Natural solutions for Personal Care
by Piyush Kumar
There is a slow, but perceptible trend of people going back towards or...
everyday use personal care products & cosmetics alongwith their health
effects, including:
1. DEA ( diethanolamine) – Used...
resources into other market segments including fertilizers, pharmaceuticals,
cosmetics, plastics etc.
A number of the prod...
cleanser, Shikakai works as a conditioner. The combination of Reetha, Shikakai
& Amla nourishes the scalp, helps in hair g...
either mix with the ground water, and return as drinking water, or the
groundwater would be used to irrigate crops and mix...
(Hari Moong) as the base ingredient. Readers can easily find recipes online for
making Herbal Bathing Powders with common ...
with water, obviates the need for an after-shave lotion, as Alum has antiseptic
properties.
Alum is still commonly used in...
Rather than relying on corporations for making sure that the products they sell
are safe for human usage, we can take the ...
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Natural solutions for personal care (Original Article)

This is the original, unedited version of the article that was published in the Dec 2013 edition of Life Positive magazine. It talks about the harmful effects of the toxic chemicals commonly used in Personal Care products like Shampoos, Shower Gels, Laundry detergents, etc. It suggests natural alternatives which are safe for health, and easy on the earth, which can be used for Personal Care.
Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Published in: Health & Medicine      Lifestyle      Business      
Source: www.slideshare.net


Transcripts - Natural solutions for personal care (Original Article)

  • 1. Natural solutions for Personal Care by Piyush Kumar There is a slow, but perceptible trend of people going back towards organic foods, as they become aware of the dangers inherent in foods grown using synthetic pesticides & petroleum-based fertilizers, and contaminated with antibiotics, synthetic colors & preservatives. However, even as we are increasingly becoming conscious of the ill-effects of consuming food containing chemicals, we inadvertently continue to splash ourselves with other toxic substances through our personal care products. Toxic chemicals in our Body & Skin care solutions Once I happened to read the list of ingredients on the bottle of a popular brand of shampoo. It turned out to be a veritable chemical soup, with the following ingredients: Dimethicone, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Dimethiconol, Zinc Pyrithione, Carbomer, DMDM Hydantoin, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Zinc Sulfate, Panthenol, Lysine Hydrochloride, Tocopheryl Acetate, Methylisothiazolinone, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Sdium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Climbazole, Zinc Gluconate, TEADodecylbenzenesulfonate, Poloxamer 407, Laureth-23, Laureth-4, Sodium Benzoate, Sodium Polynaphthalenesulfonate, PEG-9M, Aminomethyl Propanol, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Propylene Glycol, Lactic Acid I wasn’t sure how safe these complex compounds with unpronounceable names were. On digging further, I came to know that organizations like the Environmental Working Group (EWG) have warned that a large number of the chemicals used in common personal care products, can be harmful to health. Also, research by Campaign for Safe Cosmetics shows that out of the more than 10,000 chemicals used in personal care products, about 89% of the ingredients have not gone through detailed human safety testing. Since many of these ingredients have been introduced too recently, it is anybody’s guess what the long-term effects of the sustained use of these compounds would be. When you look more closely at the labels of different cosmetics and personal care items, you will find that they are choc-a-bloc with synthetic chemicals. Advocacy groups like the “Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families” campaign & the David Suzuki Foundation have come up with lists of toxic chemicals found in
