Cleaning Up Your Home Environment (part 1)

Our skin is the largest organ in our body and it is very capable of absorbing everything you put on it. Did you know that there is very little regulation in the United States on hygiene, skincare, and beauty products? Many of the products we use daily contain toxic chemicals that are causing allergies, respiratory issues, increasing the likelihood of disease and disrupting our hormones (read affecting every aspect of our health).

Pregnancy is a trigger for a lot of women to start getting serious about their health. This means fueling their bodies correctly and providing proper nutrition for the growing baby as well. For many getting serious about the health of their baby includes eliminating or reducing toxic chemicals from their home environment as well.

For me this transition began about a year and a half ago, long before I found out I was expecting. While I was a student at IIN, I began to learn how things other than food and exercise influence our health. So I started by switching my deodorant and toothpaste to Tom’s brand and replacing my lotion with coconut oil. These were products I “knew” were better alternatives before I educated myself further on eliminating toxic chemicals from our home.

 

All the information out there can be very overwhelming so I started by eliminating just a few ingredients from my products. For me these were the easiest to remember and the most readily labeled on products as “free from”.

  • Fragrance
    • A “trade secret”, ingredients are not required to be disclosed to the product. Linked to allergies, dermatitis and respiratory distress.
  • Aluminum
    • A known neurotoxin, high levels are linked to Alzheimer’s disease, Breast Cancer, and bone disorders
  • Parabens
    • A preservative used to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold, linked to endocrine disruption.
  • Phthalates
    • Used as a solvent in many house and hygiene products, cause disruption to the endocrine system and may cause birth defects
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate(SLES)
    • Responsible for the foaming action of soaps, can cause skin irritation and allergies.

For more information on ingredients to avoid and the risks associated with them I recommend referencing the Environmental Working Group’s website. It is a great source of knowledge with a database that rates many products and their potential risk. Download their Healthy Living App to scan product bar codes while you shop to make more informed choices.

 

So what products have I tried and what am I actually using today?

Most of my products have been switched over to Beautycounter, a certified B corporation whose mission is to get safer products into the hands of everyone. This includes education and advocacy work to change product regulation in the United States. I became a consultant a few months ago and firmly stand behind this company and its products. There is also a variety of products from other brands in my rotation.

 

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Deodorant

I had originally switched to the Tom’s brand deodorant. It was a simple switch that eliminated aluminum from my deodorant but it still left room for improvement both in terms of the chemical makeup of the product and its performance. Enter crystalline salt deodorant. It is free from ALL toxic chemicals and lasts FOREVER. Well not exactly forever but I’ve been using it for a year and there is no sign of it running out anytime soon. The salt has natural deodorizing properties. It works by preventing the growth of odor causing bacteria on the skin. You simply run the stick under water for a few seconds and then swipe on like you would any other deodorant. One thing I have noticed is that it takes a few days for your body to adjust to this natural alternative. Whether you are just getting started, switching from another natural alternative or took a few days off, your body will require a few days to readjust to the salt as deodorant.

Toothpaste

Like my deodorant, I had originally switched to Tom’s brand. I actually noticed a HUGE difference in the color of my teeth, bright and white, after this switch. However, the toothpaste still contains sodium lauryl sulfate which I was looking to eliminate, and fluoride. Then I found Desert Essence Tea Tree Oil & Neem toothpaste. This stuff leaves your mouth feeling so fresh and clean and has just the right amount of froth to it without using SLS. Do NOT hesitate to make this switch.

 

Soap

This has been the slowest transition of them all, mostly because I found this to be the least readily available product. I started by switching to a Trader Joe’s citrus body wash, which was definitely better than the soap and body washes I had been using but there were still several ingredients I wasn’t comfortable with. I had tried castile soap bars but just wasn’t a huge fan of them. Then TJ’s came out with a goat milk bar soap. It works well and is durable. I also have a variety of handmade soaps from a small shop at the County Fair. For regular hand washing, I most recently switched to a foaming soap by 719 Walnut Ave that is castile based and can be found at some Wal-Mart stores. There are tons of “recipes” on pinterest for DIY handwashes on pinterest but many require boiling water and I just don’t have the patience for that.

 

Face Wash

I have three different products in my rotation for  face washing. I use the Tree Tree Spa Face Wash from Trader Joe’s and from Beautycounter the nourishing cream cleanser and nourishing cream exfoliator. I would consider all of these to be gentle on the skin and they all have wonderful scents.

 

Lotions & Moisturizers

This is one of the simplest changes you can make. Toss your stash of lotions in the trash and purchase a tub of organic coconut oil (as long as you don’t have a coconut allergy). I started using coconut oil from head to toe. In the colder months coconut oil is a solid and so it takes a little coaxing in order to rub it into your skin. I keep a spoon in the tub, scoop out a small chunk, warm it by rubbing between my palms and then apply to clean, damp skin. Living in the Northeast my hands take a real beat down in the winter months. Coconut oil alone is not enough to keep my skin from cracking so I’ve also been using this body butter which is working wonders.

In the fall I swapped out the coconut oil on my face for a facial oil which I absolutely LOVE. It is definitely worth the splurge and I find it does a better job moisturizing my face without leaving it feeling greasy. I have also been using the nourishing eye cream for over a year, be sure to apply with your ring finger because the skin around your eye is so sensitive and delicate.

 

Shampoo/Conditioner

This was the hardest one to figure out. Trying to reduce the frequency of shampooing and also finding a product that held up to the task took a lot of trial and error. The Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Oil collection was the first that I tried and while the shampoo worked, brushing through my long hair was still a serious struggle after a shower. I then picked up this Everyday Shea shampoo at Whole Foods. This smells delicious! And would be great for daily washing but wasn’t holding up to the once or twice a week washing I wanted to limit to. The conditioner is what I now use as a shaving gel. Both of these choices were very budget friendly but I decided that I needed to invest in something with a bigger price tag to get the job done. Enter the Beautycounter daily shampoo and conditioner. These have a wonderful citrus smell, are free from 1,500 harmful or questionable chemicals, and hold up for days between washes. I actually find that my hair looks cleaner the day after it’s been shampooed.

Have you started to “clean up” your beauty routine? Comment with the products have you have tried and loved.

This post is part one in a three part series. Stay tuned for how I’ve cleaned up my cleaning products and how I plan to keep toxic chemicals out of my baby’s products as well.

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