A few weeks ago I wrote a post about what humane beauty products are, why it’s important to choose them, and some ideas on how to go about that. I decided to do a three part series so I can go into a bit more detail about the everyday products that most of us use, include some homemade substitutes, and remind everyone how easy it is to make the switch over to humane. I mean, if it’s so easy, why wouldn’t you?!
Nail polish – I love to paint my nails. I’ve been doing my own nails since I was a small child and I always get compliments on them. However, I never stopped to think that toxic chemicals could be in my nail polish. But, oh, they are. The majority of nail polishes contain the following: toluene (which is neurotoxic), formaldehyde (cancer-causing preservative), & dibutyl phthalate (or DPT, which interferes with reproductive hormones). Yuck, right? And just like your skin, your nails absorb whatever is put on them. Plus, many nail polish brands test on animals. Yuck again. Check this link out for a list of vegan nail polishes, it contains a lot of well known, easy-to-find brands on it. However, it’s important to find out if any of the brands contain the toxic trio (I’m very happy to report that OPI does not, which is great news, because I love them!) Best way to find out? Do your research. It’s so easy these days to find information on the internet, just make sure it’s a legitimate resource. I wouldn’t necessarily go to a product’s website, because products that claim they are chemical free, actually are not. I would check out websites like EWG’s Skin Deep as well as search for studies that have been done on products outside of the company. Your nails can look fabulous without harming your health or harming animals!
Perfume – Next time you’re shopping for beauty products and you pick up something that smells really good, turn it over and look at the ingredients list. What makes it smell SO good? Does it say fragrance? This is the case with most perfumes, lotions, body washes, etc that smell wonderful. But fragrance is very vague. What does that mean? Anything, apparently. It’s what companies put on their ingredients list when they don’t want you to know what kinds of toxins are creating that wonderful fragrance. Studies done on well known perfume and cologne brands found up to 14 or more chemicals to create the ingredient listed as fragrance. Some of these toxins include parabens (which interfere with hormone production), phthalates (carcinogenic, lead to negative reproductive effects, and liver & kidney damage), synthetic musks (hormone disruption, and thought to accumulate in breast milk, body fat, umbilical cord blood, and the environment), and many others. Look for perfumes and colognes that list what the fragrances actually are. Look for brands with ingredients that use essential oils (like peppermint, lavender, bergamot etc) for their fragrance, as well as spices, natural extracts like vanilla, or flower tinctures (which uses alcohol usually to pull the compounds from the plants).
Shampoo/Conditioner/Body wash – There are a lot of different options when it comes to shampoo and conditioner. I’ve found some good all-natural, cruelty-free brands at stores like Whole Foods, Central Market, and Natural Grocers that are fairly inexpensive. In all honesty, we should not be washing our hair everyday, it strips our hair of necessary oils and allows for chemical buildup. Most shampoos contain chemicals that pull out the natural hair oils, which is very drying, that’s why we follow it with conditioner, because it contains chemicals to restore the moisture that was lost from the shampoo. Seems kind of counterproductive, doesn’t it? There are many blogs out there dedicated to helping people go poo free (google it). So buying the super expensive salon brands really doesn’t do a dang thing for your hair, because those brands contain a plethora of toxins such as sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate (cancer causing, in fact just avoid anything with eth in it), polysorbates (disrupts skin’s natural pH balance), dimethicone and silicone, parabens, and many more. My best bits of advice when picking out a shampoo, conditioner, or body wash? If the list of ingredients reads like a novel, move on. The longer the list, the more unnecessary ingredients that are in it. Second, if there’s words you can’t pronounce or they sound toxic, it’s because they probably are. There’s a few ingredients out there that have long, lab sounding names but are actually pretty harmless (like some coconut derived ones). If you’re at the store and you’re not sure about an ingredient, google it on your phone and find out what it actually is.
I use the Alaffia brand shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. I like them because they contain only a handful of ingredients. The main ingredient in the shampoo & conditioner is certified fair trade shea butter. Woo! And instead of merely putting fragrance, it lists what the fragrance actually is, which is vanilla extract and spearmint essential oil. The body wash is all coconut based. And Alaffia is fair trade and cruelty-free. And each bottle is a huge 32 oz container that I got on sale for about $10 a pop. Not bad! Along with these, I have my own homemade, hair cleaning supplements. Once I’ve got my shampoo lathered in, I use baking soda and work it through my hair. I let everything sit for a moment before rinsing it out. Baking soda is a natural way to clean hair without ripping out the natural oils. Then, once I’ve got my conditioner lathered in, I pour a 1:1 mixture of organic apple cider vinegar and water all over my hair. Again, I let it sit before rinsing. The apple cider vinegar naturally softens hair by sealing in the moisture.
