Give Your Skin a Breather!
One step toward getting ready for spring is to take a closer look at our personal care products. Skin is a porous organ. Much of what goes on it, also goes through it. This is especially true of smaller molecules and chemicals in our personal care products.
Our challenge this week is to shift, step by step, toward using healthier personal care products in order to lighten the toxic load on our bodies.
Here is a simple way to take inventory of your products, understand the ingredients you may want to consider red flags, and transition to healthier options.
I. Know the bad guys.
Let’s take a look at four top offenders that are added to personal care products, which could cause harm to our bodies in the long run. Many (read thousands) of chemicals that are used in products we use on our body have not been tested for human safety. This is one area where we must be informed, conscientious consumers, using our spending power to communicate that we want safe products.
Fragrance is often the main ingredient in personal care products. The industry can use this one ambiguous word for any one of 5,000 different chemicals, the majority of which have never been tested for safety — and many of which are highly suspected to cause disruption on a hormonal or cellular level. These chemicals have been increasingly cited as a trigger for asthma, allergies, and migraine headaches.
Try to choose products that are fragrance-free or that list natural botanical sources as their fragrance. *Be careful, though, with pure lavender essential oil on baby boys. Though not confirmed, there is some concern that too much product with lavender oil could disrupt hormone levels in young boys. Better to be safe than sorry.
Phthalates are added to hundreds of personal care products, including some hairsprays, nail polishes, and toothpastes. There is a growing body of research that links phthalates with many reproductive problems, especially in young children.
Look for the word “phthalate” in the ingredient list of products, and consider avoiding those.
Parabens are used as a preservative in thousands of cosmetic, food, and pharmaceutical products. Studies have shown that this class of chemicals can accumulate in human tissue (never a good thing). Parabens have been shown to mimic the effect of estrogen in our body, and so there is concern about its possible connection to breast cancer (especially considering parabens can be detected in human breast tumors).
Reducing our exposure to parabens is a good idea, look for these chemicals (often with names like ethyl paraben, methyl paraben) in the products you are considering using, and avoid them as much as possible.
Banned by the FDA in September 2016, triclosan is a synthetic antimicrobial that has been added to hundreds of products, all as part of a growing marketing craze against germs. The chemical itself has been linked, in animal studies, with negatively impacting the thyroid gland and what’s more concerning is that triclosan in water, exposed to UV light (sunlight), can synthesize into a very dangerous, carcinogenic dioxin molecule. The need for antibacterial personal care products or even antibacterial soap is unfounded, and studies have suggested that people who live in too-sterile environments actually depress their immune systems and have a higher rate of allergies, asthma, and eczema.
Avoid the antibacterials or products that use triclosan. Keep a clean and sanitary home with natural soaps and cleansers.
II. What do you use? Your Personal Inventory
Now that you have a starting guideline for what to look for, begin by taking stock of what you use and what you have stored in your home. While you are going through all your products, throw away old or expired products and consider ways you can reduce the number of products you use, overall.
Write all the products you use on the left side of a piece of paper. Then, one by one, check the ingredients. If they are less than desirable, indicate that on the sheet by putting a box next to it. Here are some ideas of personal care products you may use to help you get started:
soap, body scrub, face wash, face cream, eye cream, toner, body lotion, perfume, lipstick, lip gloss, nail polish, nail polish remover, eyeliner, eye shadow, mascara, eyebrow pencil, blush, powder, foundation, concealer, makeup remover, hair straightener, shampoo, conditioner, hair dye, hair gel, mousse, hair spray, toothpaste, whitening strips, suntan lotion, sunless tanning lotion, anti-aging cream, vaginal deodorant or douche, body wash, deodorant, shaving cream, acne treatment, insect repellent
III. Make a game plan.
Now work through the products that you want to be greener, cleaner, and safer for your body by taking one at a time and finding a suitable alternative. Review the list of boxes, and put a number next to each box in the order that you would like to replace them. Keep in mind you may want to consider finding healthy alternatives for things that stay on your skin first, and then things that get put on and washed off quickly after. Once you find, use, and enjoy a healthy alternative, check off the box and continue with the next product.
