Like many women, my journey to a clean lifestyle began in my quest to get pregnant five years ago. When my naturopath told me that environmental toxins were lurking everywhere, I dug a little deeper, and I was horrified at what I found in my seemingly innocuous medicine cabinet. I learned that there are scores of hormone-disrupting, cancer-causing ingredients in most of the personal care and beauty products we use every day. Because I was willing to do anything to increase my chances of having a baby, and a healthy one, I became determined to find safer alternatives that met my unapologetic-product-snob standards. Incidentally, my blog, Bare Beauty, was born that year, and my daughter, Annabel, was born the following year. I am certainly not saying that if you don’t switch out every single thing in your bathroom, medicine cabinet, and makeup bag this instant, you will drop dead tomorrow, but there are a few really important products to swap out if you’re looking to achieve optimum health. I promise that it is less painful than you imagine (except for deodorant, that one is a stinker, sometimes literally).
Lotion: As most of us know by now, our skin is our largest organ. Anything we put on is going to soak in and enter the bloodstream in just minutes. Of all the personal care products to consider when making the switch to clean and green, body lotion is the most important. Conventional body lotions contain ingredients like mineral oil, petrolatum, glycerin, synthetic fragrances, parabens, dimethicone (a relative of silicone) and propylene glycol. Propylene glycol is one of the main ingredients in anti-freeze. When looking for a body lotion, look for aloe, shea butter, coconut, olive, or jojoba oil. It should be first or second on the list of ingredients.
Acure Organics makes my favorite clean body lotion, hands down. It sinks right into skin and moisturizes for a full 24 hours, and it’s less than $10. Zoe Organics makes the best thick, moisturizing cream around, and it is gentle enough for even the most sensitive skin. It’s great for both mama and baby. Also, both of these brands are now conveniently sold at Target.
Shampoo: I know you don’t want to trade in your Kerastase and Pureology, but your scalp is one of the most absorbent parts of your body, so any toxic ingredient in your current shampoo is going straight into your bloodstream and major organs. The surfactants (foaming cleansing agents) used in conventional shampoos are usually sodium laurel sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate. These ingredients can cause rashes, but worse, when they are ethoxylated, (a process that “softens” the chemical) 1,4-dioxane is produced, and it won’t be on the label, because it is a byproduct. You may say, but my shampoo is sulfate-free! Unfortunately, it probably isn’t free of parabens, synthetic fragrance, phthalates, DMDM hydantoin, lauramide DEA, cocamide DEA and MEA. Buckle up: phthalates (which are in virtually all synthetic fragrances) and parabens mess with thyroid, estrogen, and pretty much all hormone levels. DMDM hydantoin releases small amounts of formaldehyde when it comes into contact with your skin. Lauramide DEA and Cocamide DEA and MEA react with other chemicals in your shampoo to create carcinogens. It’s a total bummer, isn’t it? Luckily, there are some amazing options out there for both mama and baby.
Rahua (pronounced Rah-Wah) is makes the most luxurious nontoxic haircare products. I use their shampoo and conditioner when I need a guaranteed good hair day. Many natural shampoos leave a bit to be desired in the lathering department, but not this one; your hair will feel super-clean, but not stripped. Acure Organics Yummy Baby 4-in-1 makes a great foaming shampoo, body wash, bubble bath and hand wash for kiddos. My daughter loves it for the fun bubbles, and I love that it doesn’t contain even one sketchy ingredient.
Toothpaste: We have been taught that brushing our teeth is essential to good personal hygiene, so we do it twice a day without even thinking about it. Something else we’ve forgotten to think about is just what is in our toothpaste: sodium lauryl sulfate, triclosan, and synthetic colors, flavors and fragrances. SLS is often contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a carcinogen. Moreover, it is a harsh surfactant – it wreaks havoc on your mucus membranes. Ever feel like the inside of your mouth is peeling after you brush? SLS is to blame. Triclosan was once used only in ER’s and OR’s, and for good reason; it kills almost every germ in its path. Now this germ-killer is used in everything, even lipstick, deodorant, and toothpaste. Experts have determined that triclosan is a hormone-disruptor and that the overuse of it can lead to super-bugs. Another hotly debated ingredient in conventional toothpaste is fluoride. The Environmental Working Group published a very helpful article that sums it up here. Basically, Fluoride is necessary to prevent tooth decay, but there is such thing as too much, especially for pregnant women and children. And, do we really need synthetic fragrances, flavors and colors in our toothpaste when mother nature does it best with real peppermint and spearmint?
