Choosing Skin Care Products that Won’t Make You Sick - Transcript

Dr. Cindy Geyer: There's emerging science-based evidence that some essential oils may be almost effective as DEET at repelling ticks. There's been some research on lemon, eucalyptus oil, on thyme oil, on citronella. So I think that is another reasonable option to try to get some of the tick propellant benefits without causing harm. Dr. Mark Hyman: Welcome to the Doctor's Farmacy. I'm Dr. Mark Hyman, and that's Doctor's Farmacy with an F. A place for conversation that matters. And if you've ever wondered about what you put on your skin, and isn't making you sick, whether it's makeup or tick insect repellent or sunscreen, you're going to like this podcast, because we're going to get in deep about what goes in your skin and on your skin and through your skin and how that affects our health and what to do about it and how to pick the right product. So this week we have on our special episode of the Doctor's Farmacy House call my friend and colleague, I've known for, gosh, decades now. Someone we've [inaudible 00:01:08] Canyon Ranch when I was just beginning there as the medical director, she took over the place and now has joined us at the UltraWellness Center, Dr. Cindy Geyer. Who is just an extraordinary doc and is teaching all over the world in fumes of integrative and functional medicine. And we're so lucky to have her at the UltraWellness center now. So welcome, Cindy. Dr. Cindy Geyer: Thanks, Mark. Good to be here. Dr. Mark Hyman: Okay. So it's a big deal to think about what you're put on your skin. And I remember learning that basically, you wouldn't eat it, you shouldn't put it on your skin, and you and I both know that when we were in medical school, that we delivered all kinds of drugs to the skin. I mean, one of the quickest ways to get someone relief from chest pain, if they came into the emergency room with angina or heart disease was to slap a toothpaste tube full of nitroglycerin cream and put a bandage over it. And that kind of went right through the skin. There's hormone patches for women, there's pain patches. There's all sorts of patches that people use because the skin is a vehicle for delivering medicine. Dr. Mark Hyman: So it makes a logical sense to think that we should be aware of what we're putting on our skin in terms of sunblock, insect repellent, make up, body care products. And yet most of us never give a thought about it. So tell us Cindy, why should we really care? And I think... Because this it seems to be maybe a trivial issue, but how big of an issue is this and why should we worry or should we? Dr. Cindy Geyer: Well, I'm glad you pointed out that we absorb things through the skin. So we think we put it on our skin and it's just going to stay on the outside, but it can potentially get inside our bodies. And one of the challenges Mark, is trying to do good research to actually prove cause and effect when you're looking at some of the carriers or preservatives that are added to the things like the cosmetics that we put on our skin. Dr. Cindy Geyer: Our old model of what happens with toxicity is the dose makes the poison. You have to have massive amounts for it to have a negative impact, but there's so many things that are in our skincare products like phthalates or parabens that have been dumped in the crane disrupting chemicals. And what that means is even tiny amounts, especially at critical windows may actually mock up hormonal signaling and have long lasting impacts that's less related to the dose, but the cumulative exposure over time. Dr. Cindy Geyer: And so it's hard to tease out. I mean, you might be having exposures every day in teeny tiny amounts that don't seem immediately problematic, but down the road, when you're struggling with insulin resistance or breast cancer or uterine fibroids or thyroid issues, it could be related to these endocrine disrupting chemicals that have [inaudible 00:03:58] on our hormone balance. Dr. Mark Hyman: It's like why are all these compounds used in these products? I mean, why do we need all these petrochemical, endocrine disrupting, hormone busting, disrupting compounds? Why are they there? Dr. Cindy Geyer: It's a great question. So parabens typically are added as a preservative to extend the shelf life of your skin creams or your topical creams. Failings- Dr. Mark Hyman: So it won't go rancid. Dr. Cindy Geyer: Yeah. So it won't go rancid. So you can keep in on the shelf for year or two and it won't smell funny or it won't go bad and so you don't get bacteria. I mean, some of them are trying to keep contaminants out. Phthalates tend to be embedded with fragrances to make things smell pleasing to us when we put them on our bodies. And those are also endocrine disrupting chemicals. Dr. Mark Hyman: And and is there a way to measure in the body whether there are these chemicals that they're there from these products that people are using? Dr. Cindy Geyer: That's a great question Mark. In studies that are trying to tease out how they influence our