Skin deep: does healthy skin help immunity?

How does good healthy skin help maintain strong immunity?     Skin functions as more than just a physical barrier holding your organs together: it is in itself an active immune organ!  Skin is the body’s  largest single organ – it’s the first line of defence and plays a vital role in maintaining health. 

Given the stress put on our hands and bodies through exposure to chemicals, pollutants, UV light, cuts and bruises, skin has a lot to cope with!   It deserves respect!  

Hands can bear the brunt. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t looked after my hands very well.  Hands are for doing things, right? 

Touch helps you hold things, move things, make things, feel things. Protective gloves rather get in the way. Personally, I dislike wearing gloves for anything unless for keeping the cold out outdoors – and then I want a good technical pair.

But gardening, washing dishes, painting, cleaning – I’d rather my hands went naked, and give them a good scrub after.

Cancer and chemotherapy changed all that.

My hands and nails took a big hit.
Radiation put me at risk of lymphodema.
The gloves had to go on.

The skin on my hands were sore and dry.
The nails turned black, cracked and brittle, with finger-tips so painful they brought me to tears.

To take my mind of the pain, I searched for a solution

In the hospital (yep, I was in for a while) I  googled everything about skin: how it works, what it does and what can protect it and what can damage it.  It was eye-opening.

Skin’s not just a physical barrier against the external environment: skin has an immune system linked with the spleen, lymph nodes and lymphatic system, which protects the body from infection, cancer, toxins – and attempts to prevent autoimmunity.

This changed my attitude:  my skin deserves my best attention, and all the support I can give it.

Going deeper, I discovered how some chemicals can damage sensitive skin, and affect water courses too.

So Stephen and started to think about what we put on our skin.

We take our purchasing seriously, we read the labels and we wear gloves more often!

We look for products made with natural ingredients, certified organic when possible – especially in a “leave-on” product like hand cream or hair conditioner.  

We avoid any products containing these 10 chemicals known to cause problems, and we are happy to accept fewer bubbles!

10 chemicals to avoid in skin care products


  1. Parabens – oestrogen mimickers and associated with an increase risk of breast cancers. Still widely used in make-up, body washes, deodorants, moisturisers and cleaners.
  2. Synthetic Colour – Synthetic colours are derived from petroleum or coal tar sources, are suspected human carcinogens, skin irritants and are linked to ADHD in children. The European Union has banned them in food. 
  3. Fragrance/Parfum – Hundreds of toxic chemicals can be hidden in this one, seemingly harmless, term. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Skin Deep Database, fragrance is associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system. Beware  “natural fragrance”, which is not really any better.
  4. Phthalates – dibutyl phthalate, diethyl phthalate (DEP), and dimethyl phthalate – commonly used in cosmetics and skin care, known endocrine disruptors and linked to breast cancer risk . Can be hidden under the term “fragrance”.
  5. Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulphate (SLS)/(SLES) – common surfactant (produces lather) know to cause skin irritation and to interact with other chemicals to form carcinogenic formaldehyde and nitrosamines.
  6. Propylene Glycol – penetrating skin conditioner associated with dermatitis and hives
  7. Triclosan – antimicrobial; skin irritant and endocrine disruptor
  8. Formaldehyde -(urea, methylaldehyde, formic aldehyd) – carcinogenic preservative; known to cause skin irritations and inhibit immune system.
  9. Toluene – coal tar derivative affects respiratory system, causes skin irritation. May affect immune system
  10. Sunscreen chemicals – Benzophenone, PABA, Avobenzone, Homosalate and Ethoxycinnmate – best avoided in sunscreen as these are endocrine disruptors, easily absorbed and may cause cellular damage. Also toxic to aquatic life.  Look for zinc based products instead.


Go natural – and as organic as possible

Now we use simple natural products to wash everything  – hands, dishes, clothes …..looking out for traditional treatments and natural ingredients like calendula flower extract and oat-bran, which can effectively soothe and calm damaged skin.

I began learning how to make simple soaps, creams and lotions with natural and organic ingredients that protect the skin at different levels.  Including protecting the areas that were exposed to radiation therapy.

We tried them out – on myself first and then friends.   Results were impressive!

The skin on my hands started to repair. The redness disappeared, soreness eased and the nails grew back – though I guess that might have happened anyway!

This literal hands-on experience got us interested in making our own soap brand that would be good for stressed skin.  We met a wonderful traditional soap-maker who helped us with the technicals and the making, and we launched our own brand of Powerful Organic Products using all natural ingredients and certified organic essential oils.

Try our Powerful Organic all natural hand soaps scented with organic essential oil, visit our on-line shop and get 10% off at checkout with this code 10-OFF

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