Here are some companies that have a track record for greener and cleaner products than many mainline brands and that I have personal experience with:
- Burt’s Bees www.burtsbees.com
- Tom’s of Maine www.tomsofmaine.com
- Ecco Bella www.eccobella.com
- Aubrey Organics www.aubrey-organics.com
- Dr. Bronner www.drbronner.com
- Jason www.jason-natural.com
- Pangea Organics www.pangeaorganics.com
- Physician’s Formula (organic wear) www.physiciansformula.com
Like all change, take this step by step — and most importantly, choose to make changes because you feel ready and excited about the benefits that you’ll receive.
If you have healthy personal care product or company suggestion, please leave it in the comment section to help others along!
I have used an herbal salve for years that an herbalist/midwife formulates in her home. My mother has used baking soda with a bit of salt mixed into it as a “toothpaste” for most of her lifetime. Gold Bond (or equivalent) medicated powder (with zinc oxide) makes an incredibly effective deodorant, without the dangers of aluminum . (I live in TEXAS!) I’ve also made a plain, homemade soap that I grate into powder for laundry. Uh-oh, I feel myself climbing onto my soapbox…
Perhaps, we extremely “civilized” folks are too civilized for our own good…taking showers EVERY day (sometimes twice?) and hence, needing all those extra lotions, etc. Once upon a time, people went to bed when it got dark, exercised in and ate from a garden bed, hung laundry out to dry for that “linen” scent, etc. Too bad we can’t find a place of healthy moderation between simplicity and advanced technology.
Great information! My biology teacher in college explained the reason that antibacterial products were not good for regular use.
By using antibacterial products, you not only kill the bad bacteria, but also the good bacteria. Then, if you’re exposed to bad bacteria, you have little or no good germs to fight the bad germs; therefore, you are much more likely to get sick.
As far as fragrances, I know there is something bad in a lot of them because many perfumes and even lotions cause me to get a horrible headache, and I get really congested. I can definitely vouch for those findings.
I like KISS MY FACE toothpaste and face lotion (for sensitive skin) – I’d prefer a face lotion with sunscreen, though. My kids use Burts Bees shampoo and conditioner (grapefruit & sugar beet) as well as bubbles (citrus & ginger root) for the bath. Whenever I buy other drugstore products, I at least purchase fragrance free & for sensitive skin to reduce exposure to chemicals. No perfume for me.
@Leslie– Your sentiments match mine exactly, I too feel we are living in such a “backward” world really– racing to keep up with the latest technologies and convienences, fast food, fast medicine, fast lives– and yet what we end up with is LESS time, LESS joy, LESS connection. I would love to hear your recipie for the herbal salve too 🙂
@Kika, I forgot about Kiss My Face- they have some really wonderful products!
@Amanda: You are so right about the antibacterial abuse…when I really looked into it, I wondered why if so many plants are highly antimicrobal (anti bacterial, anti funagal, anti viral) didn’t they cause the problems with resistant bacteria and super germs the way we are with our overuse of antibiotics and it turns out the problem is using synthetic antibacterials (in our products, in our food chains and in medicines as antibiotics)– man-made chemicals can’t “outsmart” the mutating germs out there but natural antibacterials CAN and HAVE for millions of years! So it makes sense to stick with nature as much as possible!
I wonder if any one has any tips for eczema? My middle daughter (age 6) has a terrible case of it. The doctors just tell me to keep it moisturized, which I do, but everything I put on her burns and I’ve had to start bribing her to get lotion on her twice a day. If we miss one application then the next one is full of tears from the stinging. We are currently using Renew by Melaluca (spelling?) that, if applied twice a day, keeps the rashes at about a 2-3 on a scale of 1-10. If we miss a day they flare right back up to a 6 or 7.
My son suffers from dry skin patches in the winter (not quite at the eczema level, though). I found some very good information on this site and this post in particular http://www.keeperofthehome.org/2009/02/sweet-wonders-my-story.html
Some things that help us keep the dry patches at bay are bathing every other day in lukewarm to cool water, using a chlorine ball for the bath water to remove the chlorine, applying coconut oil after the bath (I’ve also used Alba brand moisturizer with success), and making sure he is getting lots of healthy fats in his diet, like organic eggs, avocado, coconut oil, nuts and nut butters, especially almond butter (my son has no allergies). This has been helpful for us…
Anyone else have some ideas to help deal with eczem?
