In our ever advancing and constantly changing society, let’s get back to some of the basics—the basics of food and the earth. While technology and growth are amazing, chemicals and hormones in our food and body products is not so amazing. If we are trying to “eat organic” and “healthy,” why are we okay with putting chemicals onto our skin?
What goes onto our skin goes directly into our bloodstream, including all our wonderful smelling lotions, shampoos, cleansers, toners, make up, and perfume. Even if something says it’s “organic” you still have to read the label—unfortunately! The Organic Consumers Association’s Coming Clean Campaign explains this confusion and mess:
“The word “organic” is not properly regulated on personal care products (example: toothpaste, shampoo, lotion, etc.) as it is on food products, unless the product is certified by the USDA National Organic Program.
Due to this lax regulation, many personal care products have the word “organic” in their brand name or otherwise on their product label, but, unless they are USDA certified, the main cleansing ingredients and preservatives are usually made with synthetic and petrochemical compounds.
Look for the USDA organic seal on personal care products that claim to be organic. Although there are multiple “organic” and “natural” standards, each with its own varying criteria, the USDA Organic Standards are the “gold standard” for personal care products.
If you want a product that is totally organic, look for the USDA organic seal. If it doesn’t have the seal, read the ingredient label to find out how many ingredients are truly organic and how many are synthetic.” http://www.organicconsumers.org
With that in mind, let’s look at some chemicals traditionally put in body products that you should most definitely avoid. The Environmental Working Group provides a convenient “Shopper’s Guide to Safe Cosmetics” that you can print and keep with you. http://www.ewg.org/files/EWG_cosmeticsguide.pdf
Below are some key ingredients to avoid, if you can even pronounce them:
DMDM hydantoin and Imidazolidinyl urea contain toxic contaminants and may cause allergies. They are found mainly in shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, and skin care products. According to PETA, Imidazolidinyl urea is potentially made in part from urine and bodily fluids. That doesn’t sound too appealing to scrub into our scalps!
Fragrance and dyes found in anything from lotion to perfume to hair dye can cause allergies, cancer, and nervous system damage. Not really worth the risk as there are many healthier alternatives that use essential oils instead of chemically infused fragrances.
Methylchloroisothiazolinone and Methylisothiazolinone can cause allergies and nervous system damage. Along with being in our cosmetics, Methylchloroisothiazolinone can also be found in glue production, detergents, paints, fuels, and other industrial processes. Something to think about when putting that foundation on!
Parabens effect hormones and may be linked to cancer. They are found primarily in shampoos, commercial moisturizers, shaving gels, personal lubricants, topical pharmaceuticals, spray tanning solution, and toothpaste.
Sodium laureth sulfate or sodium lauryl sulfate contains toxic contaminants that can cause skin irritation, and are mostly commonly found in shampoo, soap, cleansers, body and face washes, and toothpaste. It’s not much comfort that this is also the same ingredient that goes into engine degreasers, floor cleaners, and car wash soaps (yes, at a higher concentration, but still…)
Triclosan and triclocarban can affect the thyroid and may be linked to cancer, along with effects on the environment. This chemical can be found in deodorant, toothpaste, shaving cream, mouth wash, and cleaning supplies.
Triethanolamine (TEA) can cause allergies and skin irritation, potentially linked to cancer, and contains toxic contaminants. Products containing this chemical include disinfectants, gels, and moisturizers.
In addition to the ingredients and products to avoid, The Environmental Working Group also provides a comprehensive guide to thousands of beauty products (by category) on the market and their ratings from “low hazard” to “moderate hazard” to “high hazard.”
Another great source is the Teens Turning Green website, which lists even more chemical ingredients to avoid on their “Dirty Thirty” list. http://www.teensturninggreen.org/get-educated/dirty-thirty.html
So now what? Do we just throw away all those products in our shower and medicine cabinet? We don’t want to be wasteful, but we also don’t want to keep using all these chemicals on our bodies. First of all, look through your mounds of products and see what has expired. Yes, cosmetics and toiletries do expire (although some not as fast as others depending on the chemicals used in them)! From what is left read the ingredients used in your favorites and look at EWG’s rating guide of them, then determine if they are really worth keeping and putting onto (and into) your body. Remember to recycle the containers!