3 Reasons You Should Use Sunscreen in Winter

We are particular about applying sunscreen during summer, however most of us stop using sunscreen as the seasons change and winter rolls by. Contrary to popular belief, even as we swap tank tops and shorts for long coats and mitten, it is still crucial that we use sunscreen during the winter.

Always apply sunscreen!

Winter intensifies suns’ rays

Snow and ice can reflect up to 90% of the UV rays. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that everyone wears sunscreens daily as Ultraviolet radiation (UV) rays from the sun often result in damage and mutations in our DNA. In fact, there is a strong positive relation between UV exposure from the sun and the increase of non melanoma skin cancers. Besides that UV rays are also the main cause of wrinkles according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Even though we hardly notice the sun during winter, don’t forget that the reflective rays are still harmful!

Sunscreen has anti aging properties

Sunscreen stops you from aging!

Do you feel your skin get drier during winter? Are there fine lines appearing out of the blue? Fine lines appear due to the UV rays that penetrate and damage collagen and elastin in your skin. Sunscreen acts as a barrier that moisturizes and protects your skin against the dry, harsh, winter weather, as well as provide a protective film that reflects UV rays from penetrating your skin. Furthermore, the ozone layer which traps most UV rays is the thinnest during winter, according to Beaumont Organization. It is important to protect ourselves with sunscreen especially from 10am to 4pm as that is when sunrays are at its strongest. A 4 year study conducted in Australia compared skin aging in 900 men and women. The results found that those who used sunscreen had no detectable increase and even 24% less skin aging compared to those who did not. This study shows concrete evidence that sunscreen does have anti aging properties.

Winter conditions remove sunscreen faster

Sweating off sunscreen is a tell tale sign you need to reapply sunscreen. However, we don’t sweat during winter, making it hard to remember to reapply sunscreen. Some people even think that because we don’t sweat, the sunscreen is still there and applying it once in the morning is more than enough. Shockingly, the harsh winds wear sunscreens faster and makes them lose its effectiveness according to The Skin Cancer Foundation. We are recommended to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, and immediately after sweating for sunscreen to protect your skin.

How do we choose sunscreens?

With the variety of the types of sunscreens on supermarket shelves, how do we choose the right sunscreens for us? What do the SPF numbers mean?

What does the SPF numbers mean?

What do SPF numbers mean?

SPF numbers, or sun protection factor, don’t show the strength of the sunscreen. Instead, it is the duration you can go before reapplying. There’s a little math involved. If you were to get a sunburn after 10 minutes without sunscreen, after applying SPF 30, you can stay 30x longer (300 minutes / 5 hours) before getting sunburnt.

There are 2 major types of sunscreens

two teal and yellow labeled containers
  • Physical sunscreens

Physical sunscreens are also known as mineral sunscreens that function like a mirror and reflects the suns rays. Titanium dioxide (TiO2) and zinc oxide (ZnO) are what gives sunscreens the white sheen we see on our skin and if physical sunscreens don’t appear white, it means that the the ingredients in the sunscreen isn’t high enough to protect you from the sun.

  • Chemical sunscreens

Chemical sunscreens absorb suns’ rays and dissipate it away as heat. The pros of sunscreens is that it stays on the skin for a longer duration of time. However, chemical sunscreens are bad for the environment as it forms byproducts that are harmful to the environment and marine life, leading some organizations to ban the use of certain ingredients in sunscreens.

Ingredients you should avoid in you chemical sunscreens:

Check out our in depth discussion of physical and chemical sunscreens here!

All in all

Sunscreen should be used all year round, especially during winter. When choosing sunscreen for you, it is important to calculate SPF and constantly reapply sunscreen every two hours to protect your skin against the harsh winds and invisible UV rays. While physical sunscreens are au natural, they tend to wash off easily. While chemical sunscreens last longer, certain ingredients are harmful for the environment and marine life. Hence, if you want to use chemical sunscreens, make sure to avoid ingredients that may potentially harm the environment.

Nail Polish: Pretty Poison

We are against surrounding ourselves with toxic products, however, we are more tolerant when putting them on ourselves. Nail polish can be a creative outlet for women to experiment with different color pops. However, little do we know the nail polish we use are harmful to our bodies and some common ingredients are even classified as endocrine disruptors and carcinogens.

You need a chemistry degree to understand the string of chemical compounds on nail polish ingredient labels. Most of them are benign, but some can have drastic effects to our health. Hence, we need ingredient analyzers such as 1Source, EWG, Thinkdirty which summarizes ratings, functions and uses of chemical compounds into comprehensible points for the public. Check out our article on health apps that can help filter out the skincare noise.

PRI Legend
1Source product rating system

If you don’t have the time to search up every single ingredient or nail polish product, here is a quick guide on what to look out for when purchasing nail polish.

Watch out for words such as “organic”, “natural”

The lack of regulations allows companies to use labels such as “organic” and “natural”, with the intent of misleading consumers into purchasing their products. Just because a product is “natural”, doesn’t mean that it is better, as “natural” products may still contain toxic ingredients. Sometimes, toxic ingredients aren’t even written down, and even if they were, its effects may not be found in the

The toxic trio

Colorful nail polish

While most chemicals in nail polish are not harmful, there is 3 particular chemicals you need to look out for.

Dibutyl Phthalate: This chemical compound is used to help make plastics soft and flexible. According to ZME Science, this compound may cause short term effects like nausea and irritated eyes, skin, nose, mouth and throat. According to the US California Proposition 65, DBP is known to the States as a substance that has damaging effects on both male and female reproductive system. In general, this substance has been prohibited by the European Commission for use in cosmetic products.

