There is so much demand for changing our skins these days that we take it for granted in so many ways. Please spare a second thought for it on World Nude Day on July 14th. There’s hope, but we must act now.
What is skin?
Skin is the flexible outer protective organ of your body, and is vital for three main functions, which are protection, regulation, and sensation. It is capable of continually regenerating and repels foreign substances, including dirt, water, bacteria, viruses, etc. It regulates temperature by reducing/increasing blood flow to the surface, and by closing/opening pores allowing sweating which also removes contaminants from the body, even in winter through the feet and armpits. It has many nerve endings which sense touch, pain, heat, cold, moisture, dryness, etc.
What is on the skin (and what should not)?
These days, more and more people complain about having sensitive skin, which could have many causes. Many people blame their family’s genetics, but if we look a little more carefully at the environment around us we may start to see some more startling reasons why…
Sensitive skin is not only caused by clothing made from synthetic fibres, like polyester, or contamination and pollution, but also from all of the cosmetic creams, gels, lotions, sprays, sunscreens and talcs we seem to cover ourselves in nowadays, not to mention tattoos and body piercing. How often do we think about what goes into things like makeup, hair products, body sprays, antiperspirants, deodorants, shampoo, conditioner, shaving foam, shower gel, hand soap, etc? If you are anything like the majority of the human race, you would hardly even think about it, but very often they pollute the water, poison the land and contaminate the air. The Cosmetic Industry makes an extraordinary amount of money from us, and then even tries to sell us things to fix the problems they create. A good example of this is makeup, which can block your pores and cause acne, so firstly you need to buy something to remove the makeup, and secondly, something for the acne. Their products might not always be safe to use either, and some may even cause us cancer, like those containing Petroleum Jelly, Parabens, Formaldehyde, and who knows what else that you cannot even pronounce? Nail polish and their removers are normally highly toxic, and even your toothpaste and mouthwash contains fluoride, which is toxic to your pineal gland. Add all of that to the fact that the Cosmetic Industry normally tests its products on animals, often leaving them ill, mutilated or worse!
“Fast fashion” is just like its “Fast food” counterpart: Bought as a whim, but just as easily finds its way into the rubbish bin. Prior to the COVID-19 recession, we bought 5 times as many clothes as in the 1980s, but wear them 50% less than back then. According to Fast Company, 150 billion pieces of clothing (62 million tonnes) are produced every year. Many of these fast fashion items also become single use items, primarily because the level of quality has fallen dramatically. In the recent past, the Italians and Spanish used to be master shoemakers, but that industry has almost disappeared due to cheaper inferior products from Asia. It reminds me of a great saying the Spanish have for this… “He who buys cheaply, buys twice”. Sadly though, most of us seem to be ok with that concept. Clothes and shoe shopping, or as some like to call it, “retail therapy”, causes a massive problem, not only financially because people overpay, but because of waste and the drain on the planet’s limited resources. It is a problem of consumerism so large that we really do not know what to do with it all. Earth Overshoot Day gets sooner every year (on August 22nd, 2020 and July 29th, 2021) and we currently need two and a half planet’s worth of resources. Borrowing against our future is indeed a bad idea, but Sustainable Fashion is trying to change that, although it would appear that the average consumer does not seem to want to pay more for a better product. Greenwashing is also out of control in the fashion industry and is often difficult to spot. For example, if a company claims to use Organic Cotton in its products, yet makes the clothing in Asia to then transport halfway around the world, does that not defeat their environmental pledges? Anyway, I digress. Prior to the COVID-19 recession, 60% of new clothing produced each year found its way into landfills, making up as much as 12% of the landfill volume, or just as sadly, dumped in a desert, like the Atacama Desert near Chile. This varies from country to country, but typically the problems are worse in highly developed countries. Even our attempts to reuse or recycle clothing fall short with around 5% re-sold, about 1% recycled, and 85-90% of donated clothing also ending up in landfill. So many man-made fibres (acrylic, nylon, polyester, etc) are used nowadays that clothing is now being considered plastic waste (taking up to 500 years to biodegrade). Just like with our plastic waste exports, many poor countries no longer want our discarded clothing, because they are totally inundated. The problem finally became so large that in March 2016, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda proposed a ban on all imports of used clothing by 2019. They hoped to boost local textile and clothing industries, but the main exporters of used clothing (Canada, UK, US, etc) attempted to impose economic sanctions on these countries, and also threatened others who have contemplated the same thing.
Pollution and Contamination
More than 60 chemicals are put on clothing, and at least 30% are hazardous for the health of the wearer or the environment, including lead, mercury and arsenic… Some to colour them, others to straighten fibres to aid cutting, to smell nice, to stop mould growing on them while being transported from Asia, etc. Unsurprisingly, 20% of global wastewater comes from the excess chemicals which often end up in local rivers and, of course, in water closer to home once we wash them. Much of the runoff from cotton farms ends up either poisoning the wildlife, or the fertilizers causing algal bloom, which then chokes fish and other wildlife to death. According to Forbes, fast fashion is responsible for 10% of all carbon emissions globally and the average piece of clothing travels around 42,000 kilometres before it gets to you, polluting as it goes. This makes the Fashion Industry the second largest polluter, after the Petroleum Industry, followed by the Meat Industry. Of course, let’s not forget the leather industry in this equation, which heavily pollutes the environment as well, and the incidence level of cancer around tanning facilities is 20-50% higher.
Think about the human cost for a moment… If a piece of clothing costs $5 for you to buy, then only a small fraction of that goes to the maker of that clothing who more than likely works in a sweatshop in Asia (Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Pakistan, etc). Around 75 million people work in the Textile industry making garments and the typical worker is usually female and very young, including children. Pay is usually so low it might take several years of work for them to afford to buy a single piece of the clothing that they make. Many are forced to live at the factory in appalling conditions and many work 12-hour shifts every day of the week. It is a similar story even for Luxury goods retailers with huge profit margins for subjectively only slightly better final products.
How does humanity benefit from skin?
Our skin provides protection, regulation, sensation, and if that wasn’t enough, there’s nothing better than the feeling of a hug from someone we love.
How to Save Our Skins?
Individually: We must educate ourselves about the products and chemicals we so freely put on our skin. Many of them are harmful to us and nature, and also find out about the substances we put inside our bodies, either deliberately or that might enter through our skin, including tattoos.
Collectively, including Governments: We should encourage the Government to strictly control new products, and revise those already in existence. We must do more to protect the rest of the flora and fauna on the planet too.
Unpopular opinion: We ought to only consume things that are natural in origin, and that are good for our bodies. I realise it is quite hard to always do that, so try to limit the damage to a minimum. Protecting ourselves from further environmental disasters and cleaning up our mess must be top priorities. As my dearly departed mother always used to say, “Everything in moderation!”
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to check the veracity of the information contained within, certain limitations could result in not all data being current or completely accurate. Please feel free to contact us if you feel particular data needs updating.
Save Our Skins Test
Here are 10 questions...
How it started
How it's going
SOSquiz Glossary of Terms (with links to Wikipedia)
AEEA (Asociación Española de Educación Ambiental)
ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network)
Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
Carbon Monoxide (CO)
Coronavirus (Covid-19 or SARS Cov-2)
National Security Agency (NSA)
Particulate Matter (PM 10, 2.5 & UFP)
Quality of life (QOL)
Ultrafine particles (UFP)
World Wide Web (www)