A couple years ago, I wrote a post about the body products I use or don’t use. I think it got about the highest number of views of any post, which surprised me.
It doesn’t really have anything to do with food or gardening, but for the same reason that I don’t eat processed crap food–for health–I carefully consider what body products I put on me. Our skin is our largest organ, and anything we put on our skin (hello, lotion) gets absorbed and enters our systems–including the nasty ingredients.
I decided to write about it again for a couple reasons. One, because I was thinking about it the other day as I shopped for self-tanner. (Y’all know I’m pasty white without it, so it just keeps my skin looking a little less zombie-esque.) And, secondly, I’ve changed my philosophy on a couple products that I previously thought were okay.
By now, you guys might have picked up on this whole parabens thing. Skin products are starting to advertise that they are “paraben free.” For those of you who don’t know about this yet, parabens are compounds found in all sorts of body products to extend shelf-life, preserve and stabilize the formula. They have also come under fire in the past five years because once in our system, some of them can mimic estrogen. This “extra” estrogen in our system can cause a whole host of problems, but some of the most serious are early puberty (in children), increased risk of breast and reproductive organ cancer and infertility (in both women and men).
I tried to find some articles from neutral sources outlining some of the concerns for your reading pleasure. Here is one from 2009 on Yahoo, one from Real Simple magazine, one on Livestrong.com, and finally, one from 2011 in the L.A. Times.
The studies have not directly linked parabens to breast cancer, but I personnally, think there is a pretty compelling link and cause for concern. I just don’t want to take any chances if there are safe skin products out there (and they are becoming increasingly popular and easy to find) that work just as well. Of course, I want to emphasize it’s a personal decision.
Parabens are not the only nasty ingredients in body products these days. There are other things that I try to avoid, particularly fragrance. It’s completely unnecessary. Any time you see “fragrance” on the list of ingredients, a red flag should go up. Added fragrance is made up of phthalates, which bind fragrance oils together. Phthalates have been linked to a number of risks, including increased risk of breast cancer, endocrine disruption and even obesity. (Body products aren’t the only way we are exposed to phthalates. They are in thousands of products like food containers and cash register receipts. Read here for more info.) Additionally, because the formulation of fragrances is considered proprietary, manufacturers don’t disclose what it’s made up of. So who really knows? It should be avoided. Those with sensitive skin are often advised to avoid fragrance because it can be particularly irritating to sensitive skin. Livestrong lists it as one of five ingredients to avoid in skin care products.
Sodium laureth sulfate is another ingredient I try to avoid. It is often the second ingredient listed behind water (did you know the ingredients are listed according to how much of each is in the product?) on many body washes and shampoos. Its a surfactant, meaning it makes the product bubbly or foamy to give it a soapy quality. Many of the sodium laureth sulfate-free shampoos I’ve tried don’t get really foamy and they work just as well. Do you really need foamy bubbly shampoo for it to work? No. Sodium laureth sulfate is a known skin irritant, particularly at higher concentrations. So why bother with it, since it doesn’t make your shampoo or body wash any more effective and can irritate skin? I think it’s just something added in to products to enhance the consumer experience–to make you feel like you are getting cleaner. Trust me, my consumer experience is enhanced knowing my products are free from nasties that could irritate my skin and increase my risk for breast cancer (scary!).
So, what do I use?
To start with, I use the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep website religiously. I check all my skin products and make-up to see how they stack up. Bookmark it! You’ll thank me.
Body Lotion: I have tried all kinds of products, and I am particularly fond of Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion. It’s fragrance free and has a score of 2 on the EWG Skin Deep site (the lower the better). I’ve tried Nature’s Gate and Dr. Bronner’s brands for body lotion, and am not particularly crazy about either. They seem greasy and don’t absorb well.
In the Shower: I love Dr. Bronner’s 18 in 1 Castile Soap. I have the citrus scent (derived from natural citrus oil–but you can buy unscented). I use it for body wash and in place of shaving cream. Honestly, once I ran out of shaving cream and just used this stuff instead, and haven’t looked back since. It’s kinda slick, so it’s perfect, and it actually does a better job than shaving cream, I think.
About once a week, I exfoliate with the sugar scrub that we made at Mixed Con last year. Dixie Crystals sponsored the Sugar Suite at the conference, where attendees learned how to make sugar body scrub and lip scrub. It’s ridiculous easy. I used up all the at I made at Mixed Con, and had to make another batch. I used 1 cup of granulated sugar, 1/2 cup of grapeseed oil (you can buy this at the grocery store), and a few drops of lavender essential oil. Mix it all together, and actually, you may start out with 1/4 cup of grapeseed oil and add as much as needed to get the right consistency. It should hold together like wet sand. I say, if it’s safe enough to eat (except the essential oil–don’t eat that), it’s definitely okay to put it on your body.
Which brings me to another pantry staple that doubles as a skin product–coconut oil. I love it as a moisturizer. You can pretty much do like 101 things with it. It’s great as a treatment for your hair, you can obviously cook with it (delicious for stir-fry and Asian dishes), rub it on rough elbows and heels. I’ve even used it as a an eye make-up remover. Bonus–it smells amazing. It’s a little pricey, though; anywhere from $9 to $20 for a pint. If you find it on sale, stock up.
Shampoo/Conditioner: Right now, I’m using the Nature’s Gate formula for fine hair, but I’m not crazy about them. I did use deLux, which I loved and thought was all-natural, until I decided to check the label and see that sodium laureth sulfate is one of the main ingredients. I have used Kiss My Face Big Body Shampoo and Conditioner before, and really liked it. I have a bottle of JASON brand to use next, but haven’t tried it yet. All are rated pretty well by EWG Skin Deep.