Toluene: This substance is a paint thinner and is the primary ingredient for the recreational “glue sniffing”. Dizziness, numbness, dry skin, and irritated nose, eyes, and throat are some of the side effects of coming in contact with toluene. The Hong Kong Consumer Council has labelled toluene-2,5-diamine (PTD) as an “extreme sensitizer” and that even “a small amount of sensitizers could trigger allergic skin reactions in some people” despite complying with concentration standards set in Mainland China and the European Union. Although there are generally low amounts of toluene in nail polish, be careful as different people have different sensitivity to this substance.

Formaldehyde: This substance is a common ingredient that functions as a preservative in cosmetic products. In view of its widespread use, toxicity, and volatility, formaldehyde poses a significant danger to human health. In 2011, the US National Toxicology Program described formaldehyde as “known to be a human carcinogen”. The FDA bans the use of formaldehyde in all cosmetics except nail polish, however a limit is placed.

Endocrine disruptors

Triphenyl phosphate is a common chemical compound in nail polish. However, researchers from Duke University and Environmental Working Group found this to be a hormone disrupting chemical. It is concerning that endocrine disrupters are being marketed to women and teenage girls. Furthermore, the study found that this compound is absorbed by the body after each use.

Do we need to stop using nail polish altogether?

Nail polish adds a dash of color to your look!

No. The occasional polish does not pose a threat as the concentrations of toxic ingredients are generally low. However, take care of your cuticles to minimize contact between nail polish and skin as the chemicals may be absorbed into the skin and ensure ventilation in the room so you’re not constantly inhaling the fumes.

Choose “non toxic” nail polish instead

Use sites and apps such as 1Source, Skindeep, and Environmental Working Group to search up ingredients and products on their cosmetic database to find out the functions and ratings of chemical compounds and different cosmetic products. Use these apps and sites to look up “safer” nail polishes for you and choose to use those without toxic ingredients listed above.

Opt for “five free” nail polish. Five free polishes refer to nail polish that does not contain five toxic ingredients: dibutyl phthalate, toluene, formaldehyde, resin and camphor. According to Harvard Health, although camphor is a good topical remedy, it can be toxic when consumed from the mouth while other chemical compounds such as formaldehyde resin, dibutyl phthalate, and toluene may cause allergic dermatitis. Some brands market themselves as “seven free” or even “ten free”.

Nails add a pop of color to our look. By being more careful and selective about nail polish brands, we can have beautiful nails and stay safe at the same time!

Masks: Crucial Tips You Can’t Forget in Covid Times

With up to 55.1 million cases and 1.33 million deaths, the surging demand for surgical masks have created a global shortage for masks and spiked anxiety among the public to stock up masks. Masks have since become a necessity for people when venturing outdoors as some shops may even bar a person’s entry if they do not don on masks. Here are some things to keep in mind to protect yourself and you’re loved ones!

Never reuse surgical masks

Given its shortage and short term usability, people have been trying to find ways and means to maximize its use. There have been rumors popping all over the internet that bacteria can be killed after steaming, boiling or poaching masks at high temperatures. However, none of these are true.

A study was conducted by the University of Hong Kong-Shenzhen Hospital, Hong Kong Consumer Council, Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute, Hong Kong Science Park, and the Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering of the City University of Hong Kong to find out the level of filtration of both surgical and DIY masks after the above attempts of sterilizing and cleaning.

Masks were sterilized using two approaches:

  • The outer layer of surgical masks was sprayed with 75% alcohol- based hand rub.
  • Surgical masks were washed with soap water at 60 degrees.

The results were analyzed using a scanning electron microscope.

Test 1- Observation of the water resistant layer:

  • After the outer layer was sprayed with alcohol, the structure of water resistant layer was recorded to have been damaged.
  • After a 60 degree wash, the water resistant layer was recorded to have shrunk.

Test 2- Observation of the filtration layer:

  • The middle layer for filtration was observed to be damaged after sterilized with alcohol.
  • After the soap wash, the middle layer was observed to have shrunk and was deformed.

Moral of the story, don’t reuse masks. Using a contaminated mask is as bad as not using one.

How to dispose surgical masks properly

As the pandemic surged, masks have been used and incorrectly disposed. In March 2020, groups of environmentalists in Hong Kong raised awareness about the increasing number of masks appearing on beaches. Not only are surgical masks a threat to marine life and wild life habitats, incorrect disposal of masks may lead to bacteria and or other viruses to multiply and spread.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends discarding masks into its designated bin directly after use. Masks or other protective gear used in the pandemic should not be thrown away in your general household rubbish as to prevent the virus from multiplying.

According to Iberdrola, the Brazilian Sanitary and Environmental Engineering Association has compiled the ideal way to dispose used masks and gloves. The items you want to dispose should be placed in two small plastic bags, one after another, then tied and thrown with your usual household waste. Take the initiative to write “risk of contamination”, should you have been in contact with an infected person.

How to dispose of masks correctly.
How to dispose of masks correctly. Credits to IBERDROLA

Cloth masks can save the environment

The 3 ply design in surgical masks is comprised of 3 layers, the water resistant layer, middle layer, and inner layer to absorb moisture, and is crucial to protect one’s self and the people around them. However, surgical masks is made of plastic, which is harmful to the environment and can only be used once. Check out our article on how plastic can end up harming us. Hence, many people opt for cloth masks as a more sustainable option. But, just how effective are cloth masks? Do they protect us enough?

