Do you know what’s in your favorite moisturizer? What about that killer eyeshadow you wear when you go out with your girlfriends? And that sexy red lipstick you bought last week? I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that you have little to no idea. Am I right?
I recently started taking a closer look at the products I put on my face (and in my hair, and on my legs, etc.). I read ingredient lists and did a slightly ridiculous amount of research on the things I found there. And what I found… well, in the end I threw almost everything away.
Popular skin-care products are full of questionable/unsafe chemicals (phthalates, parabens, triclosan, and oxybenzone, just to name a few). Many of these chemicals have been shown to really mess with your body, including interfering with the body’s endocrine system (where hormones are produced)–yikes! Research shows that some of these ingredients are even flat-out carcinogenic (meaning they can cause cancer). Think the recent Johnson & Johnson lawsuit publicity.
Did you know that the cosmetics industry is unregulated? The FDA doesn’t test or approve cosmetics before they go to market–they leave it up to the companies themselves. In other words, the companies who stand to make money from selling a product are the same entities responsible for deciding whether or not it’s safe. I’m sure they’re completely objective, right?
It boils down to this: We don’t really know what piling on all those chemicals is actually doing to our bodies. What research is out there shows that the cumulative effect is almost definitely pretty awful. So why take the risk?
Where do you start? In my opinion, with your deodorant. Most deodorants contain aluminum as an active ingredient, which stops up the sweat glands in your armpits. There is some research that suggests the aluminum compounds may also be absorbed into the body and start messing with your hormones (there it is again!), though it isn’t conclusive. Either way, the effect aluminum-containing deodorants have on the body isn’t a natural one–sweating is a normal, healthy function. So toss it and replace it with a better product. (Try Schmidt’s natural deodorant. This is what I use and it 1) smells great and 2) works really well.)
After that, start looking at the products you use most often. Inspect your makeup, your lotions, your shampoo and conditioner, your hand soap… go through it all one item at a time. Anything that has an ingredient ending in “-paraben” should go directly in the trash. After that, I highly recommend using this toxic ingredients list and the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep cosmetics database to help you determine what to keep and what to toss.
Once you’ve figured out what you’re getting rid of, start looking for safe replacements. There are dozens of resources out there, from the EWG database to beauty blogs to books. And, believe it or not, there are a lot of “clean” product options–I was surprised, when I first started replacing my products, by just how much is available. Going green does take some effort and research, but it’s not nearly as difficult today as it used to be. (If you’re interested in following my “go clean journey” in more detail, I started a second blog focused on just that–you can check it out here and you can subscribe to updates here.)
Stay away from the cliff
When you dive into the world of clean beauty/household products, be careful. It’s very easy for things to become sensationalized these days–there are probably people out there who will claim that using XYZ ingredient in anything means you’re definitely going to die young from a rare cancer. But, though there is research out there that links certain chemicals/ingredients to health problems including cancer, it’s not a promise. You don’t have to immediately dump every “dirty” product you own or face terrible consequences. Just do the best you can. Start small and expand the scope of your efforts as you’re able (and as you learn more about it). Baby steps, people!
I’d love to hear your thoughts/questions–and if you have favorite natural products, share them in the comments!