  • 2. everyday use personal care products & cosmetics alongwith their health effects, including: 1. DEA ( diethanolamine) – Used as a foaming agent in shampoos and cleaning agents; skin and eye irritant, high doses can be carcinogenic 2. Diethyl phthalate – Used as a fragrance in personal care products; endocrine disruptor, impacts normal development & reproductive health 3. DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl Urea etc. – These products are used as preservatives; continuously release formaldehyde which is a known carcinogen 4. BHA & BHT – Used as preservatives in cosmetics; found to be allergens and hormone-disruptors 5. Methylparaben, Butylparaben, Propylparaben – Widely used as preservatives; known to be hormone disruptors, linked to kidney & liver damage, lead to skin aging and DNA damage 6. Coal Tar Dyes (FD&C Blue No.1 etc.) – Used as colouring agents; Many Coal Dyes show toxicity in animals, and have been banned in Europe 7. Cyclotetrasiloxane, Dimethicone etc - Group of silicone-based compounds used in hair products, deodorants & moisturizers; can cause harm to immune & reproductive systems, also influence the nervous system 8. Triclosan – Used as an anti-bacterial agent in soaps, toothpastes, shampoos, Liquid Hand soaps etc.; Linked to liver damage, altered thyroid functioning, and increased antibiotic resistance You will find most cosmetic products including shampoos, conditioners, shower gels, liquid soaps, hair gels, lip balms, facial makeup, nail polish, perfumes, skin creams etc. are largely chemical based. Shockingly, a number of toxic chemicals are also used in Baby products. Looking good with Petrochemicals The 20th century marked a turning point, in moving away from natural products to synthetic chemical-based products for diverse applications. During World War 2, the petrochemical industry received a big push in the USA and other industrialized countries, to produce synthetic rubber, explosives, Fuels & lubricants. After the War, the petrochemical industry diverted its
  • 3. resources into other market segments including fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, plastics etc. A number of the products used in the cosmetics industry are actually derivatives of the petrochemical industry eg, isopropyl alcohol, polyethylene glycol, Triethanolamine, phthalates and many others. These products besides having a deleterious effect on human health, also poison our environment. As the cosmetics & Pharma industries grew to become multi-billion dollar industries, they further invested large amounts to synthesize newer chemical compounds. These businesses find it much more profitable to create and sell chemical derivatives. After all, what profits would they earn if they sold products made from easily available substances like Amla, Turmeric etc ! Since these synthetic chemicals were not present on the Earth during the human evolutionary phase, the human body does not know how to process or digest them. Many petrochemical-based products do not bio-degrade in the environment for decades , so how can we expect them to be digested by human bodies in such a short time. Natural solutions for hair care According to Ayurvedic principles, you should apply to your skin only those substances that are edible. The reason is that anything applied to the skin, is directly absorbed into the bloodstream. On the other hand, an item that is ingested through the mouth is first broken down in the stomach, and its harmful ingredients removed by the liver. Thus, toxic substances applied directly to the skin are more harmful for the body. As I became aware of the dangers present in modern-day personal care products, I started looking for natural alternatives. Fortunately, natural solutions for body care have been around for millennia. Until the first half of the 20th century, only natural solutions were used for personal grooming and cosmetics. A good place to start looking for these options, would be to find out what alternatives were used by our grandparents. Till only a few generations ago, a whole range of natural products were produced from the kitchen itself. For Hair Care, Reetha (Soapnut), Shikakai (Acacia Concinna)& Amla (Indian Gooseberry), have been used for centuries in India. While Reetha is a hair
  • 4. cleanser, Shikakai works as a conditioner. The combination of Reetha, Shikakai & Amla nourishes the scalp, helps in hair growth, and gives them a soft feel. Reetha contains saponins, which act as a natural surfactant. Reetha has slight antimicrobial properties, and helps to keep hair shiny & skin soft. Shikakai , which literally means ‘fruit for hair’, has abundant amounts of Vitamin C, and other micronutrients, which help to nourish hair roots. Reetha, Shikakai & Amla are commonly available in Kirana stores in India. The traditional method, is to soak Reetha berries, Shikakai pods & Amla fruits together overnight, and then boil & strain the concoction the next morning to prepare a ‘shampoo’. While applying on the scalp, don’t let the ‘shampoo’ enter your eyes, as it will sting. Alternately, you can mix Reetha, Shikakai & Amla powders together with water to make a paste, which can then be applied to the scalp and washed off after a while. If Amla is not available, Reetha or Shikakai can be used individually, or in