Be Healthy This Year on the Inside and Out: Why We Need to Focus on Personal Care

IMG_5160How many times have we heard New Year’s resolutions about improving health? Many of us prioritize our health and do so by eating well, working out, sleeping more, and meditating (to name a few). However, how many of us think about our health in terms of what we put on our skin? Yes, consuming more fruits and vegetables, hitting the gym and getting those good Zzz’s is amazing for our bodies, yet we tend to forget about the enormous impact of personal care products on our internal health.

Our bodies are not only nourished from what we consume but also by what we absorb through our skin. We stray away from overly processed foods with foreign chemicals and nasty additives, so why aren’t we doing the same with our personal care products?

It’s a hard thing to grasp and may be overwhelming. How could my favorite lotion be harmful? If it’s on the store shelf isn’t it safe? Why didn’t anyone tell me? Instead of having these thoughts whirl around, take action. This New Year, you can take baby steps in changing up your daily routine- replacing those toxic products with ones that are cleaner, safer, and overall better for your health!

Here I have created a “Watch Out List” of common personal care chemicals that should be avoided in your everyday routine.

Watch Out List

Along with cosmetics, personal care products are minimally regulated in the United States. The FDA does not require safety tests on individual products or ingredients nor does it require companies to share this safety information. Compared to the thousand of chemicals (found in both personal care and cosmetics) banned in Europe, the U.S has only banned between 10 and 30….a serious problem. Protect Our Breasts focuses on toxic chemicals that are carcinogenic, endocrine disruptors, or both. Here are some to avoid:

Warning: Do the best you can! There are so many sources and names for these concerning chemicals that it can be really hard to recognize potential problems. Here are suggested starting points for some of the most ubiquitous chemicals to help solve the mystery of safer and cleaner beauty!

  • 1,4-Dioxane: This chemical can be found in shampoos, body washes, children’s bath products, and shaving products. 1,4-Dioxane is a carcinogen and a by-product of a process called ethoxylation. Since it’s a by-product of this process, it’s difficult to identify how much of this chemical is actually in a product. If you have any doubts, it is best to write the company and ask if there are any ethoxylated ingredients in the product. Alternative names: sodium laureth sulfate, PEG compounds, and chemicals that include the clauses xynol, ceteareth and oleth 12. Note: “1,4-Dioxane” will never be printed on an ingredient list.
  • Formaldehyde: Watch out for this chemical in products like nail polish, hair gel, body soap and body wash. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen that helps prevent bacteria growth in water-based products. Sources of formaldehyde donors include: quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate. Note: “Formaldehyde donors” are ingredients that will emit formaldehyde overtime as the product breaks down. If concerned about a personal care item, ask the maker if there are formaldehyde donors in the product.
  • Oxybenzone: You will find this chemical in lip balms, nail polish, sunscreen, shampoo and moisturizers. Oxybenzone is an endocrine disruptor and carcinogen that can preserve product ingredients and absorb UVB rays. Alternative names: benzophenone and ingredients containing the word benzophenone.
  • Parabens: Parabens are both endocrine disruptors and carcinogens. This common chemical is in creams, lotions, ointments, deodorants, shampoos/conditioners, and cleansers. Parabens are used as an antimicrobial preservative to prevent the growth of yeasts, molds and bacteria in products. Alternative names: ethylparaben, butylparaben, methylparaben, propylparaben, isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben, and other ingredients ending in –paraben.
  • Phthalates: This toxic chemical is found in products like fragranced lotions, body washes, hair care products, and nail polish. It is often a by-product from manufacturing. It is used as a plasticizer in personal care products and packaging (makes products and packaging more flexible) and it is also used in the equipment that makes many of our products so it can be hard to avoid some slight exposure to it. It’s both an endocrine disruptor and carcinogen. Alternative names: fragrance, dibutyl phthalate, benzyl butyl phthalate, diethyl phthalate, and other ingredients ending in -phthalate. Note: Chemical migration from packaging is the most common source of phthalates and not included on ingredient labels. Seek personal care products in glass containers!
  • Synthetic Musks: Search for sneaky synthetic musks in perfumes and lotions. Synthetic musks are endocrine disruptors that are used in “fragrance” (a catch-all phrase, hiding many concerning chemicals). Alternative names: fragrance, musk ketone, musk xylene, galaxolide, tonalide.
  • Triclosan: Triclosan is found in deodorants, toothpastes, tooth whitening products, and shaving products. This chemical is an endocrine disruptor used to prevent bacteria growth. Some alternative names: Irgasan DP-300, Lexol 300, Ster-Zac, and Cloxifenolum.

Some Personal Care Favorites

Becoming aware of these chemicals may lead you to believe that every personal care product is contaminated. This is far from true! There are so many awesome companies out their with safer alternative products. Here are some of my favorite safer alternative products vetted by Protect Our Breasts:

  1. Dr.Bronner’s Organic Castile Soap & Organic Shaving Soap: Both products are made with the purest and most simple ingredients. They are not thick and gel-like but a thinner formula that leaves you feeling so clean.
  2. Organic Essence Lip Balm: This lip balm is incredibly unique with its compostable packaging. On top of its amazing packaging, the product is super rich and nourishing from Organic Shea Butter, Beeswax and Sunflower Oil.
  3. Badger Clear Zinc Oxide Sunscreen: I used this sunscreen all the time in the summer- it’s a much safer alternative to conventional sunscreen. The product is extremely creamy yet doesn’t leave a white cast on your skin!

Final Thoughts to Kick off the New Year

This year, fuel your body with not only what you put in it but what you put on it. Use resources like EWG’s Skin Deep Database to identify toxic products and to find those that are safer to use. Take time to read your labels and look for certifications like USDA Organic to guarantee that a product is made with no harmful chemicals. When investing in organic products keep in mind; as more consumers demand safer and cleaner products, the marketplace will shift and these products become more affordable and accessible to all.

Put yourself and your body first, take a step in avoiding harmful chemicals by looking at your personal care products this New Year!


-Meghan Ayles

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