Dr. Laura Koniver on Cosmetic Ingredients Safety & Cancer

If you’ve never read Dr. Laura Koniver’s blog Intuition Physician, be sure to check it out. We love her take on skincare topics and today she shared her thoughts on cosmetic safety.

Check out her Intuition Physician blog

During medical school, Dr. Laura worked at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, MD with a research team who was investigating oncogenes.  We thought her take on cosmetic products and cancer was quite interesting.

Dr. Laura says: “I feel like I’ve gotten a little extra training in the areas of cancer research and in skin and my gut feeling says that the more you chronically irritate something, the more likely you are to develop cancer in that organ.  As straight forward as that.

Most of the over the counter anti-aging crap (um… I mean, *products*) you can buy through drugstores, department stores, and even health food stores, contain ingredients designed to chronically irritate your skin.  This is because they’ve found that by chronically irritating it (at low levels… low enough that you don’t see any skin reaction visibly) you are chronically encouraging it to slough off and turn over new cells.  This is why low but consistent doses of retinal products and hydroxy acids and other skin acids (even all naturally derived fruit acids) works to give your skin a refreshed surface… chronically forcing new cell turnover.
While this is great in the short term (you get fresher skin within a few weeks) in the long term, chronic irritation and inflammation has been shown to incite cellular damage.  Chronic inflammation is turning out to be one of the major factors in all types of disease… from coronary artery disease, to strokes, to cancer.

So, my goal as a physician is to decrease the levels of inflammation and irritation in and on the body as much as possible.  It is routine practice now to try and decrease the level of inflammation inside our bodies… for example, decreasing the level of inflammation in our guts by avoiding certain foods (like avoiding gluten if you have celiac disease) or using prescription medications to decrease inflammation (like statin drugs for heart disease)  But it is not generally addressed when it comes to skin care.

Yes, everyone understands that inflaming your skin to the point of sunburn is a serious no-no… that UV exposure can cause skin cancers… but what about the chronic irritation of the toxic chemicals in daily use of chemical sunblock?  This is starting to get more recent press and consumers are switching to physical sunblocks over chemical ones, for good reason.

The same goes for your facial care products.  Infrequent use may be fine, but daily (and sometimes twice daily, morning and night!) slathering on of anti-wrinkle, anti-aging, anti-this-and-that products intended to stir up your skin and cause enough low levels of irritation that it forces your skin to make new skin faster… 40 years of applying this to your face doesn’t seem right to me.

If you had a chemical irritant would you smear it morning and night on the inside walls of your heart?  Or along the surface of your kidney?  Why does it seem so much more benign when we slather it onto our skin?  I’m not sure why.

I do agree it seems less *invasive*.  But skin cancers are no small concern… and with the advent of the newer delivery methods (micronized particles and nanosphere delivery systems) the ingredients do not stay superficial at all anymore, but rather are internally delivered.  On top of that, and this is just my gut feeling, I truly believe that the chronic inflammation and irritation of the skin, while creating the immediate effect of quicker skin turnover, in the long term (decades later) this very chronic irritation can cause faster skin aging… as your skin reacts to being chronically irritated with visible signs of stress… uneven pigmentation, broken capillaries, seborrheic keratosis, actinic keratosis, and other age related changes.

So that is the platform upon which I recommend this very simple skin plan.  Do no harm.  Allow your body to do what it does best… cover you in sheets of beautiful, healthy skin, replacing it as needed… and support this process with moisture and occasional exfoliation.”

Well said Dr. Laura!!!

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