That is truly a difficult answer since we are exposed to literally thousands of synthetics every day, from rubber in our tires to synthetic material in our clothing, soap, shampoo and even our food! It is almost impossible to determine an exact amount of synthesized materials that we are exposed to everyday.
I can answer your question with an excerpt from my book, An Eco-Babe’s Guide to Greening It.
Roughly 60 percent of what is applied to the skin can be absorbed directly into the blood stream. How can this be proven? Recently, there has been an influx of medications that are being administered through skin patches, such as nicotine and birth control. If you can absorb your birth control through your skin, doesn’t it make sense that you could absorb your makeup and lotion too?
This is why rubbing lotion on our skin, actually softens it, and why our fingers become wrinkled when we bathe. Cosmetic ingredients are designed to penetrate the skin. This is the main selling point! How else is that crème supposed to remove wrinkles or tan your skin! One specialist, Dr. Haushka, estimated that a single woman could absorb about 30 pounds worth of moisturizer ingredients over the course of 60 years. Aveda, a company that chooses to use natural ingredients, estimates that during our lifetime, we eat four tubes of lipstick! I never thought about it that way before, but why else would companies make flavored lip balm? It’s so we lick it off our lips and have to reapply more. Some of the more dangerous chemicals are penetration enhancers because they are put in place to make the product absorb into our skin.
Scientists have found many of these ingredients in human tissues such as phthalates in urine, parabens in breast tumor tissue, and musk xylene in human fat. The problem is that recent studies are showing that these ingredients are linked with health problems. More research needs to be done, but do you really want to take a chance that you are poisoning yourself and your family?
To learn about the safety of ingredients in personal care products, the Environmental Working Group has compiled an electronic database of ingredient labels for 32,065 name-brand products and cross-linked it with 49 toxicity or regulatory databases. You can view it at
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