I recently decided to re-examine my daily routine, starting with my bathroom cabinet. I knew that I must re-think all the “good for me” personal care products including sunscreens, moisturizers, makeup, and the whitening toothpaste I use every day twice a day. I knew these things were loaded with chemicals but going through all of them always seemed like a daunting task. Finally, one Saturday, I didn’t make my usual excuse of being too busy and started with my bathroom cabinet.
Since the FDA is not required to do health studies or pre-market testing on all personal care products before they are sold, I knew that I was probably lathering on dozens of toxic chemicals a day without even thinking twice about it. I couldn’t help thinking in the back of my mind, what if all the products we use every single day (including body wash, shampoo, and deodorant) are really making us sick? And they are. The story gets even worse for women who are pregnant that are exposed to these toxins which are then directly passed onto the fetus. Because the fetus in not capable of processing and getting rid of the toxins, continuous exposure can directly harm the baby.
As it turns out, getting the information was not easy. All we get on the back of our personal care products is a mouthful of strange and incomprehensible ingredients. Of course, this works out well for certain cosmetic companies that choose not to take the dangerous chemicals out of their products, but this leaves the consumer exposed to these chemicals every single day. At first, this project became overwhelming—reading the back of all the bottles and tubes quickly made me exhausted and frustrated. I was frustrated that some brands choose to put this stuff in their products in the first place when they are perfectly capable of making their products safe. So, after doing a lot of research and examining a few of my favorite products over and over again, I began to notice some repeating offenders. I did more research and created the toxic Chemical List and saved the short version to my iPhone so that I have it at my fingertips when I’m shopping.
If you don’t want to check every single ingredient (clearly understandable), the Environmental Working Group is a great resource. They have a Skin Deep database of thousands of beauty products. You can search your product by name and it will give you a rating based on the ingredients. I use this database every day. This is a wonderful resource and a great place to start. You can do a quick search when you’re at a store contemplating whether to buy a certain product. Don’t be surprised if your favorite moisturizer comes up as a 9 or 10 on Skin Deep’s toxicity level scale! The good news is that there are better alternatives out there and if you want to roll up your sleeves and have some extra time, you can make them yourself.
I am a “multi-tasker” by nature and always find 100 things to do, which is a trait that I without a doubt, inherited from my father. I am sure I’m not alone. To an extent, most of us are running the hamster wheel, checking items off of our to-do lists, only to find that somehow there are always more tasks to accomplish. I neglected my cabinet for so long because I thought I didn’t have enough time. I promised myself that if I could just get through my usual to-do list, I would finally do it. And even when I did have the time, I was overwhelmed by the idea of doing it, and continued to put it off. Then I just did it. I started slow and analyzed the ingredients of a couple of products a day and slowly started replacing them. I realized that there are lots of useful tools (like Skin Deep) out there to help.
I have to remind myself that I am responsible for my family’s health and nothing is more important to me than having the information to do it. Living in awareness is a goal of mine and it can’t get any more basic than putting things in your body that help you stay healthy, not hurt you.