In Your Personal Care

Every time we lather our hair with shampoo, brush our teeth, or rub moisturizer on our skin, we come into contact with numerous chemicals, many of which may harm our health. Everyday personal care products can contain chemicals that are associated with asthma, allergies, hormone disruption, and even cancer. Unfortunately, manufacturers aren’t required to test products for safety or list all the ingredients on the label. While research continues, here are some tips to consider for taking care with your personal care.

  • Use fewer products. The more products you use, the more chemicals you’re exposed to. One of the easiest ways to reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals is to reduce the number of products you use. Count how many products you use every day and see if there are some you can live without.
  • Choose plant-based ingredients. Products made from plants avoid some of the toxic impurities that result during the manufacturing of chemicals, and choosing them is easier than trying to avoid a long list of harmful ingredients. Look on the label for mostly plant-based ingredients. Also look for products labeled “made with organic ingredients,” which must contain at least 70% organic ingredients.
  • Go fragrance free. Some fragrance chemicals can trigger allergies and asthma, and have been associated with hormone disruption. Avoid products that list “fragrance” or “parfum” on their labels. To learn more about what chemicals to avoid in cosmetics, visit the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.
  • Avoid parabens. Parabens – often added as a preservative to many products such as lotions, shampoos, and deodorants – may disrupt hormones. Look on the label for “paraben free”; watch out for “methylparaben,” “ethylparaben,” and “butylparaben.” 
  • Avoid antimicrobials. Antimicrobials – often found in soap, toothpaste, and other products – not only can disrupt thyroid and reproductive development, but their repeated use can also contribute to antibiotic resistance. On the label, watch out for “antibacterial,” “antimicrobial,” “triclosan,” and “triclocarban.” Studies have shown that antimicrobials are no more effective than washing your hands with soap and water.
  • Avoid lavender and tea tree oil. Some studies suggest that lavender and tea tree oil may affect your hormones. While research continues, play it safe by using other essential oils, or use these ones sparingly.
  • Choose a deodorant with care. Deodorants come into contact with a particularly sensitive area of the body where ingredients can be absorbed quickly. Look on the label for “fragrance-free,” “phthalate-free,” and “paraben-free.” Better yet, look for a deodorant with mostly plant-based ingredients.
  • Read the label. Avoid products that contain benzophenone, cyclomethicone, diethanolamine or DEA, octinoxate, octyl methoxycinnamate, oxybenzone, paraben, –siloxane, or triclosan. Several sites offer searchable ingredients-based guides that rank products for safety and help you select products, including Think Dirty, Good Guide, Skin Deep, and EWG Verified
  • Block the sun safely. Sunscreen lotions and sprays can contain chemicals, such as UV filters, which are thought to disrupt hormones. Read the product label and avoid “benzophenone,” “oxybenzone,” “octylmethoxycinnimate,” and “octinoxate.” Choose sunscreens with mineral-based filters like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide in non-nano form. The Environmental Working Group (EWG)’s Guide to Sunscreens rates sunscreens for safety based on product labels. As much as possible, choose shade, hats, and tightly woven fabric cover-ups for sun protection.
  • Do your nails outside. Nail polish can contain a host of harmful chemicals, including dibutyl phthalate, toluene, and formaldehyde. Some nail polish manufacturers have replaced these chemicals, but the substitutes haven’t been tested for safety. If you use a nail salon, choose one that is well-ventilated; it’s better for you and for salon workers. Ask your nail salon to use less toxic products and improve ventilation. For more information about chemical exposures in nail salons, visit the OSHA website.
  • Avoid hair straighteners. Studies have shown that many hair straightening products contain formaldehyde, a respiratory irritant and carcinogen. An investigation by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that many products don’t list formaldehyde on the label.
  • Skip the dye. Many hair dyes are made from coal tar residues. Several dyes have been found to be carcinogenic and have been removed from the market. Those still in use haven’t been fully tested for safety. So embrace your natural hair color or enhance your hair color naturally with ingredients from your kitchen. Coffee and black tea will darken hair; chamomile tea and honey will lighten it.
  • Do it yourself. Try making your own personal care products using ingredients like shea butter and sunflower oil. Better yet, invite your friends and make it a party. Our Detox Me app has non-toxic DIY recipes. 
  • Check out our Detox Me app for more tips on taking care with your personal care.

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