health. They often look at urinary levels to see how much people are exposed to. It's a little bit challenging however, because it turns out that all of us show evidence of exposure to these chemicals. So it's a little bit hard to know what to do with measurements. Other than trying to do it from a scientific standpoint, say, do the levels track with health outcomes. In clinical practice, I have not done that. I don't know if you've found it helpful or not and when I was first looking at it, we ended up coming back to the same recommendations anyway. We need to reduce exposure and find ways to support your body's getting rid of them. Dr. Mark Hyman: Right. I mean, everybody should cut out toxins from your life and everybody should do all the things they can to upregulate their biology to detoxify these compounds for sure. But something it's really helpful, people just don't know about their exposures. I had one woman who was using a sunblock for years and her makeup. We checked her urine super high levels of parabens. I'm like, "Oh, this isn't good." And other people you have high levels of phthalates because they're drinking plastic water bottles, or people have BPA because they're not aware of where it's coming from, which is bisphenol A comes from credit card receipts or restaurant receipts, or just all kinds of... gas stations all that stuff. It's a lot... It's in plastics and bottles. So I think we really can raise awareness by seeing that it's in your system. Dr. Cindy Geyer: Right. Dr. Mark Hyman: I think I find that often helpful for people to change their behavior too. And then you can actually track it and see that it's coming down and see what's happening. And I think is a little morphous because when you look at on an individual level, it's hard to draw the connections in a one-to-one level of whether this caused the problem or not. But if you look at a population wide level, these toxins clearly are linked to all sorts of harmful effects in terms of endocrine disorders, heart disease, cancers, and more. And I think it really is important people to understand what they're doing, what they're putting on their body. Dr. Cindy Geyer: Right. Dr. Mark Hyman: Now the other thing I'd love you to talk about is some of the epigenetic effects of the toxins on the fetus when the mother is exposed to the products that could cause this hormone disruptive chemicals to get in the blood of the baby. Dr. Cindy Geyer: Yeah. I think that's really important to understand that there are critical windows or critical timeframes that it's even more important to reduce exposure. One of those classic timeframes is when a woman is pregnant. Even little bits of exposures in utero may affect the fetus and then those impacts persist into adolescence. Dr. Cindy Geyer: A study a few years ago, what they did... A lot of the data has to be coralative but they measured urinary levels of phthalates and parabens in women at two different points in their pregnancy. And then when their babies were born, they tracked them for 9, 10, 11 years and they found that higher levels of phthalates and parabens in the urine, the daughters of women with those higher levels ended up going into puberty earlier, which now that doesn't prove cause and effect. But sometimes you can't ethically design a study and when we see research like that, that it does correlate with endocrine challenges down the road, we have to take that seriously. We have to take that seriously. Dr. Cindy Geyer: There's been some other research linking exposure in utero in particular or early childhood to phthalates and parabens to higher incidents of ADHD like symptoms in adolescents so even neuro-development. Again, a lot of the data's correlative and epidemiologic, but we can't really design a placebo controlled double blinded trial to willingly expose one group of women and not expose another and track their children for 20 years. Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah. I mean, it's linked to ADD, to neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, later stage symptoms of obesity, even diabetes, heart disease, cancer, when they're exposed to these compounds in utero, which is kind of striking. So the question is what are we using, right? What are the things we're using? And clearly there's a lot of topical things we use. Everything from shampoo to make up to body care products, to make all the kind of skincare things we use, like sunblock and tick repellents and insect blockers. How are these things different? Let's take sunscreen, for example. This is something... It's summertime people don't want to get skin cancer. They're putting on sunscreen. Is it okay? What should we do? How do we figure out what's going on? I mean, there's a lot of the sunscreens also have compounds that destroy reefs too. There's reef damage to the coral reef. So you're not only killing yourself, but you're killing the reefs. Dr. Cindy Geyer: Right. Well, there's a lot of the chemical sunscreens, like avobenzone... I don't even know all of the names of