At Simple Organic: Identifying and Avoiding Toxins in Beauty and Personal Care Products

Ever wondered what the big deal is about using more natural shampoo or soap or even makeup? Maybe it makes sense why we’d want to be careful with the things that actually go in our mouths (ie. food or toothpaste), but why do products that simply go on our skin make a difference?

Have you ever received a topical prescription from a doctor, such as an anti-fungal or anti-bacterial cream? Or used a topical pain reliever for a mouth sore (or for your baby’s teething)? What about a birth control patch that slowly releases hormones?

Why do these products work so well when applied to our skin, rather than taken orally?

The reason is that our skin readily absorbs chemicals and other substances deeper into our body– through our skin layers, into muscles and fat, and ultimately into our bloodstream. That pretty shade of Champagne eye shadow does not just float around on the outer layer of your skin until you wipe it away before bed that evening. No, it penetrates deeper and deeper into your body throughout the day.

Today you can find me writing at Simple Organic, on the topic of Identifying and Avoiding Toxins in Beauty and Personal Care Products.

I explore why we need to be concerned about the products we use, the regulation of product ingredients, the impact of small amounts of toxic chemicals, and more.

I also went to great lengths to list all of the most common and dangerous ingredients that should be avoided, in items like shampoo and conditioner, soap and body wash, toothpaste, deodorant, hair styling products (hairspray, mousse, gel), nail polish, makeup, skin cleansing and lotion, and perfumes. Grab your own personal care products, pull up a chair and read through the ingredient lists carefully (comparing them to the lists I’ve made) to help you determine the safety of what you’re already using.

Don’t worry, after you’ve groaned and gasped at the toxins in the products you use and love, I give some suggestions and links to help you choose something better!

How important is it to you to choose non-toxic personal care and beauty products? What are some of your favorites?

Image by joerg73

Are you or your family struggling with health challenges? Is it time to make some changes? Maybe you already know that you WANT to do things differently in your home -- use better products, buy real, wholesome foods, prepare more from-scratch meals, even use home remedies instead of medication when you're sick. But do you have all the tools you need to make it happen?

That's why we created the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle. We spent months searching for the very best, most practical healthy living resources we could find, like real food recipes (we have some for gluten & grain free, too), DIY tutorials for home and beauty, solid nutrition information, home remedies, essential oil courses and books, workouts for moms, meal planning help and more. The entire package is worth over $1000, but our whole goal is to make it totally affordable for anyone. At just $30, it's cheaper than a doctor's visit, filling a prescription, or even eating dinner as a family out at a restaurant!

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About Stephanie Langford

Stephanie Langford has a passion for sharing ideas and information for homemakers who want to make healthy changes in their homes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke and with simple meal planning. She is the creator of Keeper of the Home.

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Comments

  1. Kathy Tedrow says:

    We have had another issue with skin products. After giving birth to seven children, I suddenly started miscarrying. Everyone said it was due to being older. I’m 42. I started researching and found out I was short on progesterone. One way progesterone is suppressed is the presence of excess estrogen. As I wasn’t on any kind of estrogen treatment, this was confusing. Then I read about parabens. Our bodies recognize them as estrogen, and suppress progesterone production. After eliminating all parabens( to my knowledge) and starting progesterone cream under the guidance of my midwife,I am pleased to report we are expecting a little one in 3 months. Right after my 43 birthday! It breaks my heart that we lost 6 children before we figured this out. :(

  2. I tried the no poo method for a while, but found out that baking soda isn’t strong enough to clean my hair throughly (and I had a severe itchy scalp, so the baking soda burned). I switched to Kirk’s Castile Soap, hoping that my scalp would heal and my hair would be cleaner. My scalp got worse, but my hair was clean. So, I continued to use it, but I had to wash my hair more often because I would have to itch my scalp, thus transferring lots of oil into my hair (not to mention scalp flakes).
    About a month ago, I was diagnosed with Celiac disease, and was sure that going gluten-free was going to cure my scalp (as well as all my other health issues). It did “cure” most of my health issues, but not my scalp. I switched to regular shampoo and my scalp returned to normal. I thought that finally going gluten-free had kicked in, but when I returned to castile soap, my scalp issues were back. I searched the product for gluten, but the soap doesn’t have gluten in it. I looked at the ingredients (online) and found that the soap wasn’t 100% natural like I thought it was. Some of the ingredients were known for allergic reactions and severe itchy scalp. I just found this out today, so I don’t know if changing soap will help. What doesn’t make sense is when I switched to regular soap, my issues went away. It couldn’t be the chemicals making my scalp itch, since the regular soap has more chemicals in it than Kirk’s does. ??? My question is, do you know any soap brands that are 100% natural and organic or things that I can add to my no poo shampoo that are strong enough to clean really oily hair and don’t have gluten in them??? Your help would be much appreciated! Thanks!

  3. It looks like a lot of us who want to avoid the toxins make our own skin care goodies! I also discovered the Oil Cleansing Method about a year ago, and haven’t used anything but pure organic oils on my face since! I like The All Natural Face (an online shop I found, which just opened an IRL shop in Massachusetts), but am soooo tempted to dabble in making my own mineral makeup.

