Lotions and potions, deodorant, perfumes, soaps, exfoliants, shower gels and make up: many of us probably use some or most of these personal care products every day and may not give a second thought to the impact they might be having on the health or us or our environment.

In this post I’ll share why you need to be savvy when choosing which personal care products you use and why beauty products may not actually be that great for both you and the environment.

 

What’s Wrong with Conventional Personal Care Products?

Most of us have grown up accustomed to the slogan “you are what you eat”, but I don’t think this paints the real picture. I strongly believe that you are what you eat, breathe, wear and what you apply to your skin, hair and even nails.

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Our skin is our largest organ and readily absorbs products that are applied. In fact, adult humans are reported to absorb 60% of what is applied to our skins and children are reported to absorb 40-50% more again.

Unlike foods we digest, products absorbed through our skin can directly enter our bloodstream as they bypass the liver.

Given that we can be applying hundreds of chemicals to our bodies every day, this is of great concern.

According to an Environmental Working Group study in 2015, American women apply on average 168 different chemicals to the bodies from personal care products every day. Men use fewer products, but still put 85 chemicals on their bodies.

Of most concern is that only a tiny percentage of these chemicals have been tested for safety. Of the chemicals that have been tested, they’ve typically been tested in isolation. The impact of applying combinations of chemicals to the body is at best, unknown.

Plus, so much of what we use in the bathroom gets flushed down our drains – so there’s a double-whammy where these products can impact both on your health and the environment. The impact of microbeads from personal care products alone has contributed to worldwide ocean plastic contamination. And of course, there’s also the environmental impact of the packaging these products come in too.

So, what’s wrong with conventional personal care products?

Plenty.

Let’s just take a look at the products you need to be most careful about and which ingredients are the worst offenders…..

Which Personal Care Products Should I Avoid?

Products applied to armpits and genitalia are more readily absorbed than what is applied to skin on other parts of the body. For this reason, it pays to think twice about what menstrual products, deodorants and personal lubricants you choose and be mindful of the nappy creams and ointments you apply to your children.

Products applied to the lips can both be absorbed through the fine skin of the lips and ingested. Many commercial lipsticks contain heavy metals such as lead, and arsenic, and out of date lipsticks and glosses are breeding grounds for bacteria. So yes, your lipstick could indeed be making you sick.

Perfumes contain many synthetic chemicals, most notably fragrance. Most of the thousands of chemicals used in fragrances have not been tested for toxicity, alone or in combination. Many of these unlisted ingredients are irritants and can trigger allergies, migraines, and asthma symptoms. Laboratory experiments have also linked some individual fragrance ingredients with cancer and neurotoxicity.

 

What Ingredients Should I Avoid in Personal Care Products?

While some of the chemicals in personal care products are harmless, others are known endocrine disruptors, carcinogens and neurotoxins. There is also growing concern that the combined chemical burden from these products may be directly related to increased rates of reproductive issues and cancer among women.

Here’s a few particular ingredients that I go out of my way to avoid:

Fragrance (Parfum)

You could be forgiven for thinking that the term fragrance or parfum in an ingredient list represents just one ingredient, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The term usually represents a complex mixture of dozens of chemicals. Indeed, some 3,000 chemicals are used as fragrances!!!

So essentially, when you purchase a perfume or personal care products containing fragrance, there’s no way knowing exactly what you’re applying to your body, even if the ingredients are listed on the bottle, because if fragrance/parfum is listed there could be tens or even hundreds more chemical ingredients included than what’s listed.

This loophole in labelling regulations doesn’t just apply to perfumes for cosmetic use, it impacts all products that contain fragrance such as deodorants, perfumes and most cosmetic products.

Phthalates

Phthalates are commonly found in body products like perfume, nail polish, hair spray and body lotion. They’re known endocrine-disrupting chemicals and have also been linked to liver, kidney, reproductive, developmental, immune and neurotoxicity impacts. Phthalates are also commonly used to render plastics soft and flexible.

Parabens

A common ingredient in commercial shampoos, conditioners, liquid hand soap and toothpaste, parabens have been linked to endocrine disruption, skin irritation and contact dermatitis.

Propylene Glycol

Found in many body products and cosmetics including body wash, mouthwash, shampoos and conditioners, deodorants and even baby wipes, propylene glycol has been linked to skin irritation and allergic reactions in those sensitive to the chemical.

Triclosan

Triclosan is an antibacterial and antifungal chemical that can be found in cleaning products and personal items such as antibacterial soaps, detergents, toothpastes, deodorants, facial cleansers, exfoliants, mouthwash and cleaning supplies. The chemical has been reported to affect the body’s hormone systems, such as thyroid hormones, and consequently, may disrupt normal breast development.

Due to public pressure many major brands have quietly begun reformulating their products without triclosan, however there are still many products out there that contain this chemical.

 

What Are Some Natural, Toxin-free Alternatives to Commercial Personal Care Products

Despite what mainstream marketing will lead you to believe, when it comes to applying cosmetics and personal care products to your body, less is best.

Choose products with a shorter ingredient list and learn how to read labels so you know exactly what’s in these products. Opt for certified organic products wherever possible.

Alternatively, simplify your beauty regime and re-purpose some foods from your kitchen into powerhouse personal care products.

Here’s some of my favourites:

  • Coconut oil is a fabulous makeup remover, moisturizer, nappy rash ointment, even personal lubricant!
  • Natural Shampoo and Conditioner – it might sound crazy but you can wash your hair with bi carb soda and rinse with apple cider vinegar. It’s called the “no poo” method and it works brilliantly.
  • Toxin Free Facial and Body scrubs – almond meal, coffee ground, even sea salt. There’s plenty of food items that are effective natural exfoliants.
  • Intense Moisturizing Treatment – for a big hit of moisture, mash up a soft avocado and apply to your face and hair. Leave it to sit for 5-10 minutes and rinse off.
  • Natural Perfume – ditch the toxic perfume entirely or opt for a certified organic essential oil blend.

 

By ditching commercial personal care products for natural, toxin-free alternatives you’ll be doing yourself and the environment a favour!

What are your favourite eco beauty tips? Please share in the comments below Tuesday 31 October 2017 for a chance to win a FREE spot on my Home Detox Boot Camp!!

Laura

Laura

Laura Trotta is one of Australia’s leading home sustainability experts. Fusing her professional expertise as an environmental engineer with the down-to-earth pragmatism that comes from being a busy mum, Laura is an eco thought leader who’s not afraid to challenge the status quo.
Laura