just tasted good, and that’s all that mattered at the time.  It didn’t provide any nutritional value, and it certainly didn’t help my skin or weight issues either, and I know it contributed to my cancer.       

So Cancer was a blaring wake-up call, but now I have the knowledge to prevent the cancer from coming back and to educate my kids so they don’t go down the same road.   In the end, I’m a smarter consumer and healthier person too, and I don’t feel helpless anymore.  Taking control of your health is liberating, and I hope more people start waking up to this new reality, that only YOU can make changes for the better.  Don’t wait for mainstream media or the government to make the decisions for you.  It may never happen or it may be too late.

Resources:

http://www.townsendletter.com/AugSept2011/uscancer0811.html

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/10/15/this-artificial-sweetener-shown-to-produce-cancer-in-rats.aspx?e_cid=20111015_DNL_art_2

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