Cosmetics is a $75 billion dollar per year international market. That suggests that a lot of people around the world want these products. Anytime a product crosses so many cultural lines, I start to wonder: “What is the general appeal?” One relevant tidbit of information involves the fact that everything I see on you is, after all, quite dead. Like the light from distant stars that may have burned out years ago while their last beams speed earthward, so too your skin and hair, your nails indeed everything I see on you has expired and is being excreted centripetally to the “slough off” position. This happens, for example, when you stroke your infant’s “rosy” cheeks. In so doing, you are brushing off the outermost layer of the epidermis referred to as the horney layer because it is composed of forty rows of dead but transparent cells. The rosy color radiates forth from below in the second layer of skin called the dermis. This layer, some 30 times thicker than the
paper-thin epidermis is full of blood vessels, nerve endings and connective tissue. Beneath the dermis jiggles the subcutaneous tissue, home of our insulating and protective fat layer. So, one reason people around the world apply cosmetics is to make the most of a rather dead situation. Seen in this light, $75 billion is quite a reasonable investment.
Are their alternatives to make-up? Any way we can change our appearance other than with cosmetics? Yes. If you don’t believe me, make plans now to attend next year’s Seattle Tilth Festival. I went last fall and saw the best skin I had seen in years! Most people
smear foundations, colors and pastes on skin which they have determined to not appear “alive enough”. Not so at the Tilth festival. This festival was attended by organic farmers and consumers of healthy and vital foods who gathered to celebrate and champion organic, non-toxic gardening. Wandering amidst that crowd of “health food nuts” I felt bathed by health. Folks ranging in age from toddlers to octogenarians all had a sparkle in their eyes and radiated health. Vitality shone through their skin and eyes reflecting on my soul parched by long hours caring for people stewing in illness. Just walking around these vegetarians and whole grain aficionados made me feel better. Not a smudge of make-up anywhere to be found.
What do our cosmetics do? Moisturizers cover-up the pale, dry, life-less skin (vitamin A, zinc and essential fatty acid deficiencies). Deodorants and perfumes cover-up body odors that reveal either poor hygiene or malabsorption (lactobacillus acidophilus deficiencies and, in many cases, food intolerances). Mouthwashes cover-up evidence of tooth abscess, excess sugar consumption, and disrupted gastro-intestinal flora (secondary to junk food or excess antibiotics). Hair coloring covers up evidence of trace mineral malabsorption. Eye brow pencils disguise hair loss from estrogen therapy or hypo-thyroidism. Blush and spot cover-up atop foundation can obfuscate acne which is frequently consequent to excess sugar or refined carbohydrates as well as food allergies and malabsorption syndromes. Under-eye concealer erases the dark circles under the eyes (food allergies – frequently dairy, wheat or eggs) and foundation can diminish the classic “butterfly” or malar rash that saddles the ridge of the nose warning us of auto-immune illness – most typically lupus erythematosus.
Now, if you have any of these cosmetic problems, everyone can easily understand why you’d want to cover-up or make yourself over, but remember that, in doing so, you are simply suppressing symptoms. Why not try to fix the problem rather than simply suppress the symptoms?
Understanding now why we cover-up, let’s look more closely at what we cover up with. Our cosmetic or soap or deodorant can serve one of three functions: help us, hurt us or be inert. Remember, our skin is a barrier designed to protect us from the environment as well as to contain our body fluids. It is our largest organ (20 square feet for an average adult male!) and extremely versatile and complex. It is not a closed system though. Though water-proof, our skin is oil permeable meaning simply that water bounces off and oils seep though. Accordingly, skin is our largest organ of respiration. We “exhale” sweat (salt, electrolytes, bacteria and oil soluble molecules) as well as heat. But more importantly, what do we “inhale”? What substances do we allow though our skin? How about the following: Aluminum (from underarm deodorants), polyester fumes (from synthetic material of clothes), pseudo-estrogens (from pesticides), petroleum products (from gasoline, crank case oil and other mineral oil based cosmetics).
What is in your cosmetic? Any mineral oil (petroleum by product that acts like a magnet for dirt and clogs pores inhibiting the skin from breathing)? Any isopropyl alcohol (astringent which dissolves our natural oils and has recently been implicated in liver malfunctions)? How about bee’s wax or paraffin (Why not just saran wrap yourself)? Any borax (a flux and cleansing agent that can cause poisoning)? Any aluminum in your deodorant? Can’t remember?… If your brand contains these harmful ingredients, why not consider changing brands for these products are unhealthy and should be avoided. As a nutritionally oriented medical doctor, I encourage my patients to consider cosmetics and skin care products to be a matter of nutrition. After all, anything we take into our body is, by definition, “nutrition” whether it enters by mouth or though the skin. I recommend skin care products and cosmetics that are both non-toxic and nutritional. Look to aloe vera and water-based skin care products enhanced with humectants like hyaluronic acid or N-a-PCA which attract and hold water. After all it is water, not oil that keeps skin soft and healthy.
What is aloe vera? It is a gelatinous substance comprised of mucopolysaccharides that are powerfully nutritive. The highest quality aloe vera comes from an ancient plant in the lily family, the Aloe barbadensis. The word “aloe” comes from the Hebrew word “halal” meaning “shining bitter substance”. Since ancient times, Aloe has been commonly used as a burn ointment. Upon returning from his conquest of
Patients coming to my clinic for an initial examination are urged not wear not make-up, moisturizers, perfumes, and deodorants because these cover-ups literally confuse the picture. Like a bloodhound tracking a scent, I rely on my senses during a physical examination to track down correlations between skin and various organ health.
Make-up and mascara both do not come from the ancient Indian word “Maya” meaning “illusion” but they might just as well, for cosmetics are designed to alter appearances and thereby disguise reality. In a nutshell, we cover-up our health failures with make-up. The healthier and more radiant one’s health, the less one uses make-up. Perhaps in today’s world, we could collectively find a better use of $75 billion annually.
BSW (c) 1991