Our skin is the largest organ of our body. Skin contains, protects and functions on the outside and inside. That’s right. Technically, skin doesn’t end at the lips or at — ahem, — the other end. The alimentary canal that runs from our mouth all the way down to the other end is actually considered to be outside the body. But most of us only care about the part of the skin we can see.

Humans probably pay more attention to the skin than any other body part, proven by the billions of dollars spent yearly on what are called “personal care products.” PCPs include thousands of chemicals we put on the outside and inside of our bodies.

Surveys find that the average American uses nine personal care products everyday, with soaps, shampoos, hair conditioners, lip balms, deodorants, makeup, toothpaste, mouthwash and shaving products leading the way. That doesn’t even begin to mention the dozens of makeup products women (and some men) apply.

Advertising, peer pressure, societal imagery and customs have convinced us that we need soap to be clean, deodorant to smell good, cologne to attract a mate, shampoo to keep our hair from being greasy, conditioner to keep it from tangling and strangling us, powders to keep our babies’ butts from stinking, and an ever-growing list of ointments, creams, moisturizers and applications to be a civil member of the modern world.

Most people use these products believing, “The government must require safety tests, right?” Wrong. No health or impact studies are required to market PCP. They are marketed using 10,500 unique chemical ingredients and there is no pre-market safety testing required for the industrial chemicals used in them. Many of those chemicals are known carcinogens, hormone disrupters and toxic. Still, we slather them on thinking they are safe. Wish they all were.

No soap, Sherlock. People are finding that the chemicals we grew up learning to use may not be advisable nor even necessary. Some wise Americans are finding the most commonly used chemicals like soap, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste and more are not only unnecessary but are often unhealthy. Many people have found a way to go without them entirely or use more healthful, natural and minimalist alternatives.

The skin is a perfectly designed part of a perfectly functioning body that will ordinarily last us a lifetime as long as we don’t mess it up. The stuff we put on the body in vainglory or misguidance can often be its undoing. The natural body oils, architecture, detritus and even the symbiotic bacteria on our skin can keep it clean, appealing, healthy and functional. We don’t need chemicals to keep from stinking. We just need to let the skin come into balance.

A Better Bubble. Corey R. is a mother of three who emailed suggesting a column about options to commercial deodorant. With a degree in Health Care Management, a minor in Holistic Health and Wellness and possessing prerequisites for a BSN in nursing, Corey knows a bit about health. So I asked her to relate her experience with natural alternatives or complete abstinence from commercial products. Her story started with a case of painful shingles.

“I couldn’t even touch my armpits to put on deodorant. I did not want to smell bad, so I looked for alternative deodorant-like sprays,” Corey wrote in an email. “I was astounded by what I learned about deodorant…about how many chemicals are absorbed through our skin. I decided I would never use it again, even after my shingles healed. I began to make my own deodorant with baking soda, corn starch, and coconut oil.”

Corey began considering all the other chemicals most of us put on our bodies. She eliminated or minimized soaps, shampoo, toothpaste, perfumes and such. Those she uses, she makes or chooses alternatives; and most importantly, with her kids, too. Corey is among a growing number of people who are finding a better way.

“Many people who make their own deodorant also make other personal care items,” she wrote. “I discovered the “The No Poo” movement. I have not used shampoo or conditioner for over two years now. Shampoo has many of the same detergents as Tide. It actually causes a host of hair and scalp problems. My hair is not greasy or stinky. I clean it with baking soda water and rinse it with apple cider vinegar water. It is always shiny and clean. I still do buy some commercial products, but I am much more conscientious about what I buy and what it contains.”

Living with friendlies. We’ve spent most the past hundred years trying to annihilate symbiotic and necessary friendly bacteria. The micro-civilization of bacteria that lives on our skin and in our bodies is the “microbiome.” It’s now considered an important part of our health. Yet we abuse it and attack it daily with harsh chemicals. The microbiome on our skin is as important as the population in our gut. Some companies are now marketing probiotics for the skin. Or you can just grow your own.

Be well.

Heartland Healing is a metaphysically based polemic describing alternatives to conventional methods of healing the body, mind and planet. It is provided as information and entertainment, certainly not medical advice. It is not an endorsement of any particular therapy, either by the writer or The Reader. Visit HeartlandHealing.com for more information.

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