Why do we fear chemicals?
In recent years, there has been a growing trend where people are becoming more concerned with chemicals, especially when it’s about what is in their food and beauty products. It made me wonder: “where does the fear of chemicals come from?”
As I dove into that question, I realized ignorance is one of the causes of fear. We tend to believe what trusted people say, like if our parent or a friend tells us that something is dangerous, we don’t dare to question or contradict them. Just like once upon a time, tomatoes were considered poisonous, and during that period of time, nobody would eat them.
I have noticed that some natural skincare companies have found a way to create uncertainty and fear in people's minds. For example, when an advertisement mentions that a skincare product doesn’t contain a specific ingredient, what does that imply? It implies that the ingredient might not be good for your health.
Let’s take silicone as an example. You are in a store looking for hair conditioner, and you see written on a bottle “This product doesn’t contain any silicone.”
What does that mean? Is there something wrong with silicone? Well, we don't think there is an issue with it until we see this kind of marketing. Natural skincare companies say they are not using silicone simply because groups of people have decided that petroleum-based chemicals would not be considered natural.
What I will be addressing is the mindset behind the fear of chemicals in our lives. First, let's define what science is and where it comes from.
What science means.
Science is the result of many studies of the structures and behaviors of the natural world through observation and experiment. There are people who, starting many centuries ago up to now, got curious. For example, someone noticed that a fruit after being picked from the tree will rot if not eaten quickly, and asked why.
Physicians, chemists, and pharmacists put their minds to analyzing what they saw. They wrote down their observations. They experimented until they could formulate their theories. Then they shared their findings with the rest of the world. New scientists took previous studies and went further with it. Some historical studies are found to be true to this day; whereas others have been tweaked, modified, or nullified over time.
Science is the study of what happened in nature.
Science, in short, is the study of what is happening in nature. So, when we fear chemicals, what are we afraid of? I think we fear things we don’t understand. We are scared that chemicals may cause us harm. We want to stay healthy. Our bodies are engineered to keep us alive.
I was raised in a small rural county in Canada. Back then, we didn’t do grocery shopping every week. During the harvesting season, my parents would purchase produce in bulk and we would fill our huge freezer with food.
One day, as I tried to open the freezer, for some reason, I received an electric shock. The current was so intense that I couldn’t release the freezer handle. Eventually, my knees buckled, and I fell, onto the floor. I have never had any physical issues because of this; however, my mindset towards electricity was changed forever. To this day, I can do all sorts of DIY repairs, except anything that has to do with electricity. I don’t understand it and, even though I don’t see the current, I know its power. However, regardless of my fears, it doesn’t stop me from opening freezer doors or using electric outlets.
It’s one thing to fear chemicals, especially when we don’t understand them. It’s another matter when we proclaim a product is dangerous, not because of any scientific evidence but because we don’t understand it or don’t like the sound of the chemical name. Feeling afraid in your heart and choosing not to use something is entirely up to you; however, I have come across so many websites where the author shares his views from a place of ignorance rather than truth.
Causing fear and uncertainty has been a tactic used by many leaders. And some natural skincare companies are doing it too. It would be like me telling you never open a freezer door because you may receive an electric shock, or to never plug anything in an electrical outlet because electricity is dangerous. I know it doesn’t make sense. However, we should think about the implications when a skincare brand promotes their product as “free from” or “it doesn’t contain”.
When I look at these skincare brands’ formulations, there one thing I see, the longer the list of ‘it doesn’t contain is, the less the cream will do for you. In short, you are not buying a skincare cream that will actually address your skin issues; instead you buy-in to a feeling of safety. The advertisement makes you feel the cream is safe for your health as well as being good for the environment.
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