Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Parabens and phthalates..."Because you're worth it"

I'm not sure why I've continued to use the same "typical" beauty products year after year. Beauty products have caused me (and worsened) conditions such as hives, rashes, eczema/psoriases symptoms, etc. And that's just externally. I've had a myriad of other weird symptoms caused by who knows what. I know I can't prove that this is the cause, but I do know this: my skin is a semi-permeable organ and one of the best ways for chemicals to enter my body.  So what's in that lotion (not to mention shampoo, soap, makeup, etc.) that  I smear all over my skin?

Certain products tells us we're worth it and birth controls can do us the "favor" of only giving us four periods a year. All of the ads for birth control, makeup, skin care, hair care, deoderants, sunscreens, etc. tell women that their product will make them strong, confident and beautiful.

I guess saying that their products can "give you cancer, age your skin and cause fertility problems" isn't quite as catchy.

I decided recently to take a closer look at these products. I've recently read articles and reports that talk about all of the known irritants, allergens, hormone disrupters and carcinogens that are in the things women slather on their skin everyday. Flame retardants have been found in breast milk - this is insane. I've gotten a lot of teasing about being a hippie or too "granola". There is nothing faddish about taking care of your body, especially when it affects your lifespan, your fertility and the body of a born or unborn growing little beautiful life that just so happens to rely on your body.

A list of things I'm running away from:

Artificial hormones - a lot of people have started to get more conscious about eating chickens that are pumped full of hormones. But what about the biggest source of artificial hormones for women? Long term use of birth control can cause cause fertility & cardiac problems, as well as increasing the risk for breast cancer. I won't go heavily into it, but I'll definitely make a plug for NFP here - Natural Family Planning. Not the same as the rhythm method, a 99% effective (same as the pills claim) with ZERO side effects. Not just a Catholic thing, those "hippies" call it natural continence ;) 

Here is a list of just a few known categories of harmful ingredients to avoid. If you don't feel like click on that, here is a summary of the chemicals I listed in the title of this blog post:

parabens: used as a preservative, but have hormone-disrupting effects.
phthalates: one of the chemicals in fragrance that are endocrine disrupters, mimicking hormones and may alter genital development

Sounds fun, huh?

I've found a few affordable brands out there including Kiss My Face, Burt's Bees, Tom's, Alba, Physician's Formula...just to name a few.

Also...the same goes for home cleaners. We're slowly switching to dish soaps and cleaners that aren't harmful (to us or the environment).  There are lots of ways to make your own cleaning products, but since I haven't tried them...that will be a post for another day.

I'm sure I have plenty of products with these ingredients, but I'm not running to throw everything away at once and immediately replace them with safer products. For one, I don't have an imminent desire to go into the poor house. Two, I've been using these products all along, and I'm not dead. My plan in general - for food, exercise, beauty products, medicine - is to be conscious of what I'm putting in and on my body. I hope to slowly replenish the old products with new ones that will contribute to me and my family's health instead of threatening it. Since I'm still really new to this, I would LOVE comments on this particular post - home remedies/recipes, brands you love --please share!


  1. There have been a lot of articles surrounding this in parent magazines in recent years. They encourage the use of paraben and phthalate free products on children. I only use Burts Bees or Earth's Best products on the kids. I like the scents of them and the thickness of the products. I use their body washes and lotions as well as sunscreens. I feel like it is worth it to save them from any possible harm, but there do not seem to be cost effective products out there that are "safe." These products are almost 3 times the cost of Johnson's baby products.
    I use Burts Bee's face cleaner, moisturizer, powder, lip gloss/lipstick etc. I prefer them over other products, and as I have sensitive skin my skin has been better as a result.
    I also love Alba products- I use their shampoo and conditioner. They have a great Mango shaving gel that I like too. Many of their products have great scents, but are better for you. These products I find to not have as big a cost difference than other products of the same type out there...

  2. So, is a "phthalates" anything that ends in phthalates?

    What low cost shampoos meet the standard?

  3. Michelle - Thank you! I'm definitely going to buy some Alba products. I've been looking at them for awhile but didn't know anyone who used them.

    "phthalates" might be listed in the ingredients, but is most likely hidden the the word "fragrance". Fragrance encompasses a combination of many chemicals that companies aren't required to list.

    As for finding low cost products...I've found reasonable prices on safer products in makeup, skincare, and laundry detergent, but truly safe shampoo seems to be relatively expensive ($10-$15). A lot of the cheaper (and even the expensive) shampoos claiming o be organic aren't. They're either mostly water, with a smaller percentage or harmful ingredients and a bunch of herbs and essential oils, or they have exactly the same ingredients as Pantene or any other mainstream product.

    The USDA closely moniters organic standards in food, but there are no standards for the word organic in skin care. If you look up Nature's Gate, a popular organic shampoo, you'll see it has the same harmful ingredients mixed in with more plant based ingredients (it run's around $5-$6). There's a brand called 100% pure that meets the standards for a truly safe shampoo, but is significantly more expensive. (Here's the link if you would like to see the ingredients:

    Like Michelle mentioned, Alba is good, but about $5 pricey than standard shampoos. I'll post again if I find some cheaper brands.

  4. BeeCeuticals is an inexpensive shampoo brand without harmful ingredients.

  5. I don't think you're too "granola" Nicole. I have a friend living with brain cancer who has lived over three-and-a-half years past when doctors said he should have died. He eats a pretty radical diet of super-healthy foods, and stays away from anything pre-packaged or that has certain chemicals or preservatives in it. He even stopped taking chemo early-on so that he and his wife could start a family. They are expecting their third healthy child in November. I agree with you that just because "everybody" eats it, or we grew up with it, doesn't mean it won't or hasn't been unhealthy and possibly harmful to us. One important thing I remind myself is that I can't change all at once, though :). I am trying to change our diet and lifestyle in baby steps, because--unless I am diagnosed with cancer tomorrow like my friend--I think that baby steps are the only realistic way that I can change without getting overwhelmed! You seem to have something of that view of things as well, if I'm not mistaken. An ambitious but grounded approach. Good for you!

  6. I started using this stuff called Charlie's Soap ( It's a biodegradable, non-toxic, hypoallergenic--and pretty affordable. You buy it in a big jug with a pump, and it lasts for a very long time because you only use 1/8 cup per load--even large loads. It doesn't have a smell, which is the only thing I don't like, but it cleans everything really well and also gets out stains. It is $25 for a big jug and it lasts me quite a while. Just passing it on!

  7. How long does it last you? Seventh generation has a laundry detergent that seems relatively affordable. Method brand also has a slightly more expensive detergent. Also, you can add essential oils (like lavender) to Charlie's Soap and it shouldn't change anything but give it a nice smell - without all of the chemicals in typical fragrance.

  8. I'm glad you posted this - to be honest, it's not something I've really thought about. Food is obvious, but shampoo and lotion? Not so much. We just assume that because it's on the shelf, it's safe. I'm interested to know what you find out!