In general, we do our best to avoid overtly harmful things. We don’t (purposely) touch a hot stove when it’s on. We don’t let our children play in the street. We don’t eat tide pods.
But beyond just avoiding harm, many of us actively try to do things that are good for our health and well-being and that of our family. We try to eat balanced meals, exercise, and take care of our bodies. Some of us even try eat local or home grown, organic, non-GMO fruits and veggies, meat from grass fed animals, etc.
These days, we have access to unlimited resources for pursuing healthier living and cleaner lifestyles. We have detox diets, cleanses, and vigorous exercise routines. We are fixated on improving our health and wellness in so many ways, which is awesome!
The problem is, we spend so much time meticulously examining what we put IN our bodies but most of us hardly give a second though to the things we put ON our bodies.
I saw a quote on fragrancestinks.com that perfectly sums up this issue:
“If you eat organic… and also spray, rub, and wash your largest organ [skin] with chemicals… you’re doing it wrong.”
Now I don’t know anyone who rubs gasoline on their arms or washes their clothes in antifreeze. BUT many personal care and household products contain harmful ingredients that you are exposed to daily without even knowing! (If you missed it, check out my previous post for more detail.)
So what harmful ingredients should I be avoiding?
The list is overwhelming and honestly pretty scary. You can find a detailed (but not exhaustive) list of many common toxic ingredients to avoid HERE. But let me break it down for you. There are 4 main classes of ingredients to be aware of if you are just getting started:
- Fragrance (phthalates)
Let’s take them one by one. But before we do, take a look in your purse- do you have a hand lotion or lip balm? Take it out and look at the ingredients as we go along. Or if you are at home, go grab your shampoo or body wash. Trust me, you’ll want to see this for yourself.
This is a big one. Fragrance is known as a “trade secret” because it is used as a catch all term by companies and allows them to include many chemicals that don’t have to be listed on the ingredient labels if they are part of the “fragrance.”
Phthalates, commonly found in “fragrance,” are considered endocrine disrupting chemicals and have also been linked to allergies and other health problems. According to the EWG, the cosmetic industry has been able to hide 3,100 ingredients by using the word “fragrance” on their labels. That’s not to say that all of them are necessarily toxic, but as there is no regulation of these products, who really knows?!
I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t that what they use to preserve dead bodies?! Yes. Yes it is. Turns out it is also used in hair products and some cosmetics.
In 2006, it was also classified as a known human carcinogen. It can also exacerbate respiratory issues and cause rashes or other local reactions.
Ingredients in this category that you might see on your ingredient labels include bronopol, DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, and hydroxymethylglycinate to name a few. I don’t think this cancer causing ingredient requires further explanation about why you don’t want to be using it….
This category includes petroleum, mineral oil, propylene glycol, and paraffin. These ingredients are commonly used in moisturizers, lipsticks, foundations, and soaps as well as laundry detergents.
Perhaps the biggest offender is 1,4-dioxane- this is commonly found in kid’s bubble bath, hair dyes, sunless tanning products, and creams. You may see it listed as “sodium laureth sulfate” but it goes by many other names as well including anything with “PEG” or “xynol” in it. As it happens, petrochemicals are also used in antifreeze and gasoline. Yikes.
Parabens are found in lotions and creams, shampoos and conditioners, shower gels and cleansers, among other products. You may see this listed as “propylparaben,” “butylparaben,” or “methylparaben.” They are linked with skin irritation (rashes) and are known endocrine disruptors. They have also been said to be found in some breast tumors.
So now what do I do?!
WHEW. That is a lot of toxic ingredients and we have just scratched the surface. But if you’ve made it this far, congratulations! You’ve just taken the first vital step toward detoxifying your life.
As cliché as it may sound, knowledge is power and the only way to eliminate toxins in your life is to know that they are there! Ingredient label reading is probably the best way to know exactly what is in the products you are using- but if you are like me and a good day for you is one where you feed yourself and your kiddo and the house only partially fell apart while your significant other was at work, then you probably feel like you don’t have time to learn this new foreign language.
Well don’t worry, you have options!
- You can search for the products you have using apps like “Think Dirty” or the EWG’s Skin deep database. They both have built in scanners that let you quickly and easily see what harmful ingredients are in your products. I like to take this with me to the store and scan things before I buy them as well.
- You can find a brand of products that you know are committed to quality and purity standards and rest assured that they will never use harmful ingredients in their products, like Pure Haven.
I started out as a customer and now also work with them as an ambassador because I believe so strongly in their mission. Pure Haven makes all of their products in a USDA certified organic facility with natural, plant-based ingredients that are certified organic, cruelty free, environmentally sustainable, and 100% free of toxins. I love that they take the guess work out of the equation for me. Not only are their products completely safe, but they are high quality and super effective.
The important thing is to make safer, cleaner decisions for you and your family. Maybe this means you’re going throw away everything you can find that has toxic ingredients in it and start over (cheers to you if you have unlimited resources to do that!). Or maybe it means that when your shampoo starts to run low, you will start thinking ahead and find a non-toxic option to replace it. Whatever you do, just start somewhere- you will thank yourself later!