Choosing Safer Products with Cleaner Ingredients

The average adult uses 9 personal care products a day (EWG). Do you know what ingredients you should avoid in your products? We’ve learned to read our food labels, but it’s time to learn how to read our product labels also (and not just the “key ingredients”). Our skin is our largest organ and what we put on our body is just as important as what we put in it for a healthy lifestyle. As I learn more about the lack of regulation in the personal care industry, I’ve become more passionate about educating myself and others on how to choose safer options and why. Small choices make a big impact. When you understand why something is potentially harmful, it’s a lot easier to seek alternatives.

“Neither the law nor FDA regulations require specific tests to demonstrate the safety of individual products or ingredients. The law also does not require cosmetic companies to share their safety information with FDA.”  

Did you know the FDA requires very little regulation in this industry? The last time congress passed a law regulating the cosmetics industry was in 1938. Thousands of chemicals have been introduced into the marketplace since then, and very few have actually been tested for safety. Think of how many other safety laws have gone into effect in the past 81 years. Isn’t that alarming? “With the exception of color additives and a few prohibited ingredients, a cosmetic manufacturer may use almost any raw material as a cosmetic ingredient and market the product without an approval from the FDA.” The FDA does not have to approve a product before it hits the shelves. So, it truly is our responsibility as consumers to do our research, know what is in our products, and understand what the ingredients actually are and how they impact our health.

This information is not hard to find. It’s not a secret that our personal care products are not properly regulated, but a lot of people don’t know that, or they assume if something is sold in stores, it is safe to use. When we think about how many products we use each day, that is a LOT of exposure to potentially harmful ingredients. Even products marketed for children or labeled “organic” or “natural” can contain petrochemicals, and those certified as organic can contain as little as 10 percent organic ingredients by weight or volume” –all because it isn’t adequately regulated (EWG). Unlike the food industry, those terms aren’t required to abide by any official definition in the cosmetic/beauty industry.

A huge reason why I joined as a consultant for Beautycounter is because of the work the company is doing to advocate for better beauty and are making huge strides in reforming the laws to improve regulation and transparency. Clean beauty is not just a trend, it’s truly a movement and I’m so proud to be a part of the change.

Beautycounter is well-known for “The Never List” – a list which contains over 1500 ingredients known to be harmful or potentially harmful. None of those ingredients will ever be used in any of their products. Just to compare: the European Union has prohibited approximately 1400 ingredients and Canada has banned or restricted approximately 600 ingredients.

The United States has only banned or partially restricted the use of approximately 30 ingredients from personal care products. Yes, you read that correctly. I can’t stress enough how important it is to read and understand what goes into the products you are using. People are wanting cleaner products, so you’ll notice “greener” marketing trends. You will see labels that say things such as “paraben-free,” “cruelty-free,” or “all-natural.” But read the full list of ingredients, too. Whether it is shampoo, lotion, make-up, shaving cream–the things you use every single day… whatever it is, ingredients matter! So many people believe the products they are using on themselves, on their babies and children, in their homes, etc. are safe… but they may not be.

Hence my reason for being passionate about this! These are a few of the top offenders; avoid these ingredients in your products (all are known carcinogens and endocrine/ hormone disrupters) : Parabens, Phthalates, PEG’s, Fragrance (phthalates are often used under this label), triclosan, toluene, surfactants (like SLS/SLES), and Retinol. I think you’ll be surprised at how many harmful ingredients are in most conventional products.

Here are a few ideas for some clean swaps for your most used products:

DEODORANT: If you haven’t already, switch to one without aluminum. Read more here about why you should be using a natural one! I’ve used Schmidt’s for a while, but just started using this lavender one by Little Seed Farm and it’s definitely my favorite so far! If you have had a hard time switching to natural because you get a rash or irritation, make sure it doesn’t have baking soda. Most formulas for sensitive skin do not have baking soda. That definitely helped the transition for Chris as he was a little more resistant. Ha.

SKINCARE/MAKEUP. Honestly, Beautycounter is all I use for all skincare and makeup. There are plenty of other safer brands available, but I personally haven’t found any that perform as well as Beautycounter. So much research goes into making sure these products meet all of Beautycounter’s extremely high standards– both on safety AND performance. It’s for everyone- babies, kids, men, women. It is all super-concentrated without any filler ingredients- a little goes a long way! Here are some of my top favorites. Acure is an affordable brand I’ve used before too (you can find it at Target, CVS, etc). Credo also seems to be a good site for clean beauty, and they have their own “dirty list” to refer to, also.

TOOTHPASTE. Harmful ingredients in conventional toothpaste: fluoride, SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate), artificial colors/flavors, DEA, triclosan. There are plenty of natural alternatives that work just as well. You can even make your own! I like Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Toothpaste, and Schmidt’s Wondermint, but here’s a list of some other natural ones, too.

NAIL POLISH. Switch to a safer one. I almost never paint my nails, but I don’t think I’ll ever not have my toes painted. Because this is a topic of interest to me, I kind of assumed most nail polishes weren’t “safe.” BUT, did you know that nail polish is actually considered by the EPA to be HOUSEHOLD HAZARDOUS WASTE!? Because I didn’t, until I was doing more research for this post. The top offenders found in nail polish are formaldehyde, toluene, DBT, formaldehyde resin, camphor, TPHP, xylene, and ethyl tosylamide/epoxy resin. All are known carcinogens or hormone disruptors. There are several safer options, but just to make it easier- Target has a whole section right next to the regular polish full of safer alternatives. I’ve been trying a few of them out and have been pleasantly surprised they work just as well! I’m loving Ella & Mila and Cote. Tenoverten is available in most stores and Piggy Paint is great for kids!

PERFUME/COLOGNE: Ditch the synthetic fragrance! If you’re set on using perfume or cologne, try a safer brand, such as Skylar. They are free of parabens, phthalates, and other toxic chemicals, hypoallergenic, and cruelty free. I haven’t tried them yet, but they look awesome! You can also try using a blend of Essential Oils! (I use Young Living for their high standards and purity. You can read more about their oils and how to use them in this post). I’ve been using the oils from the starter kit, plus a few others, and making my own rollers (I get these ones!). Smells so good (without the toxins), plus benefits! Win-win.

SUNSCREEN: Warmer weather will be here soon! When you’re piling on the sunscreen, be sure your sunscreen is actually keeping you safe. Not only is most conventional sunscreen super toxic, but also damaging to the environment. Countersun from Beautycounter is the best sunscreen I’ve ever used! It’s perfect for sensitive skin, and great for babies and kids also. It protects from UVA, UVB, and Blue light rays, without the harmful oxtinoxate and oxybenzone. You can also check out the EWG’s Sunscreen Guide to be sure you’re protecting yourself from the sun and harmful chemicals.

DRY SHAMPOO: Here’s a little secret. I only wash my hair about once a week. Maybe that’s sounds gross, but my hair is SO MUCH healthier and it has saved me a ton of time. That said, I sort of depend on dry shampoo to get me through the last few days when my hair gets flat. I’ve made my own, tried a bunch that were “clean” and didn’t work well, but often resorted to some very toxic aerosol ones that did the job. I finally found one I’m super happy with! This Dry Shampoo Volume Powder by Hair Dance has clean ingredients, volumizes, works well, and smells great without synthetic fragrance!

Go check out the ingredients in some of your most-used products. Do they pass the test?

Helpful Resources:

Beautycounter’s Never List
EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database
US Food and Drug Administration
Wellness Mama
Article: “Landmark bill would ban cosmetics with toxic ingredients”