My interest in understanding what I am putting in my body through the food and drinks that I consume came to include what I put on my body as well. Our skin is the largest organ we have and it's pretty exposed if you haven't noticed. What we put on it gets absorbed into our bodies, which can be a problem if we are not paying attention to what is in our skin products. This isn't meant to terrify anyone. Our bodies are tough and can break down a lot of the crap that we put into it. However, wouldn't it be nice to give us one less thing to worry about? Let's stop slathering on lotions, creams, and sprays that we do out of habit and less out of necessity. If we do use a product, let's make sure it has only the ingredients we need to get the job done and that we fully understand what it is we are using.
My favorite resource for beauty products is from Environmental Working Group, or EWG. Their website is a database on beauty and cleaning products, and lists numerous resources on how to avoid excess toxicity from food and skin products. I honestly haven't used this site for much more than to check out the database for their beauty products, so I can't say how useful the rest of the site is. However, they have grown significantly the last few years, so I imagine this will remain an important resource for me.
The first thing I would suggest, is to check the ratings of your products under their beauty database. Warning - you will be crushed, as I was, to find out that your favorite product has a pretty bad rating (typically due to the fragrance). One reason fragrance always gets a bad rating is that it doesn't specify what the fragrance is made from. EWG assumes fragrances are not made out of essential oils and natural products, but are made from a combination of chemicals that are not listed in the ingredients. The chemicals have to be FDA approved, so if your favorite product has fragrance listed as an ingredient, I wouldn't stress it too much, if it is otherwise safe. That being said, if at all possible, I would try to move towards fragrance free beauty products. Seriously, why does everything have to be fragranced? If you are showering regularly and eating right you will smell just fine without all the fragrance. So for our lotions, face washes, and even shampoos (gasp!) let's try to work towards fragrance free products. (Sorry for the rant!)
If you decide that you are interested in replacing your products with safer options, the database on EWG offers a large list of products that you will be able to purchase online. You'll quickly find out that most of the products we buy at pharmacy stores, or stores like Target and Walmart, do not have the best ratings. Most products with safer ingredients are harder to find in stores, but so far I have been able to purchase most things fairly easily online.
Again, this post isn't meant to stress out anyone. I think it is important to educate ourselves and to fully understand what it is we are putting on our bodies. If we still decide to use products with less than amazing scores on the EWG database, that is totally our choice. The point is that you are aware of what is in your products, so you can make the best choice. I am sure that we all have that one product that makes us feel amazing and no matter what its rating is, we will keep using it!
Also, we may continue to buy things that we realize aren’t that great. For example, in the photo I have used for this post there is a Burt's Bees shampoo. As soon as we see Burt's Bees, most of us think of it as a safe product. However, it only gets an “ok” scoring, so I was a little disappointed. It just goes to show that you can't assume something is completely safe based on the “wholesome product” labeling.
My suggestion: definitely replace any products that come up in the red category (see below for rating descriptions) in the EWG database and you will be making great improvements to your overall health.
So what products do I use? Glad you asked! Below are the products I am currently using, along with their ratings from EWG:
Green = minimum to no harmful ingredients (the goal)
Yellow = some harmful ingredients mixed with less than harmful ingredients (most common)
Red = mostly harmful ingredients (AVOID)
Burt's Bees Super Shiny Shampoo, Mango: Yellow
Dr. Bronner's Lavender Organic Shaving Soap: no rating, but most products by this company are green or yellow.
Dr. Bronner's 18-In-1 Hemp Lavender Pure-Castile Soap: Green
Tom's Clean Mint Fluoride Toothpaste: Yellow
Aura Cacia Sweet Almond Skin Care Oil (use as body lotion): Yellow
Just the Goods Vegan Face Wash, Toner, and Moisturizer + deodorant (all part of a sample pack): Green
As you can see not much is fragrance free, but both Dr. Bronner's products can be purchased fragrance free, so next time I will make the extra effort to find those version. Overall, no red (yay!), but I do want to continue to replace the products in yellow with green ones if possible.
Hope this encourages you to see what is in your products, and try to make the change to a safer version. And kudos to those of you who already use safe brands.
PLEASE at the very least, buy products that are free of animal testing!! These are also listed on EWG's website in their database.