  4. Meghann Edwards says:

    I really enjoyed this post, and even went out last night to purchase some of the ingredients for homemade facewash, shampoo, conditioner and toothpaste that I found through the links above. I try to be careful about the chemicals I put into my body but have never thought much about the chemicals I put onto my skin! I tried the facewash (oil method) and toothpaste last night and I loved it! I even tried moisturizing with coconut oil and it was amazing. After spending way too much money on store bought skin care and being disappointed with the results, I think I will stick with the homemade method as it is cost effective, natural and seems to be perfect for my skin. Thank you for these great tips! My next challenge will be the homemade deoderant which I am skeptical about, but am willing to try =o)

  5. It is very important to me to keep toxins out of our personal care products. My son had cancer when he was 3.5. The Dr said it was not heredity so I started researching and was alarmed at what I found about toxins in personal care.

    I’ve searched for safe products that I actually like, off and on for 10 years. A year ago I finally found a line that I can honestly say I love every product!

    My favorite products are the Ava Anderson quality personal care products for the whole family without harmful chemicals. I am now a consultant for this company so I can share with others and get my products at a discount. http:www.avaandersonnontoxic.com/lkulp

  6. Oh, what a great post. We have been making changes over the years, and I know we need to be just as careful about what we put ON our body as what we put IN our body. We have been concentrating on the food aspect but we have done one thing and that is changing to a shower filter, to reduce our exposure to chemicals in our water supply. This summer I plan on changing our sunscreen over. I feel that will have the most impact on our entire family.

  7. I’m gradually trying to integrate non-toxic products in…right now I enjoy making my own deodorant and face scrub. I also make body oil with essential oils mixed with a carrier oil and use that instead of lotion.

  8. Such a great post, Stephanie. And makeup is my Achilles Heel when it comes to switching over to all-natural or homemade products, so thanks for the link!

  9. It’s extremely important to me (and my family!) to use toxin-free personal care products, which is why I started making my own. I’ve found that not only do I feel better about what I’m using, but the things I make work better too, since they aren’t watered down and don’t contain fillers. It’s amazing to me how many chemicals are in everyday products (that I used to never think twice about) that are proven to cause cancer!

  10. This is an important issue that I want to explore more, but I can’t right now. I’m focusing first on our food. I’m starting a garden & looking for grass-fed meat & partured poultry trying to convert us to an entirely whole-foods diet. Making skim care & cosmetics is one of the next things on my list, but it will be a while before I get there. For now, I’ve switched to Melaleuca since the prices are reasonable and they don’t use known carcinogens, sodium laurel sulfate, and are soon to be paraben free. There are still some ingredients I don’t like, but it’s affordable and much better than what I was using before. I do use Earth Mama Angel baby shampoo/body wash & bottom balm for my babies, and rarely use any kind of lotion on them.

  11. Love this article. Thank you for bringing awareness to topical toxicity!

  12. Merry Lynn Shepherd says:

    Just since last summer, I have been realizing that I need to read the ingredient lists on EVERYTHING – not just what we eat. So I have been on the look out for safer solutions. I am still looking for safe make-up/foundation/lipstick etc but at least I have finally found some really good skin care products.
    The Havvn DNA skin care system is 100% CHEMICAL-FREE, 100% TOXIN-FREE. Yeah!!!! In the interests of full disclosure, yes, I am a distributor for Havvn. http://www.myhavvn.com/shepherd Having finally found something SAFE, that actually works, why wouldn’t I????
    My brother and I were recently reunited and afterwards he wrote me an email several months after I started using the Havvn DNA system, saying, “I almost didn’t recognize you. I knew it was you because you were with Steve [my husband]. Then when you were all walking towards me from the van, I still wasn’t sure which one was you because your girls and you were all about the same height. Good thing you stepped forward and hugged me so I knew for sure which one was you!” You have to understand that my daughters are 17 and 20. I thought this skin cream was taking years off my face, but now I’m sure! 100% chemical free!!! I love it!!!! So does my skin!

  13. The importance of considering the ingredients in our cosmetic products is becoming more important to me, especially for myself and my daughter. But for some things it just isn’t an option. So many of the natural alternatives are more expensive and don’t work as well. My husband questions many of the change I’ve made, but as long as I don’t make him do it, he doesn’t mind too much. I love California Baby products. I use them almost exclusively on my daughter now. I’m also begun using the shampoo myself. But things like natural deodorants aren’t an option for me, since I suffer from excessive sweating and ever few years I have to change deodorants when the one I use stops working. I’ve had to throw out clothing due to staining and odor issues for years. It got really expensive. Now I’m using a combination of two that seem to be working and have for the past several years (longer than any other combination). I know there are risks to the chemicals, but the realities of being sweaty and smelly all year round and having to throw away clothes at the end of each season is just not something I can live with.

    • kimberly says:

      @Laundry Lady, do you know if you have any food or environmental intolerances? I had this problem for decades and just figured it was a normal part of my body ecology. However, I was tested for allergies due to swollen tonsils and found I was reacting to egg whites and casein. I didn’t even notice I had reactions when eating those foods, either. When I removed those both from my diet, my excess sweating stopped. I used to soak through socks and often stained shirts. I know it sounds like the most random thing, but I thought I’d bring it up in case it could help someone else. I was seriously miserable and tired of being damp.

  14. It’s of utmost importance to me. Our skin is our largest organ and absorbs things. My favorites are my homemade products, I avoid make up altogether.

  15. I have been making more and more of my personal care products, I wear very little makeup and I have been trying to cut down on how often I wash my hair. (That last one is the hardest part!)