How many personal care products do you use every day?
On average, women use twelve personal care products containing 168 ingredients daily and men use six personal care products containing 85 ingredients daily. Teenage girls use an average of 17 personal care products a day.
I once added up my deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, soap, face wash, moisturizer, mascara, lipstick, face powder etc.; I certainly realized that the average of twelve products daily for me sounded like it might be on the super low end.
Why am I asking about your personal care products and counting up what I use?
Because the personal care industry is almost completely unregulated and many of the ingredients used in these products are either: already known to be harmful OR have never been tested for human safety in duration of use, combination of use, and likely body accumulation over time. The FDA does not require that products be tested for safety before they hit the market. They only manage what happens after people get sick from using something.
Want to make sure you’re not unknowingly using harmful products on your body?
Here are five simple steps you can take to transition to safer products and avoid many of the toxins found in common products currently on the market.
1. UNDERSTAND WHY IT MATTERS
There’s a growing body of evidence that shows that the environmental toxins we are exposed to play a key role in many chronic diseases (including weight gain & obesity) and disorders prominent in the U.S.A. today. That includes not only toxins in our personal care products but our food, water and general air pollution too!
You may think that there’s no way that ingredients known to be harmful can be found in products readily available to buy off a grocery store shelf …. I’m very sorry to say, that’s just not true!
Here’s just one example that shows how our personal care products are impacting the health of teenage girls:
ADOLESCENT GIRLS AND PHTHALATES
Girls in the U.S.A. are going in to puberty much earlier than only a generation ago and developing breasts one to two years earlier. It was previously thought that this was because of hormones and antibiotics added to food like: milk , cheese and meat plus consuming more soy based products but, growing evidence shows that this is not the only source of puberty inducing toxins for these girls.
Adolescent girls are particularly susceptible to environmental toxins especially toxins that act as endocrine-disrupting hormones. These are chemicals that change the amount and the way hormones work in the body. They may mimic (oversupply), block, or disrupt our array of hormones that are naturally intended to control many different functions of the body.
Before puberty, the reproductive system is incredibly sensitive to estrogen. The change we’re seeing in adolescent girls’ development is likely be due to using products that contain ingredients like phthalates. Phthalates are endocrine disrupters that specifically cause havoc on the hormone level production system.
Because all our personal care products soak through the skin and go directly into the blood stream, and can stay there for hours, the effect of accidentally absorbing phthalates in skin care items can be no different than taking a daily tablet or pill for symptoms of menopause, like estrogen hormone replacement therapy.
Unfortunately, these phthalates are often found in each and every one of the 17, or more, products a teenage girl may put on herself, sometimes multiple times a day like: lip gloss, perfume and fragrance, concealer, acne face washes, deodorant, and more. Imagine the giant dose of false hormones that might add up to be!!!
So, this added, chemically induced ‘hormone’ signals the body to develop earlier than it normally would. While these effects are most obvious with teenage girls who appear to receive the highest dose of these toxins, the effects are happening in boys, men, women and even babies too.
What’s the harm with earlier development?
Firstly, it just feels wrong that chemicals from an “accidental”, un-monitored source, like personal care items, alters the way our bodies should be developing. But the science supports this. Secondly, the younger a girl is when she enters puberty, the higher the risk she will, of course, continue to age more rapidly even after puberty and likely develop earlier signs of chronic diseases and certain cancers.
Phthalates are used to make products soft and flexible. They are used in toys, foams, electronics, adhesives, glue, paint, plastic containers, etc.
But they are also found in food and personal care products. They are used to help products stay mixed together and be more pliable (to remain as a thick lotion without going hard, watery or separated), penetrate the skin, and retain synthetic fragrance and colors.
Cosmetics, fragrances, nail polishes, deodorants, hair sprays, gels, liquid soaps, creams, and lotions are products in which phthalates are commonly added.
Baby and toddler products are not immune. A study in 2008 found an association between the number of products with added phthalates that are used for infants, the amount of phthalates found in the infants’ urine, and early development or puberty with continued aging factors. Items like: baby shampoo, soaps, lotions, medicines, and powders suggested the highest associations.
Phthalates are just one of thousands of ingredients that are legally in many products that are sold in the USA, regardless of where they are actually manufactured, processed and bottled.
While the European Union has nearly 14000 ingredients/products banned to protect their citizens, the USA has limited or restricted only 5.
2. KNOW WHAT’S IN YOUR PRODUCTS
Marketing for personal care products can be incredibly misleading especially given that the industry is so unregulated.
