They say home is where your heart is, and lately I’ve been applying this in a literal sense— your body is a home to your soul and spirit, but you may be unaware of some unwelcomed and toxic guests inviting themselves through your hygiene products. A few years ago, I began my journey on detoxifying my life and expanding my awareness about the dangers lurking in our grocery stores, as well in our own medicine cabinets. While completing my undergraduate studies in biological science, I participated in numerous chemistry labs, and it dawned on me that some of the chemicals I was using for experimentation were also being used in my household products (and there I was using a lab coat, goggles, gloves, and mask to protect myself in the lab, but shouldn’t I also protect myself at home?!). Then I asked myself, are those chemicals necessary to get the job done? Is it really safe to use those detergents, alcohols, and synthetic fragrances all over my body and surfaces at home? How much is it really costing me to use these products? When looking at this subject with a broader scope, toxicity is not just an acute problem; it requires consideration from the perspective of long term exposure.
The sad truth is you are exposed to chemicals on the daily through your beauty products, toiletries, laundry detergent, and practically all cleaning solutions. When I looked to commercial brand products all I could find were those that claimed to be natural, but still contained chemicals that hadn’t been long term tested for safety. Companies use clever marketing to bamboozle the consumer into thinking they are making a healthy choice when really what you’re getting is cheaply manufactured synthetics. Taking matters into my own hands, I started to seek alternatives to the products I was using in an attempt to detox my life of these unknowns.
A good place to start is by taking note of the ingredient list of your household products, and then do a little web searching to get an idea of what the typical uses are, I’m willing to bet your eyebrows will raise in disbelief.
One of the first products I changed in my daily product regiment was using name brand deodorants, which contain aluminum and other needless junk. With a little online research under my belt I set out to make my own. Many recipes are as simple as making frosting for a cake, and why should your beauty products be more complex than that? Many of the recipes use coconut oil as a base, and since then it has become one of my favorite all-purpose ingredients. Loaded with delicious moisture that won't leave your skin greasy, it can be used for face and body—also to be used as a hand sanitizer since it has natural antibacterial properties. The best I found was on Wellness Mama, a fabulous mommy blogger who shares her lovely advice on simple living.
We use soap in all our nooks and crannies to scrub away the day’s dirt, but chances are you haven't thought of the stomach churning stuff you’re lathering on. This fun fact is particularly important if you’re a vegan or animal lover—tallow, a common ingredient in bar soap— translates to animal fat, and not just one animal. Commercial tallow has a blend of pig and steer fat...need I say more? For those that have no qualms with rubbing animal fat in hard to reach places, I should mention another reason to avoid commercial soaps, a little pest of a chemical named Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or SLS. Nichely used in soaps and shampoo, it’s a highly hydrogenated variety, which can be highly toxic if allowed to accumulate—which it does with every use. Typically the manufacturing process of SLS yields a product called 1, 4 dioxane, which is a known carcinogen! Ignorance is bliss, but we need to become more aware and less trusting of what the market place has to offer, and discriminate with veracity. Coconut oil-based suds give you the same foaming and lathering luxury without threatening your long term health. For the sake of convenience, your local Wholefoods Market will have a plethora of bar soap made with love.
A top priority when cleaning your bathroom, kitchen, or floor is making sure it's squeaky clean and free of harmful bacteria—but why have we convinced ourselves that we need bleach to accomplish this? Think of it this way, peeps, the largest organ in the body is your skin (which is your first line of defense), unfortunately it doesn’t protect you from soaking up the bleach you just sprayed on your kitchen counter, and delivering it straight to your bloodstream. YIKES. The silver lining is other people have made this realization and did something about it. Jessica Alba has created a line of fully plant based products, and they call themselves The Honest Company. They make a serious commitment to developing products that are honestly free of any, and all harsh or even questionable chemicals. Period. I’m also very impressed by the overall advocacy for responsible sourcing and manufacturing, using small batch methods ensuring top notch purity. Hope has arrived.
Shampoo & Conditioner:
Here’s where I start sounding like a tree-hugging hippie—if I haven’t already. Again we have the looming problem of SLS or Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, which is included in standard shampoos and conditioners. Chances are in your bottle of conditioner is a cocktail of formaldehyde (used in mortuaries for preserving the deceased) and parabens (a hormone disruptor) this seemingly harmless tonic is a recipe for disaster. These two alone are linked to dermatitis, immune deficiencies, breast cancer and much more, but they are allowed in by the United States based on the shortage of “long term” studies. Companies use these ingredients because they are a cheap way to get a desired consistency in their product, and unfortunately we are told they are safe based on the acute studies, but the problems arise later down the line. Thankfully, there are options out there you just have to open your mind and reprogram the way you think these products should work. Plant based shampoos and conditioners can be found at health food stores, but if you really wanna take it to the next level, look into stopping all together. You likely just cringed, but there are lots of people doing away with these two and finding a balanced regimen of washing with diluted baking soda—for shampoo, organic apple cider vinegar—for conditioner, and a hair mask of fresh aloe vera and honey whenever you need a little extra moisture. The key here is to remember everyone’s hair is a little different so experimenting with what works for you and giving your hair time to adjust will get you closer to the perfect balance. I have recently finished my last bottle of plant based shampoo and conditioner and will now try my hand at the aforementioned method. I’ll be documenting the progress as I go. Wish me luck!
Cosmetics & Lotions
The cosmetic industry is a fickle bitch— pardon the potty mouth, but it truly burns me to know that an industry that prides itself on poisoning the minds of real women so they feel like they need to live up to a certain expectation of beauty, is also able to get away with pumping their product full of chemicals with no regard to safety or accountability. The FDA has little bearing or concern in what goes into these lotions and potions because proprietary loopholes protect their “trade secrets” from being revealed. Simply said, your health is not a concern to these companies, so take it upon yourself to care. There is an endless list of chemicals used in the cosmetic industry, but some in particular should be mentioned and avoided at all cost. Parabens, used as a preservative, are associated with increased breast cancer risk, and although many products are in tune with this consumer concern, they may say no parabens, but still use phthalates, which also put your boobs at risk! Phthalates are used for texture and plasticity, but what you don’t realize is these tricksters disrupt your endocrine system— meaning they block normal and healthy hormone signaling, which your body needs for all systems to be a-go. Thankfully there are make up options such as W3ll People and 100% Pure which offer completely plant based products, and no harmful chemicals. For lotions, it’s even more simple— JUST USE COCONUT OIL (Organic, of course). You can hydrate EVERY inch of your supple skin (including your face) and not be greasy whatsoever. Doesn’t cause breakouts, or clog pores, and a little goes a long way.
Not to be a “Debbie-downer,” but these are the realities of our often times convoluted society. We have to look out for ourselves, realize we are more vulnerable than we want to admit, and make a change. Using this guide, I hope you can kickstart your chemical awareness campaign to cleanse your home of potentially harmful chemicals and find healthy alternatives that really get the job done.
If you have any tips or suggestions about what works in your home feel free to enlighten us in the karma comment box below.