Body Lotion: Quench without Consequenses

Living in the Pacific Northwest, a humid climate, I don’t use hand and body lotion year round. But the dead of winter, when the frozen temps outside-and the forced air inside-suck all the moisture out of the air, is an exception. If I don’t use hand lotion, my hands begin to look decades older than the rest of me.

You too? Then lather up, but choose wisely. Many lotions are made of a petroleum base, and may be preserved with parabens. Not only will these lotions not really help your skin (although they may feel good initially), they may be toxic for your whole body. Sounds scary, but I’m not making this up, or trying to be dramatic. You can read more about the “scary stuff” at the end of this article.

What to look for:

  • A lotion with a vegetable oil base. Good oils might be coconut, Kukui nut, avocado, palm, Macadamia Nut, apricot, sunflower, Shea butter, or olive oil. Since these literally could be “food” for your body, your skin will recognize it for the building and healing nourishment it needs. Castor oil, Aloe Vera, and vegetable glycerine are also good for the skin and plant based.
  • If your skin is very dry, look for a lotion without water. Although you’d think that thirsty skin needs water, it’s actually the other way around. Water evaporates off your skin, leaving less moisture and continuing the wet/dry/chapped cycle. Plus, it’s really just a filler you don’t need to pay for.
  • Look for a statement on the bottle that there are No Parabens. Even if the list of ingredients doesn’t state them, they may be in there if they are less than half a percent. It’s best when the bottle states clearly that they haven’t been added.
  • Not many of us in the Northwest are concerned about sun burns in winter, but if you live in a place where you get sun exposure year round . . . well lucky you! 🙂 And you’re probably looking for a lotion with a low SPF just to have some light overall sun protection. So look for the Active Ingredient of Titanium Oxide or Zinc Oxide; both reflective mineral sunscreens that are non-toxic and even recommended for babies.

If you are looking for a lotion with light SPF, try this Baby Mineral Sunscreen from Avalon Organics, this Chemical Free SPF18 Sunscreen from Alba Botanica, this Organic Age Reversal Mineral Sunscreen, SPF 30 from Desert Essence, or this Hand and Body Lotion, SPF 15 from Jason.

The “Scary Stuff”

Petroleum base (may be called petrolatum or mineral oil). They are made from crude oil, and have the following cautions in the Cosmetics Safety Database: Cancer, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Other moderate concerns for this ingredient:
Persistence and bioaccumulation, Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Occupational hazards. Since the things we rub onto our skin are absorbed into our bodies, these seem like a bad idea for a lotion base.

Also, they coat the skin to not allow for water evaporation (this may initially help with dry skin) both don’t truly moisturize and repair skin from the inside out.


Often found near the end of the ingredient list, this “family” of preservatives (Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Propylparaben, Paraben, etc.) have received more attention (and demand from consumers that they be pulled from products) after the 2004 Scientific Study which showed parabens to be found concentrated in breast cancer tumors. Of course, this study doesn’t prove that parabens cause breast cancer and there is a lot of debate; I read a reveiw by a different doctor who thought it was irrelevant because even though parabens can mimic estrogen in the body, the amount of “estrogen” giving off from the parabens is a drop in the bucket compared with all the other estrogen in the woman’s body. (I couldn’t help but think that this guy missed the point entirely; that toxicity of foreign chemicals could be implicated in cancer growth, not just the amounts or balance of hormones in the body.)

At any rate, I’m not going to wait 25 years for the scientific community to do all their studies; parabens don’t have a place in my body-care regime, or that of my family.

Chemical Sunscreens

Sunscreen is good for you (Titanium oxide and Zinc oxide, or just a hat), but many chemical sunscreens aren’t. This article titled The Chemical Sunscreen Health Disaster is a real eye opener to the dangers of chemical sunscreens. The three main concerns are: 1. They are powerful free radical generators 2. They often have strong estrogenic activity 3. They are synthetic chemicals that are alien to the human body and accumulate in body fat stores.

Chemical Sunscreens Include:

Benzophenones (dixoybenzone, oxybenzone)

PABA and PABA esters (ethyl dihydroxy propyl PAB,  glyceryl PABA, p-aminobenzoic acid, padimate-O or octyl dimethyl PABA)

Cinnamates (cinoxate, ethylhexyl p-methoxycinnamate, octocrylene, octyl methoxycinnamate)

Salicylates (ethylhexyl salicylate, homosalate, octyl salicylate)

Digalloyl trioleate

Menthyl anthranilate

Avobenzone [butyl-methyoxydibenzoylmethane; Parsol 1789] – This is the only chemical sunscreen currently allowed by the European Community. However, its safety is still questionable since it easily penetrates the skin and is a strong free radical generator.