For example: this photo shows the 30 different chemical names of petroleum products that are the MAIN ingredient of 90% of personal care products commonly used today. Petroleum is derived from fuel/oil for your car (Yes!! really!!!) and is a known contaminated carcinogen but is also an extremely cheap “oil”.
So, every time you imagine the lovely marketing that matches that pretty bottle containing pink lavender lotion just remember …. the lavender fragrance is likely contains phthalates, the pink color is derived from coal tar and the lovely lotion is refined diesel fuel blended with water that must be preserved with EDTA formulated from formaldehyde.
Along with this “it’s so lovely” marketing method is the more troubling problem of: terms like ‘all natural’, ‘organic’, or ‘non toxic’ being essentially meaningless.
Many products labeled “natural ingredients” contain maybe only one natural ingredient perhaps at the lowest concentration compared to the other ingredients (ie: it’s listed last). For example: Aveeno body moisturizer, advertised to relieve dry, itchy skin, contains “Natural” Oat Kernel Flour along with Distearyldimonium Chloride, Isopropyl Palmitate, Petrolatum, Sodium Chloride (salt), water and some very skin drying alcohols along with silicone based dimethicone that is known to increase skin irritation with duration of exposure. So, even though this product is for dry skin that’s itchy, it contains drying alcohols, drying salts and a skin irritant along with carcinogenic petrolatum and toxic preservatives. Hmmmm …..
Organic products must contain 95% organic ingredients. But, Firstly, no governing body checks if that’s true until after some-independent-body can prove that’s not true. And Secondly, if you’re like me, 5% diesel fuel, formaldehyde, phthalates, and coal tar is WAAAAAY too much regardless of the organic ingredients!! Not to mention some of those toxic ingredients (<1% content) don’t have to be listed on the label at all.
So, it’s left up to us as consumers to self-regulate and we need to understand the safety of our product ingredients.
I prefer to use the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database. This tool allows me to look up individual products to obtain a score for each with 1 being safe and 10, not safe. I can also look up each ingredient (at least those that the company is forced to disclose) to see and understand it’s potential health issues.
Frankly, for me, if I can’t pronounce it, if it’s not food based and if it’s only lightly processed, I will no longer use it. There’s too many toxins out there that I don’t know about, or that I can do very little to avoid, so …. I take it upon myself to avoid the ones I do know about and can avoid.
As noted above, all ingredients in a product do not have to be disclosed. As I shared in my post Fragrance Danger and Toxic Scented Candles: in addition to the <1% content rule, in the United States “fragrance”, “perfume” and “parfume” ingredients are considered a trade secrets and companies do not have to disclose which chemicals or chemicals of processing they used to create a fragrance. Some of these chemicals, phthalates amoung others, are easily the worst offenders when it comes to toxic damage within the body.
3. TRY NOT TO STRESS
It can be overwhelming when you find out that the products you’ve been using on yourself and your family, are no where near as safe as you thought and never have been. It’s especially offensive if you went out of your way to purchase products marketed to mislead you to think they were effective and safe.
Rather than stressing (which can be just as bad for your health as the chemicals in your products!) just decide on how you will clean up your routine. You can throw all your products out and replace them all immediately. That’s never a bad thing but it’s stressful and expensive.
I advocate for the less intense (and more affordable) approach of replacing one or two items at a time. My favorite methods are:
Replace the most ‘offending’ products first. List your products by EWG rating and as you can, replace products starting with those that have the highest or most toxic scores.
And/or: just replace your products as they run out.
And/or choose to replace the products that are intended to remain on your body, especially as a first “layer”. Like: deodorant, moisturizer, foundation. Then replace products that wash off like cleansers, shampoos, shaving gels etc.
4. BE READY TO ADJUST TO HOW TO USE NATURAL PRODUCTS.
When I first started using oils instead of conventional soaps and creams on my skin …. it was a tough transition. The way I like to think of it is just like I did when I was 14 and just starting to use a few products.
Firstly, I use WAAAAY less product with oil based products. For example: a 2oz bottle of Couxcoux Serum or Couxcoux Deodorant will last about quaruple the time of the conventional equivalent. The oils spread on thickly, absorbs properly, feeds the skin longer and stays put so …. a lot less product is needed to get the same or often better results.
Same goes with the Couxcoux Hair Conditioner and Toothpaste and most of our other oil based products.
