Beauty products can have seriously ugly side-effects

The products you put on your body need to be treated with caution, writes Andrea Nagel

07 December 2017 - 12:10 By Andrea Nagel
How often do you check the ingredients on a face cream's packaging before applying it?
How often do you check the ingredients on a face cream's packaging before applying it?
Image: 123RF/goodluz

Last year, The Guardian newspaper reported on a case in which the family of a woman who died of ovarian cancer at the age of 62 was awarded $72-million in damages.

Personal care product company Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay the sum after lawyers argued some of their products were the cause of her cancer. After being provided with evidence, the jury found the international giant guilty of counts of fraud, negligence and conspiracy.

The finding is a stark reminder to consumers that, while the chemicals in cosmetics make us look, feel and smell great, there may be dangerous side-effects to using them.

Many of these chemicals are considered hormone disruptors that can affect how estrogen and other hormones act in the body, by blocking or mimicking them, which throws off the body's hormonal balance.

Because estrogen can make hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer develop and grow, choosing to limit exposure to these chemicals that can act like estrogen could have a positive effect on health.

It's becoming a habit for people to check the ingredients of the products they put inside their bodies, but very few check the ingredients of products they put on them

It's becoming a habit for people to check the ingredients of the products they put inside their bodies, but very few check the ingredients of products they put on them.

Shampoos, moisturisers, sun screens, body lotions, serums, lipsticks, foundations, deodorants, foam washes, conditioners, toners and blushers - how many people ever look at what these products contain?

Plaster a respected brand name onto the product and who cares what's in the small print on that irritating piece of paper you instantly throw away after buying your latest wrinkle reducing cream?

And, if you do scrutinise the label, how many people know what ethanolamines or parabens or polyethylene glycol (PEG compounds), along with a host of other ingredients, are and what they do to our bodies?

Although the jury is still out on whether the amounts of these ingredients are large enough to warrant concern - some practitioners claim that they are only found in miniscule amounts and are therefore unharmful or that the link between these chemicals and developing cancer are tenuous - many health professionals suggest that we should avoid them completely.

Two such people who are trying to help women avoid the death-by-beauty-product scenario are Dr Heidi van Loggerenberg, a qualified homeopath, and Margie Doig-Gander. Together they started a company called JOINCIRCLES after both of them were diagnosed, and both survived, cancer.

 Dr Heidi van Loggerenberg and Margie Doig-Gander.
Dr Heidi van Loggerenberg and Margie Doig-Gander.
Image: Supplied

''During our own struggles with cancer, we realised that we're at the centre of our health choices," says Doig-Gander. ''JOINCIRCLES is about the integration of your choices; enabling you to personalise your nutrition, environment and lifestyle choices, based on your unique genetic variations and biochemistry."

Both are proponents of epigenetics, the study of how nutritional, environmental and lifestyle factors influence genes. They break their approach down into four categories: DNA, nutrition, environment and lifestyle.

Cleaning out your make-up falls under the environment banner, but the firm also handles DNA testing and offers advice on nutrition and lifestyle. It's a completely holistic approach.

I've had my DNA tested and found that I am susceptible to cancer.

On the make-up bag clean-out front, Van Loggerenberg suggested that I remove the products which contain toxins from my make-up bag and replace them with products that are free from DNA mutators, endocrine disruptors and carcinogens.

Their website features a ''DO NOT TOUCH" list, aligned with the guidelines laid down by the Environmental Working Group.

''Download it, print it out, stick it on your fridge, put it in your handbag. Check your face and bodycare products to see if they contain ingredients that might be xenoestrogens, endocrine disruptors, DNA mutators and carcinogens," say the two women.

By testing a range of local and international products and curating the best on offer, JOINCIRCLES is able to offer a safer and better alternative to the chemical-sodden products we plaster all over our bodies on a daily basis. 

• This article was originally published in The Times.

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