Cloth masks and surgical masks are both considered contaminated after use, but surgical masks are meant to be disposed off while cloth masks can be washed and reused. A study conducted among Vietnam health care workers in 2011 showed that if cloth masks were washed in hospital laundry, it can be as effective as surgical masks. The study also showed that health care workers who hand washed their own masks had up to double the risk of infection compared to masks washed in hospital laundry.

The World Health Organization recommends washing masks with laundry detergent in a washing machine at 60 degrees Celsius for the wash to be effective.

Some are worried that some fabrics, structure and design of certain cloth masks may not be enough to ward of pathogens, however, experts say that unless you’re a frontline worker, there isn’t much to worry about. The primary function of the cloth mask is to protect other people by containing respiratory droplets before they are expelled into the air.

A laboratory study used laser light scattering methodology to visualize respiratory droplets of different sizes. The research found that blocking the person’s mouth with a damp cloth blocked out nearly all of the “particles”. A real case scenario involved an infected man in Wuhan who flew to Toronto. Although he was tested positive for Covid, no other passengers contracted the illness as he wore a mask throughout the flight. A more recent case involved two hairstylist in Missouri who worked for a total of 140 clients while infected with Covid, however, due no clients tested positive for the illness as the hairstylists wore masks.

These studies are convincing cases to emphasize and encourage the use of masks. A recent study used publicly available data to observe the correlation between the growth rate of Covid-19 after mask mandates in 15 states and the district of Columbia between March and late May 2020. Researchers found a strong positive co relation between mask mandates and the decline in Covid cases. Researchers estimated that mask mandates may have prevented up to 450,000 cases of Covid. Although masks can never be 100% effective, in combination with other prevention methods such as social distancing and sanitizing regularly, we can keep each other safe and get through this together. As perfectly summarized in an article by MIT Medical:

 “Your mask protects other people; their masks protect you.”

Thanksgiving: Things you didn’t know that were found by the Native Americans

Everyone loves a good origin story. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are some things that were invented or discovered by the Native Americans!

Corn

10,000 years ago, Native Americans discovered the secret of growing and harvesting corn. European colonists were taught this secret, turning corn into a staple crop around the world. Today, corn is a crucial part of our Thanksgiving feast to remind us of our heritage.

Furthermore, according to Mayo Clinic, this crop has many health benefits. It is rich in fiber which helps with digestion, has vitamin B and minerals like magnesium, copper and manganese crucial for our body. Furthermore, the carotenoid in corn acts as an antioxidant, is good for our eyes, and is what gives corn its bright yellow color. 

Chinampa

If you are an agriculture enthusiast, you would probably know about the origin of the chinampa fields. Chinampa is a method of farming that is still used today in Mexico, crops like maize, beans, chilies, squash and tomatoes e.t.c grows on these small islands of farm.

According to Amanda Pell, a writer for Upworthy, she argues that chinampas should be the answer to sustainable farming. The method of chinampa feeds people, and at the same time, creates biodiversity. It filters and manages water levels, reduces the amount of greenhouse gases being released to the atmosphere, and has a waste system. This technique has also contributed to the method of the now globally common agriculture style, raised-bed farming.

Anesthetics and Pain Relievers

Native Americans used the plant Datura stramonium (jimson weed) to heal external injuries like cuts and bruises. They would do this by grinding the root of the plant, turning it into a plaster. The plant would also be ingested to act as an anesthetic during the procedure of setting broken bones.

They also used the bark of another plant, Salix nigra (American black willow), to make tea with anti pain and inflammation properties. This plant contains salicin, the chemical that makes the famous salicylic acid, a popular chemical compound found in most skincare products in the cosmetic industry.

Hot peppers were also used as a pain reliever. They contain capsaicin. According to Versus Arthritis, it reduces substance P, a pain transmitter found in the nerves. 

These discoveries are very important as anesthetics and pain relievers play major roles in the medical world, whether they be used for surgery, healing a wound, or helping with a patient’s pain. Without them, they might not be as advanced or as common as today. 

Birth control

In the 1700s, Native Americans ingested Lithospermum ruderale (Columbia Puccoon) to prevent pregnancy. Today there is a big market for birth control pills to not only decrease the chance of unwanted pregnancy, but to also help with painful menstruation, hormonal acne and PMS.

To read more, check out our article on birth control pills.

Petroleum

Petroleum is an important fossil fuel found beneath land and ocean floors. It produces electricity, power transportation and makes petroleum jelly (or vaseline). 

Native Americans first sunk pits as deep as 15 to 20 feet in the oil creek to extract petroleum. These pits would also have wooden walls. A french general in 1750 recorded that the Native Americans would have ceremonies where they would light the oil on fire, and would lather their skin with petroleum jelly.


References:

“10 Native American Inventions – HISTORY.” 14 Nov. 2019, https://www.history.com/news/native-american-inventions. Accessed 26 Nov. 2020.

“10 Native Inventions and Innovations That Changed the World.” 29 Jun. 2014, https://indiancountrytoday.com/archive/10-native-inventions-and-innovations-that-changed-the-world-M0ZwDx1Ku0mQvn4Jn0KP4Q. Accessed 26 Nov. 2020.

“Symbols and Icons of Thanksgiving – Movers.com.” 12 Nov. 2009, https://www.movers.com/guides/symbols-and-icons-of-thanksgiving.html. Accessed 26 Nov. 2020.

“Chinampas: What they are, how they work, and … – Upworthy.” https://www.upworthy.com/chinampas. Accessed 26 Nov. 2020.

