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Wednesday, January 8, 2014 in , , , , , , , ,

How antibacterial soap hurts my child's skin and more on safe skincare

That's my baby. Not today, but on a day many years ago when she had her first bath.  Just like then she still trusts me to make safe decisions to help her care for her body.  That mission has become ever more important to me the more I know about the hidden hazards of many of the personal care products in average stores and bathroom cabinets all across our country.  While I usually prefer to focus on the positive health benefits of natural choices every once in a while we have to talk about some of the scary details you need to know to stay safe.

Winter is the season of dry hands, and not just for adults.  Every winter Tru's hands get irritated by all the synthetic, triclosan-laden soaps that permeate public restrooms at stores and schools.  As a mom and as an advocate for healthy, toxin-free skincare this makes me upset and with plenty of reason. 

When she was in kindergarten the soaps at school made the backs of her hands lobster colored.  They stung, throbbed, and hurt her so badly she cried herself to sleep some nights, whimpering and avoiding touching anything.  I approached the school about changing soaps but they told me no-go, that the antibacterial soap was necessary. They said they could get sued for using just plain soap if a kid got the flu.  This gave me a supreme sense of irony that my daughter's burning skin was not enough of a concern to also cause worry or concern that a parent might take action.  Despite the fact that triclosan soaps are not proven to remove any more bacteria from hands than just plain soap and water businesses cling to them because they fear lawsuits and their suppliers continue to make and sell them.  The risk, work, and cost of switching looks higher than the perceived benefit.

On that particular occasion years ago I didn't even begin to get into the issue of toxin load and chemical buildup in our systems.  If her red hands were not enough evidence of a problem with the product then getting into more abstract concepts like toxin buildup was going to get nowhere at that point in time.  We resorted to sending her to school with her own handmade, organic bar of soap and the problem went away.  Healthy product = healthy skin.    If you are facing a similar circumstance and want to help your child avoid extra chemical exposure a personalized travel soap box and an organic bar of soap are easy to send along.

Yesterday once again Tru was relating to me that her hands had been getting dry like usual at this time of year.  She told me that the Neutrogena lotion she had used at another household had "really burned her skin" but that the grapeseed oil she got to use afterward made them feel better very quickly.  Again this provided really clear evidence of just how irritating many synthetic products are, especially to children.  Dry skin is even more sensitive too, as the dehydration of the horny layer puts nerves closer to the surface than usual.  That makes a reaction even more likely.

The FDA is currently reviewing triclosan closely and considering it's future in consumer products.  The FDA is rather lax about ingredients in personal care products so just that they are willing to publish a position that science is supporting a lack of benefit and a concern for human safety is a big step.

In the last few weeks I have been reading "Not Just a Pretty Face".  While I was aware of all the toxin risks discussed in the book it has definitely reinvigorated my passion for toxin-free products.  One of the prime takeaways is that children are one of the most at-risk groups for exposure to hormone disruptors like pthalates and parabens, both commonly found in antibacterial soaps along with triclosan.  Their developing systems process chemical loads differently than grown adults and it can cause more insidious problems than just a little skin irritation - problems like early sexual development, fertility problems later in life, and cancer.  Our endocrine (hormone) systems are very delicate and a little shove one way or another can create vastly different development of the body and abnormal cell growth.  All that handwashing we encourage our young children to do today might lead to problems down the road if we don't wash with something actually clean.

At home my family is very clean about the products we use.  We can make a big dent in Tru's chemical exposure by keeping at least one environment as natural and toxin-free as possible.  She may only be 9 (+3/4!) but she is excited about washing her face with mom's cleanser and moisturizer, and always happy to use our organic soap for her hands.  Thankfully I can have the utmost confidence that since those are literally made by me they are super pure!  But we still need these ideas spread to the rest of society and especially environments like schools where our children spend a lot of time.  Every person I speak with and try to share information about our toxin load problems as a society I know I'm saving someone else from irritation and disease.  Yes, it's my job to educate but I chose this line of work because of an interest in health.  While most of my clients are adults it is impossible to ignore that our children need clean care as well.  A need for natural skin and bodycare doesn't start at age 25 with a bad acne breakout or new allergies.  It begins before conception and continues throughout life.   

This one's for my baby and all the other mama's babies out there.  That includes you 30, 40, and 50 year olds.  You're somebody's baby too, so let's take care. How about if you eliminate antibacterial, perfumed soaps from your household this year in the interest of your safety and the safety of your family?  I challenge you to replace them all.  Just plain natural soap and water will keep you clean enough.

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