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This article originally appeared on The Sovereign Investor on August 12th, 2014.
I find “old-fashioned” often means “high quality.” And too often we sacrifice quality for the sake of convenience.
Unfortunately, that convenience also often presents a number of health risks. And there’s one aspect of our morning ritual — spreading that store-bought shaving cream on your skin before a nice shave — that, though convenient, may in fact be exposing your skin to deadly toxins.
And that’s exactly what your typical shaving cream may be doing.
That’s why I roll my sleeves up and make my own, and why I’d like you to join me — because sometimes it’s best to put in a little extra effort if it means protecting your one and only body from potentially harmful substances.
But if making your own shaving cream doesn’t sound appealing, I’ll also recommend some trustworthy lathers you can spread on your skin.
But first, it’s best to know what exactly are the toxins in your shaving cream that you need to avoid — so you can look out for them in the future.
A skin cancer threat that’s not 93 million miles away
Our skin is a large and porous organ. Anything absorbed through our skin goes directly into our blood stream. This includes our personal-care products, which, taken together, contain thousands of different chemicals with varying toxicity. The Environmental Working Group estimates that about 20 percent of chemicals used in cosmetics could cause cancer. Yet these cancer-causing toxins are given a free pass.
By exposing ourselves to these chemicals, we’re not just making ourselves susceptible to skin irritation and infection. We run the risk of wiping out vital defense mechanisms that keep our bodies functioning.
The FDA doesn’t regulate cosmetics (no surprise there). Unregulated, these companies producing personal-care products, seeking to increase margins, might as well be playing mad scientist with our toiletries.
The cheaper the better, right?
Keep these toxins off your skin and out of your body
Barbasol may have led the charge in the shaving revolution: Their advertisements touted creams “for modern shaving” back when tubes sold for $0.25. The selling point was a less irritating, more convenient shave. But the results of that tagline are tragic and frightening. “Modern shaving” now means lathering yourself in toxins.
Gone are the days when a little cut was the biggest risk from shaving. Now, before we even pick up the razor, we run the risk of toxins penetrating our skin and making us sick.
Today, shaving cream on drug-store shelves has a fistful of toxic ingredients, including phthalates, parfum and triethanolamine — which also appear in many soaps, shampoos, detergents and toothpastes, so commit these bad boys to memory so you can look out for them on the labels (you do read your labels, right?).
Here’s the effects these toxins pose against your health:
Phthalates: Phthalates can disrupt the functioning of hormones, which can harm important balances throughout the entire body, including those impacting the immune system and brain. Traces of phthalate metabolites found in human urine are associated with obesity and insulin resistance in men because they inhibit testosterone function. About 80 percent of people are exposed to this type of toxin.
Parfum (fragrance): Would you rather smell good or live longer? Parfum is a potpourri of toxicity, with many of the 3,000 chemicals used to make fragrance untested — neither in isolation nor in combination. Some that have been submitted to lab tests, however, have been associated with neurotoxicity and cancer. So either perform the extensive research to determine what those cancer-causing chemicals are, or just cut the stuff.
Triethanolamine: This is what you get when you take two known toxins, create a reaction between them and put it in consumer products. Triethanolamine is a skin and respiratory toxicant. What’s more, animal studies have also shown Triethanolamine can cause bladder and liver cancer, as well as cell mutation in testicles. No, thank you!
Other offenders include parabens, which increase the risk of breast cancer in women, and sodium lauryl sulfate, which is toxic to organs and can cause cell mutation that leads to cancer.
The good news is that some of these toxins do not bioaccumulate. In other words: Your body is capable of flushing poisons out of your system under proper conditions that include eating right, drinking enough water and avoiding pharmaceuticals.
Steady exposure to toxins, however, can mean your body has trouble keeping up the fight. Despite your body’s natural efforts, you can become increasingly vulnerable as long as you continue applying poisons.
Thankfully, there’s a way around it all.
Stick to the good stuff
Frankly, we don’t always know how and why our bodies react to certain toxins. Studies can tell us a lot, but they mostly just reveal the common dangers. Some people are more susceptible to certain dangers than others.
Since it depends on so many variables, we should simply reduce our exposure to as many potential risks as we can.
Tossing your shaving cream in the trash can, for instance, will eliminate your exposure to toxins, no doubt. But it won’t help you get hair off your face (or legs). So when it comes time to shave, consider these four alternatives to chemical-laced creams:
Natural shave gels: Dr. Bronner’s Shaving Gel is an honest choice. I don’t prefer gels, so I haven’t personally tried it. But my experience with other Dr. Bronner’s products has been great. (I use their Castile Bar Soap for pretty much everything.)
Classic shave cream: Like shave gels, classic-style shaving cream doesn’t require much elbow grease. You can work it into lather directly on your face using your fingers or a brush, just as you would with any aerosol-canned product.
There are many choices and any decent barber shop should carry some for you to try. Be sure to double-check the ingredients, though, because plenty of “old-fashioned” brands use fragrance. Pacific Shaving Company makes a classic shave cream you can feel good about using. Or try Hal’s Deluxe. It was highly recommended to me by a friend, and seems like a safe bet.
Classic shave soap, brush and mug: If you’re truly ready to enjoy the high quality that comes with going old-fashioned, then a bar of shave soap is what you want.
A shop across the street from me sells a shave soap produced by a local farm. It surprisingly uses goat milk, and works well for me. You may luck out and find something similar at a farmers or artisans market near you. If not, try Badger or Imperial Glycerin. The latter won’t even require a mug.
Speaking of mugs, that is of course where you put the shave soap when you create a nice, thick lather. Any standard-size coffee mug will do the trick.
And you’re going to need a brush too.
Drop the soap in the mug. Add a little water. Swirl the brush over the soap steadily. And voila! Not too much to ask, huh?
Homemade shaving cream for the do-it-yourselfers: Some of us are simply more ambitious than others. If that’s you, and you want total control over your shaving cream, then make it yourself. Consider trying this simple method.
Add cedarwood oil for a nice manly, woodsy scent (and ladies may consider trying lavender oil). Plus, if you’re looking for additional health benefits, cedarwood oil acts as an antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and an antispasmodic, and it also helps with so many other things that plague folks on a an everyday basis.
If you spend an afternoon cooking up a batch of your own shaving cream, or if you find a natural shave soap that works well for you, I’d love to hear about it. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wherever and whoever you are, ditch the toxic foam. Try the natural stuff. And remember: Embrace the process. Let the extra effort be a reminder to yourself that you’re choosing quality and resisting a failing system.