Ahimsa in the morning: Taking non violence off the mat and into your beauty routine

Yoga teaches us a number of beautiful tenets: satya (truthfulness), aparigraha (non-attachment), and ahimsa (non-violence) to name a few.  Literal applications of these teachings are often easier than more abstract applications.  Such as: How can I apply non-violence to my….bath?

The cosmetic industry that manufacturers our lotions, potions, soaps and shampoos is beginning to come under more scrutiny as we discover the harmful affects of some ingredients on our bodies and on the environment around us.  From disrupting our hormones, potentially contributing to cancer, and polluting our water, our grooming routine might be straying far from the concept of ahimsa.

The good news is that more than likely there are products in your local health food store that have eliminated many of the harmful chemicals.  When looking at your self care products it’s best to be informed. 

Here are the top 5 chemicals to avoid and to make peace with your body and our environment:

  1. Parabens:  This suspected endocrine disruptor, known also as methyl /ethyl /propyl /butylparaben, is found in many everyday products such as shampoo, moisturizer, shaving gel, and even toothpaste.  Parabens act as an estrogen mimic in the body and some studies have found parabens in breast tumors, causing scientists to speculate that the use of parabens may be linked to cancer.  Although no study has drawn this conclusion, there have also been no studies to show that parabens are completely innocuous.
  2. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS):  This foaming agent also known as Sodium Laureth Sulfate is found in soaps, toothpaste, shampoos and anything else that gets bubbly and sudsy.  It is a known skin irritant and therefore not advised for people with skin sensitivities or allergies.  This chemical ends up in our water supply and is damaging to fish and other wildlife.  It can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane which may cause cancer.
  3. Parfum or Fragrance: Used to scent products (even the “unscented ones”), this is often a mixture of chemicals that may not be explained because it is the company’s big secret to beat out the competitors.  Phthalates are sometimes included as an ingredient – the infamous chemical in dangerous plastics. Other chemicals typically used to make up parfum have been shown to cause neurotoxicity, trigger asthma and allergies, and be harmful to fish and wildlife.  Since we don’t know what chemicals are actually being used, it’s best to avoid.
  4. Diethanolamine (DEA), triethanolamine (TEA), and monoethanolamine (MEA):  Another foaming agent found in moisturizers and shampoos.  When in contact with nitrates (which may happen during manufacturing) it can combine to form dangerous cancer causing nitrosamines.  There is also concern it may be another hormone disruptor.
  5. Triclosan: Used in antibacterial products as well as toothpaste.  It may interfere with hormones and has been found in breast milk.  Tricloasan is building up in rivers and sewage and can become carcinogenic when exposed to sunlight. 

Taking the time to be mindful in your use of green and healthy products is another way we can practice ahimsa – your body and your planet will thank you.


Download a wallet size shoppers guide of the dirty dozen chemical to avoid when cosmetic shopping from the David Suzuki Foundation

Look up your own beauty products to see how they rate on a toxicity scale in the Environmental Working Groups Database

Dr. Robin Armstrong has combined her decade of experience as both a Chiropractor & Yoga Instructor to develop a unique type of yoga therapy known as Yoga Rehab, blending traditional yoga practices with modern rehab exercise to help students overcome pain and injury. She has shared her knowledge of yoga injury prevention and anatomy with the Canadian Press, American Council of Exercise, Impact, and Alive magazines as well as many local yoga teacher training programs. She practices at YYoga Downtown Flow studio in Vancouver, Canada.

Website: www.stayactive.ca

Facebook: Dr. Robin Armstrong, Chiropractor & Yoga Instructor

Twitter: @DrRobinA

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yogaturtle, posted on December 31, 2012

Not to mention that many of the commercial companies test these products and ingredients on animals. There is nothing nonviolent about that!

tytbody, posted on September 16, 2012

I hope they can keep putting this information out there so Colgate and others will stop using these ingredients.

CStraimer, posted on July 19, 2010

Avoid: Glyceryl Stearate (most often from Palm Oil, the cheapest vegetable fat currently available), Palmide, Palm Kernel Oil - produced from palm oil. These ingredients can be found in many cosmetic products you buy. The cultivation of palm oil, if uncertified is often most harmful to the environment. In Indonesia and Malaysia, the main cultivation areas, palm plantations have destroyed thousands of acres of rainforest and contributed to the loss of habitat of indigenous populations and animals. It is a significant factor in the near extinction of Orang Utans. When cultivating peace, please think about the resourcing and ethics of the product you buy. For more information on Palmoil see Greenpeace, WWF, Pro Regenwald, Friends of the Earth.

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