Tuesday, 01 March 2016 11:15

Genetically-Modified Organisms and the Skin Care Industry

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Unbeknownst to many clients and even skin care professionals, genetically-modified organisms (GMO) may be lurking in skin care products. While GMOs are pretty commonplace in food, with a presence of about 60 to 70 percent in the supermarket, clients may be wondering how they can identify GMOs in their skin care products and how they can avoid them.

What are GMOs?
GMOs are organisms that have genetic material that has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally. This process, which is also known as genetic engineering and biotechnology, works by implanting fragments of DNA from one organism into another. Scientists have been altering a number of vegetable crops in order to protect them from environmental threats and chemicals. These alterations can make crops resistant to herbicides and insects. For example, a crop can be altered so that it is accepting of large amounts of toxic chemicals and pesticides. This toleration allows for the death of weeds without affecting the crop. Crops can also be genetically engineered to contain toxins that break open insects' stomachs, killing the insect and protecting the crop. Other crops can be modified to be resistant to disease and drought or to encompass added nutrients.

Concerns About GMOs
According to the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, several animal studies have shown that there are serious health risks associated with eating genetically-modified foods. Genetically-modified foods have also been linked to allergies, asthma, intestinal damage, and inflammation.
When the Environmental Protection Agency approved Bt-toxin, one of the modifications made to corn that breaks open the stomach of certain insects, they stated that only the insects would be harmed and that the human digestive system would destroy the toxin; there would not be any impact on consumers. However, doctors at Sherbrooke University Hospital in Quebec found the corn's Bt-toxin in the blood of pregnant women and their babies and non-pregnant women.

GMOs in Skin Care Products
Clients should look out for GMOs in skin care products due to the fact that many skin care products come from agricultural sources, some of which may be genetically modified. Lauric acid, for example, is a saturated fat that is often used in lotions as a moisturizer. Although it may come from coconuts, lauric acid may also come from canola. Due to the high demand for lauric acid, canola has been modified, in some cases, in order to produce high levels of the ingredient that are resistant to pesticides and insects. Ingredients in skin care products that could potentially include GMOs include soy, canola, corn, and papaya.
If clients are particularly interested in staying away from products that contain GMOs, there are a few things they can look out for in order to protect themselves. Have clients look for products that contain GMO-free labels. While not all products that do not contain GMOs will have this label, keeping an eye out for them will ensure that the product really is GMO free. Clients can also take precautions by shopping for products that are organic or use mainly-organic ingredients as organic standards do not allow GMOs. GMO-conscious clients should look for USDA organic seals and the non-GMO certification label, an orange butterfly. Products with this symbol have been verified by the Non-GMO Project.

Ann Marie SC. (n.d.). GMOs in My Beauty Products? Here's How to Avoid Them.
Smith, J. M. (n.d.). Dangerous Toxins From Genetically Modified Plants Found in Women and Fetuses.
Utroske, D. (2015, February 12). Non-GMO cosmetics, a trend in the making.

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