But, needless to say, I went around for a little while looking a bit greasy, congested and limp until I figured out that: “less is more” when using oils. :):). I think I’ve got it now …. but, just like when I was a kid, it took a little patience.
I also had to get used to “feeling clean” when not “feeling squeaky clean”!!
For the longest time, I just didn’t feel clean unless I was “squeaky clean” as my habit was to use a lot of soap and drying alcohol based cleansers. After quite a bit of research, I discovered that “squeaky clean” was quite literally a serious aging factor and health risk and if I wanted to remain young looking and healthy, the skin ought always remain moist with healthy oils and hydration.
So …. no more “squeaky cleaning” with soap ….
And …. the best way to be clean is: clean the dirty oil with clean oil …. I know right??!! …. weird …. but it really works!!!
Even so, at this point I developed and introduced my organic apple cider vinegar based Couxcoux Cleanse & Tone sprays so I could still always feel like I was starting, or at least ending, my day with what I think of as “the do over”. My Cleanse & Tone sprays are light enough to remove a lot of daily dirt and residue without removing too much skin hydrating oil and they add a lot of soothing and freshening nutrients with some hydration for the skin, perfectly preparing it to receive additional cleansing & moisturizing with my Couxcoux Serums & Salves. Check out our “How To” area for more information.
I do miss my old habits of lathering soaps and light, chemically emulsified lotions, but I’m so comforted that, if I’m experiencing any kind of ill health, with a rash, or weight gain, or infection, or fatigue ….. I KNOW it’s not because of any toxins in my personal care products.
5. USE NATURAL INGREDIENTS
Like all Couxcoux products, if you want to be 100% natural, consider using common food based ingredients for some of your personal care needs.
Coconut oil can replace most personal care products. A common use for coconut oil is: as a face wash and moisturizer by following the oil cleansing method like Couxcoux facial Serums or just as a moisturizer when using an apple cider vinegar based cleanser & toner like Couxcoux Cleanse & Tone Sprays.
Other uses include as a deep conditioning hair mask (via Couxcoux conditioner for hair), dandruff treatment (via Couxcoux Clarify for hair), teeth whitener (via Couxcoux Toothpaste that is Coconut Oil combined with baking soda & peppermint essential oil and Couxcoux Superwhite toothpowder with activated charcoal, tumeric and bentonite clay), and body slaves like my Couxcoux Salves.
Frankly, any food/plant based “oil” will work well with your skin as long as it’s natural, not processed (like fractionated coconut oil that’s always a liquid) and not a petroleum based product. If you’re using a “lotion” it’s likely unsafe. Check the label. Their is NO WAY to naturally preserve a water based or oil & water based lotion without some pretty harsh chemicals.
APPLE CIDER VINEGAR
I love using apple cider vinegar in the kitchen, but discovered some time ago that it can be a great addition to personal care routines as well like our Couxcoux Cleanse & Tone Sprays.
Common uses include as a replacement for SOAP!!! (yes really), facial toner, hair rinse, acne spot treatment, and anti-fungal – anti callus foot soak. I use raw, unfiltered, organic apple cider vinegar diluted with organic tea and essential oils in all my Couxcoux Cleanse & Tone products, Clarify Hair Rinse and even my Mosquito Repellent Spray.
6. SWITCH TO THE SAFEST BRANDS LIKE COUXCOUX
If you’re like me, I’d rather buy everything vs make it myself. For a very long time there was no options to buy natural personal care products. For some things, there still is NO options (specifically commercially produced soaps, washes, cleaning products, and detergents that do NOT contain Sodium Lauryl Sulfate).
So …. I make them, by hand, and use ALL of them on myself and in my house.
Please take advantage of my company that has already done all the heavy lifting, and research, and testing, to make a huge range of safe skin care, hair care, and personal care products. My guarantee is right on the labels. Not a single chemical is added …. ever!!! And all raw ingredients are strenuously researched to be chemical free too!!
My next guarantee is: I’ve rarely found a safe skin care or personal care product available at a grocery store or pharmacy that I consider safe …. except mine!
Supporting companies that can, and do, produce safe products not only ensures that you are using safer products but it’s also a “hands down financial vote” for safer products in general. The industry WILL change as consumer spending demands these changes.
I know this seems daunting and overwhelming even if the plan is to transition slowly so …..
Send me a photo of the ingredients label on a product that you’re unsure of and I’ll help you determine if it actually is safe or not. I have a ton of handy resources and may be able to make quick work of any ingredient list that appears to be written in a different alphabet.
Thank Youx for going Couxcoux Toux