Featured in this article:
- Harmful ingredients to avoid and why
- My top picks for personal care products
- How to choose safe products
- A skin care giveaway (for March 29-30)!
There are more than 80,000 chemicals on the market today. Many don’t have any safety data. This is particularly true of those used in the skin care and beauty industry.
Did you know that the United States has not passed a major federal law to regulate the safety of ingredients used in personal care products since 1938? Is that crazy, or what?
Over the past two decades, the European Union has banned more than 1,300 chemicals in the product formulas of personal care products and restricted the levels of over 250 more in such products. The United States has only partially banned 30 to date.
All that means that we can’t expect products we purchase and put on our skin to be safe. it’s up to us to do the research and scrutinize what we put on our skin.
The skin is our largest organ. What you put on it matters. Much of what we put on our skin is absorbed into our blood stream, and many chemicals are toxic even in small doses. Many have been linked to cancer or found to be hormone disruptors.
Take a moment to count how many products you use, including the categories below.
Most women use 10-20 products every single day containing endocrine disruptors, carcinogens and neurotoxins.
That could be upwards of 160 ingredients you put on your skin daily.
While women use the most skin care products and cosmetics, this issue also affects men and children who use products such as toothpaste, deodorant, shaving cream, bubble bath, baby powder, shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen, hand soap, and more.
When I hugged my husband, I didn't want to be breathing in synthetic fragrance from his deodorant or shaving cream. (Nor do I want him to!)
There are many unsafe ingredients in personal care products, but the top ones to look out for and avoid are:
- Fragrance, which contains Phthalates
- Polyethylene glycol or PEG's
- DEA, MEA, TEA
- 1,4 – dioxane
If you want the nitty gritty, I’ve written in more detail here about the top ingredients to avoid and why.
Before you get discouraged, I’m going to share my own regimen and top product picks after 7 years in the holistic health industry. I’ll also teach you how to find safe products yourself.
I tried many different products before finding Beautycounter, which I use for most of my personal care products. I love that they perform beautifully, AND I love that safety is their top priority.
Beautycounter is completely transparent about what ingredients they use. They are an EWG-Verified company (more on the Environmental Working Group below) and also do a ton of advocacy work with congress to urge them to pass safer laws for the industry. As a B-corp (a company which must meet high standards for people and the planet), it is my kind of company.
Here are my top picks and brands for beautiful skin and hair, as well as safe deo, sunscreen, and hair dye:
My favorites are the Nourishing Cream Cleanser (which is creamy) or the Charcoal Cleansing Bar (which is sudsy and helps remove impurities from your skin). Like other Beautycounter products, they last a really long time since they have no fillers.
I am in love with Nourishing Night Cream, followed by a few drops of this Facial Oil, a blend of seven botanical oils that moisturize and nourish your skin. (At first I thought it was weird to put oil on your face, but using facial oil has been a game changer for my skin.) My skin feels soft and silky and has a much more even tone with these two products. That’s my everyday morning routine.
The Hydrating Body Lotion in Citrus Mimosa is my favorite regular lotion. I love the way it feels and smells (a very light citrus scent, with no fragrance, only essential oils). During the dry winter, I like the Body Butter, which is thicker and works well when my skin is drier.
Remember, you are rubbing body lotion all over your body and it is absorbed into your skin, so you definitely want to avoid putting on anything with the word “fragrance” which contains phthalates, an endocrine disruptor.
You could also use unrefined coconut oil as a moisturizer, which is what I used to use before I found this body lotion.
Anti-aging skin care
Did you know that many lipsticks contain lead and mascaras contain tar? If you have teenage daughters, make sure they know about the hormone disruptors in make-up and skin care.
Consider that your perfume is affecting your own health, but also those around you in public places. I’m really sensitive to others’ perfume.
I recommend ditching your perfume which contains phthalates and up to 300 other chemicals as part of the “fragrance.” If you like to wear a scent, choose natural, plant-based essential oils.
Shampoo and conditioner
My favorite is Beautycounter’s Daily Shampoo and Daily Conditioner. I love the fresh, clean scent too. These work well with all hair types, though they also have other shampoos and conditioners for different hair issues.
Style Sea Salt Spray is amazing. It works great on both curly and straight hair. It smooths hair and adds nice shine.
