Balanced Living

Getting Clean Without Chemicals

Posted by Arja on December 14 in Personal Care and Cleaning

Being healthy from the inside out is not as simple as just eating clean foods.  Back in October of 2010, The David Suzuki Foundation released a report on what they call “The Dirty Dozen” toxic ingredients found in 80% of some of the most common cosmetic products.  These products included shampoo, toothpaste, lipstick and skin cleansers and the foundation had over 6000 volunteers check the ingredients lists of over 12,500 products.  The end result showed widespread use of the chemicals listed on their “Dirty Dozen” list in products people use every day.

These toxic ingredients are cancer causing, suspected hormone disrupters, harmful to wildlife, and reproductive toxicants and people are slathering them all over their bodies on a daily basis.  Being healthy isn’t always as simple as changing the way you eat.  It’s a complete lifestyle.  If you spend the extra money buying clean meat, dairy and produce to avoid pesticides and antibiotics (which are endocrine disruptors, reproductive toxicants and carcinogens) but continue to use the cosmetics manufactured with the chemicals listed in this report you may find your road to better health is slower than expected.

So, what’s the answer?  Learn to read labels and make educated choices.  There are some phenomenal resources out there that can help you choose non-toxic personal care products or, for the DIY types, make your own.  Let’s start by learning just what’s hiding out in your shampoo, moisturizers, deodorants and other cosmetics!

The Dirty Dozen (as taken from the David Suzuki Foundation):

1. BHA and BHT
Used mainly in moisturizers and makeup as preservatives. Suspected endocrine disruptors and may cause cancer (BHA). Harmful to fish and other wildlife.

2. Coal tar dyes: p-phenylenediamine and colours listed as “CI” followed by a five digit number
In addition to coal tar dyes, natural and inorganic pigments used in cosmetics are also assigned Colour Index numbers (in the 75000 and 77000 series, respectively).
Look for p-phenylenediamine hair dyes and in other products colours listed as “CI” followed by five digits. The U.S. colour name may also be listed (e.g. “FD&C Blue No. 1” or “Blue 1”). Potential to cause cancer and may be contaminated with heavy metals toxic to the brain.

3. DEA-related ingredients
Used in creamy and foaming products, such as moisturizers and shampoos. Can react to form nitrosamines, which may cause cancer. Harmful to fish and other wildlife. Look also for related chemicals MEA and TEA.

4. Dibutyl phthalate
Used as a plasticizer in some nail care products. Suspected endocrine disrupter and reproductive toxicant. Harmful to fish and other wildlife.
5. Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives
Look for DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine and quarternium-15. Used in a variety of cosmetics. Slowly release small amounts of formaldehyde, which causes cancer.

6. Parabens
Used in a variety of cosmetics as preservatives. Suspected endocrine disrupters and may interfere with male reproductive functions.

7. Parfum (a.k.a. fragrance)
Any mixture of fragrance ingredients used in a variety of cosmetics — even in some products marketed as “unscented.” Some fragrance ingredients can trigger allergies and asthma. Some linked to cancer and neurotoxicity. Some harmful to fish and other wildlife.

8. PEG compounds
Used in many cosmetic cream bases. Can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which may cause cancer. Also for related chemical propylene glycol and other ingredients with the letters “eth” (e.g., polyethylene glycol).

9. Petrolatum
Used in some hair products for shine and as a moisture barrier in some lip balms, lip sticks and moisturizers. A petroleum product that can be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which may cause cancer.

10. Siloxanes
Look for ingredients ending in “-siloxane” or “-methicone.” Used in a variety of cosmetics to soften, smooth and moisten. Suspected endocrine disrupter and reproductive toxicant (cyclotetrasiloxane). Harmful to fish and other wildlife.

11. Sodium laureth sulfate
Used in foaming cosmetics, such as shampoos, cleansers and bubble bath. Can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which may cause cancer. Look also for related chemical sodium lauryl sulfate and other ingredients with the letters “eth” (e.g., sodium laureth sulfate).

12. Triclosan
Used in antibacterial cosmetics, such as toothpastes, cleansers and antiperspirants. Suspected endocrine disrupter and may contribute to antibiotic resistance in bacteria. Harmful to fish and other wildlife.

That’s quite the list, isn’t it?  And keep in mind, these are just the worst offenders.  So now what?  You’ve gone into your bathroom, read the ingredients lists in horror and thrown all your stuff out.  What are you supposed to wash, scrub, moisturize and just generally beautify with?  Well, you can start with a trip to your local health food store or the healthy living section of your nearest supermarket (Loblaw and Sobey’s both carry fairly extensive product ranges), but make sure you still read your labels!  Not all “natural” products are created equal.  There’s a lot of green washing that goes on in marketing, but that’s another blog post altogether.

You can also choose to further educate yourself, in which case there are some amazing books and websites devoted to the subject of toxins and chemicals in personal care products and how to choose safer alternatives.  A few of my favourite books include:

“There’s Lead in Your Lipstick” by Gillian Deacon
“The Green Beauty Guide” by Julie Gabriel
“Better Basics for the Home” by Annie Berthold-Bond
“Ecoholic” by Adria Vasil
“Living Beauty” by Lisa Petty

There are many other books out there, so don’t think these are the only ones!  They just happen to be a few of my personal favourites.  They all contain guidelines and ideas for how to shop for the safest brands as well as recipes for DIY personal care products.  It can actually be fun (and surprisingly simple) to make up your own creams, salves and toners and some of the products would make great gifts!

If you’re looking to get healthy and are willing to give up your favrourite brand of shampoo (or anything else!) switching to non-toxic alternatives is definitely the way to go.  Give it a shot!  It won’t be nearly as scary as you think, and once you give up all those synthetic fragrances and other nasties you’ll be amazed at how much you love your new, healthy stuff.

arja pennanen lytle c.n.p. n.n.c.p certified nutritional practitioner

Arja is a Holistic Nutritionist with a passion for balanced living. She loves to help people sleep better, think better, feel sexier, and just generally feel better by putting the focus on eating foods that make you feel good. Arja uses whole foods, lifestyle adjustments, herbs, and some supplements to help people feel their best and achieve their health and wellness goals.