Sunday, 4 September 2011


I watched a program on the BBC iPlayer called Wonderstuff that I thought would be a documentary but which in essence was an infomercial or teleshopping and not about anything wonderful at all.  According to the BBC, this is part 6 of a series exploring the wonder in ordinary things.  In it, the TV presenter Jane Moore skates around any issue that might show that sunscreen does not prevent premature ageing, moisturisers are far from “magic” and the so-called “clever” ingredient in antiperspirants could lead to your losing your mind.  Besides ridiculous, it was very shallow coverage indeed.  I think I’m lucky that I missed the other 5 parts.

I came across an article on about medical food for Alzheimer’s. It does not state what’s in it exactly, but since it is produced by Adeona Pharmaceuticals, I’m sure it’s not wholesome natural food.  You may at first think this has little to do with sunscreen, moisturisers and antiperspirants, but I will explain how it is closely related and this program is an example of how corporations are surreptitiously using mass media such as TV programmes to push their products.

Although not technically selling a specific product, Wonderstuff was selling a range of products for Boots and other supermarkets that generally carry them.  Moore starts out the program with saying “what’s in all this stuff” which reminded me of a book called What’s in This Stuff, The Essential Guide to What's Really in the Products You Buy in the Supermarket (2006) in which Pat Thomas thoroughly investigates the chemicals in products to explain how they negatively affect our health.  So the programme started on a deceptive note because it had nothing whatsoever to do with our health.  Moore also says we can’t live without this stuff which of course is a blatant lie!

Infomercials are popular in the US.  I came across one claim online that over $150 billion of consumer products in the US are sold through infomercials.  TV is a big opportunity for the B’org of Food to peddle its wares, there’s no doubt.  But it’s a shame that BBC documentaries which are supposed to be free of advertising are often geared to selling us ideas and products rather than merely informing.

Let alone the problem of Vitamin D deficiency which is likely to occur when the skin is blocked from the sun with sunscreen, talking with Boots skin specialist Ian Marlow, Moore claims that butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane (known in the US as Avobenzone) is a beneficial chemical to put on the skin to avoid the sun’s UVA rays from aging the skin.  We’re also told that ethylhexyl salicylate, octocrylene, and emethyl butimido triazone are often in sunscreen to reflect the sun’s UVB rays to stop the skin from burning.  They talk about these substances as if they’re natural when in fact they’re anything but that.

Dr Campbell-McBride has pointed out that “sunscreens contain chemicals, which may cause skin cancer.  Apart from that many of them contain synthetic oestrogens, such a benzophenone-3(Pp-3), homosalate (HMS), 4-MBC, OD-PABA and many others.”  If you have any doubt, I will let you read about the potential health risks of sunscreen to make up your own mind.  But personally, I prefer to sunbathe with coconut oil lathered on my skin.  It reflects the UVB rays and keeps me from burning while at the same time moisturising my skin.  It smells good and has no possible side effects.

Next in the programme, glycerin is touted as the magic ingredient of skin moisturisers which I found bemusing since I’ve been diligently avoiding it for decades.  I read in Virginia Castleton’s book “The Handbook of Natural Beauty” (1975) that it is toxic in cumulative amounts.  In the programme, Dr Mike Bell shows how it absorbs water out of the air.  But Castleton wrote that “rather than act as a humectant, which attracts moisture from the air, glycerine first draws whatever moisture it can from the underlying tissues of the skin itself.  As long as glycerine is applied, the external skin surface will have some semblance of elasticity and softness.  But when the applications cease, the skin takes on a dry, raspy feel.  Any preparation containing glycerine, then, can be damaging to delicate skin tissues.”  So if you use this stuff and wonder why your skin is always dry until you put on moisturiser, there’s your answer.

Moore says that moisturisers are the way to best to keep your skin strong and healthy and Dr Bell, the supposed expert on the subject, actually said that the moisturiser puts the moisture back into the skin and cements it in.    If that’s the case, why is the skin drier when the moisturiser is washed off? He also said that it binds the water at the surface at the skin, but forgot to mention that this is the water it has sucked out of the skin.

For the antiperspirant, Moore had to bring in three people to help her make her case that it is something we all should be using.  She first talked to Leeds University physiologoist, Dr Mark Hetherington who explained a little about how the body perspires.  Then she called in her “materials maestro” whatever that is, Mark Miadovnik, who demonstrated how antiperspirants “plug up the glands” in our armpits.

Finally, Jack Morekey (sorry if I’ve misspelled his name), a chemist in Yorkshire, talked about the key ingredient in antiperspirants, a metal called aluminium which is what aluminium chlorohydrate is based on.  It doesn't seem fitting somehow to use a metal to clog up the pores in our skin!  Moore states that we all rely on it to keep B.O. at bay.  Well, she should speak for herself because I use a product which is 100%  salt.

Moore says that contrary to the widely held belief, there is no scientific evidence that aluminium chlorohydrate causes breast cancer, but she fails to mention Alzheimer’s disease.  Maybe she doesn’t think this is a concern because of the new medicine food soon to be available (as mentioned above)!  In my view, clogging up pores anywhere on the body does not seem like a reasonable thing to do.  After all, it is a well-known beauty treatment to remove dead skin from the body to open pores!  As for plugging up the glands, based on the cause and effect theory, I shudder to think of what effect this has on some other part of the body that will have to change to compensate for shutting down this function, but cancer seems likely.

How did we get to the point where such nonsense can be related with such apparent authority under the guise of science?

The bottom line is that what you put on your skin gets absorbed into your body.  In the long run, these products are likely to cause damage and ill health, which may lead to you lacking the energy to cook fresh foods and also create a perceived need for medication.  All handy developments when you’re the B’org and in the business of selling chemicals in processed foods and drugs.

If Moore actually uses these products, I think she will find her skin in much worse shape in 10 years time and her health might even be showing greater signs of compromise by that time as well.  The money she was paid by the B’org to present this programme will not seem worth it then.