Most of us are well accustomed to reading the labels on the packaging of the foods we eat. But how many of us pay attention to the labels on the skin care products we use? Our skin is the largest organ of our bodies, directly absorbing what we put on it; depending on which study you look at, absorption rates through the skin are estimated at 60 percent and upward. And the most arresting factor of that to consider is that at least the foods we eat go through our kidneys and livers to be detoxified to some extent whereas substances absorbed through the skin bypass any such protection.
“Even with skin care products labeled ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ you have to read the labels; you have to know what’s in it,” cautions Michele Tomasicchio, creator of the Made With Love line of natural skin care products made with pure essential oils distilled from herbs and plants. “And just because a product is handcrafted doesn’t mean it’s ‘all natural.’ There are a lot of handcrafters out there, but I’ve found that some of them are buying pre-made mixes and then adding fragrance oils, and there is a difference between pure essential oils, which have healing properties and affect you emotionally as well as physically, versus fragrance oils, that can give you headaches and skin rashes.”
Some producers of ‘all natural’ skin care lines use soybean oil, says Tomasicchio, because it’s inexpensive. “But soybean oil is a phyto-estrogen and it’s genetically modified. A lot of cancers are hormone driven, so if you’re putting products on your skin made with soybean oil, your skin absorbs that.” Many of the commercially made skin care products use chemicals that are banned in other countries, she adds. Many use parabens as antimicrobial agents to extend the shelf-life of the product. “Look at the labels, it’s always at the end, as methylparaben, ethylparaben… and there’s a big link to cancer with these, they’re finding it in breast cancer tissue. My mother’s oncologist told her [after the fact] not to use any products with parabens in them, but why aren’t we made aware of this before it creates problems?”
Tomasicchio preserves her Made With Love line of products using fermented radish root, a byproduct of kimchi that acts as an antimicrobial agent. “But the products are meant to be used,” she says. “Don’t collect them and leave them on the shelf. They do have a shelf life of eight months to a year, depending on the product, but use them. I do have customers who like to stock up, so I tell them to keep it in the fridge until they’re ready to use it.” It’s all about changing our mindset, really, she says. “It’s like buying a fresh handmade pie versus something commercially made that has preservatives in it, or when you buy fresh mozzarella. You enjoy it right away [and don’t have to worry about its shelf life].”
Educating people about the value of all natural products is a big part of Tomasicchio’s drive, and why she does home shows and speaking engagements like those she’s done with breast cancer survivor groups. “I’m really passionate about what I do and letting people know about the chemicals in commercial products. I’m here to educate people and say, ‘here is a different option,’ 100 percent handcrafted, made from scratch with plant-based, pure essential oils, no pre-made mixes, and no parabens, petroleum or fake fragrances.” Kiwi and pomegranate, she notes, are fragrances commonly found in commercial products, “but those don’t come from the plant, you can’t make an essential oil out of those things.”