them, the chemical sunscreens, and many of those are potential endocrine disrupting chemicals as well. The flip side is Mark, I'm one of those people who grew up in the south had more than my share of sun burns, had my first skin cancer when I was 37. So I also want to slow down skin aging and wrinkles and skin cancer. So we kind of have to say, "Well, how do you get the protection you want without putting yourself at risk?" I personally am a real fan of the zinc and titanium, the mineral based sunscreens, or even just a hat covering your skin, staying out of the sun in the middle of the day. I mean, I think there's a lot of other things we can do that are going to be safer for us and safer for the planet. Dr. Cindy Geyer: One of my favorite one-stop shopping places to learn more about safety levels and which either skincare or sunscreens contain things we do or don't want is the Environmental Working Group. And I know you've been a big supporter of their work for years. I think they were some of the pioneers that really raising awareness. And what I love about them is they have a safe cosmetics database that you can search by type. So you could search sunscreens, or you could search by brand plug in your favorite brand and see how it rates to others on their list. Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah. Or category, your makeup, your fragrances, baby care, oral care, men's stuff. It's really quite a robust website and it's really science-based. And there's, I think there's 74,000 products that they looked at, 2,500 brands and they're 1800 verified and have been tested to make sure that they're okay. And so that's a really great source for sunscreen, for makeup and all these products because when we look at what we're doing ourselves, where we're kind of steadily polluting ourselves with the best of intentions and I think in the sunscreen ingredients can be problematically, oxybenzone, homosalate, octocrylene. These are all compounds that have been often banned in other countries, but they're used here. And the great news is there's other benefits you can get from other sunscreens like zinc and others that are mineral based. And they [inaudible 00:12:22] a little messy, but there are ones that are quite good and you can use it. Dr. Mark Hyman: You can go to and learn more about all the different kinds of topical care products and what to pick and start to move the industry in the right direction, by helping them emphasize the right stuff. Dr. Mark Hyman: What about the sort of things like the tick stuff? Because people are worried about ticks and DEET is really common, which is a terrible toxin. It's used to kill insects, but also is a neurotoxin that can affect humans. So they say not to touch yourself, don't put your mouth, but putting your skin it goes through everything so tell us a little bit about DEET and what to do about that. Dr. Cindy Geyer: Yeah, so that's another one. I mean, you know Mark, in the Berkshires, ticks are everywhere. So for those of us who love to be in the woods, you always have to be mindful of enjoying your time in the beautiful woods and hiking without putting yourself at risk for getting a tick-borne illness. So how do we navigate that balance as well? For people who are super concerned, I don't know how you feel about this, but if you took your pants into your socks and put a little DEET around where they join, maybe that's enough. I don't know. Dr. Cindy Geyer: I don't do it. I hike all time and the other nice thing about being in the Berkshires, I can come home, strip on my front porch, leave my clothes on the outside, go in and do my tick check because I think that's probably the most important thing. The other interesting piece though, is there's emerging science-based evidence that some essential oils may be almost effective as DEET at repelling ticks. There's been some research on lemon eucalyptus oil, on thyme oil, on citronella. So I think that is another reasonable option to try to get some of the tick propellant benefits without causing harm. Dr. Mark Hyman: So those essential oils are basically plant chemicals that are repellent insects. Dr. Cindy Geyer: Right. Dr. Mark Hyman: And it's sort of loose fact instead of real functional medicine, which is that plants are highly intelligent. They're, in fact sentience beings believe it or not, they have 20 different senses and they do all kinds of smart stuff that we don't really attribute to plants, but they produce these molecules to deter insects from the cells. And they communicate with other plants. So if there's a caterpillar eating a plant, that plant goes, "Oh, ah, I'm getting eaten by caterpillar. I'm going to produce this molecule. And by the way, I'm going to send a message to my neighbor and friends over there through the mycelium networks that you should secrete this chemical too." And so these plants produce all these wonderful chemicals that we use for our own benefit, but they're really for their benefit. And I think the essential oils are great and there's a lot of natural alternative products out there that are for insects repellent and for skincare, for makeup. The only thing you realize the makeup is like led. A lot of makeup and a lot of lipstick is led. Dr. Cindy Geyer: Lipsticks. Yes. Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. Dr. Mark Hyman: And, and those things are really avoidable and it's a matter of education. And I think the beautiful thing about as we move in the right direction, as people start to become conscious, as we push these companies by our financial choices, we actually can drive the marketplace into a better set of products. And that is really what we need to be doing, because I think people don't seriously think about what they're putting on their skin, but it is one of the most important things that you do every single day. Literally you're doing... Besides eating, most of us put stuff on our skin every day, whether it's shampoo, whether it's face cream, whether it's makeup, whether it's sunblock, whether it's insect repellent, these are things that we use a lot of in America. And unfortunately they are really problematic. Dr. Mark Hyman: So let's say you go, "Oh, geez, I've been using this stuff for a while. I'm going to switch to all these other products, but what do I do to get rid of these embedded toxins?" Because, if we did a fat biopsy of every American it wouldn't be too pretty. There'd be a lot of these compounds in there that are stored in there. How you going to help get them down? We've done podcasts on detoxification, and we're not talking about a water fast or some crazy thing we're talking about you supporting the body's natural built in detox pathways. How do we do that? Dr. Cindy Geyer: Before we jump into that, I want to come back to something that you just said about the fat biopsy. And I know that urine levels can sometimes be really helpful at motivating people to say, "Oh my gosh, I need to look at this." But we have to be aware that even if they're not showing up in the urine, if we've had old exposures, they do tend to get deposited in fat and we're not doing fat biopsies on people. I just want to point that out so don't use an okay looking urine to say, "Okay, not a problem for me." Right? Dr. Mark Hyman: Right. For sure. Dr. Cindy Geyer: And it's been a concern as well if those are all residing as deposits in fat tissue, if somebody really rapidly loses weight and starts to mobilize all those stored toxins, it could potentially put extra burden on a lot of different processes in the body. So it's just food for thought. And you have done a lot of podcasts on detoxification and it really is coming back to the basics. I mean, how do we get rid of things? We break a sweat by going out in the woods or exercising or sitting in a sauna. We really have to focus on optimal gut function, high fiber dense diet, a healthy microbiome and specific foods that support all of our detoxification pathways. We can talk about a few of those. Drinking enough water. I mean, I don't know that there is a super magic for these endocrine disrupting chemicals, except it's really important to make sure our detoxifying enzymes have the new chance they need to do their job. Dr. Mark Hyman: What are those things that our body needs most of to actually get rid of these toxins? Dr. Cindy Geyer: We need B vitamins. We need magnesium. We need the sulfur containing amino acids that are rich in foods like broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts, garlic, onions, the allium family. Antioxidant rich foods can kind of fill the gap with some of the deeply pigmented, fruits and vegetables, similar theme I think that's come up in other areas, but those are some of the foods that are most important. Prebiotic rich foods that can select out a healthy, robust, diverse microbiome that can also kind of... If we have detoxified and mobilized things can help us get rid of it and clear it out of our system. Dr. Mark Hyman: I was just saying are there other practices that we can do to help our detoxes and like saunas, exercise [inaudible 00:19:08] drainage and infrared saunas, hot and cold therapy, all those things help mobilize toxins in our systems. Dr. Cindy Geyer: Right. Do you have any favorites yourself? Dr. Mark Hyman: Do I have any favorites? I do have a lot of things that I do to actually mobilize my toxins every day. I make sure that I eat brassicas everyday. So last time we had a big bunch of broccoli robe for that night with brussels sprouts, lots of garlic and onions. I use a lot of spices in my cooking and I also make sure I do saunas. I do ice baths. I sweat. I actually like to sweat a lot. So my exercise is great. Yoga is great for lymphatic drainage, getting massages is great to mobilize tissue [inaudible 00:19:58]. So there's a lot of techniques you can use to actually help. And then I take the right supplements. I make sure I take a cocktail because I've had mercury poisoning. I have weak detox enzymes. I take inositol cystine I take all the methylation vitamins. I take a lot of the things that