Ways to Reduce Toxic Chemicals in Personal Care Products

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Happy April 1! Happy Earth Month! In honor of Earth Month, I’m working on a Green Your Life series where I’ll share information, tips, and recipes {and I have a couple giveaways lined up too!} so you can make positive changes in your life. These changes don’t need to be big. You don’t need to make them all at once. I certainly have a lot of room for improvement myself, so I will be working with you!  The best news: as you clean up your life, you will also help the Earth at the same time. And, you might just save some money in the process. Maybe. Win – Win – Win.

First up: Ways to Reduce Toxic Chemicals in Personal Care Products.


 Photo Credit

The other day I shared a little story about cleaning up our bathroom sink to make sure my tweens {and the rest of us} also have healthy products to use. And that got me thinking about how I prioritize what I do in my life. Because really, I’m a pretty random, fly by the seat of my pants girl. Often, there seems to be no rhyme or reason for the things I do. And that makes it hard for me to share with you sometimes. Truth. But there is some logic behind my decision. And I’m going to do my best to let you see inside my brain so you can understand what a jumbled, mixed up person I really am.

Ways to Reduce Toxic Chemicals in Personal Care Products

Know which chemicals to avoid

According to The Guardian, the EU has banned over 1,300 chemicals from personal care products while the US has banned a whopping ELEVEN. Can you believe that?  Women, especially, are at higher risk from chemicals because we use more personal care products – an average of nine a day. I’m simply overwhelmed at the amount of chemicals out there. How do you keep track? How do you know what’s ok and what’s horrible? Sadly, I don’t really know what to tell you. Figuring out which chemicals you want to avoid is really up to you. In an attempt to find balance, I might accept some chemicals other people wouldn’t and that’s why I say knowing which chemicals to avoid is a very personal topic. Here are the chemicals I most want to avoid in personal care products (and I have some work to do here…):

  1. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate – these are so hard to get rid of as they are most shampoos and soaps and even toothpaste. I’m still working on getting this stuff out of my soaps and shampoos, but honestly, I’m willing to accept a small amount in my toothpaste. I know, I’m a walking contradiction. Guilty as charged.
  2. Aluminum – found in antiperspirants and linked to breast cancer and Alzheimers. And here’s the deal. For ever person screaming that these ingredients will harm you, you’ll find more sources saying they’re fine – especially from the US government. I read the reports, consider the source and the who funded the studies, and then listen to the warning bells in the back of my head and try not to go crazy in the process.
  3. Parabens – used as preservatives in many personal care products
  4. Phthalates – hormone disrupters
  5. Tricolsan – synthetic antibacterial ingredient found in antibacterial soap and even some Colgate toothpastes to prevent gingivitis!
  6. Artificial Colors & Sweetners {especially in products that go in the mouth, like toothpaste & mouthwash}

These posts helped me as I researched this topic:

My list changes from time to time as I learn more information and I don’t include every harmful ingredient found on other people’s lists. I just try to do the best I can, so what works for me might not work for you. I encourage you to do your own research so you know what risks you’re willing to take and what chemicals you’d rather consider a deal breaker.

Read the labels

Now that you know which chemicals you’d like to avoid – you have to read labels! I’m sure you know that ingredients are listed in order of quantity – the first ingredients make up more of products than the last ingredients. Many companies have gotten very tricky with what I consider to be deceptive labeling. I know I’ve bought items before that claim to be ALL NATURAL only to read the label with dismay when I get home to find all sorts of chemicals I don’t want! Always, always read labels. I’ve learned the hard way.

How to avoid toxic ingredients in personal care products

Check the EWG Skin Deep Cosmetics Database

I love the resources from the Environmental Working Group. They’ve complied a database, which they update every year, that rates a lot of different products for safety. Head over there and search for some of your brands. You might be surprised what you learn. They even have a mobile app you can download to your phone so you can check at the store before you buy!

two ingredient facial cleanser, perfect for really dry faces that need moisture #NaturalGoodness #cbias #ad

Make your own

A lot of people make their own personal care products. I haven’t made many in the past, but I am starting to now. A couple days ago I shared a recipe for a 2 ingredient facial cleanser. It’s awesome! Easy ! And uses ingredients I already had on hand. Think about what you can make, too, and save yourself some money in the process.

Use non-toxic ingredients from Day 1

Of course, it’s too late for me to follow this advice personally, since I used toxic antiperspirant for years, but it’s not too late for me to start my kids off on the right foot. From day 1, my oldest child has only used much safer deodorant – nothing with aluminum at all. And they’ve always used much better toothpaste than I have.

I’ve found switching to non-toxic products after years of use to be hard. I got used to the foaming toothpaste, for instance, and I had to detox my armpits to get the more natural deodorants to work well for me. For these reasons, I think it’s even more important to start your kids off right. That way they never get used to the bad stuff so the potential agony of switching over to healthier products won’t even be on their radar.

So, now you know what I go through to make the decisions I make. 😀 I do think about it. I do research. I do what I think works best for my family. And then I move on, for a while, until I start the process all over again.

Homework Mission:

Your mission, if you choose to accept it – figure out what ingredients you most want to avoid, read the labels on the products you’re currently using, and let me know if you’re making any changes.

I have to work on soap and shampoo. How about you?

About Michelle Marine

Michelle Marine is the author of How to Raise Chickens for Meat, a long-time green-living enthusiast, and rural Iowa mom of four. She empowers families to grow and eat seasonal, local foods; to reduce their ecological footprint; and to come together through impactful travel.

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