“Ancient Aztec farming technique has many benefits ….” 19 Nov. 2019, https://www.freshfruitportal.com/news/2019/11/19/ancient-aztec-farming-technique-could-aid-urban-farming-study-finds/. Accessed 26 Nov. 2020.

“Capsaicin | Uses, side-effects | Versus Arthritis.” https://www.versusarthritis.org/about-arthritis/complementary-and-alternative-treatments/types-of-complementary-treatments/capsaicin/. Accessed 26 Nov. 2020.

Birth Control Pills are harmful

Like periods, sex, and other intimate topics, birth control used to be a taboo. However, in this modern day and age, birth control pills (BCP) are taken by numerous women around the world for a plethora of reasons. Taken orally, the primary function of birth control pills are to manipulate the hormone levels in women such that the chance of conceiving a child is lowered. Comprised of the hormones estrogen and/ or only progestin, it’s hormone regulating properties is used to regulate menstruation, relieve symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), clear up hormonal acne and more.

Birth control pills are a popular form of contraception, however, there are dark sides to this pill. According to a news report by The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in 2013, the pill was suspected to have killed 23 women, including a girl as young as 14 years of age. Lawyers, doctors and pharmacists has found a correlation between the deaths and the use of popular BCP brands such as Yaz and Yasmin which are manufactured by Bayer AC. Multiple lawsuits led the German multinational pharmaceutical company to pay up a staggering $1 billion to settle lawsuits in the US alone.

Reactons from taking the Birth Control Pill

 Here is a summary report conducted by Health Canada observing the pill taker’s reactions.

The general reaction includes:

  • Cardiac disorders
  • Vascular disorders
  • Respiratory, thoracic & mediastinal disorders
  • Gastrointestinal disorder

Yaz pills:

  • Hepatobiliary disorders 

Yasmin pills:

  • Psychiatric disorders
  • Nervous system disorders
  • Musculoskeletal and connective tissue disorders
  • Injury, poisoning and procedural complications 
  • Infections and infestations

So what makes these brands more dangerous than their competitors? Synthetic drospirenone, which shows a higher risk of blood clots, the suspected main cause of the deaths. 

However, there is no substantial evidence tying drospirenone and blood clotting in birth control pills. According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), an issued statement only said pills with drospirenone “may” be associated to the risks as there were mixed results. Positive results to the statement shows that the risk of blood clots is as high as three times than pills not containing drospirenone. While negative results show no additional risk at all.  

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), a healthy 27 year old woman suddenly fell into a stroke which was suspected to be caused by the intake of BCP for several months. As a results, she was diagnosed with a cryptogenic stroke and an end of her BCP routine. 

Birth control pills cause migrane?

There is no substantial proof that confirms BCPs as the culprit. However, it is the most likely cause as the woman had no history of health problems or migraines, and the only major change in her lifestyle was the consumption of BCPs. According to Loyola University Health System, the speculation of BCPs increasing the risk of strokes in women started in 1962. Pills with higher dosage of synthetic estrogen was scrutinized.

Today, this particular BCP formula is no longer in use. However, strokes can still occur if there are already additional potential stroke risk such as smoking, hypertension and migraines.

These side effects can be annoying and lead women to opt to get off the pill. Nikki Gonda, the founder of My Moonbox shared her personal experience online.

“For me, I said goodbye to the cramps & heavy irregular periods, but I also said hello to 6 years of anxiety, depression, UTIs, thrush & thinking I was crazy. And if that wasn’t enough, when I finally came off the pill, not only did my symptoms resurface but I also was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, leaky gut, & my period didn’t return for over a year later”

– Nikki Gonda

Despite the risks, you should not be afraid of BCPs. The purpose of this article is not to instill fear in taking BCPs, but rather inform the public on its potential side effects as the media often portrays BCPs as a wonder pill that regulates hormones while downplaying its side effects.

Choose your birth control pills carefully!

According to Dr Zoe Williams and Dr Carol Cooper who appeared on This Morning, they mentioned that the pill is extensively researched on and is considered safe, while there are negative complications, they are extremely rare, the pill would be put for good use safely if the women take the right pill for themselves. The varying thing in BCPs are its concentrations of hormones and different women respond differently to different hormone concentrations. Hence, it is crucial to try out which BCP works for you instead of just reading reviews online.

Making any type of birth control decision is very personal and important, therefore one must be informed beforehand. If you are looking into getting birth control of any method, do a lot of research and consult professionals especially if you have concerns or questions. 


References:

 “Yaz, Yasmin birth control pills suspected in 23 deaths – CBC.ca.” 11 Jun. 2013, https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/yaz-yasmin-birth-control-pills-suspected-in-23-deaths-1.1302473. Accessed 25 Nov. 2020.

 “FDA Drug Safety Communication: Updated information about ….” 10 Apr. 2012, https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-drug-safety-communication-updated-information-about-risk-blood-clots-women-taking-birth-control. Accessed 25 Nov. 2020.

 “Oral Contraceptives and Ischemic Stroke Risk | Stroke.” https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/STROKEAHA.117.020084. Accessed 25 Nov. 2020.

“Birth control pills increase risk of ischemic stroke: But risk is ….” 5 Mar. 2018, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180305092949.htm. Accessed 25 Nov. 2020.

 “Is the Contraceptive Pill Safe? – Part 1 | This Morning – YouTube.” 27 Jul. 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GMImQWHlFBI. Accessed 25 Nov. 2020.

