By LISA BAKOSI, MS, CHC
I haven’t used shampoo in two months – well the traditional kind anyway. This column is all about why I’ll never go back to expensive traditional products.
What have I been doing instead, you ask?
I’ve been washing my hair with a mixture of baking soda and water. More recently I tried a new recipe called Sweet Tangerine and I LOVE it. Then for conditioner I use a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water to boost shine. I was surprised at how much I like this method. I never thought I could go two days between washings but alas it’s possible. Not to mention how much money I’m saving by not buying expensive products (recipes at the end).
I haven’t lost my mind
A recent blood test revealed that I have a sluggish thyroid. That wasn’t a huge surprise because I’ve struggled for years doing all the right things and lose weight like I imagine a sloth might. But it wasn’t only that, I was suffering from hormonal changes and severe PMS too.
I started reading anything I could about my issues. It seemed like I was doing everything right (diet, exercise, stress management) except for the one thing no one ever talks about – environmental toxins – especially in our personal care products. My eyes were finally opened. My body was living proof that we can’t just stop our vigilance at food.
The products we put on our skin (our largest organ), under our arms, and on our head are absorbed into our bodies just like our food. The American Journal of Health found that skin absorption contributed an average of 64 percent of the total dose of volatile chemicals in our bodies. Eeek!
In my pursuit of learning more about personal care products, I’ve learned that women can put up to 515 chemicals on their skin before they even eat breakfast. Yikes! And men aren’t immune either – they often have multiple products, too.
Think about your morning routine and all the products you use daily. Mine used to look something like this … shampoo (25 ingredients), conditioner (30 ingredients), body wash (27 ingredients), face wash (38 ingredients), body lotion (38 ingredients), face lotion (20 ingredients), deodorant (14 ingredients), makeup (~50), hair products (18 ingredients), and perfume (no clue).
WHOA, I was floored when I actually started counting them and realized that’s a lot of ingredients to absorb on a daily basis especially since I had no idea what they were. Granted, not all ingredients are toxic but it was still enough to negatively affect my health.
How Toxins Affect Our Health
You know that “just-showered” smell that lingers in the air? That is the work of a chemical called phthalates. In personal care products, phthalates are a scent fixative. In other words, they make smells last longer. The problem is that phthalates are a synthetic estrogen or xenoestrogen and mimic estrogen in the body. That means that particular class of chemicals affects every system in the body that uses estrogen – which is a lot.
This chemical is linked to thyroid dysfunction, early breast development in girls, and an increased risk of breast cancer. It’s also in the category of obeseogen because it is so closely linked to abdominal fat, insulin resistance, and decreased testosterone. It has also been tied to behavioral problems in kids. Phthalates are usually hidden as “fragrance” in your products. It was in EVERY one of my daily routine products.
What else should you be looking for?
As you may have guessed phthalates aren’t the only chemical toxin that impacts our health that we need to watch out for in personal products. Others include: parabens, triclosan, sodium laurel or laureth sulfate, mineral oil, propylene glycol (PEG), DEA (diethanolamine), MEA (monoethanolamine), and TEA (triethanolamine), just to name a few. I won’t go into each one of these here but as you can imagine each one comes with it’s own set of warnings.
If your eyes are glazed over – hang in there. I’m about to give you the short cut to getting these toxins out of your life without having to read the labels yourself.
Are you pissed off?
I know I was. But you can stop the toxic exposure for you and your family right now!
When I started down this road I was tempted to say, “everything is bad for me so I might as well just live and not worry about it.” This process seems daunting and overwhelming but I have a strategy for you. It’s the same one I used. It takes a little time (maybe 30 minutes) but it’s SO worth it.
5 Steps to reducing chemical toxin exposure in your personal care products:
Step 1 – Go to the bathroom and pull out all of the personal products you use on a regular basis. Set them in a pile next to your computer. This may include: shampoo, body wash, face soap, lotion, face creams, hair products, makeup, and deodorant.
Step 2 – Visit www.ewg.org/skindeep. Now, one at a time, search for your products in the massive database. You can look up brand to get an idea of what kind of ingredients the company uses in general. Each one will have a rating of 0-10 (0 is safest). Tip: if you don’t find the exact brand, look up the ingredients separately to get an idea of safety.
If the score is:
• 0-2 (green) – you’re good, carry on
• 3-6 (yellow) – replace this one when you run out or sooner if you feel like it
• 7-10 (red) – stop using and replace with a safer alternative using the EWG database asap
Step 3 – Repeat this process for other family member’s products especially kids. Men are also not immune and have just as many products these days.
Step 4 – Consider making your own products like I did with my shampoo (2 ingredients) and conditioner (2 ingredients). I also make my own deodorant (4 ingredients), body moisturizer (1 ingredient), and face moisturizer (2 ingredients).
Here are the DIY recipes I used…
The benefit of making your own products is that you have some serious peace of mind because you know exactly what’s in it – plus it ends up being a cheaper. Score!
Baking Soda Method: Add 2 Tbs of baking soda to filtered warm water. I use one of those plastic ketchup bottles because it’s easier to apply at the roots. A whole bottle lasts 2-3 washings. You’ll feel that your hair gets clean even though it doesn’t suds up. Then rinse. (2 ingredients – all edible)
Sweet Tangerine Shampoo: Mix ½ cup unscented castile soap, 1 cup raw honey, ~ 1 tsp tangerine essential oil (or other smell or choice). Blend all ingredients together and store in a clear container. I used one with a pointed tip so I can control the amount. You really only need a small amount as this one lathers like crazy. The honey isn’t sticky at all. You’ll be saying “yes, yes, yes” just like in the herbal essences commercials minus the icky toxins.
Conditioner: Add ¼ cup apple cider vinegar to warm filtered water. Again, I use one of those plastic ketchup bottles because it’s easier to apply where I want to. I leave for a minute and then rinse. (2 ingredients – all edible)
Body moisturizer: Technically I didn’t make this one but it’s still a great swap for lotion. While I’m still wet, I slather on pure almond oil and then dry off. It’s even good on your face. A big bottle is $10 and lasts a long time. (1 ingredient – edible)
Deodorant: Mix 1/3 cup coconut oil, 2 Tbs baking soda, 1/3 cup arrowroot powder, and 10-15 drops of essential oil of choice (I used lavender) together in a small glass container. Swipe a small amount into armpits. (4 ingredients – all edible)
Face Moisturizer: I started using a mixture of argan oil and apricot kernal oil on my face and I’m loving it. Yes, it’s ok to use oil on your face. It actually cleared mine up. I switch it up with a safe creamier product I found using the Skin Deep Database. (2 ingredients – all edible)
Step 5 – Reach out to me. I’m super passionate about getting toxins out of our homes and our bodies without the added hassle or cost. As I mentioned earlier, this process can seem daunting and overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be. I’ve already done the hard work and research for you including the most cost effective ways to go about it.
Lisa Bakosi is a Certified Health Coach, owner of Hygea Health & Nutrition, LLC and a dynamic speaker. She specializes in Employee Wellness Programs and hosts a variety of engaging health/lifestyle seminars. Visit www.hygeahealthnut.com to learn more about her unique programs and services.