It’s funny how we turn to cleansers, lotions, and cosmetics to boost our radiance, yet simultaneously welcome substances which create aging and degeneration. It’s kinda like wanting to be friends with the token Mean Girl in high school. We also readily freak out about the toxic load of an alcoholic drink or secondhand smoke (and rightly so), yet do so while happily slathering on cancer-causing concoctions. True, I used to think it wasn’t that big of a deal. After all, what I put on me is outside of me, right? However, our skin provides a direct pathway to our blood. Consider how nicotine and birth control patches can affect hormones and bodily processes just from sitting on our skin!
In fact, a 2005 study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found 287 different chemicals in the umbilical cord blood of 10 randomly-selected babies in 2004, with an average of 200 per baby! We’re talking things like pesticides, gasoline byproducts, and consumer product chemicals. They even found PCBs and DDT which were banned and/or limited in 1976. It would seem these chemicals build up and stick around!
Common problematic ingredients in personal care products and cosmetics include parabens, phthalates, dyes and colors, fragrances, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), formaldehyde, toluene, and others. Even products which boast “fragrance free” or “no parabens” often feature toxins. These compounds can encourage skin irritation, allergies, excess estrogen, hormone disruption, endrocine disruption, cellular damage, and cancer.
But have no fear! You can slowly work on replacing your current products with equally effective, healthier alternatives. Here are 5 face and hair products I currently use to minimize damage. The EWG rating refers to the Environmental Working Group, which rates the toxic load of basically everything in our world (thank you!!) including body products, on a scale of 1 (least toxic) to 10 (most toxic.) I try to stay in the 1-2 zone, with the occasional 3s.
Face Moisturizer: Coconut Oil
I always have two jars of coconut oil: one in my kitchen, and one in my bathroom. The one in my kitchen I eat. The one in my bathroom I use for everything else! Coconut oil is a fantastic face moisturizer. It restores and supports the skin without making it reliant on external moisture. It doesn’t make your skin oily, and actually regulates natural oil production. It’s also an antimicrobial, and may help ya out in the acne/blemish department, depending on your particular root cause. I dab some coconut oil on at night after removing my makeup, and in the morning after my shower. I buy the store brands of organic, cold pressed coconut oil at Kroger/Ralphs, Whole Foods, and Trader Joes. Environmental Working Group rating: 1
Not to sound gross, but I’m a big fan of minimizing washing. I don’t wash my face in the mornings, and instead just rinse under my shower water filter. I’ve tried using just coconut oil to take off my makeup, and it’s on my goal list to #getthere, but it’s still a bit of effort. So I’ve settled on a combination of coconut oil for the eyes (coconut oil is AWESOME for removing mascara), and Neutrogena’s Ultra Gentle cleanser for my foundation. While it’s not as “easy” as some other cleansers to get makeup off in one go, it has a very impressive (actually) fragrance free ingredient list, and doesn’t bother my sensitive skin at all. Environmental Working Group rating: 1
Foundation: Arbonne Perfecting Liquid Foundation
I’m kinda obsessed with my Arbonne foundation. It keeps me moisturized, lasts all day, doesn’t get shiny, and provides natural sun protection via zinc. I’ve also found a shade which matches me perfectly, and it always passes the scrutiny of the hair and makeup artists on sets. The bottle dispenser is also awesome. So I was a little nervous writing this post, because I realized I had just trusted the Arbonne brand, without researching the actual ingredients. What if it was sneakily toxic? The foundation wasn’t listed on the EWG, so I looked up each of it’s 20+ ingredients separately. I was very happy with what I found: mostly 1s, a few 2s and 3s, and then one 9 which came out of left field. Ironically, the 9 ingredient was retinal palmitate, which I’m assuming was added to give the foundation the vitamin boosting potential of Vitamin A, but which is actually linked to health hazards. (The same can goes for additive Vitamin E, by the way.) This just goes to show that maybe we should always get our vitamins naturally from food! In any case, I figure the foundation averages to a 2-3. Most of the foundations on the EWG seem to fall in the 4-9 department, so this makes me a happy camper!
Environmental Working Group rating: 2-3?
Shampoo & Conditioner: The Seaweed Bath Co Moisturizing Unscented Argan Shampoo & Conditioner
While I dream of joining the literal “NoPoo” people, I haven’t mustered the courage quite yet. Someday! In the meantime, I’m happy with The Seaweed Co’s offerings. While they have some scented versions, their unscented shampoo and conditioner is extremely harmless for hair products. The shampoo does a nice job of cleansing without stripping, and the conditioner moisturizers without coating your hair in unnecessary who knows what. These products just seem to make my hair happy and healthy! (Although I guess hair is dead, but whatever.) Environmental Working Group rating: 2
Hair Spray – Free & Clear Firm Hold for Sensitive Skin
I tried making my own hairspray, I really did. The sugary-salty-alcoholy mixture I concocted actually turned out great for beachy wavy curls, so I may pull it out this summer. But it didn’t do the job for the intense Hollywood princess curls I love. I initially bought Dermorganics hairspray, because the bottle made it seem like the ultimate non toxic concoction, but the EWG revealed it was an 8. Fail. I’ve settled on Free & Clear’s Firm Hold hairspray for the time being. Though I prefer aerosol hair spray cans, this squirt can does a decent job of curl protection, and doesn’t give me headaches or ill feelings like most hairsprays do. It’s notably free of fragrance, which is super hard to find in the hairspray world. At the EWG, most hairsprays start at a 5/6, so I’ll take a 3 for now. Environmental Working Group rating: 3