Hair Dye Dangers: harmful chemicals in hair dye and other alternatives

Today, hair dyeing is a no newfound trend but is rather part of an aesthetic or a self-care ritual. Fun fact: Hair dye was accidentally created by William Henry Perkin in his attempt to generate a cure for malaria in 1863. However, do people even know what they put their hair through just to change its color?

The anatomy of hair

The hair strand (shaft) are made of three parts:

Medulla: this is the core of hair.


Cortex: the medulla is covered by a thick layer of cells containing keratin proteins, moisture and melanin, all of which contribute to our natural hair texture and color.

Cuticle: this is a protective layer which is made up of overlapping scales.

the structure of a hair shaft

The types of hair dyes

There are 3 major types of hair dyes:

Temporary dye:

Only sticks to the surface of the cuticle, and will be easily washed off with a shampoo wash.

Semi-permanent dye:

This dye is made up of tiny pigment molecules that slip by the cuticle and stick to the cortex of the hair. The dye will be washed off after multiple shampoo washes.

Permanent dye:

As they are made to last, permanent hair dye contain a lot of chemicals. In particular, alkaline chemicals such as ammonia breaks up the overlapping scale structure of the cuticle by softening them. Then a developer is used to oxidize the melanin in the cortex, turning it colorless. The developers also create the chemical reaction that brings in the new color to the hair. These new pigments are then trapped beneath the cuticle, and are resistant towards shampoo washes.

How are hair dyes regulated?

According to the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), they cannot take action against hair dye corporations if the product contains harmful ingredients that are listed as warning labels. Coal-tar hair dyes in particular, do not need approval from the FDA as long as they have caution labels.

Fun fact: Although hair dye colouring materials are mostly from petroleum, FDA still keeps its original name (Coal-tar), which originated from the fact that colouring materials were by-products of coal industries.

The EU on the other hand, has more simple and strict regulations. As hair dyes are categorized as cosmetics, the manufacturer must be able to provide evidence of scientific assessment on the product, showing that substances used would not cause any harm to consumers. Currently, there are more than 180 ingredients banned in the cosmetic department.

Do hair dyes cause cancer?

We don’t exactly know. According to the American Cancer Society, the research on hair dye and it’s correlation to cancer is very mixed.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) shows that workers who are exposed to hair dyes such as hairdressers and barbers have an increased risk of getting bladder cancer. However, the research also shows that there is no consistent increase of bladder cancer in people who personally uses hair dye.

The results of blood-related cancers are also mixed. The research shows that there is a higher risk of lymphoma in hair dye users, especially if the use began before the 1980s, or if the person uses dark hair dyes. However there are also contradictory results, hence, there is no definite answer.

The possible reason why darker hair dyes may increase the risk of blood-related cancer could be because they contain more coloring agents and carcinogen chemicals.

The National Toxicology Program also conducted research on hair dyes (and chemical straightener) and its possibility of being a carcinogen. They found that women who regularly use hair dye has a 9% more chance of contracting breast cancer compared to those who don’t use hair dye. Interestingly, black women who use permanent hair dye have a 60% higher chance of contracting breast cancer while white women has only 8%.

As suggested by Alexandra White, Ph.D., head of the NIEHS Environment and Cancer Epidemiology Group, “the dye that’s marketed to white women might be different than the dye that’s marketed to black women just because of the texture of the hair…maybe the application process is different, or the amount of dye that’s needed to be used is different.”

However the evidences is not credible enough to pinpoint that hair dye is a direct cause of breast cancer. Especially since the women that were experimented on had sisters who have breast cancer, doubling the chances of developing the cancer, “We are exposed to many things that could potentially contribute to breast cancer, and it is unlikely that any single factor explains a woman’s risk.

Overall, to quote the conclusion of the research conducted by the IARC

“Cancer in humans:

  • There is limited evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of occupational exposures as a hairdresser or barber.
  • There is inadequate evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of personal use of
    hair colorants.”

“Overall evaluation:

  • Occupational exposures as a hairdresser or barber are probably carcinogenic to humans
    Personal use of hair colorants is not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans”

Just as the IARC, the NTP have not classified hair dye as carcinogenic, however they have laid out other health affects and have named harmful chemicals in the product.

Harmful Chemicals in hair dye and it’s effects

Triclosan: Disrupts estrogen hormones. In 2017, the FDA declared Triclosan to be harmful. According to Clinical and Experimental Allergy, they found that children exposed to triclosan has an increased chance of asthma, allergies, eczema and rhinitis.

Ammonia: Ammonia irritates the skin, eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. In addition, this chemical damages the hair cuticle, leaving it dry, brittle and unhealthy.

P-Phenylenediamine (PPD): Many hair dye users who looks for alternative hair dye tends to look for Ammonia-free dyes. However, according to Dr Rohit Batra of
Dermaworld Skin & Hair Clinics, allergies and irritations still form as PPD is the real culprit.

Lead acetate: Commonly found in men’s hair dye, this chemical is harmful to skin contact, when inhaled, and is suspected of causing cancer, genetic defect and fertility problems. This substance has been prohibited by the European Commission for use in cosmetic products.

Toluene: This chemical not only can cause temporary effects such as headaches and skin irritations, but it can be linked to fertility and pregnancy problems and respiratory complications.

Advice: If you want to die your hair

If you’re looking to dye your hair a natural dark colour such as black, brown or burgundy. Stick to henna hair dyes! Henna works as a natural alternative to permanent hair dye. It doesn’t involve a chemical process but rather the natural pigment (lawsone) coats itself to the hair shaft, migrating through the gaps of the cuticle, binding itself to the keratin, making it resistant to hair washes.

