The clean beauty movement is hard to ignore. Whether reading Glamour magazine, watching The Today Show, or seeing alarming Facebook posts on asbestos found in children’s makeup, the discussion around safer personal care products is no doubt generating buzz.
So why should we be listening?
Eyes Wide Open
I thought I was making safe choices. After all, I’m an educated woman, my husband and I work in healthcare, and I buy trusted brands and natural products (especially ones with cute labels).
My products are mostly safe, right?
My eyes opened wide when I turned over my trusted brand of kids bubble bath and looked at the ingredients only to learn it contained formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane, two chemicals linked to cancer and skin allergies. I have two boys with eczema and I’m married to an oncologist. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! As you can imagine, I was shocked, frustrated, and felt compelled to learn more.
What I Learned
In every situation knowledge is power, and the clean beauty movement is no different. As our largest organ, within 26 seconds our skin can absorb the ingredients we lather on it. The ingredients, toxic and non-toxic alike, get in our blood stream and impact our health. While the European Union has banned over 1,300 chemicals from personal care products, the United States has partially banned only 30 ingredients. Companies are allowed to use chemicals known to be extremely harmful in products we put on ourselves and our children every day, and the FDA has little to no ability to pull these harmful products from store shelves. While we might expect disclaimers such as “This product contains cancer causing ingredients,” or “These ingredients are linked to neurological disorders and infertility,” that is simply not the case.
As consumers, the responsibility is ours; and as a mom, I started to take it more seriously. The great news is . . . as we know better, we do better.
Don’t be overwhelmed or stop reading now and think . . . nope, too hard, can’t do it. Always remember: it’s about progress, not perfection. One simple change is a win!
Where to Start
After I realized the epic failure of my trusted brand of kids’ body wash, I wondered “What now? Where do I even begin?” Here are some tips to start cleaning up your bathrooms:
- Turn your bottles over and see for yourself. Print out the list below of harmful ingredients commonly found in personal care products and compare it to products in your bathroom or around your kids’ bathtub. Turn this into a family project. My kids and I piled up all our personal care and beauty products, we used the list of harmful ingredients below and compared it to product labels, and we sorted products as harmful or safe. We then wrote a list of all harmful products that we needed to replace. It was powerful and a great learning experience for our kids (and me!).
- Don’t let the list overwhelm you! Since raking all your harmful products into a trash bag is not the most realistic response (although that was in fact my response), star the items you use most often and make incremental changes. As you run out of shampoo or face moisturizer or you need a summer lipstick color, simply switch to a safer product. Refer back to your list every month and see what additional products you can replace for clean beauty solutions.
- Use a third-party resource to evaluate the safety of new products. My suggestion is EWG’s (Environmental Working Group) Skin Deep® website or app. Search by category to find safer options, or simply purchase brands with the EWG product safety seal.
- High-performance can also be safe. Don’t think you have to sacrifice the quality of products to find safer solutions. With a greater focus on clean beauty, more companies are entering this consumer category and developing great products. (Even a beauty junkie or skincare snob like me can be impressed!)
Don’t Fall for Gimmicks
Like any trend, the clean beauty movement has many imposters. Companies are trying to advertise and market themselves as safe options for you and your family. So, beat them at their game and don’t fall for these gimmicks:
- Ignore the bottle color. Green does not equal clean. For that matter, images of leaves, plants, or flowers do not mean natural either!
- Read the back of the bottle, not the front. The front is filled with words for marketing purposes only. Words such as “natural,” “safe,” “hypoallergenic,” “sensitive,” “dermatologist tested,” “organic”, and even “paraben free,” have no bearing on the product safety. Turn the bottle over and look for the key ingredients to avoid.
- Fragrance is a loophole. Fragrance is considered a “trade secret” so companies are not required to disclose the specific ingredients. Often times these “trade secrets” contain ingredients that are linked to cancer, infertility, neurological disorders, and skin allergies. So, it is best to avoid products that list fragrance as an ingredient.
Share Your Journey
One of the best parts of my journey towards clean living has been finding a community of women that shares my passion. As you move towards a cleaner lifestyle, share your story with others, ask like-minded women for high-performing recommendations, and always remember it’s about progress not perfection.