I love Davids’s Natural Toothpaste. It fights plaque, whitens and freshens breath, and it’s completely nontoxic and sustainable. Trust me, you’ll never look back. Jack N’ Jill Kids makes brushing fun with their yummy organic flavors, and they make adorable biodegradable toothbrushes, too.
Sunscreen: Just like when you are shopping for a body lotion, you should avoid sunscreens that contain parabens, phthalates (both endocrine disruptors), petrolatum (a nonrenewable resource) and propylene glycol (generally toxic to human organs). Most importantly, with all the clean, nontoxic, affordable options out there, there is absolutely no reason to use a sunscreen with Oxybenzone. Oxybenzone is probably the most popular chemical blocker (it absorbs the sun’s rays before they can damage the skin) currently used in conventional sunscreen. It penetrates the skin very easily, and it can be found in the urine of nearly every American, mothers’ breast milk and umbilical cord blood. Oxybenzone is an endocrine disruptor; it mimics estrogen, has been found to alter sperm count in animals and can interfere with normal fetal and childhood development. Similar chemical blockers that carry similar hazards are Octinoxate, Homosalate, Avobenzone and Octocrylene. That said, look for sunscreens that contain zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide as their active ingredients. These are “physical blockers”; they literally block the sun’s rays from damaging the skin and are not only very safe, but they’re also soothing (zinc oxide is in most diaper rash cream).
Suntegrity makes my favorite natural sunscreens. It contains a whopping 20% non-nano zinc oxide, which not only protects from both UVA and UBV rays, but also soothes skin. The finish is sheer and the formula is very moisturizing, but not greasy, and it has a light, natural citrus scent. Erbaviva Baby Sunscreen contains soothing ingredients like calendula, aloe and chamomile in addition to natural zinc oxide for protection that is water-resistant up to 8- minutes.
Deodorant: Conventional deodorant contains antiperspirant. We have all appreciated this feature over the years, but have we ever wondered what it is that prevents us from sweating (a necessary bodily function for cooling and detoxification)? Antiperspirant is made of aluminum salts. On the label these are listed as aluminum chloride, aluminum chlorohydrate, aluminum hydroxybromide, and aluminum zirconium. Aluminum salts seal sweat glands and kill stinky bacteria. If they weren’t so dangerous, they would be a godsend. Aluminum is a heavy metal; we don’t want this stuff floating around in our system. Aluminum is also a known neurotoxin. There is even an ongoing debate on some scientists’ findings that aluminum is linked to the rise in breast cancer. (A few studies have found it in human breast tissue.) Conventional deodorants with antiperspirant also contain synthetic fragrance (read: phthalates), parabens, and triclosan (all known endocrine disruptors). Many contain dimethicone, talc, and propylene glycol. Swapping out your antiperspirant stick for natural deodorant usually requires some trial and error, as everyone’s body chemistry is different. You will have to try a few alternatives before you find the one that is right for you, but once you do, you won’t look back.
I have tried dozens of clean deodorants, and these three are my favorite. Soapwalla Deodorant Cream works incredibly well – it keeps me totally stink-free for 24 hours. For those with more sensitive skin, Meow Meow Tweet Baking Soda Free Deodorant Cream is a dream come true (many baking soda-based natural deodorants cause a rash for 5% of the population, me included). If you just can’t quit the stick, Ursa Major Hoppin’ Fresh Deodorant is amazing and smells great. While none of these are antiperspirants, they do absorb moisture and keep me smelling fresh. Bonus: these are all unisex options.
See, that wasn’t so hard… Going clean is easier than you think; just switch out your old standbys one at a time when you run out, and in a year, you’ll probably be 90% converted. And, I promise you won’t look like a crunchy hippie (unless that’s your thing). There are so many gorgeous, high-end natural beauty products out there now, that I don’t even miss my old Nars cosmetics. For more of my favorite alternatives, visit my Essentials page, or if you’re looking for a retailer who only carries Bare Beauty-Approved goods, I’ll show you Where to Shop.