A little Sidebar: Curly Girl Tip
I finally learned how to style my curly hair while I was sitting naked in a banya (outdoor sauna) on Kodiak Island, Alaska, with a bunch of women I didn’t know who were talking about hair. I got some great tips from them that changed the way I style my hair. And now, I have good products to use with this method.
Here’s what I do:
Wash with the Daily Shampoo, then condition with Daily Conditioner. Let sit a few minutes, then comb with a very wide tooth comb. Rinse. Do not ring out the water or towel dry. Get out of the shower, turn head upside down, apply a dime-size dollop of Daily Conditioner to your hair and run through your hair gently with your fingers. Scrunch the ends up. Use a microfiber towel or an old soft t-shirt to gently scrunch and remove excess water. Then, with your head still upside down, spray about 10 spritzes of Style Sea Salt Spray on your hair. Scrunch the ends well. Dry with a diffuser. I only dry it for a few minutes since I don’t have a lot of patience, but it comes out great if you diffuse it longer.
Voila, a happy head of curls!
Intuitively anyone who dyes their hair knows the process is toxic... the smell inside a hair salon is a pretty clear giveaway!
Nearly all hair dyes contain chemicals that have negative health effects - from ones that are only mildly irritating to ones that can literally be life threatening in the instance of allergic reaction.
A new product I discovered is Hair Print, designed to restore your natural color, rather than dye it a specific one. I trust this one because the ingredients are so few, and are safe, but also because this product was designed by the founder of the Green Chemistry Movement - a discipline that seeks to avoid harm from chemicals before they are released into use (what a novel idea, huh?). I started using Hair Print last year and really like how it restores my natural hair color.
I’ve been making my own deodorant for about 4 years. It’s so easy, takes about 5 minutes, and works beautifully.
Simply mix: 2 T. coconut oil, 2 T. arrowroot powder, 2 T. baking soda, and 15 drops tea tree (melaleuca) essential oil or lavender essential oil. I keep it in a small jar.
My favorite for showering is the Body Wash in Citrus Mimosa. It smells SO good and has none of the nasties.
I am the queen of sunscreen, since I somehow have the lovely quality of having skin that can practically burn in moonlight. Seriously though, on a sunny summer day, my nose will burn through the skylights in my office.
When I am outside, I always where sunscreen and a hat. Since this is a daily thing for me, I’ve tried a lot of sunscreens. Beautycounter’s Protect All Over Sunscreen (SPF 30) is my favorite. Unlike other safe sunscreens I’ve tried, it does NOT leave my face pasty white, but rather blends in well. And, it works. I test it everyday on my Rudolph Nose!
Always choose a mineral based sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium oxide as the key ingredients. Avoid chemical sunscreens.
And don’t forget your hat in the summertime!
I like Auromere, which is a natural Ayurvedic toothpaste. Make sure you get a toothpaste that is free of both triclosan and fluoride.
I put this Hand Cream in Citrus Mimosa on every at night before bed for soft and smooth hands, which I need because I love gardening and making art -- both hard on the hands.
My top tip for glowing skin:
In my late 40s, I still get a lot of compliments on my skin. What’s made the biggest difference for me?
Drinking lots of filtered water and eating a whole foods diet (like we do in the Spring Cleanse) with lots of antioxidant-rich fresh fruit and vegetables. If you eat a clean diet, and protect yourself from sun damage, you’ll be well on your way to beautiful skin. Quality skin products matter, but the health of your skin truly starts on the inside.
How to choose safe products:
I've done my own extensive research over the last five years and found companies I trust. If you are using products from other companies, here's one tool you can use to evaluate the safety of their ingredients.
EWG Verified is a seal of approval used by the non-profit Environmental Working Group. To be EWG Verified, companies must meet strict guidelines, be free of chemicals of concern, and be transparent with their ingredients.
Beautycounter was one of the first three companies to get this seal of approval. There are many EWG-verified companies now. If you are shopping for other brands, and you see this label, it means it's been well-vetted, and is a good choice!
Choose brands that are EWG-verified (best) or whicn shopping for individual products, choose those that have a safety rating of "1."
Your Action Step:
Make a clean swap! Go through your bathroom cabinet and scan the ingredient labels for the ingredients above. Replace with safer options, those with an EWG safety rating of "1.".