Henna is also used to make beautiful body art

In addition, henna also gives the hair a lot of benefits. It protects the cuticles, keeping the hair healthy, moisturized, and prevents the hair from ageing. Just remember to be cautious of the henna you’re buying as it may have (PPD) or other harmful ingredients, look out for the ones that are 100% organic.

If you absolutely want a fresh hair color, opt for temporary or semi-permanent hair dyes. These dyes have less damaging ingredients and does not usually involve bleaching of the hair. A misconception is that staying with safe hair dyes means you cannot play with fun colors. However, temporary hair dye brands specifically formulate their dye to work with dark hair to achieve the vibrant look.


References:

 “Hair Dyes | FDA.” 30 Oct. 2018, https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-products/hair-dyes. Accessed 19 Nov. 2020.

 “Good to know about hair dyes – ECHA.” https://chemicalsinourlife.echa.europa.eu/good-to-know-about-hair-dyes. Accessed 19 Nov. 2020.

“Hair Dyes – American Cancer Society.” https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/hair-dyes.html. Accessed 19 Nov. 2020.

“OCCUPATIONAL EXPOSURES OF HAIRDRESSERS AND ….” https://monographs.iarc.fr/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/mono99-17.pdf. Accessed 19 Nov. 2020.

“Cosmetics and Hair Dye – National Institute of Environmental ….” https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/materials/cosmetics_and_hair_dye_508.pdf. Accessed 20 Nov. 2020.

 “Permanent Hair Dye and Straighteners May Increase Breast ….” https://www.niehs.nih.gov/news/newsroom/releases/2019/december4/index.cfm. Accessed 20 Nov. 2020.

“Triclosan Exposure and Allergic Sensitization in Norwegian ….” 12 Nov. 2012, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3515701/. Accessed 20 Nov. 2020.

“Hair dye reactions : Causes, Diagnosis, Symptoms and ….” 2 Feb. 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKkAHhK5qcs. Accessed 20 Nov. 2020.

Tattoo Taboo: Think before you Ink

Tattooing is a widespread art and tradition practiced all around the world, with its earliest practice dating back around 3400-3100 BC. For an age old industry packed with culture and heritage, not a lot about it is actually known. 

According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), tattoo inks are not regulated due to the fact that there are other public health priorities and a lack of evidence behind hypothesized safety problems associated with tattoo inks. This leads to the issue of unregulated tattoo inks in different countries. The General Product Safety Directive (GPSD) in the EU lacks strict regulations on tattoo inks as they are mostly imported from the US, while permanent make up inks are generally manufactured in Europe.

Minimalist tattoos

‘Tattoos cause skin cancer’ – Myth or Fact?

It’s kind of both. First of all, there is no scientific research that shows the correlation between tattoos and skin cancer, so no, tattoos do not cause skin cancer. However, there is evidence that shows some tattoo ink have been found to contain carcinogenic chemicals. 

According to a survey conducted by Swiss regulators, 7% of 229 of tattoo inks are found to contain formaldehyde – a carcinogen recognized by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. 24% of tattoo inks are found to contain benzisothiazolinone, and methylisothiazolinone in 8%. These preservative chemicals can cause skin irritation, itchy rash and even chemical burns.

Research conducted by Joint Research Centre also found that tattoo inks, particularly black inks, contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The results show most of the PAHs are carcinogens and toxic to the cells in the dermis.

PAHs are a class of chemicals that occur naturally in coal, crude oil, and gasoline. We are exposed to it in our daily lives when breathing in air contaminated with motor vehicle exhaust and cigarette smoke or eating grilled or charred foods. In addition, workers who have been exposed to large amounts of PAHs from skin contact have been found to develop blood and liver abnormalities.

Colored inks are as bad as black inks – perhaps even worse?

A survey analyzed 226 tattoo inks, and results showed that tattoo ink contains up to 15 heavy metals including titanium, iron, chromium, copper, zirconium, manganese, bromine. A report by Bioelements and Health Unit Italian Ministry for Health Roma categorized the heavy metals into different colorants and their health effects were reported to vary from mild irritations to harming of the brain.

The irreversible damages

Upon lacking regulations on tattoo inks, the FDA pinpoints a common problem with getting a tattoo – dissatisfaction. Even with advanced medical technology, tattoo removal laser treatment is not a holy grail procedure that just ‘erases’ mistakes.  It is painful, time consuming and costly. The FDA even stated that ‘complete removal without scarring may be impossible.’ 

According to Health Harvard Publishing, the best number for ‘clearing’ is only 75%, the tattoos instead of disappearing, could turn darker. Overall, there are many factors with this treatment.  Permanent makeup in the eye and lip is extremely hard to remove. It is harder for dark-skinned patients as the treatment could leave white spots. Wavelength of the lasers used has to be limited e.t.c

Tattoo hazards includes

  • Allergic reactions 
  • Skin infections
  • Granuloma – inflammation that forms around tattoo ink, these nodules are formed because the body detects foreign materials – the tattoo ink
  • Keloid formation – raised areas caused by an overgrowth of scar tissue, keloids occur more as a result of tattoo removal.
  • Bloodborne diseases – improper use of equipment can contract various bloodborne diseases e.g. hepatitis B, hepatitis C
  • MRI complications – during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exams, tattoos can interfere with the quality of images or cause swelling or burning

It gets deeper

As mentioned above, tattoos do not only harm the skin. Harming of the skin is a red flag to begin with – Damaging of the biggest defense organ of the body means the body on the inside is not fully protected and is vulnerable. If the ink particles do not stay put, it gets transported directly inside the body through the bloodstream and the lymphatic system.  Making the whole body endangered overall.