Shaving gel – This one took me a while to realize; it’s one of those products that you don’t give a second thought to in most cases. But you can bet your bippy that shaving gel is lurking full of nasty chemicals! And just like all skincare products, it absorbs through your skin and into your body. Hello toxins. I decided to go to my local grocery store (in this case, Kroger) to check out their selection of shaving gel/cream and it was pretty depressing. I could not find one single brand that didn’t contain harmful chemicals, not even the ones that advertised “all natural” right on the label! When choosing a shaving gel, watch out for the following ingredients: triethanolamine/diethanolamine/monoethnaolamine or TEA/DEA/MEA for short (cancer causing and hormone disruptive), palmitic acid (linked with contact dermatitis), isopentane (causes dry skin, contact dermatitis, dizziness, headaches, and nose/throat irritation), glycols, sulfates aka SLS or SLES (discussed above), polytetrafluoroethylene (enough said, right? It’s the same stuff used to make Teflon and is linked with numerous medical conditions. Also known as PTFE), and butylated hydroxytoluene or BHT (carcinogenic). Oh, and that little ingredient called fragrance. But you already know all about that! Who knew shaving your legs was so harmful?
Me, I’m done with buying shaving gel ever again. Instead, I use my body wash (the one I described above) as my shaving gel. It’s not all thick and foamy like regular shaving gel, but it actually gives me a closer shave because of it! And I don’t have to use very much. Most importantly, I know what’s going onto my body and it’s cruelty-free. It’s also very easy to make your own shaving gel. I found a ton of websites and blogs that give super simple recipes with everyday ingredients. You can also check out Etsy.com, where many talented people sell their own homemade versions. The shaving gel at the grocery might be dirt cheap, but it’s not worth the potential medical issues I’ll be experiencing later which will undoubtedly cost more.
Deodorant – Ahh, a topic near and dear to my heart. When I sweat, I really sweat. Gross. So I went through a couple different brands before I found an an all natural, cruelty-free deodorant that works well. I use Schmidt’s Deodorant (pictured above), a Portland-based company that uses great products and smells amazing (no artificial fragrance!). It comes in a 2 oz jar, with a tiny little shovel that you use to scoop out a pea-sized amount of product and rub directly into your underarms. I didn’t like this idea at first because I was accustomed to the stick form, but I’m totally used to it now and love it. Etsy.com has some great deodorant products, and you can find recipes online to make your own. I discovered Schmidt’s at Natural Grocers, but when I went to the Schmidt’s website to find the picture above, I ended up getting a 10% off code plus a sale on their 5-pack, and it turned out cheaper than buying it at the store, so now I have a package on the way!
Now that we’ve discussed how great all natural deodorant is, let’s discuss the toxins in most of the store brands. Some of the chemicals we’ve already gone over, like parabens, propylene glycol, and TEA/DEA/MEA. What about aluminum? Aluminum-based compounds are the active ingredients in anti-antiperspirants. They block the sweat glands to keep sweat from reaching the skin’s surface, which is not good for the body because we sweat for a reason. We shouldn’t be blocking a natural body response. Aluminum may also be a risk factor for the development of breast cancer. Triclosan is another chemical found in deodorant (may disrupt thyroid function and hormone systems), as well as FD&C colors (artificial/synthetic colors known to be carcinogenic and cause allergic reactions), and talc (also carcinogenic). Instead, look for brands with baking soda and arrowroot powder.
Now, I don’t want you to freak out, throw away all your beauty products, and rush to Whole Foods to buy new ones. To be honest, I owned a couple products that when I actually looked at the ingredients, there were so many chemicals in them that I did throw them out. But for the most part, I waited until I used up a certain product, then when it was time to go buy a new one, I made sure to find the all natural, cruelty-free version. That way, you can ease yourself into the process without getting overwhelmed and you have time to find the brands you like.
Thanks for reading Part 1! My next health & beauty post will continue going into detail about the potential harm of everyday products, like toothpaste, mouthwash, and makeup brushes. In the meantime, here are two links you should check out:
Remember, studies show that testing products on animals do not make those products safer for humans (most of these products are chock full of the toxins discussed above), plus it’s cruel and exploitative. Even though it costs me more money to buy Schmidt’s Deodorant than it does the regular grocery store brands, it’s totally worth it to me because I value my health and well being, and I value the quality of life of our animal friends. I hope you do, too, and let me know if you have any questions or comments.