How to Stop Poisoning Yourself

Part 1: Personal Care Products

Well, hey, sometimes we’ve just got to take a clear-eyed look at some things. And when it comes to our health and that of our children, we need to not only see things the way they are, we need to take matters into our own hands to solve them.

Of course, we can debate whether science proves this or that, or whether we should trust our government to protect us from toxic exposure. But in the end, it doesn’t matter. If the chemical skeptics are even half right, staying away from synthetic chemicals is a net win for you. And if they’re later proven to be totally right (as they have been so many times before … added nicotine, DDT, RoundUp, just to name a few off the top of my head), then you’ll thank yourself for making the wise choice now. And that choice is to stop poisoning yourself.

So, I’m going to start with personal care items. I’m including things like lotions, shampoos, nail polish removers, deodorants, sunscreens, toothpastes, perfumes, and so on. I’m also including cosmetics. Listen: most of this stuff is super-toxic. The problem is that cosmetics and personal care items fall into a no-man’s land of the U.S regulatory space, so there’s really no agency that oversees what manufacturers put into them. Luckily, the Environmental Working Group has stepped in to fill the breach. Don’t take my word for it, just go to their website and look up the products you use in their easy-to-search database. You’ll see what you’re putting on your skin, and in your body, and you won’t like it. Here’s the link.

I did it, and it kind of sucked. I was in denial for a while, as many of my favorite products ranked pretty poorly for toxicity. But I gradually started to assimilate my new reality — one without most commercial personal care products. And I started to look for alternatives.

Even if you aren’t motivated to protect your own health by looking for alternatives, at least look up the products you use on your kids and babies. Some of them are not so bad, but some of them (even brands that claim to be “natural”) are pretty darn bad. I did this, and ended up throwing out several almost-full bottles of supposedly all-natural baby care products that I couldn’t even bear to give to friends because I didn’t want to poison their babies either. Be sure to check out your kids’ shampoo, soap, toothpaste, and sunscreen, for starters. I  can tell you right off the bat that two brands of baby stuff are safe: California Baby and Earth Mama Angel Baby. I have found these at Babies R Us, so they’re fairly easy to find. And good ole coconut oil is always nontoxic and so safe for your kids … you can use a tiny bit to detangle hair or moisturize skin.

And if anyone in your family uses nail polish or gets mani/pedis, read this quick link. You gotta know this stuff to protect your family.

So here are some alternatives I’ve found for my own personal care products.

Deodorant: Easily make your own from inexpensive ingredients. Here’s one I found that works great for me (and I’ve never found a “natural” deodorant that would work for me). This one even works for the guys who have tried it. I used Recipe #2 on this site. So easy, even I couldn’t mess it up. Took like two minutes. I halved the recipe, so the ingredients probably cost no more than $1. And it has lasted a few months so far. Crazy cheap and effective.

Lotion: Coconut oil. Virgin if you like coconut scent, refined if you want no smell. A large tub of coconut oil can be found for about $10 … compare that to a bottle of lotion, plus the coconut oil lasts way longer. It’s not diluted with water like most lotions, so you don’t have to use much. I even use a little on my face. It does not clog pores and may even have slight antibacterial properties. Plus it leaves my cheeks super soft.

Shampoo: There are people out there going “no ‘poo” but I’m just not ready. Maybe I’ll experiment with it later. You can google “no poo experiment” and find lots of bloggers who’ve done it if you want to get crazy with it. My solution is to buy Lush shampoo bars online. They’re super sudsy, make your scalp and hair feel great, and they’re so nontoxic, you could basically eat them. Also they’re way cheaper than bottled shampoo.

Conditioner: I’ve been going back and forth between a couple of things. Both work pretty well. Basically, I use no conditioner in the shower. Then after I’ve dried my hair a little, I either rub a tiny bit of coconut oil in my hands and smooth into my hair, or I use a little bit of Aveda’s argan oil throughout my hair. (I am not sure how great the argan oil is, since it has not been reviewed in the Skin Deep database yet.) Both of these methods leave my hair pretty soft and controlled. Everyone’s hair is so different that you just have to experiment at a time when you are willing to risk a bad hair day. But you might end up with the best hair day ever, who knows?

Soap/body wash: Dr. Bronner’s. Easy.

Manicures/pedicures: gave them up. Nail salons are basically toxic chemical stews, mostly unregulated and never well-ventilated. You can tell just from walking in that it’s not good to breathe that air — kind of smells like the pesticide aisle at the hardware store. There are a couple of less-toxic nail polish brands you can find at natural food stores … I have a crazy little kid so my nails aren’t too much of a priority for me right now, but I may look into these brands more later.

Toothpaste: I’m still on Tom’s of Maine. It’s available everywhere and I like the taste. Most of their toothpastes rank very low for toxicity. There are definitely DIY options to look into. I just haven’t made it there yet, and I’m not sure I will, since Tom’s seems OK.

Lip balm: old standby, coconut oil.

I think that’s about it, so far. I am in no need of sunscreen for a few months, so I’ll check into that a little later. I did look into the sunscreen we bought for the kid, and the Badger Baby sunscreen was super safe. Whole Foods and the like carry it —  or there’s always Amazon.

I don’t wear makeup except for special occasions. When I do, it’s always Aveda … and I don’t know much about Aveda products since they’re not listed on the website. They advertise that they’re nontoxic though, so I’m going with that for now, until I know better. I’ll update this if I find out more.

So, today was Personal Care. Here’s some topics for posts I’ll be doing in the next couple of weeks:

  • Cleaning Supplies
  • Your Food and Water – including why you have GOT TO get rid of that non-stick cookware.
  • Chemicals Around the House – garden stuff, pet stuff, paints, flooring, fabrics, air fresheners, etc.





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