Dirty Secrets of Health and Beauty Products

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Dirty Secrets of Health and Beauty Products

Grab your three most common hygiene products that you use everyday.  Mine are toothpaste, deodorant, and face wash.  If you have a family, grab theirs as well.  Sophie’s are toothpaste, bubble bath, and sunscreen, and Joey’s is toothpaste, shampoo, and shaving cream.  Keep these handy, we’ll be looking at them in a moment. 

Today we’re going to talk about the dirty ingredients that we are told keep us clean.  We’ve all heard about some of the big no-no’s and see them marketed on common brands.  Things like parabens (low cost preservatives), sulfates (detergent), and formaldehyde; cause cancer, depression, allergies, and a slew of other terrible ailments.  We’ve also heard about the dangers of aluminum in our deodorants and the link to breast cancer.  But what about the stuff they aren’t telling us on the front of the bottle?

If you know me, you know I am crazy about what my family puts in their bodies.  Other than one macrobiotic, raw vegan friend, I don’t know another person who eats healthier than this family.  However, when it came to what we put on our bodies, I always thought of it as “ the outside,” thereby less important.  I was SO wrong!  What we put on our skin is just as important as what we put in our bodies.  Here’s a few cool facts I learned about our skin: 

  • Skin is the biggest organ in our bodies (a lot of us know this one).
  • It takes toxins just 26 seconds to pass from your skin to your bloodstream (even faster from your mouth).
  • Your skin is covered in lipids (natural fats) that protect it.  Detergents and alcohol removes these lipids, thereby leaving our body’s protective mechanism unarmed against environmental and cosmetic toxins.

I’ve always been a hippy at heart and through my twenty’s I made all my own beauty and hygiene products, partly because I couldn’t afford fancy creams and partially because I have always been an essential oils fan.  However, as I got older, busier and more affluent, I stopped making products and began purchasing them.  I thought I was doing the right thing; buying organic, non-GMO, all-natural products for myself and my family.  Wrong again!

Now, take out your products and look at the ingredients.  Do you know what each of them are?  Do you know if they are safe or at least beneficial for your body?  How about the environment? Are your products safe enough to go down your drain and possibly into the ocean?  You can check each ingredient on the Environmental Work Group’s Skin Deep site, and the EWG rates them on a scale 0-9 to red flag the really dangerous stuff.  However, I urge you to read the details about ingredients marked “Fair” because they oftentimes have little data to make a judgment because manufacturers won’t release them.  The EWG are the people who test pesticides in food and give us the annual Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen.  They are also a non-profit, non-government agency that works independent from lobbyists and big-money influencers.  They take donations, so drop them a few bucks if you have it to spare.   

I am sad to admit that my family’s products , some labeled “organic” and “all natural” failed on every front.  Some even contained known carcinogens!  Most contained ingredients designed to strip our bodies of good stuff, making us all more susceptible to bacteria, toxins, and dehydration or oil overproduction thereby requiring us to reuse the products again and again (ie: lotions and shampoos).  Worst of all, they all contained the mystery ingredient labeled “fragrance.”  This is the “mystery meat” of the cosmetics industry.  According to the FDA’s web page on cosmetic products, “law does not require FDA approval before they go on the market,” and manufacturers are responsible for making sure they are safe.  Furthermore, ingredients inso called “fragrance” do not need to be listed on labels because they may be “trade secrets.”

Overwhelmed yet?  I sure was!  But you don’t have to take this all on at once.  Here’s some simple steps to make it better before you make it perfect.

  1. Prioritize – Focus on the frequency of use to prioritize which products to tackle first.  Products that are applied to your entire body and not washed off (ie: lotion) is a good place to start.  Products for kids are another big priority.  If a product is washed off entirely (ie: shampoo) is probably a lower exposure than something left on (ie: deodorant). 
  2. Dilute, dilute, dilute.  Fill product bottles halfway with water.  Shampoo, hand soaps, and detergents still work even diluted.
  3. Replace what you can with safer alternatives.  For example, bar soap needs less preservatives and alcohols than liquid soaps.  Oils don’t require the same chemicals that lotions do because they aren’t susceptible to mold and fungus. 
  4. Make what you can and buy “real” products.

I’ve been lucky that I knew a lot of homemade beauty and hygiene techniques, like body oils, deodorants, and face creams.  I’ll share them all with you in either technique, recipe, or product form as time permits (I am one-handed these days so Joey types for me and photos are iPhone or stock.  He’s got his hands full while I recover, but here a DIY Laundry Detergent recipe to get you started.  Also check out our post on Natural Cleaning Products to detoxify your whole house.  Thank you for sharing this space! 

Infographic Courtesy of: Natural Healing Products

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  1. […] a previous post, we talked about the most harmful ingredients in your beauty/hygiene products, and how to check them against the EWG’s Skin Deep Database for safety.   Today, we […]

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