Lisa, there are two entries by KIKA above, but the second one IS NOT FROM ME (alhtough it copies me all but the ending). If you click on the name it takes you to a toothpaste add or something. Can we remove it please?
Thank you for the list of chemicals to avoid. I would like to ask if anyone has any good ideas of how to get rid of our products we want to substitute for healthier ones. Giving it away to someone close seems wrong because of the harmful chemicals but just putting them in the trash seems wasteful too. I don’t plan on buying more but what to do with the used products?
Also, my toddler has eczema. When he was born it was pretty bad but now he only has occasional flare ups. We did use medication but we basically just bathe him less so the natural oils aren’t stripped off everyday, wash his clothes with dreft ( though a non-detergent would be better), second rinse with vinegar. No fabric ( chemical) softener, or dryer sheets.. avoid fragrances. We don’t use any baby products or lotion but you can use olive oil after the bath if needed. Hope this gives you some ideas.
Miessence (I’m a rep) offers “certified organic” body and skin care and can be found at http://www.organicbeautyspot.mionegroup.com
A word of caution to your readers, just because a company labels their products as organic doesn’t make it so. I noticed that one of the companies recommended has actually been named in a lawsuit by the Organic Consumer’s Association for misleading labeling. Some of the well-known companies named are:
* Avalon Organics
* Jason Pure, Natural & Organic
* Nature’s Gate Organics
* Kiss My Face Obsessively Organic
* Giovanni Organic Cosmetics
* Head Organics
The sad part is that these particular companies signed the Compact for Safety in Cosmetics 🙁
For more details of the lawsuit go to http://www.organicconsumers.org/bodycare/index.cfm
The only way to know if your body care products are truly organic is if they’re are labeled as certified and have the USDA seal.
Here is a list (you’ll see that Miessence is listed) of the only USDA certified organic skincare lines/products:
I don’t know if you can get it in the US, but I really like http://www.rockymountainsoap.com/our of Alberta, Canada. I don’t know if they are organic, but all the ingredients are things I actually recognize, like olive oil and almond oil in their moisturizers. I love their lip balm and their soaps are great, and their flying insect lotion is the only natural thing I’ve found that keeps my boys bite free.
Growing up in the tropics like I did, we used a lot of insect repellent and when I was a teen, I started reacting to it with a rash. Later, I began reacting to strong scents with nausea and dizziness…now I react to certain lotions and stuff…so I’m all for the natural products! I think that we are on major overload with so many chemicals in our food and stuff. Personally, I haven’t changed everything over to natural products, mostly the things I have reacted to and deoderant. It would be good to do as you suggest and take better stock of what’s in everything I use…
For insect repellent I use Dancing Roots crocodile! herbal insect repellent and I know it’s worked because it’s what I used in Venezuela against those nasty gnats and mosquitos! My sisters use it in Ecuador also. I think they also sell other repellent products, such as candles.
For deoderant I have recently begun using a natural crystal in liquid form, I think it’s alum? It’s called Amazing Thai Crystal and my sister bought it for me at a natural food store. I put it on immediately after a shower and I have been amazed at its effectiveness! It apparently works by not allowing the smelly bacteria form in the first place and doesn’t clog the pores.
[…] Give Your Skin A Breather! Reducing our exposure to parabens is a good idea, look for these chemicals (often with names like ethyl paraben, methyl paraben) […]
Great post – I stumbled it! Thanks for participating in the carnival this week!
I have used Gentle Naturals brand Baby Eczema Cream on my children and have found it to be very effective. Hope this helps Alyson. It can be found at most Wal-Mart stores and Walgreens.
I love Dr. Bronner’s soap. I just love plain, old-fashioned castile soap. I use the liquid variety to wash my hair (once every 4 days). And coconut oil is my go-to body moisturizer.
I live in Phoenix, Arizona (where it gets HOT!!) but have found Tom’s of Maine deodorant to work really, really well! : )