Earlier this month, everyone has been abuzz with angst after discovering that Subway bread and Gaiam yoga mats are made with some of the same chemicals. This really irritated me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled that people are finally noticing and talking about nonessential chemical additives like this. But what really drives me mad is that harmful, unnecessary chemicals are in so many products that our bodies consume and this behavior continues to be overlooked. One of the worst contenders in my mind is the personal care industry. There are hundreds of products and companies that market themselves as being all natural when in reality they are pumped full of lab-created chemicals, animal by-products, and known carcinogens. While we may not directly ingest these products like we would food, most of the personal care products (make up, skin care, body care, personal hygiene products etc.) is absorbed through our skin, right into our blood stream, and then sent all throughout our bodies. So many people don’t realize how directly we are ingesting these chemicals and how severely they are affecting us.
If you’re someone who has never considered how harmful your body wash is for your health or you’ve just never known how to start a personal care routine cleanse, here are five easy ways to start today!
Know your ingredients
Over 80% of the ingredients used in personal care products have never been evaluated for safety. Four out of five of every ingredients listed on the back of shampoos, conditioners, face washes, moisturizers have never been checked to see if they are harmful to human beings. Am I the only one who finds this ridiculous? Luckily, it’s not necessary to know each and every one of these potentially harmful ingredients. Personally, I just focus on a few common, known-to-be-toxic things that I try to avoid.
Avoid at All Costs: AKA the supreme frightening skin care bullies
- Parabens- This synthetic preservative can be found in almost every product that isn’t labeled as certified organic or paraben-free. Parabens have been detected in 99% of breast cancer tissue.
- Phthalates- This is a common ingredient in vinyl flooring, food packaging, ink, paint, and plastics. Phthalates can disrupt the immune, endocrine, and reproductive systems, child development, and a possible carcinogen.
Steer Clear of When Possible:
- Propylene Glycol- This is anti-freeze. Like what people use in their car. It has been known to cause cancer in animals and can affect renal and respiratory systems.
- Fragrance- There’s a huge loop-hole in the personal care industry that allows manufacturers to refer to every ingredient that contributes to a product’s scent as “fragrance”. They are not required to state what preservative or any allergy-causing products are used. Even if a product does not have “parabens” or “phthalates” on the label, they can still be included in the product under the veil of “fragrance”.
But what about the good ingredients you should look for? Ah, see this is actually pretty easy. If a product is certified organic or states that it is free of parabens, dyes, fragrances, artificial chemicals etc, it is probably safe! Another way is ensure a product is safe is by getting it at a trustworthy store like Whole Foods or a local holistic shop and by doing research on the ingredients online beforehand.
Don’t fall for “all natural” marketing
If a product claims that it is all natural but fails to have a USDA-certified Organic/EU green leaf flag/etc, they are not really natural. THEY ARE LYING TO YOU! Don’t play with liars. Put that product down and go find something with a certification because you’re worth it/you deserve better/treat yo self. Many products “green wash” aka make themselves out to be much healthier and more natural than they actually are. But now you’re smarter than to fall for their marketing schemes. Look at you go!
Phase things out slowly
When I first started learning about toxic personal care ingredients and all of this stuff, I became completely overwhelmed. I felt this enormous pressure to toss every last deodorant/lotion/toothpaste/cosmetic I owned and replace it with a more natural alternative. Not only is that illogical, it’s unnecessary. The best way I found to introduce natural products into your routine is to pick one area (shower/body care/facial care/hair) and whenever you use up one of your products, replace it with a natural alternative. This way, you can work at your own pace, find products that best work with your body and lifestyle, and not waste money by throwing out what you already have.
RAID your kitchen/DIY whenever possible
Most of your household kitchen products can also be used in the bathroom to make cool skincare products. You can make a face masque out of plain yogurt, a scrub out of salt/sugar and olive oil, and toner from apple cider vinegar. You can even wash your face with honey. If you’re a broke college student or someone who just loves to get crafty, you have so many cheap and easy products waiting to be concocted from stuff you already own.
The most important product to switch over first: LIP BALM
Lip balm is a cheap and simple item to change over to an all natural alternative. If you’re already a Burt’s Bees user, read no further, you’re good to go. If you’re the type of person who always reaches for Chapstick brand or whatever is by the cash register at the grocery, put down your lip balm and back away slowly. More than 40% of lip balm/lipstick/lip gloss/anything you put on your mouth ends up being eaten. A majority of lip balms (aka those that are not certified organic or all natural) are filled with frightening chemicals and preservatives that not only can be harmful to your health, but often intentionally dry out your lips so you purchase more of their product. Do yourself a favor and switch over to an organic, all natural brand like Burt’s Bees or something from Whole Foods. Or better yet, DIY one!
So here are some of the products I use/things I frequently do/what I recommend to all my friends:
- HONEY: Yes I have actually voluntarily rubbed raw honey on my face. And it was great. I like Really Raw honey but anything will do, as long as it’s raw. Sometimes I apply it to my entire face, wait 10-30 minutes and rinse. Usually though I use it as an overnight spot treatment whenever my skin hates me. Before bed, dab a little bit on a blemish, toss one of those otherwise useless little square band-aids on top and dream of the beautiful clear skin you’ll wake up to.
- OIL PULLING: Basically this is using oil as a mouth wash. It doesn’t sting or taste weird. Every time I’ve done this someone has commented on how white and/or great my teeth look. I prefer to use sesame seed oil but coconut oil works too. Use like mouthwash. Reap the benefits.
- COCONUT OIL SHAVING CREAM: This is my all-time favorite. Before I shower, I scoop out a little bit of solid coconut oil then when I’m in the shower/the oil is still solid, I rub it all over my legs and shave like usual. Y’all. My legs have never been softer. The oil doubles as a lotion too so don’t fret if it feels like you can’t rinse it all off.
Alright, now that I’ve made myself seem like some crazy woman with half of a small grocery store smeared all over her body at any given point in time (which OK I probably am), please please keep these points in mind next time you’re shopping for anything from eye brow gel to body lotion. And avoid yoga mat bread at all costs.