combination. As a shortcut, I have found readymade shampoos from Meghdoot, Khadi Gramodyog, Patanjali, etc. to be of help, as they contain extracts of these traditional herbs. However, please note these Shampoos may contain Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulphate as a foaming agent. You will notice that your natural ‘shampoo’ will produce much less foaming than you are used to. We often correlate a shampoo’s cleaning properties with the amount of foam it produces. In fact, the extra foam in shampoos is created by using mono-ethanolamine (MEA), diethanolamine( DEA) or triethanolamine (TEA), which are known hormone-disruptors and have already been banned in a number of European countries. It is important to remember that many of the so called ‘herbal shampoos’ may also contain harmful ingredients. Therefore, it is important to check the label for the entire list of ingredients. Many shampoos which are advertized as being ‘herbal’ may contain detergents as the base, which are often hidden in the ingredients list under the catch-all term “Q.S.” (Quantum Sufficit). By switching to natural products, you also do your bit to protect the environment. The runoff from chemical shampoos, shower gels etc enters the water supply chain and the soil & pollutes our ecosystem. Once while taking a shower, as I saw the residual foam going down the drain, I realized that it could come back to me some day in a different form. It would
  • 5. either mix with the ground water, and return as drinking water, or the groundwater would be used to irrigate crops and mix with the soil, and thus the chemicals would enter the food chain. Bath & Body products Globally, as well as in urban India, Shower Gels are fast replacing Soaps as the preferred medium for body cleansing. Shower Gels/Body Washes contain ingredients like: Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Acrylates Copolymer, Fragrance, Cocamide MEA, PPG-9, Menthol, Ammonium Chloride, DMDM Hydantoin, Tetrasodium EDTA, Methylisothiazolinone, BHT, Propylene Glycol, Titanium Dioxide etc. Also, Shower Gels come in plastic packaging, which ultimately adds to the nondegradable trash on the Earth. In comparison, Soaps are a much more eco-friendly alternative as compared to Shower Gels. Soaps were the preferred cleaning agents in the Pre-Petroleum Age, and have been around for more than a millennia. Soaps are made from commonly available Fats or Oils including Coconut Oil, Olive oil, Palm Oil etc. Soaps are produced when the fatty acids available in oils or fats, is combined with an alkaline base. In ancient times, soaps were made by mixing plant oils or animal fats with wood ash. However, one should keep in mind that a number of Soaps these days contain the ingredient ‘Triclosan’. Among other concerns, Triclosan is known to disrupt the functioning of the thyroid hormone, interfere with reproductive systems and increase antibiotic resistance in bacteria. One of the uses of Triclosan is as a pesticide. Triclosan has become ubiquitous in products like soaps, hand washes, toothpastes, mouth washes, Talcum Powder and many more everyday items. Triclosan is being phased out by a number of consumer giants, because of continued health concerns. Therefore, it is advisable to stay away from Soaps which contain Triclosan. An even more nature-friendly method than Soaps for bathing is to use Bathing Powders, made with Gram Flour (Besan, Chickpea flour), or Green Gram Flour
  • 6. (Hari Moong) as the base ingredient. Readers can easily find recipes online for making Herbal Bathing Powders with common ingredients. For example, Sunni Pindi is a traditional bathing powder used in the southern states of India. Ayurvedic Bath Powders made using a variety of special herbs, are also available commercially. Companies like Asvini, Ancient Living, Prithvi etc. sell Bath Powders made using Ayurvedic herbal ingredients. Corn Flour is a safe and inexpensive alternative to Talcum Powder, for usage as a Body dusting Powder. It feels smooth on the skin, and easily absorbs moisture. Corn Flour is especially advised for children, whose skin is very sensitive. Arrowroot flour is another ingredient which can be used with Corn Flour, or by itself in a Body Powder. Earth-friendly shaving Disposable razors are a perfect testimony to the wanton callousness, which characterizes mankind’s attitude to the environment. Just to save a few seconds every day, many people have forsaken the practice of using Razors with replaceable Safety Blades, and instead opted for disposable razors. Imagine the amount of plastic being discarded every day, just for the small convenience offered by Disposable Razors. Estimates show that about 2 Billion disposable Razors