As avid consumers of the health and beauty industry, many of the products that we find ourselves using every day may be hiding harmful chemical additives. We all have our own personal care routines, which oftentimes take the shape of a ritual and calming act every evening before bedtime. What we may not know is that we could be applying or combining classes of chemicals that have a net negative impact without even being aware of it.
Organic, all-natural products are the way to go to ensure the safety of what you’re applying to your face and body, as well as what you’re washing down the drain. To make it easy: we’ve compiled a shortlist of critical items to check for in the ingredients list that are known endocrine disruptors, carcinogens (cancer-causing agents), and irritants. By using this shortlist, you are taking the first steps down the right path to clean health and beauty.
A big concern many of us have with our cycles is finding a product that gives us peace of mind–but we may need to expand that definition to include peace from chemicals. Traditional tampon brands often contain BPA and dioxins which famously act as hormone disruptors. BPA mimics the effect of estrogen in the body, and has been linked to obesity, reproductive issues in both women and developing fetuses, as well as hormone-related cancers, as well as breast tumors. Dioxins are powerful and bioaccumulative carcinogens that are formed from the oxygenation of chlorine, which is common in the bleaching process of tampon manufacturing.
Take caution with the brands you choose, or opt for pads (also organic!) to keep the cotton external. Consider using a reusable body-safe medical-grade silicone menstrual cup to avoid the issue altogether.
Not sure what brand to try? I personally love Lola. These tampons are made from 100% organic cotton and BPA-free applicators. You can choose from an array of options and pick which ones work best for you. Also note that some of my favorite fitness haunts, SoulCycle and Equinox, keep their locker rooms stocked with Lola products, so they must be doing something right?!
Further avoid BPA by checking the labels of canned goods and plastic water bottles, and by avoiding the use of #7 plastics (google this one and prepare to be educated!).
Reduce your intake of dioxins by utilizing care with the animal products you consume. Dioxin is a bioaccumulative toxin that is present in the tissue of many industrially-raised animals that we eat. Be mindful of the location of industrial plants that may use chlorine or bromine in relation to the farms you support to avoid ingesting too much or simply try to cut back on your animal protein consumption and experiment with a plant-based diet as a new goal for 2020.
It should be no surprise that many of us have different reactions based on our unique genetic makeup to the vast array of skincare products, and that nearly everyone has a different routine, often with multiple steps. Odds are, you’ve already found some ingredients that work for you, and some that don’t. But a very common type of additive that lurks in plain sight are endocrine disruptors of a particularly nasty kind: phthalates.
These chemicals trigger “death-inducing signaling” within cells, causing premature cell death and thyroid irregularities. Keep an eye on the products used by the men in your life here–this signaling is especially effective on testicular cells, and over time can lead to male reproductive defects. These chemicals may have misleading labeling and can fall under the blanket umbrella of “fragrance” on an ingredient list. To be safe, purchase products whose fragrances come from recognizable sources, such as oils. Avoid the most common types by throwing out products with 2-Ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) and dibutyl phthalate (DBP).
Also beware of phthalates in PVC (polyvinyl chloride), which is denoted with the recycling label #3, and may be present in plastic wrap or children’s toys.
Find organic skincare and makeup brands that fit you here.
Toothpaste and Haircare
Over 60% of traditional shampoos and toothpastes on the market contain sulfates as their primary detergents, the ingredient responsible for the foaming action and the “clean” feeling these products provide us with. But while we’ve become accustomed to the sensation, detergents can strip us of our natural protective oils and barriers along with removing dirt, and lead to dryness, irritation, and acne. Many estheticians contend that this is the extent of the issue for most people, but it can be easily eliminated by seeking out products that lack the lather, and contain easily recognizable ingredients, such as baking soda toothpaste.
Furthermore, not all sulfates are created equal. Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) is manufactured through a process called ethoxylation that can contaminate the ingredient, and therefore the final product, with 1,4-dioxane, a volatile organic compound and probable carcinogen that can lead to nervous system damage. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is not manufactured this way, and sidesteps the issue; if you choose to stick with sulfates, look for the safer version!
Furthermore, most of us use more toothpaste than is necessary. In children, rice to pea-size amount is sufficient, and adults need only a little more. In addition to foaming sulfates, most mainstream toothpaste brands contain fluoride. The majority of cleaning benefits come from the mechanical action of brushing and flossing our teeth, and the accidental ingestion of larger amounts than necessary of fluoride can actually lead to dental fluorosis (or hypomineralization) which results in weakened enamel and bones from chronic overexposure.
More effective at preventing dental decay is the practice of cutting back on our consumption of sugary foods and beverages, which wear away enamel. Like many other chemical culprits, fluoride can also lead to thyroid and endocrine problems. Especially when combined with fluoridated water sources, it can be easy to OD–so take it out of the toothpaste! Find natural toothpastes here, or make your own!
Sulfates are also present in many household cleaners and detergents: fortunately, there are many natural brands popping up, even in grocery stores and traditional retailers, without these ingredients.
Finally, when seeking to reduce your chemical intake and cut back on hormone-disruptors, remember where your food and water are coming from. Even if you change your lifestyle, we all wash our skin and hair care products down the drain at the end of the day, leading to a buildup of these chemicals in our greywater, the water drained from our homes, excluding toilet waste. Greywater is allowed to be treated and reused for non-potable purposes in some states, including irrigation. Crops watered with greywater residue may contain some of these hormone-disruptive chemicals. Consider purchasing a water filter, be cognizant of where the water used to grow your food comes from, and wash your produce. Consumer Reports recommends briefly soaking pesticide or chemical-laden produce in a solution of baking soda and water to remove surface toxins.
Decreasing our toxic load, whenever possible, gives our bodies a much-needed break, and protects us from tricky endocrine disruptors that mimic and lessen the efficacy of our bodily processes. Break up with these chemicals, and find your naturally balanced routine.
How to Live a Non-Toxic Life & Break Free From Chemicals is written by Lana Butner for www.drlanawellness.com