November 25, 2013

Label Madness Monday

After yesterday’s less-than-cheerful post, I figure I ought to lighten things up a bit. So I offer today’s label dissection in the spirit of serving you up a smile today. And the humor starts before we even get a look at the thing. Because I came across this label not at a supermarket or health food store, but in a department store. That’s right, the kind that sells clothing, toys, housewares, electronics, and cosmetics. Some department stores sell food. This one wasn’t one of them. Or so I thought.

Check it out:

Hand lotion. Yes, I know I should stick to writing about food labels, but just stay with me on this one. Peach mango hand lotion. No big deal, right? It’s not like we’re about to slather this on a sandwich or dip raw carrots and celery in it. But the manufacturers have pulled out all the stops. Just in case we couldn’t be trusted not to eat our hand lotion, they’ve provided us with this nifty little reminder:

*Whew!* Thanks for the warning, Simple Pleasures® brand. Without it, I might’ve mistaken this bottle for mayonnaise or salad dressing.

Here’s the thing, though: this is a food. Just because we wouldn’t cram it down our pieholes doesn’t mean we’re not eating it when we use it for its intended purpose. What’s eating it, if not our mouths? How about our skin?! What do we think happens when we slather lotion, sunscreen, and the like on our skin? Our skin eats it! Those things get absorbed into the skin, right? In fact, with lotion, that’s kinda the whole point! For our skin to “soak up” the product and be less dry.

I’m not an expert on natural skin care, and this blog is not the place for me to speculate about the safety (or lack thereof) of ingredients like methylparabenpropylparaben, methylisothiazolinone, artificial colors, or triethanolamine (sometimes identified on cosmetics labels as TEA, not to be confused with the stuff you drink.). All I want to do is point out that if you rub this lotion on your hands, you are eating it just as surely as if you’d swallowed it. We know substances that get absorbed through the skin end up in our bloodstream, or there wouldn’t be nicotine patches, birth control patches, or transdermal delivery mechanisms for any pharmaceutical drugs.

I’m slowly moving toward more natural body care products. For a thirty-something-year-old woman, I use surprisingly few of these products to begin with. (In other words, my bathroom sink isn’t cluttered with bottles of this and tiny jars of that, and a man could easily identify all the contents of my purse.) A good rule of thumb seems to be: if you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin. (Kind of like that rule about cooking with sub-par wine: if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it.) And when I say slowly, I mean sloooowly. Little by little, I’m shifting away from products with long lists of things I don’t recognize, and that come with warnings about calling the poison control center. (Fluoride toothpastes come with that warning, in case you swallow more than is typically used for brushing. Isn’t it nice of many of our municipalities, then, to pour the stuff directly into our water supply? Awesome.) One thing I have not had success in finding is a good, natural deodorant. I’ve tried several brands and have been dissatisfied with all of them. (As I told a friend after one experiment with a product that was a deodorant but not an antiperspirant, “My armpits are soaked, but they smell like a cool mountain breeze!”)

Before we’re done for the day, I’ll leave you with one more thought related to all this. One of my NTA instructors pointed out something about non-stick cookware. He mentioned that after a while--especially if you haven't taken the best care of it--you start to notice that the non-stick surface isn’t quite as non-stick as it was when you bought it. The pan is scratched up, bits of the non-stick coating have flaked off, etc. So where did they go? Where did those bits of missing non-stick surface go? You ate them! (Some of them probably went down the drain after an overzealous cleaning, but you definitely ate some, too. And if the pan was really nonstick, you shouldn't have had to scrape anything off of it anyway!)

So just because certain things in our environments aren’t technically food doesn’t mean we don’t eat them—whether we know it or not. Eek!

(Thank goodness for the human liver and kidneys. The heart and the brain get all the credit for running our bodies, but it’s the liver and kidneys that filter out all the gunk we come in contact with. Your liver has enough to do already; stop distracting it with getting rid of parabens.)

That’s it for today. Just something to make us think. I promise next Monday I’ll be back to food labels.

P.S. This post probably applies mostly to women, but you men out there (the two of you who read this blog) aren’t immune to these issues. There are more and more “manscaping” products appearing all the time. Some of them get washed off pretty quickly (like shave gel), but some are designed to stay on, like sunscreen and skin cream. (It’s not just the froo-froo pink and flowery-smelling lotions that have questionable ingredients in them. The no-frills brand you use when you think no one is looking could be suspect…)

Remember: Amy Berger, M.S., NTP, is not a physician and Tuit Nutrition, LLC, is not a medical practice. The information contained on this site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any medical condition.


  1. The fluoride they pour into your water supplies isn't even pharmaceutical grade - it's the waste product of fertilizer manufacture.

    1. Don't get me started on fluoride. I believe mass fluoridation was started with good intentions, but at this point I have to wonder if it's just a conspiracy to sell more thyroid medication. Quite the halogen mess we've gotten ourselves into.