Let me start by saying, there is a TON of information out there on what is good for you and what is going to (eventually/immediately/maybe) kill you.
The important thing to remember is that you are responsible for deciding your comfort level in what you allow in your home, on your skin, and in your mouth. Just like everyone doesn't look good in the same pair of jeans, banning every toxin and pesticide from your home might not be the best choice for your family right now. You're the best judge of what works for you.
With that in mind, here is my personal journey to switch to non-toxic products.
It began with my family's history of cancer, and my husband's family history of neurological disorders. While each person's experience was different, the overwhelming advice from doctors was similar: we don't know why this happened to you, but the only things you can do are eat 'healthier', lower sugar intake, avoid known toxins, exercise, and hope for the best.
I am by no means a scientific expert on what is safe to consume, but these "prescriptions" gave me pause. In addition the food we eat, I also began researching how the FDA governs our beauty products. I always naively thought, if it's on a shelf, it must have been tested for safe consumption, right? RIGHT?
No. Let's be clear about two things here:
- According the FDA, "The law does not require cosmetic products and ingredients, other than color additives, to have FDA approval before they go on the market". It is an "innocent until proven guilty" method.
- Also, the FDA is woefully limited in their ability to effectively regulate the ingredients in our food, drugs, and cosmetics. For comparison, the European Union's European Medicine Agency has banned over 1300 ingredients in cosmetics as 'unsafe' for human consumption. The FDA? only 11. ELEVEN!
With my trust in external regulation faltering, I began researching what ingredients I felt comfortable having in my (and my poor husband's) hygiene/beauty regimen.
Here are the most common carcinogenic (cancer-causing) and other questionable ingredients that I've removed:
- Aluminum: The most common sweat-blocking ingredient in anti-perspirant and deodorants. Compounds vary, but aluminum and other heavy-metals health concerns include neurotoxicity, developmental and reproductive toxicity, and cancer.
- Plathatlets: Additives in products used to create flexibility. Linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, reproductive issues.
- Parabens: Additive in products used to kill bacteria and microbiomes. Health concerns include endocrine disruption, skin cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity.
- Propylene glycol: Additive in products to promote absorbency. Linked to allergies, neurological defects, respiratory issues.
- Oxybenzone: UV-filtering chemical in sunscreen linked to hormone disruption and reproductive issues.
- Sodium Laurel Sulfate (SLS) & Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate (SLES): Additive in products used to create foaminess or suds - think shampoo or toothpaste. It personally gives me terrible mouth sores when I use SLS toothpaste, so I've avoided it for years. It has been linked to allergies, endocrine disruption, and potentially cancerous when mixed with 1,4-Dioxane.
- Fragrance: A catch-all term used by companies to disguise chemical compounds as part of a proprietary scent formula. Generally, when you see this, it just means a mess of synthetics that may or may not be safe. Best to avoid due to lack of transparency.
My tips if you're interesed in making the switch:
- Simplify. Start by trying to find products with fewer ingredients, and you're generally headed in the right direction.
- Start slowly. It will probably take you a few tries to find a replacement for your beloved chemical-laden deodorant or foundation.
- Be weary of marketing buzzwords like "natural" and "organic". Unfortunately, these have no legal definition (unless certified), so you have to read the ingredients to determine for yourself. I was blown away by what brands I thought were clean, but were absolutely not.
- Use databases like the app ThinkDirty and the EWG's SkinDeep. LIFE SAVER. If you're overwhelmed by the scientific names like I was, these will be your go-to. The free services allow you to scan or search your product, and they give you a list of all the ingredients with a toxicity rating of 1-10. Very easy to use. I don't keep anything that scores above a 3, but up to you!
Disclaimer: I am not a scientific authority, this is just my personal research. Ultimately, these additives may turn out to be harmless, but I'm just not willing to take the risk right now. For me, non-toxic beauty choices mean better safe than sorry.
Be sure to let me know if you have any recommendation on non-toxic products or additional information. I'm just learning with you!