are thrown away every year in the US alone. With the middle-class in India almost the size of the entire US population and emulating Western forms of consumerism, India’s contribution to plastic trash production is also catching up. Apart from the plastic waste, we also need to account for the energy and resources that went into manufacturing that plastic handle, which goes into the waste bin every day. Using Razors with replaceable Safety Blades would immediately cut down the amount of plastic garbage we accumulate on the Earth every day. Most shaving creams, foams & gels available in the market are also chemical based. As a healthier alternative, I found the Biotique Bio Palmyra shaving cream, which has Coconut Oil as its base, and beeswax, castor oil etc as other ingredients. Also, a Shaving Soap would be a better option than creams or foams, as they are typically made with Plant-based Oils. Alum (known as ‘Phitkari’ in Hindi) is a commonly available alternative to aftershave disinfectants. Rubbing a block of Alum on your face, and then rinsing
  • 7. with water, obviates the need for an after-shave lotion, as Alum has antiseptic properties. Alum is still commonly used in many places across India, especially in villages. It is quite inexpensive and can be easily found in Medical Stores. Soapnuts – the ‘green’ cleaning solution Reetha(Soapnuts) can also be used as a very good substitute for washing laundry. For each laundry load, about 7-10 Reetha berries are needed. You need to break open the Reetha berries, remove the seeds, and put the remaining shells in a cloth bag or sock, and tie it up. Then put the bag/sock along with the laundry load inside the Washing Machine instead of adding commercial detergent powders, before starting the Washing Machine cycle. Laundry detergents contain a combination of synthetic chemical-based solvents, softeners, fragrances, preservatives, brighteners, fillers & oxidizers, which pollute ground water & soil. Synthetic Detergents usually contain phosphates as their major constituent, which cause overgrowth of algae in water bodies, which in turn causes oxygen depletion killing plants & fishes. Washing with Reetha gives clean laundry, without any of these disadvantages, since it is bio-degradable. Interestingly, a number of companies in the US, UK, Germany, Australia, New Zealand etc. now sell Soapnuts (Reetha) as an environmentally friendly alternative to synthetic laundry detergents. A Reetha solution made by soaking the berries in water overnight, also works as a great dish washing liquid. On a sidenote, till very recent times, wood ash was a popular medium for cleaning utensils in many parts of India. The Reetha solution can even be used for washing windows & floors. Summary I have learnt to be very careful about what I put on my skin or inside me, and closely read the labels of things that I buy, especially food items & cosmetics. Readers can find natural alternatives for personal care, which do not add to the toxic load of the Earth. These alternatives will be gentle on the skin, as well as safe for the environment.
  • 8. Rather than relying on corporations for making sure that the products they sell are safe for human usage, we can take the responsibility of our health in our own hands. We all share a naïve belief that big companies would give precedence to human safety over their profits. However, when cigarette and cola companies can peddle their products with impunity, whose adverse health effects are well known, what can we expect of other corporations ? In India, which has a hoary tradition of herbalism & Ayurveda, it is easy to find a number of natural solutions for personal care, which have been available for centuries. Those of our villages which still remain untouched by the “modern” consumerist culture, have still preserved these secrets. Also, we can pick up insights from the products used by our ancestors a few generations ago. By using natural products for personal care, we can also do our bit to support the rural economy. Hair Care: - Reetha, Shikakai, Amla in powdered form or as a solution - Shampoos containing Reetha, Shikakai, Amla as the main ingredients Bathing - Soaps made from Vegetable Oils - Herbal Bathing Powders made with Gram Flour (Besan), Green Gram Flour (Moong)etc. - Ayurvedic bathing powders - Sunni Pindi Talcum Powder - Corn Flour/Arrowroot powder Laundry - Reetha Solution/ Reetha Powder Washing Dishes - Reetha Solution  Piyush Kumar is a Renewable Energy professional, who works in the Solar industry. He is interested in exploring the interplay between environmentalism & spirituality. He can be reached at piyush.kumar@gmail.com

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