Understanding the ingredients in personal care products can become so overwhelming and confusing we tend to shut down. It leaves us with so much information that we cannot possibly control or even begin to live by. You don’t have to be perfect. You can start to make simple changes in your daily life to reduce your exposure, as effortless as where you reach on the shelf at your store.
1. Use less/ limit your exposure
Go through your bathroom and be honest with what you really need. Separate all your products into two categories, the “must have” and the “why”. When doing this make over I am always impressed with the amount of extra products we all have. I have seen someone with as many as 10 different leave in conditioners as well as shine enhancers, defrizzers and smoothing creams that they were applying after each wash. One of my favorite examples was a woman who was putting on 6 different “miracle” creams to combat aging through out the coarse of the day all-promising to do the same thing. When we started her make over the thought of giving up those products was enough to send her to her therapist chair. After a lot of coxing and reassuring her that not only would she and the planet be healthier, but if she gave it 2 months she would see that her “miracles in a jar” were making her skin age faster due to all the chemicals they were filled with. I promised her she could save money, time, energy, her ego and the planet all at once.
The fun was in the 2 month check up when she greeted me with a smile and said she had never gotten so may comments on how wonderful she looked. Not only that but with the money she saved she managed to purchase some new clothes to go with what she described as the new her.
2. Pick products with more then one use
This will not only help you achieve your first goal but save you only cut down on amount different chemical exposures and reduce packaging waste.
There are so many dual uses for products. Next time you want to remove your make up try some organic olive oil from your cupboard, or use your face cream. Shampoo works perfect for body wash, some face creams are a wonderful pallet perfectors before applying make-up, REAL hand made super fatted soap works wonders as a shaving cream, a lot of night time eye moisturizers/wrinkle prevention balms can be used around the lips and cuticles and the list goes on and on. Try out different applications with the products you are currently using. Be careful to read all the warnings first.
3. Choose products with a shorter list of ingredients.
More does not necessarily mean better. A lot of what is on a label is either bad for you, or there for show. Just by choosing products that use less you will be exposing yourself to less toxins and less recourses will be used in the manufacturing of the product.
4. Forget about what the label/packaging look like
What the bottle says and looks like has nothing to do with performance. Don’t let a pretty package sell you tell yourself the truth. Look for products that use the least amount of packaging possible. Over use of packaging is a waste of our planets resources and filling our landfills. Also a company that is willing to forgo the extra sale they will inevitably get by packaging power is making a statement and taking active steps to reduce waste.
5. Don’t be sold by name dropping
Personal care is so imbedded in our memories that we are not even aware of. Common things I hear over and over again are “I use Chanel #5 just like my grandmother” or “I can only use Tide it reminds me of home”. Consumers also relate to major names, “ it’s Prada face cream it has to be good” “Johnson’s and Johnson’s makes it, it’s safe” “it cost 200 for a ½ oz I know it’s good” Let go of any and all preconceived notions you currently have and allow your self to inspect everything from a non bias stand point. You may still wear your grandmother’s perfume or buy the 200 ½ oz face cream, but let yourself see the naked truth, unmask your products. This is the only way to really be in charge and make a choice based on knowledge not nostalgia or marketing.
6. Make your own criteria of what is acceptable to you.
A few simple ways to do this are make a list of the top ingredients that you will not put on your skin and find products without them. Your list could be 2 or 20; it’s what you feel safe and comfortable with. Empower your self and send a message to manufactures with what you spend your money on.
7. Get intimate with your products
Look at the current products you are using and read the ingredient lists to decide if you want to continue to use it on your body. Take a look beyond what the label says and look inside your products, see their inner beauty or mask they hide behind. Once you look deeper and take away the layers of fluff, you might have a different view.
8. Resist the urge to buy
Stay away from the beauty isles. If you have products that you like, and that fit your chemical free criteria resist the urge to purchase more. When I do chemical free make over the first thing I almost always notice is just how many products we all have and how many new ones we try. There is always a new exciting miracle cream on the market, but you simply do not need it. Stick with what you know, love and are familiar with the ingredients. Just by reducing your impulse purchases, you will reduce your exposure, save money and waste.
9. Switch to mineral make up
Even the worst mineral make up has less chemicals then most every liquid foundations and pressed powders.
10. Read Ingredient list details
Ingredients should be listed in order of most to least. This helps you determine two things. First how much of an active ingredient is in your product as well as how much of a chemical you want to avoid is in. A lot of people have difficulties with letting go of fragrance. There are just some scents you cannot make naturally. You can however blend fragrance with essential oils to reduce the amount or simply use less. You will notice on some labels fragrance will be towards the top and some at the bottom.
Just by making these 10 simple changes you will effect vast changes. Just one of them would be enough if that is all that you choose to do. If you become overzealous being a label detective is a never-ending project. There is always more we can learn.
Top 10 products to scrutinize, reduce use or avoid
- Powder with talc
- Nail polish
Nearly 70 percent of nail polishes tested contained high levels of DBP Deodorant
- Baby shampoos
Do your homework well when choosing one. 1,4-dioxane is all to common in most brands. Product tests released by author and researcher David Steinman found 1,4- dioxane in more then 12 different best selling brands of both shampoo and bubble bath. 1,4-dioxane is cited as a probable carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Production Agency and a animal carcinogen by National Toxicology Program. Unfortunately this is a clear cut example of what hidden danger lurk in your products that are not listed ion the label. Because 1,4-dioxane is produced during manufacturing, the FDA does not require for it to be listed as an ingredient on the label of products.
- bubble baths
- hair dyes
- petroleum-based products
- make up with artificial colors
- skin primers made with silicon or other cone products
- baby wipes
Top 10 ingredients to avoid
(parabens are taking all the heat and getting a bad wrap. They are used to preserve products. The jury is still out on if or how harmful they are, but if we don’t need to be exposed to them, then why. Even if a product replaces the parabens, they may use a equally bad or worse preservative, so check to see what they are replacing it with.)
The following ingredients contain formaldehyde, may release formaldehyde or may break down into formaldehyde:
- Diazolidinyl urea
- DMDM hydantoin
- Imidazolidinyl urea
- Quaternium 15
Not listed on label, found in fragrance and other ingredients in your products. A lot of companies are however starting to list phthalate free.
- Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate, and Ammonium laureth sulphate
(this is the same problem as parabens, they are getting all the heat while other substitutes that are equally bad or worse are replacing them.)
- Diethanolamine (DEA), Triethanolamine (TEA)
- Diazolidinyl Urea, Imidazolidinyl Urea
- 1,4 dioxane
- Propylene Glycol