Dan Thompson: Beauty Busted


Experts on Call: CFRA Show Part 2

The Experts Disagree

In part two of the Experts on Call broadcast, while everyone remained very professional, some obvious differences in analysis of information became apparent. Of course all good panel discussions need to have every side of a topic properly discussed and this debate proved that to be true.

Yesterday I wrote about the points where the experts agreed, in relation to the topic of natural cosmetics, and today I am highlighting where we disagreed.

1. Allergy vs. Toxicity:

Many people confuse these two forms of reactions.  The experts, on the show, were no exception to this rule either.  The terms were used interchangeably and it is rather incorrect to do so.  An allergic reaction can be life threatening, that is true, but this type of reaction does not indicate if the compound causing the reaction is toxic.  Here is the difference: allergic reactions are easily observed and can be easily treated — yes some require immediate treatment and can be very serious — but an allergic reaction can be arrested.  An allergic reaction happens quickly, and symptoms can easily be identified. A toxic reaction is systemic — usually neurological and is very slow acting.  Often the symptoms are vague and are usually very hard to observe.  Toxic reactions are usually due to exposure to a poison not an allergen.  Put another way: allergens do not effect everyone, toxins do.  Comparing an allergic reaction, caused by a cosmetic, to a toxic reaction is completely incorrect.

2. Increased Illness Caused by Toxins in Cosmetics:

There was much discussion about this topic.  And lots of disagreement.  At one point in the show, I indicated that research shows there has never been a cancer linked to a finished cosmetic product and the rise of cancer rates is more relevant because cancer is a disease of the aged.  Human beings are living longer than they ever have in history and simple probability indicates there will be an increase in all illness effecting an aged population.  This was countered with the example that testicular cancer is the most rapidly rising cancer of young men.  Truth is the actual occurrences of testicular cancer in young men has not risen rather the diagnosis statistics have.  This is an important distinction:  while diagnosis of testicular cancer, in men aged 19-35, has risen 162% since 1975 this does not mean the actual number of cases has.  What this indicates is early detection has become more reliable.  Medical science can now find the illness sooner, than in previous decades, thus dropping the diagnosis rates of older men and increasing those of younger men — the actual cases of cancer, over all age groups, remains extremely low.  1 in 270 have the risk of diagnosis while only 1 in 5000 diagnosed will actually die from this cancer.  Why?  Because early detection has an almost 100% cure rate.  Medical research has been focused on developing early detection methods for young men.  Thus, the cases of diagnosis in young men increases.  The overall number of cases has actually remained virtually unchanged.

What does all this mean?:  there is no "environmental" cancer causing smoking gun when it comes to exposure to chemicals.  Cosmetics least of all.  However, it is more accurate that a combination of variables effect the over all health of any individual.

For consumers the world of cosmetics can be extremely challenging to navigate — and even the experts don't agree on how do to so.  My advice:  get educated about cosmetic ingredients and make an informed choice as to which ones you want to use and which you don't.  

Next week:  Greenwashing - Part 3 of the broadcast.