Colored tattoos

Advice: If you’re looking to getting a tattoo

  • Avoid cheap and uncertified tattoo parlors and tattoo inks
  • Do a lot of research and go to a reputable shop. Consult the artist if you have any questions or concerns

Fun fact:

  • The oldest tattoo was discovered in 1991 on an alpine mummy called Ötzi, who was believed to live around 3400-3100 BC. His ‘tattoo’ is not naturally inked by a needle, but through a painful process of rubbing charcoal onto fine cuts in the skin.
  • Pigments found in tattoo inks can be repurposed into textiles, plastics, or products in the automotive industry
  • In 2007, the top 2 tattoo ink manufacturers started to include warning labels on their products as a result of a lawsuit by the American Environmental Safety Institute. The ink was shown to contain heavy metals.

References:

 “Tattoos & Permanent Makeup: Fact Sheet | FDA.” 24 Aug. 2020, https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-products/tattoos-permanent-makeup-fact-sheet. Accessed 13 Nov. 2020.

 “Safety of tattoos and permanent make-up: Final report | EU ….” 26 Jul. 2019, https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/publication/eur-scientific-and-technical-research-reports/safety-tattoos-and-permanent-make-final-report. Accessed 13 Nov. 2020.

 “Safety of tattoos and permanent make-up State of play and ….” https://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/bitstream/JRC96808/wp2_report_on_tattoos_pubsy.pdf. Accessed 13 Nov. 2020.

 “Tattoo inks contain polycyclic aromatic … – PubMed.” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20545755/. Accessed 13 Nov. 2020.

 “Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) Fact Sheet – EPA.” https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-03/documents/pahs_factsheet_cdc_2013.pdf. Accessed 13 Nov. 2020.

 “A Survey of Metals Found in Tattoo Inks – Scientific Research ….” https://www.scirp.org/journal/paperinformation.aspx?paperid=79670. Accessed 13 Nov. 2020.

 “Heavy Metals in Tattoo Inks – Präsentation vom 6. Juni … – BfR.” https://www.bfr.bund.de/cm/343/heavy-metals-in-tattoo-inks.pdf. Accessed 13 Nov. 2020.

“Tattoos: Understand risks and precautions – Mayo Clinic.” https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/tattoos-and-piercings/art-20045067. Accessed 13 Nov. 2020.

“Tattoos: Leaving their mark – Harvard Health Publishing I Harvard Medical School” https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/tattoos-leaving-their-mark. Accessed 13 Nov. 2020

Holi powder: The Rainbow Killer

Famously known as the festival of color, Holi is the most vibrant Hindu festival. Celebrated around early March, people come together to celebrate spring, nature in all its finery, love and new life in a flurry of dancing, singing, and throwing colored powder and water. However, despite this lighthearted and colorful celebration, Holi powder has had a bad rep for containing toxic compounds that could harm the human body and the environment. With roots in Hindu culture, Holi is celebrated around the world spreading as far as North America, South America and Europe. However, other celebratory events such as color runs also feature colored powders with a toxic formula similar to Holi powder.

Synthetic Holi powder is an irritant

According to India’s National Council of Science Muse, Holi color powders were derived from natural ingredients such as berries, flowers, spices. Tumeric powder was used to get the color yellow, red was derived from the hibiscus flower while Heena was used to obtained green color, according to Alive Wellness Clinic.

Holi powder that was once derived from all natural ingredients have now been swapped for commercial products laden with harmful industrial dyes. These synthetic powders offer brighter and more vibrant colors, and are cheaper to produce compared to the ones derived from plant dyes. The lack of manufacture regulations for Holi powders have since turned this fun celebration into a recipe for disaster.

Even though some powders are labeled “organic” and / or “natural”, it is misleading as they only refer to one part of the color. One part of the color may be derived from an all natural source but mixed in silica or other substances, which is carcinogenic

Unregulated ingredient compounds such as lead oxide, cobalt nitrate, indigo, zinc salts, copper sulphate, mercury sulfate, and aluminum bromide, malachite green, rhodamine and gentian violet are used to make darker shades such as black blue, green, red, and silver Holi colors. Sometimes, mica dust and glass powder are added to give the colors an extra shine. These contaminants, some of which are carcinogens, can cause potential complications such as dermatitis and eczema through contact with sensitive parts of our body such as skin and our eyes, and through inhalation.

According to the Baby Center, here are some health effects of some specific ingredients.

  • Chromium: Can cause bronchial asthma, allergies.
  • Nickel: Can cause dermatitis pneumonia.
  • Cadmium: Can cause weak and brittle bones (Itai Itai disease).
  • Zinc: Can lead to fever.
  • Iron: Can cause skin sensitivity to light.
  • Mica (abeer): This is a shiny powder used to give colours a metallic look. It can cause skin allergies and irritation.

Holi powder harms the environment

A study conducted by the University of Rajasthan and Jaipur National University researched the effects of colored powder on water and soil, and found that the complex structure of polymers in artificial colors makes it almost impossible to decompose biologically. Furthermore, other substances such as acids, mica, glass powder and alkalis aren’t degradable under natural conditions as well, hence it will seep into waste water for a while. Besides that, bacteria is found to “decolorize, transform and mineralize colored soil and water in both aerobic and anaerobic conditions,” according to Daily Mail.

