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.

1.  Fragrance

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.

2.  Phthalates

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.

3.  Parabens

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.

4.  Triclosan

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:

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!

Read more from the Spring Cleansing Series, here!