To Dye For: How Are Your Beauty Products Affecting Your Health?

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“From the time you wake up through the rest of your day, you should be examining what you’re putting on and in your body,” Dr. Leigh Erin Connealy, author of The Cancer Revolution, and one of the country’s leading integrative physicians says.

Is your shower water filtered? What kind of lotions are you putting on your body? What type of shampoo are you using? What are you eating for breakfast? In a world filled with toxins, preservatives and chemicals, cleaning up your routine, including the products you use on your skin and hair, is essential.

Dr. Leigh Erin Connealy

Detoxing 101

To combat the toxic environment, Dr. Connealy says to start with purified water.

“You should be drinking 20 ounces of purified water when you wake up, preferably with lemon,” she says. “Water is detoxing because the solution to pollution is dilution. Drinking water forces the movement of chemicals out of the body.”

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And since water is contaminated with chlorine and other chemicals, Connealy recommends investing in a water purifier not just for your drinking water, but also for your shower.

Next, take a look at your beauty products. The simpler the ingredient list, the better. Organic ingredients are best, and with countless options online, Connealy says organic make-up, lotions and hair products don’t have to cost and arm and a leg.

She also tells patients to visit Aveda salons to ensure they are getting hair color with natural ingredients and the safest possible hair products.

When it comes to nutrition, Dr. Connealy says buying organic foods from the farmer’s market is ideal, but not always possible. “A simple thing to do to detox is drink green juices or green powder if you’re having a hard time getting all your servings of fruit and veggies in,” she says.

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But the single greatest thing to do to detox is sweat. Exercise or use an infrared sauna to sweat out the toxins every day.

“If you want to detox, a sauna is the best, but an easier way to do it is an Epsom salt bath with baking soda and clay in it,” Connealy says. “Clay has been used forever to cleanse and detox the body. It’s phenomenal for cleaning skin, which is the largest detox organ in the body.”

Patients of Dr. Connealy go on a 21-day purification program and do liver cleansing as well, regardless of whether they come in with nothing wrong or a big problem.

“They all detox,” she says. “Because we’re living in a different world where we’re inundated with chemicals.”

Cancer and Beauty Product Ingredients
The purpose of detoxing regularly, eating clean and using beauty products with natural ingredients circles back to our overall health.

Cancer and other diseases have been linked to toxic ingredients in foods and products we use on our skin and hair, including hair dye.

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“But breast cancer is on the rise no matter what,” Connealy says. “Plenty of chemicals are the culprits for cancer—hair dyes are just one of them.”

The plastic containers everything is stored in are also problematic, as well as the preservatives used to keep food and beauty products fresh.

“The phthalates in plastics and preservatives are both endocrine disrupters,” she says. “They interfere with normal hormone functions.”

Beauty products with diethanolamine (DEA), which is used to make cosmetics creamy or sudsy, are also to be avoided.

“It’s dyes, plastics, preservatives—all cause cancer, heart disease and diabetes,” Connealy says. “So I tell patients to look for natural alternatives, and advise them to find an Aveda salon—especially for anyone who uses hair color.”

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Aveda hair color and products have significantly less chemicals and more natural ingredients, making them safer than traditional products, which are often packed with dangerous chemicals.

And for the stylists who work in salons all day, every day, with constant exposure to the toxins and chemicals in beauty products, Connealy advises investing in a good air purifier at work, and to detox regularly.

“It’s just like someone who paints cars every day,” she says. “Even if they wear a mask, they still need to take extra precautions.”

When working in a concentrated environment like a salon, drinking plenty of purified water daily and detoxing is even more important.

“Also—relax! The best thing to do is have that Epsom salt/baking soda/clay bath after work so you can relax and detox at the same time,” Connealy says. “We’re all going 100 miles per hour and a bath is neurologically relaxing.”

A Cleaner Lifestyle
For patients looking to clean up their beauty supply closet, Dr. Connealy says looking at the ingredients of everything that goes on (and in) their bodies is a must.

Is the ingredient list long and complicated? Don’t ingest it or put it on your skin. The simpler the list, the better.

Connealy’s top chemicals to watch out for include the preservatives BHA and BHT in addition to DEA. Parabens, formaldehyde, petroleum and perfumes (filled with dyes and chemicals) are also to be avoided.

“Natural alternatives to perfume are available in essential oils,” she says. “And petroleum is where gasoline comes from.”

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Methicone ingredients are another endocrine disrupter that can cause cancer, diabetes and other health issues.

“I tell all my patients to find an Aveda color specialist so they can use the most natural thing possible in their hair,” Connealy says.

And for women who choose to color their hair, she recommends getting lowlights/highlights as an alternative to all-over color.

“You’re still breathing in chemicals when the hairdresser is applying the color, but it’s the lesser evil since the color is not on the scalp,” she says.

While an entire population of women is not going to stop coloring their hair, Connealy says they can counteract it with detoxification.

“We’re all living in a toxic environment,” she says. “That’s just what the world is now. So detox with the sauna, an Epsom salt bath, liver cleanses—these things have been around for decades. When my patients detox, they feel better dramatically.

Exercise in another key factor in the equation to counteracting the environment.

“You should be moving all the time,” she says. “If you don’t move, you’re face doesn’t look as good. Exercise immediately increases circulation.”

Working detox bathes, purified water, nourishing food, natural beauty products, exercise and saunas into your routine are key to detoxifying. But Connealy says you can’t forget about a good night’s rest, too.

“If you end your day with a detox bath and meditation, that creates the tone for how you’re going to sleep,” she says. “And sleep is the most magical, restorative thing you can do.”

But ultimately, beauty comes from the inside out, and if you’re not happy, it doesn’t matter what else you do—you aren’t going to look good.

“If you’re grumpy, in a bad mood, cynical, or complain a lot, you don’t look good,” Connealy says. “If you decide to be happy and loving to people, you look much better. If you want to change the way you look, decide to be happy.”

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