Safety

  • Experts advise people participating in this activity to wear sunglasses, swim goggles and/ or a hat to protect their eyes.
  • Applying petroleum jelly, oil or moisturizer can help reduce absorption of color on skin and hair as well as make it easier for the color to come off later
  • Refrain from using detergent, kerosene, spirit, nail polish remover, alcohol or acetone to remove the colors as these are strong irritants that could break down the protective skin barrier. Instead, use normal bathing soap and moisturize skin after.
  • Governments around the world should impose bans to prohibit manufacturing and tighten regulations regarding chemicals used in Holi powder.

Are diapers toxic for your baby?

Do you know the chemical composition of the diapers used by babies every day? When I was pregnant with my baby girl, I started to think of this question, as I definitely don’t want to put bad chemicals against my baby’s skin 24 hours a day. Some of the chemicals in the diapers are irritants that may cause diaper rash and many parents will inevitably worry about whether the chemical components in the diapers will affect the baby’s skin. Let’s look at their ingredients and find out if they are safe.

Overview of diaper parts

The basic structure of all diapers are the same. The outermost layer of the diaper is a polyethylene film, which is the same material as the plastic film. The inner layer that touches the baby’s skin is usually polypropylene, which is also a common substance you can find in thermal undergarment. These two substances are harmless to the body. Some brands of diapers use aloe vera and vitamin E, both of which are common ingredients found in diaper rash creams.

The middle absorbent layer of a diaper contains wood pulp (usually chlorine for bleaching) and a polymer water-absorbing resin (SAP). The polymer resin is a compound of sodium polyacrylate, which usually absorbs water up to 30 times its own weight. It has been used since the early 1980s, and it has made the diaper thinner while effectively keeping the baby’s buttocks dry.

Watch out for perfumes and dyes in diapers!

Many cartoon characters and other images on the outside of diapers are made with dyes. Some diapers have a perfume smell, which usually contains citral, and this compound is made from lemon and orange oil. These chemical components in diapers generally do not cause any harm to your baby’s health. However, some babies are allergic to dyes and perfume scents of citral or other perfumes, so there will be some discomfort for babies. If your baby have these allergic problems, you can try a different brand which does not have too much dyes and chemicals.

It is the parents’ responsibility to choose harmless products for our babies, if you want to know more about ingredients in diapers and other babies products, I highly recommend you to visit 1Source or other health apps to analyze your baby’s products. 1Source database has over 500,000 products and ingredients in their database, and it uses Potential Risk Index ranking 1 to 10 (1 is good, 10 is bad) to guide you easily before buying any products. Be wary of advertisements conducted by companies and it is always better to review products ourselves!

You Can Save the Environment by Going Vegan

We are facing an ecological crisis, with climate change labeled as the “world’s gravest environmental threat”, according to PETA. Naturally, we feel the duty to do our part in solving the issue, however, that feeling of helplessness lead us to the million dollar question: where do we start? This crisis of consciousness has led to people opting for energy making slight changes in their life, however, it is not enough. According to a study conducted by Oxford researchers, going vegan is a lifestyle change that can provide a significant help to this environmental catastrophe.

“If you’re serious about protecting the environment, the most important thing that you can do is stop eating meat, eggs, and dairy “products”. – PETA

Vegan pancakes!

How do animals contribute to the environmental crisis?

Greenhouse gas emissions

Products of agricultural farming include carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, which are greenhouse gases that are the primary culprits behind global warming. UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2019) has also backed up the claim that vegan diets have the most potential to reduce greenhouse emissions as meat and dairy contribute up to 60% of agriculture’s green house emissions on their own.

vegan noodles

Carbon dioxide: According to PETA, it takes about “11 times as much fossil fuel to produce a calorie of animal protein as it does to produce a calorie of grain protein”. It is a no brainer, that it is more climate efficient to obtain products produced from plant based sources. Ruminant animal pastures for meat and diary accounted for 72% of carbon while croplands that serve as animal feed contributed to another 28%.

Methane: Methane is 25% as effective as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere, hence it is in our interest to reduce the production of methane any chance we have. Ruminants produce gas while they digest their food and is also found in their feces.

Nitrous oxide: Nitrous oxide is 300 times more potent at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. According to a report by the UN, meat, egg and dairy industries are responsible for up to 65% of nitrous oxide emissions.

Land

If everyone stopped eating meat, global farmland use could be “reduced by 75%, equivalent to the size of US, Europe and China combined,” according to Independent. Besides drastically reducing greenhouse emissions, it would lessen the rate of deforestation, in turn allowing ecosystems to thrive and prevent the gradual extinction of species resulting from their loss of habitats.

Pollution

According to a study conducted by PNAS, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Hog and dairy farms spray their fields with waste produced by the animals. This is a health hazard as air particles filled with bacteria are blown into commercial homes, potentially infecting families and causing a stench. Furthermore, waste sprayed on the field leak into rivers and streams, potentially messing with the balance of the ecosystem and poisoning aquatic life, which is pretty ironic considering that same poisoned seafood end up on our plates.

Statistical models showed that cutting meat and diary products from one’s diet can reduce one’s carbon footprint up to 73%, which is better than cutting down flights, buying electric cars, or opting for sustainable meat and dairy, according to a source from Independent. A study from Oxford shows that meat eaters were responsible for up to more than half as many dietary greenhouse gas emissions than vegetarians and up to 102% more than vegans. A global shift is vital to turn the clock around. Try to make altercations in your diet, such as choosing to go meatless or vegan on one or two designated days per week. Every little effort counts!