You want to hear something ridiculous?
The U.S. government has not passed a federal law to regulate the safety of ingredients in personal care products since 1938.*
Want to hear something even more ridiculous?
Many of the 80,000 chemicals commonly found in beauty care products today do not have safety data.*
Yep, that's the truth. And if that's not crazy enough...
The European Union has banned over 1,300 ingredients, while the U.S. has banned 30.*
Which means, you can NOT automatically assume something is safe for you to use just because it is available for sale in the store or on the internet. It seems like that should be the case, but unfortunately, that's not the reality.
This is why it is up to US - you and me - to be aware of what we are putting on our bodies and around our homes.
Now, I know (believe me, I know) how easy it can be to put your fingers in your ears, close your eyes and sing "lalalalala!" Especially when you find out your favorite fabulous lipstick isn't so fabulous after all.
BUT... let's take a moment to really consider the options. On one hand, you can continue to blindly buy products that wreak havoc on your body and hope it doesn't lead to something serious like cancer. Or you can purposefully and intentionally choose to use healthier, non-toxic products on your body and give yourself a fighting chance.
Dramatic? Maybe. But that doesn't make it any less true.
Just a few years ago... I was completely ignorant about what ingredients went into the products I was using. I had never read an ingredient label and pretty much, like a lot of people, assumed that if something was for sale, surely it was safe enough to be using.
I chose my products more on price, friends' reviews, colors and scents as opposed to how healthy they were and honestly, didn't give it much of a second thought. That is until two things happened - my mother was diagnosed with stage four cancer and my own health took a major nosedive.
When someone close to you has cancer, you start to pay a bit more attention to things like this. Particularly when you yourself are dealing with a "mysterious" condition as well - in my case, adrenal fatigue.
In both cases, it's important to make changes in all areas of your life - diet, exercise, supplements, products, even emotional health. But even though I had already begun down the road of cleaner eating, I was still shocked at what I found when I began to research the products I was using.
I remember sitting in my living room one night talking to a friend (who was like my healthy living "guru") and she asked me if I had ever looked at the ingredients on my skin care products - which just happened to come from a store that markets itself as a very "natural" brand.
I kind of laughed on my way to the medicine cabinet, thinking she surely must be over-reacting. Until I flipped over my daily moisturizer and saw the words... wheat protein. Now in comparison to some of the other ingredients we're going to talk about, this was still rather tame. But I had been working hard for weeks to go completely gluten-free in my diet in an effort to heal my damaged GI tract, and here I was unknowingly slathering gluten all over my body every day!
Why does this matter?
Because what you put on your body, goes in your body.
You can't just be mindful about what you are putting in your body and then forget about the rest. I've seen it time and time again... people who consider themselves to be health-conscious, eating organic whole foods and then keeping toxic products in their bathroom and kitchen cabinets.
The skin is the largest organ in the body. That means what you put on your skin will quickly penetrate through the skin and into your bloodstream, free to roam about your entire body! As will the ingredients you inhale through your nose or get in your eyes.
Your body is like a big sponge... absorbing everything on and around it. So, you have to pay attention to what you're exposing it to.
To give you an idea of how serious the issue is, here are just some of the conditions/issues the toxic ingredients that are found in many common everyday products can cause:
- Endocrine disruption (that's your hormones)
- Kidney damage
- Birth defects & reproductive issues
- Heart disease & heart failure
- Neurotoxins (that's your brain)
- Cancerous tumors
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. They can also cause damage to your skin, your GI tract, cause headaches, allergies, asthma, bronchitis and more.
Yes, products like toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, lotion, body wash, candles and household cleaners... things you use every day... may contain some of these toxic ingredients at this very moment.
So, what should you do about it?
1. Be aware.
First and foremost, start paying attention. Remember, that you can't assume that a product is safe just because it is for sale or because it is being advertised as a "natural" product. Typically, that is more of a marketing ploy than a factual claim about its ingredients. Read your labels!
Which brings us to...
2. Know what to look for.
There are LOTS of ingredients out there, way too many to remember (which is why I made a guide for you to download at the end of this post!), but you can keep an eye out for some of the "biggies":
BHA or BHT - typically found in moisturizers and make-up; can cause endocrine damage and are possible carcinogens
Coal Tar Dyes - found in hair dyes and other colored products; can cause nervous system damage and is a possible carcinogen
DEA - found in creamy and foaming products like shave gel and hand wash; can cause asthma, skin & eye irritation and is a possible carcinogen
Phthalates - found in nail polish, perfume, hairspray and deodorant (among others); disrupts endocrine function
Formaldehyde - often found in cosmetics; is an irritant and possible carcinogen
Parabens - found in cosmetics, shampoos and conditioners; are carcinogens and can cause endocrine disruption and reproductive issues
Triclosan - found in toothpaste, face cleanser, deodorant and antibacterial products; promotes growth of drug-resistant bacteria (defeating the purpose of "antibacterial"), disrupts endocrine function and is a possible carcinogen
Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS) - found in shampoos, bubble baths and cleansers; is a skin irritant and possible carcinogen
Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) - is a carcinogen often found in cosmetics
Parfum (or fragrance) - found in all kinds of products (even unscented!); can casue allergies, asthma, neurotoxicity and is a possible carcinogen
(Btw, if you don't already know... "carcinogen" means cancer-causing)
You can also use the Environmental Working Group (EWG)'s "Skin Deep Cosmetics Database" to look up any product and find it's level of toxicity.
3. Ask questions!
Manufacturers are not required to be very clear or forthcoming about the ingredients in their personal or beauty care products, so don't be afraid to ask questions if you aren't sure! All companies have some sort of support center, whether it's a phone number or an email address, so don't be afraid to use it and ask them outright about what's in their products!
4. Choose lines that are truly organic and natural or make your own products.
Yes, there are companies that really ARE organic and natural and really do make non-toxic products. Depending on how natural you want to go, you may want to check out companies like:
- ZuZu Luxe/Gabriel Cosmetics
- Andalou Naturals
- Dr. Bronner's
- Beautycounter (which keeps a list of over 1,500 ingredients they will never use in their products)
You can also make many of your own personal care products at home like deodorant, shampoo and toothpaste using ingredients such as baking soda, coconut oil and essential oils.
Remember... you only have one body. So it's up to YOU to take care of it! Stay informed, stay encouraged and don't be afraid to take control of your health and your life!
Until next time, keep your worries tiny and your dreams BIG!
P.S. You can hear me speak more about this topic this Saturday, May 20th at the Fresh Expo in Charlotte, NC!
(*Statistics from Beautycounter.com)