actually helped to mobilize these toxins, [inaudible 00:20:15] boosting compounds. Dr. Mark Hyman: I even used Diindolyl methane as a way of sort of helping with some of the effects on hormone metabolism. So I'm sort of pretty fanatic about it. I've been so sick from being toxic and I didn't want to be toxic anymore, but the truth is it's hard. I didn't stop eating fish and I've got my mercury levels down years and years ago from almost 200 to eight or five. And I was like, "Oh, it's been a bunch of years." And I've been sort of a little bit lazy about fish. I don't eat tuna and I don't eat swordfish, but occasionally I have a piece of tuna when I go out. Occasionally, I eat halibut. I never eat swordfish. Occasionally, I'll have more selfish than I would think. Dr. Mark Hyman: And I thought, "I'm good" but I just check my levels. And again my level is super high of 37 on a challenge test. I think we're just live in such a toxic world and it's hard. It's hard. I mean, last night I made a delicious Spanish sheet kind of Greek baked cod with tomato sauce. But like cod is not terrible. It's not the worst, but it's definitely not mercury. And I'm just like, "Oh, what am I doing? What are you going to eat? I've come to believe that grass fed Virginia meat or wild meat is probably the safest protein on the planet. I know it's maybe controversial to say that, but even you've got... Unless you've got really well grown whole grains and beans that are generally raised and have no glyphosate sprayed in them and are not genetically altered. I mean, there's a lot of messy stuff on the plant world. So I don't know, but I definitely make sure I up regulate my system all the time. Dr. Cindy Geyer: Mark, you raised an interesting point as well. I think everybody is different in terms of their genetic predisposition to handle a given amount of exposure or not. It's not that we're just going to let, "Okay, you're a good detoxifier. You can let yourself do whatever." But I think that's also an important point that some people need more support than others. We all want to reduce burden. We want to reduce what's coming in, but some of us have to go the extra step and really do more aggressive programs like you're doing. Dr. Mark Hyman: Absolutely. Absolutely. And so the good news is that you don't have to be exposed to these things by all of your typical skincare products that you should be aware of it, that you should seek out sources of your favorite products that are alternatives to the Environmental Working Group resources at That you should eat brussels sprouts every day or at least some kind of brassicas plenty of garlic. Make sure you sweat. Make sure that you're... especially even when you think about what's going through your skin, what are you're touching? I'm so aware of when people say, "Do you want a receipt?" I'm like, "No, thanks. Email, text me the receipt. Do not give me the receipt because I don't want to touch that. It's full of BPA." bisphenol A, which has all these endocrine-disrupting aspects to it. Dr. Cindy Geyer: Mark, that might've been one of the positive things about the pandemic when people were afraid of any kind of paper passing hands. A lot of people got rid of their paper receipts. A lot of manufacturers got rid of their paper receipts. I think that's a good thing. Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah. [crosstalk 00:23:30]. So, oh boy. And so I think we're in this interesting moment where we have a possibility of really changing our lifestyle, changing our exposure, changing our choices and really making a big difference. And so people are listening I think it's important to be really aware of what you put on your skin. Just remember whatever you put on your skin, you should be able to eat. That should be edible because it's going into your bloodstream directly. It's going to affect your biology in a real way. So I really encourage you to just make sure you pay attention to that [inaudible 00:24:02] systems. And now let us know if you've been listening to this podcast, you love it and you've found products that work for you, or you've noticed how you've maybe been affected by topical stuff, let us know. Share with your friends and family on social media, subscribe where ever you get you podcasts. And we'll see you next week on the Doctor's Farmacy. Speaker 1: Hey everyone. I hope you enjoyed this week's episode. Just a reminder that this podcast is for educational purposes only. This podcast is not a substitute for professional care by a doctor or other qualified medical professional. This podcast is provided on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services. If you're looking for help in your journey, seek out a qualified medical practitioner. If you're looking for a functional medicine practitioner, you can visit and search there. Find a practitioner database. It's important that you have someone in your corner who's trained, who's a licensed healthcare practitioner and can help you make changes. Especially, when it comes to your health.