Make-Up: I kinda rotate through products without sticking with any one brand. I love bareMinerals mineral make-up, and Boots No. 7 Stay Perfect Eye Mousse, which you can get at drugstores for like $6. Some other brands I like (and trust) are Tarte, Physician’s Formula, Korres, and Benefit, which have products rated well on EWG Skin Deep. I do like both Tarte and Korres, particularly, because virtually ALL of their products are safe. It’s nice that a company feels its important enough to use safe ingredients throughout its line. They are a little pricey, though, so I’m still on a search for drugstore brands that are just as safe and good-quality.
Face wash and make-up remover: I mentioned that I’ve used coconut oil as eye make-up remover, and it worked great. I still have the same tub of Vaseline petroleum jelly that I had in the last post for eye make-up remover, but I plan to switch soon. I was recently at a workshop about cleaning your home with all natural products, and the lady talked briefly about skin care. She said petroleum byprouducts aren’t good for your skin because they can clog it up and not allow it to breathe. Which makes sense, since that stuff seals out water. She recommended Alba Un-petroleum jelly in place of your usual Vaseline or whatever brand. I have not tried this stuff, but it looks pretty legit. I don’t know how it would work as an eye make-up remover, but I suspect it would do okay.
As a matter of fact, right now I have the Alba Hawaiian facial cleanser and moisturizer, also, and both are pretty nice. I’m constantly switching brands since I haven’t found one I love yet. Actually, the Kiss My Face Potent and Pure Exfoliating Face Wash is wonderful, but it’s $15, and that seems a little steep. Maybe I’m just a cheapo, but c’mon. That’s the same reason I don’t regularly buy Philosophy Purity Made Simple, which is also rated well on EWG. I love that stuff, but not at $22 for eight ounces…
Facial Moisturizer: I’m at a total loss here. I have tried a dozen different kinds over the past few years, but found none that I’m in love with… Actually, there have been a few that I loved, but I suffered from sticker shock. I got a free sample of bareMinerals Multi-Wrinkle Repair once, and I loved it. But it’s $50 for one ounce. Maybe I should just break down and spend some money on some decent wrinkle cream. I dunno. What kinds do you guys like?
Deodorant: Okay, here’s where I’ve changed my position. I read the Food Babe blog religiously, and recently she did a post about aluminum in deodorant/anti-perspirants. Once she started researching aluminum zirconium, which is the ingredient in anti-perspirant that makes it work (She explains the science behind it in the post) she discovered it’s linked to breast cancer and alzheimer’s disease. She switched to an aluminum free deodorant immediately. I read the post and did some research of my own, and decided I didn’t want to take my chances. I switched to an aluminum free deodorant, too. She had a promo code for Primal Pit Paste (corny name, I know) on her webpage, and I gave it a try. Does it work? Yes. Absolutely. Even after working out, I wasn’t stinky. I was skeptical this “hippie deodorant” would work, but I don’t notice any difference in my old stand-by, Degree. Do I love it? Eh. I bought it in the jar because it was cheaper than the stick, but I’m not crazy about it in a jar. Just too much trouble. She recommends some other brands, which I would likely try next, particularly Naturally Fresh, since it’s only $4, compared to the $9 I paid for PPP.
Sunless Tanner: Here’s where I’m still kinda stuck. Very few of them are rated very well on EWG. Probably because the chemicals that make them work aren’t totally safe. Tarte’s Brazilliance Skin is rated a 5 on EWG’s site, but it’s $39. I’m not willing to invest that much for something I’ve never tried before. I settled on Nivea Sun Kissed Radiance Gradual Tanning Moisturizer since it was only $11, and gradual sunless tanning moisturizer is harder to have a mishap with (we’ve all had orange palms and weird streaky legs…). It’s also rated a 5, which isn’t great, but not terrible either. Caribbean Solutions is the lowest rated self-tanner on EWG, at 2. I see that Coppertone has a gradual tan moisturizing lotion that is rated a 4, so that’s a little better than mine. Maybe I’ll get that next. I guess I’ll just have to wait for pasty white legs to be in fashion.
Perfume: Gosh, I LOVE LOVE LOVE wearing perfume, but some of it is laced with these same chemicals. Most perfumes rely heavily on alcohol, which can be drying to skin. But there are also a number of other chemicals in them. For example, Gucci Flora Eau De Parfum contains BHT, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, and Benzyl Salicylate, all three of which have been linked to endocrine disruption and reproductive cancer. Now, I’m just as guilty of this as anybody, because I wear perfume Every. Single. Day. But as soon as I finish up my current scent, I’m thinking of experimenting with essential oils. This is what gives perfumes their fragrance anyway. I think it would be neat to mix my own signature fragrance. Something floral and citrusy, since those are the notes I like in perfumes anyway. I’m sure making your own would be cheaper anyway, since it seem like perfume is wildly expensive these days.
At any rate, the level of exposure you feel comfortable with is up to you. You might have a history of cancer in your family, and want to limit your exposure to these toxic chemicals as much as possible, or you may see it as not that big of a deal, and be in love with your scented lotion or body spray. There’s no shortage of reading out there about potential risks body products pose, and I’ve embedded a number of links. Everyone should arrive at an informed decision on their own. This is just my opinion. I feel the same way about what kind of food I eat. I hope to be a healthy old lady one day.
The legal jargon: This post was not sponsored nor did I receive any consideration for it. All of the products were purchased by me. Additionally, I have embedded links to the products I mentioned from the retailer I purchase them from. I do NOT get any kickback if you click the links. The links are for demonstration only.